The Orange River and the stark Kalahari is a place that can truly humble a person. The harsh sun and even harsher environment make your mind race, full of questions about how people have survived in this desolate landscape, from the current, large scale fruit farmers all the way back to the Hunter/Gatherer Nama people, living alongside nature. The Orange, eroding itself deep into be bedrock, giving life through its cool and clear waters, brought well-travelled anglers, Oliver, Keith and Paul to its banks to try their hand at catching a fish-of-a-lifetime, a largemouth yellowfish, not just any largie, but one of proportion, one that will be etched into the memory of said anglers forever.
One fish of this size ‘makes the trip’. All you need is that one to tip the scale, to get that nod of approval from the rest of the anglers and guides. The one that tests your resolve, as an angler, as well as the tensile strength of modern fluorocarbon leaders. Fish of this size are not easily found, even harder to hook and most likely will not come to the net easily. But what’s life without a challenge?
Like the harsh environment the largie fishing will also humble any angler, being prepared for long days of chucking, meaty flies on 7 and 8wt rods, dealing with wind, both in casting and paddling boats and inevitably, missing a few fish and losing a couple that could have been netted, maybe. The fluctuating barometer and gusting wind seemed to put the fish in a slump, we tried deep water, slow water, fast water and still water, we found some big smallies where the largies should be and only small fish in the nymphing waters, there was something different about this trip. It was tough. But the will-power of an angler, with a mission at hand, is remarkable. Slowly working water, working flies and working on a theory for these fish.
We found our feeding window, a huge rock, deep, flowing water, just off the main current with a deep channel between the boulder and the reeds, breaking the flow with big pockets of eddying water. Keith was the first to go tight with a fish, only to see a bigger one following the headshaking, hooked fish. So naturally he screamed to Oliver to get involved and shot his fly out to be engulfed by the second fish. Chaos ensued. Fish were netted. Smiles and Laughs all round. And then it started again. This time Paul pitched his cast tight against the Phragmites reeds, a small mend, the line jumped, the baitfish imitation spat out, next cast, the fly gets eaten on the drop, fish on, hook pulls. Paul, looking a bit dejected after another missed opportunity, reluctantly put his fly out again, small mend, fly sinks, one strip, second strip, the line jumps and goes tight with another good largie. Big smiles all round.
Hard work definitely paid off, the challenges were faced and the outcome achieved. The Kalahari humbled us all, in its own beautiful way and only once we had relinquished our expectations were we rewarded.
Until next time