After meeting up with Dale and Matthew from Pretoria we made the slow and windy descent down to the Khubelu River. We made ourselves comfortable in basecamp for the night and after a nice hot meal we forced ourselves to sleep. A difficult task as the excitement built for the next day.
We woke to a beautiful big blue sky day, and wasted no time getting cracking on the river. The levels were extremely low which meant tough conditions, but certainly fishable. Matthew and Dale got on the board within minutes with a number of small fish holding in the pocket water. Later on we found two very good fish actively cruising a long pool. Matthew was up fist. After a careful approach he managed a couple of perfectly presented dries, unfortunately the fish spooked after a herds boy’s curiosity got the better of him. Matthew got another shot at a beautiful fish later on. An absolute bus was actively, but selectively, feeding up and down a pool. He did very well to keep his cool as the fish came up and refused the fly twice. Finally, a change to a size 14 cdc midge did the trick and we got the eat. Tragically as the fish turned down the 6x tippet parted and the fish was lost.
In the morning we shook and shivered ourselves into action after a night that went well below freezing. We struggled to find fish until about lunch time where we found a beautiful cock fish sitting into about 4” of water. This made it very difficult to present a fly and unfortunately it spooked. We decided to have lunch and then give it another shot. After about an hour of tense stalking and five fly changes Dale got it to come up and smash a self-tied hopper. This 16” cock fish put up an incredible tussle on a 3 weight. After some quick snaps we all watched the fish cruise off and sulk at the bottom of his pool. High fives and smiles all round.
Another very cold night was had by all, but we still woke with eager intentions of tackling another day on the incredible river. Unfortunately we struggled on day three. We did not find any fish holding in the pocket water or the pools. Undeterred we still approached every pool with caution and spent hours on end staring at the water with never ending hope that a rainbow would show itself. In the end we didn’t see or get a shot at any good fish today. But never the less another beautiful day it was was spent in the mountains.
It was definitely getting colder every night. After defrosting our wading boots by the fire and some warm breakfast we set out – still with the same excitement and intensity that we had on day 1. After staring at a long deep pool for about 20min an absolute beast of a rainbow showed itself by slowly rising to the surface and sipping something off the surface. Now with our eyes trained on it we snuck Matthew into position. After about an hour stalk and shuffle to get the correct presentation, the fish finally raced up to Matt’s hopper…….. and refused it, three times in a row! This was almost too much for us to handle but Matthew did extremely well to stay calm and still. Another hour past, and finally the little cdc midge did it again. The fish came up and gentle slurped the fly down. Chaos erupted and the fish set off on a long run down stream towing a huge bow in the fly line. This unfortunately resulted in too much drag on the fine 6X tippet and after one jump, the 22” plus fish was gone. With moral at an all-time low we sat down for lunch and licked our wounds. The rest of the day we searched the water but with no luck. We did spot the legendary bus at the last pool of the beat along with another descent fish but they were not feeding and after a hopeful hour and a half and with the light fading and temperature plummeting we called it a day.
We woke at first light to break camp and start the steep trek out the valley. After shaking the ice off our tents and packing the horses we started our slow and steady accent. Four hours later we reached the road and everyone parted ways with big smiles and the promise of returning next years for a re-match.
Thanks to Dale and Matthew for a great trip, we hope to see you on the water again.
Cheers Pierre and Stu, TF guides in Lesotho