Month: October 2017

Inside Angling was invited by Rico Sakko to fish in Morocco for white marlin in August 2017. Rico is an old friend who we have fished with in Angola many times, he had fished Morocco last year for white marlin and had an amazing experience. This year he was bringing his son, Vincent, who is 12 years old, and hoping to break the junior world record for white marlin. He also invited Henry Gradwell, an 85 year old fishing legend from my home town, to come and catch his first white marlin and tick his last box in terms of marlin species.

We flew Emirates direct from Durban to Dubai, leaving Durban at 7.30pm and landed in Dubai at 05.30am. (their time) after an 8 and a half hour flight. We flew from Dubai at 7.30am and landed in Casablanca at 12.45 Moroccan time. We watched movies on the flights, including ‘Casablanca’ the old black and white film made in the 1940’s starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. We were exhausted when we arrived, as we hadn’t got much sleep at all, with a family with three noisy, seat kicker kids behind us on the second flight.

We were collected at the airport by our skipper, John Huntington, from California USA, and his deckhand Ousman. Ousman is a Senegalese, who fishes fro the Senegal national team back home. They drove us to Mohammedia, which took just over half an hour of interesting driving. The Moroccans drive fast and use the whole road.

We checked in to the Mohammedia Avanti hotel, which is four star and is considered the best option in town. Rates are around $100 per night for a room and breakfast, not bad value.
The rooms weren’t ready yet when we arrived , so we got some beers at the bar just off reception. Three Casablanca beers and a coke cost us 280 Dirhams, around R390.
We won’t be doing too much of that then!

We had a shower, then walked along the beach front promenade looking for a place to eat. It is lined with little al fresco type café’s, and it is a long weekend, so the beach was very busy as are the promenade and the café’s. There were fun rides, slides, a big pool with paddle boats, ponies and horses to ride, vendors selling nuts, sweets, donuts etc. Nobody bothered us at all. The beach was very clean, with plenty of people and umbrellas. It only gets dark here after 8.30pm.
The promenade smelt quite strongly of urine, which wasn’t too pleasant, but you kind of get used to it after a bit.
We ate at a little spot called ‘Lips Snacks’ . Pam had a Pizza and I ordered a Tagine, very excited to taste the local food. My tagine arrived and had cooking oil and a fried egg in it and a nice plateful of chunks of crusty bread. Hmm not quite what I had planned for dinner. Pam’s pizza was nice. I had an apple juice, which tasted much like vanilla, but obviously had grated apple in it, not bad, Pam had mango juice which was very good.

A guy dropped off a few nuts on our table, which we ate, they were salted and delicious. We asked him for some, which he sold us, and put four quarter sheets of yellow pages telephone book on the table, one with almonds, one with peanuts and one with pumpkin seeds, all salted. We chewed away merrily on them all, enjoying the salt, I was commenting on how the pumpkin seeds were giving us plenty of roughage when we noticed that the locals were peeling theirs and piling the empty shells on the fourth piece of paper, by now we had already eaten quite a few…

The meal was cheap, in total 137 Dirhams. We headed back to the hotel, as we had to meet Rico and the owner of the boat, ‘7 Days’, Mohammed Filali at 8pm. We met with them and chatted a bit, before heading for bed at around 8.30, exhausted.

We slept till 5.30, then got up, showered and headed for breakfast on the first floor of the nightclub at the hotel. The breakfast was pretty disorganized, I think we were too early and 6.30 is their actual opening time.
We left the hotel at around 7.30, stopped at a bakery on the way to the harbor for some fresh baguettes, croissants etc. and headed for the boat. 7 Days is a lovely 43 foot Egg Harbour sports fisher.

She was moored next to Gladius, another charter sportfisher, that had an aussie skipper, Jonno, and South African skipper Stuart Simpson was on board as well. They were trying to get a record white marlin for the boat owner fishing on fly with 4lb tippet. Apparently this is a very frustrating challenge, with the fly even breaking off on the cast sometimes.

We headed out and discovered that there was quite a big swell running and we all started feeling queasy on the way out. I chundered, so did Pam, Shaun looked pale, so Pam gave him a pill. Vincent was feeling crap and Rico was sweating and feeling terrible, we blamed the sausages that he had at breakfast, they smelt suspect to me, and none of the rest of us had any.

