As with all good things, the Kalahari 2020 season has come to an end and been committed to the memory banks and backed up. All that is left are the memories and photographs and some sore cheeks from all the laughing. But the river keeps flowing, the fish continue to feed and fight the currents, moving through rapids and pools, gaining energy and weight. Malcom and David were joined by Zak to make their own memories of the Orange River, to drift down its deep flowing channels and marvel at the wilderness lining the banks, and maybe, just maybe, catch a Largemouth Yellowfish.

The Orange River is not a joke, It is by far the biggest river in South Africa, the environment is hostile, with some days reaching close to 50 degrees Celsius, rugged rocks ready to give way underfoot, rapids, scorpions… the list goes on and on. But these are what we have to face when we go into the wilderness, these are the risks we take, to get a chance at catching a fish, a fish that will be etched into the grey matter between our ears and a memory that is kept with us forever. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “high-risk” in the greater scheme of African fishing destinations, but the rewards are way up there, the potential of catching a fish over 10 pounds or even 20 pounds is something that would make any angler challenge themselves in the hope of dancing with one of these elusive creatures.

Armed with a 7wt rod, a variety of baitfish patterns, a few popular crustacean patterns, and some rather thick diameter fluorocarbon leader, one can swing flies all day. Whether the Largies come out to play is another story. Zak was keen for a challenge and ready to face the Orange River, he wanted to see what all the hype of crab patterns was all about, let’s just say that I don’t think the fly got near the riverbed before being inhaled by fish, both the Smallmouth and Largemouth couldn’t leave the crustacean imitation alone. Some fish hitting the pattern so violently, causing leader and fly to part ways. I’m sure Zak will return with a whole box of neatly tied, well weighted creepy-crawlies to feed to the various species in the Orange.

Some lovely Largies came out to play and Malcom seemed to have their ticket. Slow retrieves through deep water with heavy Muishond flies in various shades of black and olive, this resulted in some lovely fish getting picked up underneath the rod tip. Some might say “beginners-luck” but I like to think that the river can read the anglers intent, calm anglers, who submit to the river, who are willing to take a risk, who are present in the moment and with reasonable expectations will get rewarded like no other.

It has been a true privilege to be able to have spent so much time on the Orange River this season, it’s with a bitter-sweetness that only the season ending can bring to guide, realising how lucky we are to have access to wilderness areas and being able to share time on the water and knowledge. In the same breath we’re looking forward to some time at home with friends and family before the next season begins. Lesotho may be miles away from the Kalahari but the waters feed into the Orange, the Smallies are ravenous and waiting. See you soon in the Mountain Kingdom, or in 2021 back on the Kalahari. The season is over but the water continues to flow.

Catch you soon

Greg Maxwell

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