The Orange River, known for its spectacular largemouth yellowfish numbers, originates in the mountains of Lesotho (Interesting fact: The Bokong River, which is home to the Makhangoa Community Camp is one of its highest tributaries). Flowing in a general westerly direction, it exits Lesotho, travels across the interior of South Africa into the Northern Cape where it forms the border between Namibia to the north and South Africa to the south. It is in this region, as it flows through the remote regions of the Kalahari Desert, that we set up our base and run multi day wilderness fly fishing drifts each year from August through to the end of October.
This coincides with the end of the dry season, with water levels dropping, heating and clearing. It is over this period that adventurous fly anglers have the best opportunity to fly fish for largemouth yellowfish, arguably the pinnacle of fresh water fly fishing in Southern Africa.
So what is the Kalahari Wilderness Drift all about? Well, the fish primarily, but a lot more too (more on this later). African Waters’ wilderness drifts focuses on two separate 30 km sections. We drift each section of river over 5 days (4 nights wild camping), with the first and last night of the standard 6 night trip spent at our base camp, Wild Paradise with our industry partners Gravity Adventures. Here we set up a semi-permanent tented camp for the season.
Fly fishing for largemouth yellowfish, is primarily a function of working water productively. This is where the African Waters custom built drift bats are an absolute game changer. Designed specifically for this drift, each boat accommodates one guide, on the ore rig, and two anglers (fore and aft) with both sitting and standing room. Efficient anchor systems, storage space and stable floors compliment the experience.
Fly fishing to largemouth yellowfish is about working out the patterns, where the fish are holding, and how they want the fly to be presented. This is an ever changing dynamic, and guides and guests work closely to decipher the code each day on the water. Whether it is swinging streamers in tail-outs, plopping flies around structure, or fishing tight to bank side vegetation, the juice is always worth the squeeze when it all comes together. These fish grow slow, and get big. Putting on roughly 1 one pound per year, a 15lb fish is wise, wily and strong. A fish over 20lb’s, is truly prehistoric. All largies, no matter the size, richly deserve our reverence and respect.
Some spectacular smallmouth yellows (up to 8lbs) will also be caught when fishing streamers to largies. However, should guests wish to spend time dedicated to smallie fishing, the days will be planned accordingly. Upstream indicator nymphing, euro style nymphing, and even dead drifting alphlexo crabs are a few of the funs ways guests can target these turbo charged smallies on the drift.
The wilderness camps set-up is planned to ensure an authentic desert and wilderness experience. An 8x8m Bedouin tent is the heart of the camp, it provides shade in over lunch times, and is where meals are prepared and dinners shared. Each angler sleeps in his/her own swag, which includes a comfortable ¾ mattress. These swags can be configured completely open to the elements , partially closed (with mosquito gauze), or completely closed.
A Kalahari wilderness drift is more than the fly fishing however. It is about connecting to oneself, friends, family and nature, and disconnecting from our phones, screens, and the day to day stress of modern living. It is about an intimate wilderness experience. It is about drastic sunsets, desert landscapes, rugged red mountains and a green river of like that snakes its way through the thirsty Kalahari Desert. It is about cold beers, tight loops, great food, starlight nights, outdoor living, belly laughs, whoops of joy when a largie meets the net, early morning coffee, and late night whisky around the fire. If you would like to experience this amazing fishery, do not hesitate to get in touch! We can’t wait to share the experience with you!