We headed out and stopped not too far out in about 40m of water and jigged for mackerel with sabiki jigs, collecting about 30 or so.

It was a 20 mile run out to the fishing grounds. The fish were in around 150m of water, so that is where we started.

We hadn’t been pulling the teasers long when I glanced down and saw the electric blue of a pair of lit up pecs and a tail below and behind one of the teasers. We all cast whatever we had handy and the fish didn’t stick around or eat anything. Not long after that a pack of three fish came in on the teasers and Rico hooked one on a live mackerel that he had cast at one of the fish.
He handed the rod to Vincent, who fought and landed a white marlin of around 25 kg’s. It was the first white marlin that I had ever seen, a very acrobatic and aerobatic fish, jumping a lot. Next fish up, Vincent hooked himself on a live mackerel and circle hook, and he fought this one longer, it was a bigger fish. He was using a Talica 12 with 30lb mono and a light trolling rod.
I jumped into the water with the go pro when the fish was near the boat and filmed it being landed and released, it was very tired, a good fish, not far off the junior record of 102lbs.

The next fish that was hooked was handed to Pam, who did a good job and landed her first Marlin, a fish of around 35kg’s. All the while I was now casting plugs, and soft plastics rigged on circle hooks and trying to get one for myself. The fish did come in to my lures and came close to eating, but none actually bit.

The teasing setup is not ideal, with two teasers being run off electric reels above the skipper’s head and two dredge lines in the water with daisy chains on them. All teasers were still in the water when the fish had come in, and the boat kept stopping and starting, never really lying still. The fish were locking on to one teaser, coming in hot, but totally focused on the teaser, they liked green a lot. With two livebaits also being thrown into the water each time, my poppers and plastics were just one of many options, and unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a fish.

Rico hooked and landed another fish, the 4th for the boat for the day. Not bad, we raised about 10 fish in total. Rico pulled his fish harder and he got it in quicker than the others. I jumped in and got some footage of the fish a bit more lit up, as well as seeing and filming a free swimmer that was nearby. The water was stunningly clean and it was such a pleasure to cool off for a few minutes.

After that we raised another fish, which the boat owner threw a live mackerel at, but lost when he tightened up too early, pulling the circle hook out of the fish’s mouth.

We had a chat on the way back, and decided to change things up a bit tomorrow and try to get the crew all doing their jobs better and less chaos, we will see how tomorrow goes. There is plenty of potential, and plenty of fish, so it should be good!

We started heading back at 4.30pm, and hit the docks in good daylight and spent a bit of time setting up more tackle for tomorrow. Then we headed back to the hotel, had a shower and the four of us, Pam, Rico, Vincent and myself went for Pizzas on the promenade. Came home at around 9.30, well tired again and ready for a good night sleep.

Tomorrow we will only fish one person at a time for each fish we raise, and hopefully do better. Rico will handle the teaser, John just drive the boat, and Pam can act as a spotter. We will see how it goes.

Day 2:

Breakfast at 6.30am, more organized this time. We were picked up at 7am, and taken to the boat. We stopped for mackerel again on the yozuri’s, and caught a bunch of them near a channel marker bouy.

We headed out to the same area as yesterday with a different approach in mind. We only put out one teaser, on a rod, flatline from the starboard side, with Rico handling that. We rigged a green kona, their favourite from yesterday, with a ballyhoo in the middle, sewn firmly onto a mono loop with floss.

On the port corner we put out a dredge bar with a shoal of reflective tape fish off it and a dive weight to keep it down.

I rigged one rod with a popper and assist, and the other rod with an 8 inch soft plastic jerkbait rigged on a wire pigtail, on an 8/0 vmc tournament circle hook. I stowed them both in the holders on the back of the fighting chair. One Trevala 6’6” MH with a Spheros 6000 and 50lb power pro max cuatro line, with a 60lb fluorocarbon leader. The other a Terez 40lb 7’ stick with a Stella 8000 reel and 50lb Max Cuatro.

