With Human Rights Day falling on the 21st of March’23 in South Africa, it was a fitting time to host the inaugural Bokong Flyathlon held at the Makhangoa Community Camp in Lesotho between the 18th and 21st of March. At face value, this long weekend in March is a great time to fly fish and trail run in the Bokong Valley. Temperatures are ideal, the weather is stable, and the fishing is dynamic as we transition from summer to autumn. The trout become more active, and the yellows that remain in the river until the first frosts are big, although sometimes picky, providing for some great sight fishing. More importantly, it allows us to reflect on the basic privileges we take for granted, such as access to education, clean water, employment, and housing, while reminding us to help less fortunate communities where we can. Community and conservation have been core to the MCC operations for the last decade, and they are the driving force behind the Bokong Flyathlon – an event initiated to create additional revenue for key community projects within the Makhangoa Community.
The 2023 event focused on raising funds to repair the Makhangoa Village footbridge. This bridge, which AW facilitated the building of in 2016, was washed away in a violent flood in 2019/20 summer. It allows community members safe passage across the Bokong River during times of high water. This is particularly crucial for children to access school and for villages to access crops and livestock when moving between homes, workplaces, and schools on opposite banks of the river.
But what is a flyathlon?
In the words of concept founder Andrew Todd from Running Rivers, a Flyathlon is a multi-sport event that integrates three activities: trail running, fly fishing, and beer. While many enjoy these activities independently, we have found over the years that combining them is even more enjoyable. Five key fundamentals of these events are:
- Giving Back: Community involvement, habitat preservation, fundraising, and support for local non-profit organizations.
- Inclusivity: The Flyathlon is designed to be largely inclusive rather than highly competitive, welcoming everyone from newbies to expert fly fishers, serious runners to weekend warriors, and everyone in between.
- Community: These events are planned around the benefits they bring to local communities where they are held.
- Responsible Recreation: The Flyathlon is specifically designed to promote responsible fishing practices and trail habits.
- Fun: While all the other aspects are important, it’s crucial to emphasize that the Flyathlon is designed to be a ton of fun!
The 2023 Flyathlon: A Resounding Success with Limited Runners and Thriving Mountain Activities
We are pleased to report that the 2023 event was a resounding success on all fronts. Limited to only 20 runners (with additional friends and family welcome subject to availability), we welcomed 13 runners to the MCC on the 18th of March. Many were accompanied by their families, resulting in the camp being a hive of activity with runners/anglers sharing tactics, families planning adventures, and kids enjoying the freedom of this incredible mountain playground.
The event took place over 3 nights, with two days on the water—the first full day for the Flyathlon and the second as a free day for fly fishing and fun. Upon arrival, participants and their families were welcomed to camp, assigned rooms, and given their goodie bags stocked with fantastic items courtesy of Wedgewood Nougat, Sci Anglers, Echo Flyfishing, African Waters, and The Mission Fly Mag. Dinner and a relaxed race briefing were the only formalities of the evening, as runner/anglers shared ideas on tactics and their plans for the following day while also making sure they had their beer-drinking strategies in place.
Neck and Neck Competition at the 2023 Event
The day of the Flyathlon dawned crisp and clear, providing perfect conditions. With an 8 am start and a 3 pm cut-off, participants were given 7 hours to complete the 20 km course, down a beer at the finish (timed), and catch a fish to qualify as a finisher. A time bonus of 1 minute per centimeter of fish caught (photographed) was applied, with a maximum of three fish allowed to be measured per angler. In the end, the winner was determined by an extra centimeter or two of fish, with the two leading runners finishing neck and neck in terms of time. Leonard Flemming wrote a great article about his and his wife’s (Michelle) experience—read it here
The prize-giving ceremony was an informal affair around the main campfire, under starlight, punctuated by laughter as stories of mishaps, close calls, and narrow victories were shared. All runners caught fish, resulting in a 100% finisher record, although some fish were bigger than others. Some runners cruised through the course, while others battled cramps and altitude. Everyone enjoyed a cold beer at the finish, and some even enjoyed a few along the way! Prizes courtesy of Sci Anglers, Yeti, ECHO, and African Waters were awarded for the fastest overall time, biggest fish (ladies and gents), smallest fish, top fundraiser, and many more categories.
Save the Date: Join us for the 2024 Flyathlon Event in Support of Makhangoa Community
Following the success of the 2023 event, we cannot wait to do it all again in 2024. We will plan it around Human Rights Day once more and look forward to raising more funds for the Makhangoa Community.
Entry will be via a live bidding system, with a minimum qualifying bid starting at R4500. To place your bid, click here!
Details for the 2024 event are as follows:
When: Thursday 21st – Sunday 24th March 2024 (Thursday is a public holiday in RSA)
Check-in from 14:00 on the 21st March
Check-out by 9:00 on the 24th March
Start time: 08:00 on Friday 22nd and Cut-off time: 15:00 on Friday 22nd
The event will be timed. For every centimeter (cm) of fish caught, 1 minute will be deducted from your finish time. The runner/angler with the best time wins.
We look forward to another incredible event and hope to see you there!