Who would have thought that a group of septuagenarians could compete for the group of guests with the most gees for the Bokong season? They arrived in camp full of smiles, introducing themselves by their schoolyard nicknames and immediately began setting up rods for a quick late-afternoon and evening session in the sparkling clean water below the lodge. The usual feverish anticipation of most first-time guests was instead replaced with the slower methodical preparation that allows one to sip on a glass of crisp white wine while enjoying the atmosphere and scenery of Lesotho. They are regulars, coming at least once every season and they know exactly what is waiting for them over the next few days, so why rush? After a quick briefing, they all wandered down to the river to get in a few casts before nightfall, while I stayed up at the lodge to make sure that the creamy lamb curry and naan breads would be ready for supper and to ensure that the white wine and beers were sufficiently cold by dark o’clock. The final order of business was to for them to introduce the engraved Bokong Holy Grail, a floating trophy for hero/idiot of the day. Receiving the trophy would come with a mandatory shot of OBS/brandy mixture and it would then have to be passed on the following day.
As the golden light of morning kissed the hilltops of the Bokong valley, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and frying bacon mixed into a summoning call of aroma that roused the guests from the clutches of sleep into the beginning of a promising looking day. The decision was made over breakfast to fish the section of river closest to the lodge to give the guests time to recover from the long trip up into the dizzying heights of the middle of nowhere, and so after a leisurely breakfast we all ambled down to a still pristine looking river to try for some fish on a dry fly. In spite of the perfect state of the river, the fishing was surprisingly tough with many of the fish of the previous weeks having moved off, possibly because of the dropping water levels. Regardless, almost everyone caught fish and even those that didn’t catch had a wonderful day with everyone at least having had takes and shots at fish. Over medium rare stuffed fillets, the Holy Grail was awarded to Viv, who somehow broke or shattered his reel and had to borrow from a friend for the rest of the trip. With bellies sufficiently filled with dinner, chocolate brownies and wine, we all had an early night, hoping that the rain that had started would not blow out the river.
The early morning sunlight shone down on a river that was still looking lovely and so after another delicious cooked breakfast we all piled into the cruiser to head to the village section of the river. This proved to be an excellent decision and everyone caught a few fish, some in pools, some in pocket water. Most notably, Viv avoided getting the Holy Grail for a second day in a row by breaking his rod tip while landing a fish, because the youngest member of the group caught his first Bokong yellow which also happened to be the biggest of the day at 57cm. Another incredible incident occurred when a guest fishing village pool with two flies snapped off a fish and then later landed the same fish by hooking the second fly trailing behind it completely by chance. He really should have bought a lottery ticket.
The following day saw some slow fishing and some nasty weather coming in, but a number of fish were landed before lunch. The rain hit hard as we were eating lunch and so the decision was made to have a proper pizza evening. One of our guests is a pizza master and had brought with him some proper mozzarella and triple 0 Italian flour. He proceeded to give me a short course/masterclass in pizza making which was a fantastic success. As the ice cold rain pelted down outside we were kept warm by the fug of white wine, wood-fired pizza and great humour while flies were churned out of vices in the background.
As expected, the river was not looking great the next morning. Two guests decided to give it a go anyway, and the rest headed down to the dam to fish off the oar rigs in the sun. Fishing was tough all round with only a few fish coming out of the dam and with some impressive storm clouds piling up in the distance we ran for the shelter of the man cave to grab some lunch. The rain hit hard and we could watch the river going browner and becoming angrier and angrier by the minute. The afternoon ended up consisting of some sleep, snacks and fly tying. When I saw the sun coming out from between the clouds and beginning to beat down on the dam in the late afternoon, I knew exactly what was coming. I grabbed the two guests who were keen to give the dam a go and we spent the late afternoon and evening sneaking up on shoals of rising yellows in the dam to catch them on dry fly. By the time we got off the water, thoroughly satisfied, it was already completely dark and we made our way back up the path to the news that our head guide has a messianic ability to defrost and marinade rump steaks only to find that he had turned them into lamb chops. Hilarity ensued.
The final day ended up being a fairly relaxed affair. Half of the group unfortunately needed to leave a day early to get back to work, but the rest hit the dam from the oar rigs. Although the fishing was tough, the guests had good fun catching some sardine-sized yellows on dry fly and they left for the long drive home with big smiles having had a thoroughly satisfying trip.
The river is currently dropping and clearing. New guests are arriving today. Let’s see what the next week holds.