Within ten minutes of putting the teaser out we had a fish up. Rico cranked the teaser in, bringing the fish in close while I made my cast. The fish was not overly interested in my soft plastic that I cast at it, and it disappeared after e few seconds. We trolled around again, then picked up the same fish again on the teaser going over the same spot. I sent the plastic in again and wiggled it around enticingly and the fish came and made a swipe, missing. It turned, came back and ate the plastic, sinking down to where I could barely see it. It didn’t turn or move off, just kind of hung down there, looking like it was chewing the plastic. I had to do a slow count to six, praying that it wouldn’t spit the lure before I started tightening up the drag. I was fishing with the drag as loose as I could while still managing to retrieve the lure. As the line went tight the fish started to take off, it was spectacular. It leapt straight out of the water and was incredibly aerial, racing along, jumping, twisting, turning. There was very little line drag in the water and the speed and power was awesome to behold. The braid being so direct was a little disconcerting and I would definitely use a mono topshot next time, as you don’t need to cast far, and some stretch would be nice to take the shock. With all of that jumping and twisting that fish managed to change the shape of the circle hook, as I was fighting it pretty hard, landing it in around ten minutes or so. I was actually impressed at how little the hook bent after the amount of pressure I put on the fish.

It was one of my most spectacular catches ever. That fish coming in, lit up, with those neon blue pecs glowing in the purple water, and the shimmering blue tail sweeping behind. Watching its reactions and movements as it was so visible, it came in right beneath me, and ate the plastic no more than 5 metres from the back of the boat. The stamina and energy to then sustain a fight with spectacular jumps, some high, some long, but repeated again and again, showing off his spectacular body was simply amazing.

I was elated, stoked, absolutely thrilled to experience it and my trip to Morocco was already made, right there.

After that I decided to try with fly. The fish however, seemed less keen to play that game. I had shots at five fish on fly, and most of them came in, had a good look and refused to eat. The last one came up from beneath and ate the fly side on, perfectly, and taking me by surprise. It ate the fly between strips with my stripping hand off the line and I couldn’t get my hand onto the line quickly enough before it had spat the fly again. Good to get aneat, but sad that it didn’t hang on a mite longer. It gives me hope for tomorrow though.

We came back at the same time as yesterday and arrived at the hotel, to find Henno in the lobby. We had a beer together in the pub, then a quick shower and headed back to the promenade for dinner again. This time I had spaghetti bolognaise, while Pam had chicken fillet with mushroom sauce, chips and salad, it looked great too. We had banana juice with our meals, the fresh fruit juices here are excellent.

The people are so relaxed, there is no begging, nobody pressuring you to buy anything. The poor people seem to be very uneducated, there is a big class gap. But everybody seems to be very pleasant.

Our tally today was eight fish raised for the day and two landed, as Rico hooked one on a livebait after it had refused the fly, and Vincent landed it. Sadly it had got gut hooked and regurgitated its stomach. Anyhow, Rico cut the line and released it, so hopefully it will swallow its stomach and be ok.

Day 3:
We headed out with Henno this morning, Pam stayed at the hotel, tired. We went west this time, towards Casablanca, where Rico had enjoyed all of his success last year fishing with Trevor Hansen.

We stopped at a channel marker bouy to get mackerel, got a bunch and moved on. It was very overcast and actually quite cool when the boat was moving.

We ran for about an hour and a half, then put out teasers, with both teasers running off the two electric reels above the skipper, and Rico’s dredge bar on a line off the back. We worked around some long line and gill netting boats, small ones, and their nets or lines. Nothing, no birds, just a few dolphins which came and swam briefly in front of the boat, but lost interest quite quickly, they were big and dark with a hooked fin, almost pilot whale size.

We had no action at all until after 1pm. The sun started to come out and a fish came onto the teasers. Rico cast a live mackerel out and hooked the fish, then handed the rod to Henno. I took some pics from above with my still camera of the fish coming charging in, with its fins all lit up. Then I went downstairs and put on mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in. I swam along the line until it disappeared into the misty blue depths. After a bit I saw something white, which materialized into remoras, hanging onto the sides of the marlin. Then the fish became visible, blue from directly above and I swam above it as it slowly rose up to the surface, beautiful. Shaun in the meantime flew the drone and got some cool footage from above of the fish jumping etc.

The line got wrapped around the keel and the prop of the boat and I swam over and untangled it, so that Henno could continue fighting his fish. Rico leadered it, then it jumped and he let go, then he leadered it again, but it took off, and the line wrapped around the tip of the rod and broke off. A landed fish for Henno, but sadly no photo.

