The second group to join us in Lesotho for the yellowsfish season was a mixed bag of interesting and delightful people. Raimer is a lone wolf who took a break from roaming the open ocean and came up to fish with us for a full nine days. and Wills and his wife, Laura, came from Dubai to conquer a few yellows – but first they (Wills and Laura) had to conquer the last 25km of dirt road in a sedan with hardly any clearance. Luckily for them there is nowhere that you can’t drive a rental, so with a burnt clutch, scorched tires and shot nerves they rolled into camp.
For the group, it was unfamiliar waters; both culturally and from a fishing perspective. Before the start of the first session we visited the ‘wool shed’ at Ha Soane to see the master sheep shearers in action. The scent of sheep and the loud cheerful voices of the Basothos was rather intoxicating and fascinating. It was equally entertaining for the locals who were very happy about the ‘pale’ visitors. After a quick photo shoot we were off to fish Beat 0 (due to the exceptionally low dam level we now have access to a stretch of river that hasn’t been fished in more than twenty years). For Laura, fly fishing was a new concept, never mind sight fishing to yellowfish in ankle deep water. It took a few hours for her to get her casting and drifting right, from there we focused on getting her to actually hook these sneaky buggers. She hooked and lost more fish than I would like to admin, but as time went by she began to bring them to the net and by the end of the day she was a proper fly fisherwoman. For Wills and Raimer it was a good practice day and plenty yellows were deceived by these keen fishermen.
Rob Scott (company director) came up to the hills with his mate Mark a.k.a. Lofty. We were also joined by Karl, the die-hard German fly fisherman, and his girlfriend Anne. Karl has fished with us Tanzania for tigers many times before, but for this experienced angler the yellowfish was a whole new challenge. Spotting fish and seeing when they ate the flies was difficult for the 79-year-old, but it was a welcome challenge for us guides to do all the spotting work for him. The team work paid off and the fish came rolling in.
On day three Laura, Wills and Raimer wanted to experience a bit more of the local flavour so I took them into the Makhangoa Village to meet our friendly neighbours. It wasn’t long before a crowd of children came running down the hills to meet the foreigners and pose for some photos. We were also invited into one of the ‘rondavels’ to taste the local beer. The powerful brew left us with a funny tingling sensation, maybe even nerve damage, so we decided to go fish instead. It was Wills and Laura’s last day on the water so it goes without saying that they fished it with unparalleled enthusiasm.
The following day was a peach and the fish were loose. In the morning Raimer had a blinder of a session; he landed 18 good fish including a hen fish over 4lb. We drifted a variety of flies to sighted fish, but the infallible Balbyter out performed all the rest. The man was in a state of euphoria and is now a firm believer in the Balbyter. That afternoon it was Karl’s turn to do battle with the yellows. I was his eyes and ears for the session. The session went a bit like this, “Cast there, yes, good cast. Mend, now let it drift. There is a fish coming. It’s coming in, wait, wait, wait….. and Yes Karl! It’s on!” We missed a ton of fish, but despite the delay in reactions we managed several good fish, all on dry fly.
Only on the last day of Karl and Anne’s trip did the weather turn. Karl and I managed to squeeze in one last good session before the lightning rolled in. That evening the heavens opened properly. We had 105mm of rain in the night and river came down in a muddy, messy flood. The road out of camp turned from difficult to nearly impossible to drive. At 04:00 in the morning we attempted the drive out and had only covered 5km by 05:30. It was a nerve wrecking endeavour, but we made it out safe, mud covered and all. All in a day’s work, I guess.
For Karl, Anne, Wills and Laura it was a great fishing and cultural experience in the Maluti Mountains and we look forward to having them on the water again soon.
Best wishes from the Makhangoa Community Camp
Johann and Stu