We carried on trolling teasers in the nice bright sunshine, but there was no sign of anymore fish. The baitballs on the sounder were all deep, around 100m, we were working a depth of around 140m, as that is where the best action had been the last few days.

We pulled lines up at 4.30pm and headed in. The other charter boats had very little action too, with only one other white being landed. Just a really quiet day. The barometer was sitting at 1015.26 not too sure how that is here, I will have to check tomorrow.

Came back to the hotel, showered, cleaned my mask with toothpaste, and waited for Pam, who arrived after 7pm. She had been out and about in Mohammedia, checking out street vendors and shops. She bought a couple of small Tagines to take home.

We went to a street side restaurant near the Kasbah ( old Arabian market place with arches and a roof) for dinner. The restaurant was on the edge of a village square, with a big fountain in the middle, opposite the arched entrance to the Kasbah. There were lots of people walking around and some sitting on the edge of the fountain chatting. There were street vendors with fruits such as plums, peaches, bananas, prickly pears, figs, dates etc on carts and tables. For dinner we had cows head, bread and bean, chick pea and noodle soup, called Harira. We also had rotis, orange juice and sweet mint tea with little blocks of sugar to add. The whole meal for six people came to 280 durhams. Had a bit of a walk around the Kasbah afterwards, checking out the stalls and street food. Plan to go there tomorrow night and just eat streetfood snacks, maybe some nice kebabs and things.

There were stalls with olives in all sorts of states, stuffed, pipless, with pips, pickled, marinated in chili etc.
There were also stalls with spices, garlic, ginger, cumin, dhania seeds, chili, saffron, turmeric etc.

The cows head had the consistency of pulled pork and had some soft, fatty bits. It was flavoured with cumin, and not much salt, but there was salt on the table and bowls of chili sauce, which actually made it spicy and delicious.

The people are very courteous, not ever approaching or hassling us, and not making much eye contact, but if you engage them they are really friendly and pleasant. They walk slowly, eat slowly, talk and have a lot of family time, I guess the no booze thing helps. They seem indifferent to pics being taken, though I try not to be obvious. =There are very few women wearing burkas, but they are mostly Muslims. We hear the muezzin calling the people to prayer from the mosques at the appropriate prayer times.

We saw few, if any tourists. The Kasbah and streets were humming with local people, especially at night. From children to teens, adults and oldies, everybody seems to wander the streets at night and socialize out there.

Very few people seem to be able to speak or understand English. The google translator app is a great idea! They are very keen to try and make themselves understood though, and have lots of patience and courtesy.

We are only going out at 8am tomorrow as the low tide will be at around 10 am and we need it to start pushing before the fish come on.

Day 4:
We got up at 6.30am, went to breakfast at 7.30am and were collected by John at 8am. He told us that another boat, “One More”, which is the top boat in the area, had gone up to fish around Rabat yesterday, around 35 miles East of Mohammedia. They raised 18 fish and landed 11. Yoh, on a day when we only saw one fish!

Obviously our plan then changed and we unanimously decided to head off towards Rabat and look for those fish ourselves.
We ran for a couple of hours, arriving in the area at 11am. We started trolling our teasers, with no interest shown by any fish until after 1.30pm. The first fish to come up followed a teaser in, but the captain didn’t take the boat out of gear, or the teasers out of the water. I shouted at him to stop the boat, he said it was stopped, but there was boiling propwash coming out from below the boat and my livebait was skipping on the top, beating itself to death. In fact when I pulled it in, it was stone dead. We had a bit of a chin wag about what it was that we were trying to do, and the importance of getting the teasers out of the water and the boat to stop, then continued. That fish had not even lit up, we only could see the dorsal out of the water behind the teaser, twitching and shivering the way they do.

About half an hour or so later another fish made a brief appearance, the dorsal fin showing for a second behind the teaser, then disappearing. We dropped livebaits back and it came up onto the surface and sniffed around the livies, then disappeared for good.
We trolled for almost an hour, then another fish came in on the teasers, this one was lit up a bit, but still not a hot fish. We dropped mackerel back and the fish ate one. I held the rod and let the line go tight and the circle hook find its mark. The fish was very lazy, not running at all, just hanging around the back of the boat, not jumping, just lifting its head from the water a couple of times and shaking it. I pulled it in very quickly. Ousman grabbed the leader, then the bill, the hook fell out and he somehow lost his grip on the bill, so the fish was gone, but counts as a landed fish, just no photo’s.
It was very frustrating, all of that time and effort put in for a fish that gave less of a pull than a 5kg grouper.

I took a look at the Barometer, it had dropped quite sharply from 1012hpa to 1010hpa in the space of ten minutes, then it started to go back up, the bite came on the drop. The barometer has been steadily dropping over the last 4 days, maybe this is part of the reason why the fish have gotten harder to catch. The water temp has been a steady 23.5 degrees and is clean and deep indigo. It was very overcast again today, with the sun making some appearances during the afternoon, but never for very long. None of this explains why we had no fish, as well as all of the other boats yesterday in the area off Mohammedia and Casablanca, and yet One More, had raised 18 and landed 11 yesterday, how localized is the barometric pressure? They were 35 miles east of us, could they have been experiencing different pressure? Or was it something else? There did seem to be more birds around the Rabat area, but mostly gulls and shearwater, no terns at all. There were mainly groups of them floating on the water, not a great sign.

We have decided to take our off day tomorrow and use the day to take the train to Casablanca and go and explore the market there and do some filming of local sights, culture etc.

Went out to the restaurant next to the Kasbah again. I got to have my first proper Tagine! It was a delicious one with chicken and raisins, which I ate with flat bread. Pam and I ended up sharing it, as there was a lot of food. We also had sweet mint tea, poured from silver teapots into small glasses. Pam ordered couscous, which never arrived, but we were happy, as we had plenty to eat. The food at this place is ridiculously cheap, Henno’s salad cost less than R15 and would be enough for four people as a good salad.
After dinner Pam and I took a walk around the Kasbah, with me taking pics of the stalls, people and scenes. I was trying to get natural, unposed pics, I had to be a bit sneaky, and got shouted at by some dude, and finger waggled by some old lady. I am just starting to learn and enjoy street photography.
Pam and I walked back to the hotel, then carried on for a little bit along the promenade. There were still plenty of people around, kids still riding ponies and paddling the little paddleboats in the inflatable pool at the beach, even though it was around 11.15pm. The Moroccans are real night owls!

Day 5

We had a much needed sleep in, only meeting for breakfast at 9.30am. We then caught a taxi, which we went and found ourselves after asking reception to call some. Service is not a big priority around here, but the people are good and honest. We left Henno at the hotel, as we were going to walk a lot, and it would have been too much for him.
The taxis took us to the Gare (Station), where we bought 2nd class tickets to Casablanca, a 25minute train ride away. We jumped on the train and enjoyed the aircon and comfort of a nice ride, going past slums, and all sorts of buildings, one thing that stood out to me was satellite dishes everywhere. These guys are big on Satelite TV. They are not that big on painting the exteriors of their buildings though, those are generally pretty decrepit.

At the station in Casablanca we used the bathroom, as there was not likely to be another easy spot, then headed out. We caught taxis, red ones here in Casablanca, as opposed to the turquoise ones in Mohammedia. Also much more costly. The ride from the Avanti Hotel in Mohammedia had been 13 Durhams and was further. The cost in Casblanca the short way to the market was 50 Durhams.

We went in to the fish market first, I wanted to see what sea life they were harvesting and eating in the area. It was very clean and hygienic, I would say the cleanest and best fish market I have been to in Africa. The smell was not strong or offensive, there was lots of crushed ice, most of the things like oysters, crabs, mussels, some sort of pencil bait, lobsters etc were still alive. All products were well presented and neat, and everyone was very friendly and happy to chat and take pics with us. They loved Pam (of course) and all wanted pics with her, she thought it was her blonde hair, but it turns out that is her blue eyes. The Moroccans are big on eyes, and a lot of their art depicts a woman’s eyes.

We then went down the road to the old medina, where we walked through narrow alleys and stalls of everything from leather work, spices, argan oil, lots of jewelry stands, European football shirts, Louis Vitton bags, honey, Calvin Klein boxers, you name it. Lots of lovely fresh fruit and veg, not like woolies, the real deal.
Then we went and sat at a street side café’ and had tagines and bread. One with veg and a bit of meat in the middle, and the other fish balls in a tasty gravy, both very nice. When the time came for people to go to prayers, they up and left, and just then a couple of people came around asking for leftovers, basically beggars, but not a hassle. We did have two or three women with babies and scarves covering their faces and hair, tapping on a shoulder and saying please, then pointing at the baby and making eating signals. Casablanca is different to Mohammedia, Much bigger, and more people. A b it like comparing Vilanculos to Inhassoro in Mozambique.

We chatted to the honey seller lady, a really nice woman, about the hand with the eye trinkets and symbols we had been seeing at various places. She explained that it was to ward off envious or evil eyes. She had a cool stand with lots of old pots and things and bee hives and even a full bee keeping suit and a smoker.

We walked back to the station, checking out stalls along the outside of the medina. We bought a cover for our bed, a lovely blue cloth. We also stopped and had delicious ice cold, freshly squeezed orange juice for 10 durhams a cup. The peeled oranges are kept in a cooler box of ice, and when you order then he cuts them in half and puts each half into the squeezer, like a big garlic crusher. About three oranges make a cup of juice.

We bought second class tickets to go back to Mohammedia, and got booted out of first class by the conductor, we suspected that we may have got it wrong, the seats were nicer and the aircon so cool…

We took a taxi back to the hotel and had a short nap, then met the others in the lobby. Shaun has also booked in now, as the landlord at the place he was staying (skipper’s apartment) has found out that he was there and said no ways, he must move out.

We went along the promenade to the pizza place, Corsica, and had dinner. Pam and I wanted shwarma’s and the waiter rode his bike to the Kasbah to fetch some for us. Rico had pasta, Vincent had chicken steak with mushroom sauce, Henno Mexican Pizza and me, Pam and Shaun had shwarmas.

Day 6

We were picked up at 6am by John and went to the harbor. We struggled for bait in foggy conditions, but eventually got enough. We headed out, and as we came out of the fog bank, there was a super pod of spinner dolphins in front of us, and plenty of shearwaters paddling around on the surface. We stuck with them for a bit, with Shaun standing in the bows with his go pro, filming. We then moved on to the 140m area and put teasers out, one daisy chain of squids on each side off the electric reels above the skipper. One pink and one green, each with a chugger on the end pulling a smoke trail.

We had no hits for a few hours, with other boats also raising no fish. Finally a fish came up on the teasers, glowing pecs and tail, excited and hot. He got stuck to the green daisy chain, and followed it right past the stern, to the side, where the teaser left the water. He started scouting around, and I dropped my live mackerel back a bit and he picked it up. I watched the line speed up off the spool of the reel with the bail arm open, then clicked over and let it tighten up, fish on!

This was a smallish fish, but full of energy. It did lots of spectacular jumps, close to the boat, as I kept the drag fairly tight. I was using one of Rico’s Terez rods, with an 8000 size reel, with a 30lb mono topshot, not very long, connected to braid beneath. A good setup for these fish.

I enjoyed the fight and landed him pretty quickly, with Rico leadering it and Ousman grabbing the bill. We brought it on board for a present, then back overboard for a quick revival and release.

This turned out to be the only fish for the day, the rest of the day we trolled and trolled, but couldn’t raise a fish.

This evening we had a shwarma that Shaun fetched us from the margane, where burrito girl was making amazing ‘burritos’ according to our skipper. It was an excellent wrap type thing filled with spicy mince, chips and I don’t know what else, but mighty tasty! Not a pita bread as we know it, more of a wrapped bundle of food, much like a burrito.

We had a couple of beers with Stuart and Jonno from Gladius at the hotel and heard some cool stories about fishing for blue marlin at Cape Verde.

Jonno was telling us that next week the locals here in Morocco would be killing sheep on a day called Eid El-Kebir, apparently every family in the country would kill a sheep on this day and dress up in their beat clothes and feast. A celebration and re enactment of Abraham’s sacrifice to God. Apparently the flies would be wild and there would be skins piled up on the sides of the roads, with nobody wanting them. This festival was happening a week after we left Morocco, and sheep were beginning to be stockpiled in various places.

He also told us that he had been doing seasons in Morocco for 6 years and a lot had changed socially and culturally, with rules being relaxed. Morocco is at the western edge of the Middle East, the gateway to Africa and the Middle East from Europe. It is therefore, more influenced by European culture than some other Muslim countries are.

Tomorrow we start our journey home, which is going to be long, via Dubai again. It has been an amazing week. I have thoroughly enjoyed the white marlin, the people and the sights, tastes and experiences of Morocco. I would definitely come here again. The fishing for white marlin is amazing. They are so visual, so exciting! Rico is planning on chartering a boat for the full season next year, and then put groups together to fill it. I think he will do well, it is an amazing trip and an incredible experience.

The white marlin are in the same sort of size and power category as sailfish. Pretty much any tackle that is good for sails will be perfect for white marlin. They are even more visually exciting than sailfish, in that they have that electric blue glow on their fins when lit up, and they are as aerial or more so than sailfish. Teasing them in and then flicking live baits, lures or flies at them is very exciting. They can be finicky about feeding at times, but that seems to be the nature of these fish, a little unpredictable, but tons of fun!

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I went fishing with the King of Lesotho in his breathtaking country.

When I say breathtaking, I mean both in the sense of awe inspiring natural splendour, and thin air that squeezes the unused lungs of those not born to a high altitude existence. You have to be tough to live there.

This tiny mountain Kingdom, surrounded entirely by South Africa, lays claim to having the highest lowest point of any country in the world, at an altitude of 1400 meters. The actual high point, a mountain called Thabana Ntlenyana, soars 3482 meters into the African sky.

As a result, temperatures vary from around 30 degrees Celsius in summer to below – 30 C in winter. Given that the terrain has virtually no flat areas, building roads that last is no easy task. Horses and donkeys then are the main mode of transport, with shanks pony the only option for many.

With very few outlying villages connected to electricity and limited firewood growing at this altitude, you may get an idea of why these rugged highland people are so remarkable.

Fortunately, the mighty mountains form a catchment of crystal water that has been harnessed to give the country both electricity and an income from selling the precious commodity to its more affluent neighbor.

The crystal clear streams originating in the highland catchments blend to form the Senqu River, which ultimately becomes the great Orange River, wending its way through SA and Namibia on its dogged way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, where there are clear running streams at altitude anywhere in the world, if there weren’t already Trout in them, some foolhardy and addicted fly fisherman has gone to extreme lengths to make sure they were introduced.

Lesotho is no exception.

So when we were asked to arrange to take King Letsie 3rd out onto his own royal waters, which he had not fly fished at that point, we readily agreed.

The obvious place to go was Semonkong Lodge.

Perched on the Maletsunyane River the owners, Jonathan and his first wife Armelle, have built a special place. One can recline on the verandah, beside the main road into town, cold Maluti in hand, and take part in the greetings and common amazement of how differently people live. The rooms are varied – from en suite chalets with stocked wood fireplaces (a rarity in these parts) to dormitory style digs with shared ablutions and fully kitted kitchens. The pub and restaurant serve excellent fare and can be hard to leave (you’ve been warned)

So anyway, that’s where you take a King looking to fish.

We intended to arrive early to make sure everything was organized. A word of advice, never, but never, take a short cut in Lesotho. Don’t believe the maps, don’t believe the locals, don’t believe your eyes when you arrive at a river that couldn’t be forded with a barge, but is shown as an acceptable alternative route on Google. So basically stick to the main routes and take your time.

Getting back to the point, we didn’t get there early, but shouldn’t have bothered, the staff and villagers around Semonkong had got wind of the Monarchs arrival and all stops and ceremonial blankets were being pulled out, properly.

Now, if you have a large military helicopter at your disposal mountain roads are less of a problem. In due course the King and his entourage arrived in style amongst much fanfare and ululations.

After a short casting clinic His Royal Highness was ready for action.

It was time to stalk those wily Browns.

At first I sent one of my my disciples (sorry, I might be getting into this royal thing) who is one of the better fly fishers I know…to guide the King and explain the intricacies of the subtle art of fly angling.

To be fair, the four bodyguards toting automatic weapons and one or two personal secretaries in close attendance did make stealthy stalking of the nervous quarry a challenge. However, even then he managed to hook the King an unsuspecting Brown only to lose it through sheer negligence and extreme over confidence.

Leaving only yours truly to sally forth unto the breach.

Suffice to say, as mentioned to all and sundry, experience cannot be bought, and years of patient practice played no small part in me assisting in bagging King Letsie his first wild Lesotho Trout.

Ghillie by royal appointment is all I’ll say about that.

Lesotho, right on our doorstep, what a place to visit!

We caught a fish there, the King and I.

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