Author: Rhuan Human

I Met the GT’s of Farquhar

We all know or have met someone who ranks somewhere on the alphabet of the “celebrity” scale and all of us, even the ones who deny it, will drop name at some point about these chance encounters.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I had dops with the Mummy…? You know, that Saffa Hollywood actor Arnold Vosloo?” Or… “You know I bumped into Derek Watts at the airport once, hell of a lekker oke”.

Like most, I have my own “I know a celebrity” stories, and I admit after a few in the pub I’ve dropped their names in casual conversation before. For a year I lived down the hall from Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies, in Dromedaris men’s res at the University of Johannesburg. He was still a baby bok when I met him, and I knew him as “Twinsaver”, he might have washed my dishes once or twice.

I also guided protea legends Jonty Rhodes and Lance “Zulu” Klusener into some trout at Engeleni Farm in the KZN midlands, we had a braai shared some whiskeys and I washed their dishes when we were done.

 

My most memorable celebrity encounter happened on a lonely Atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 10 degrees south of the Equator.

It was where I met and spent some quality time with the GT’s of Farquhar Island. Now before you call me out on how the hell I arrived at the conclusion that a fish qualifies as a celebrity and that I’m squeezing this angle for all it’s worth, let me explain.

The Giant Trevally who inhabit the waters of Farquhar Atoll really are world-famous and, in my eyes, way more interesting than any Jenner/Kardashian sister. These GT’s were the stars of Attenborough’s BBC series, Blue Planet II as the bird-eating fish of the Seychelles.

Gangs of GT’s congregating in an area to feed on the unsuspecting victims flying overhead. Scenes of vicious and calculated attacks in 4k slow motion as the Geets leapt from their own aquatic world into ours to grab a mouth full of feathers and flesh, their awe-inspiring power and intelligence on full display, narrated and detailed by the soothing sound of sir David himself.

 

It really was nature documentary at its finest and not only captured television audiences but did the rounds on social media. Over 5 million views on YouTube, twice as much on Facebook and who knows how many times it was sent on with messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

The clip had gone viral, and at that point, Giant Trevally was the most talked-about fish species on the planet, can you say hashtag bloody #trending!?

I met the GT’s of Farquhar, and they lived up to their reputation. It was off Goelette Island the most southern tip of the Atoll where we bumped into them. Birds were diving on bait balls, and underneath them, the GT’s were feasting.

Massive eruptions and splashes, GT’s jumping clear out of the water. When we got closer to the action we realized what was happening, the packs of Geets feeding on the bait would leap out of the water to grab the birds if they flew too close.

It was a feeding frenzy, unlike anything I have experienced.

 

As soon as your fly hit the water fish would come charging, shouldering each other out of the way trying to get there first. They were big ones and let’s just say we weren’t ready for them.

A couple fly lines shredded in the coral and a rod section or three flying overboard we eventually started landing some.

We spent the entire day drifting around bait balls with birds overhead and monsters below, the irony was that we were filming a television show and for the first time in my short career as a fishing presenter, it actually felt like I was on a TV show.

I think I even made the comment that this does not happen in real life…?

After the dust had settled, our crew sat down and looked at each other, bruised, battered and a little dehydrated we couldn’t hold back the grins.

We realized that we had witnessed something truly spectacular and all agreed it would undoubtedly go down as one of the best filming moments of our careers.

I met the GT’s of Farquhar, heck I had front row seats and a back-stage pass. We laughed and had fun, took a few pictures together and said goodbye. I can tell you they were moerse lekker okes!

It’s difficult to put into words what we saw that day fishing on Farquhar atoll, but luckily we caught some of it on camera and it will be airing on one of the WildFly Fishing Series episodes in the near future so stay tuned to their social media pages for the announcement.

Tiger Blues and Jackpots

Tigerfish are fairly easy to catch, aren’t they…? Television programs and viral videos always paint the picture of Tigerfish feeding constantly, aggressive and hungry all the time and eating anything and everything that dares cross their path. This is what I used to think until I got my first taste of the “Tiger Blues”

So the truth is, tigers don’t feed constantly and they don’t eat anything and everything that crosses their path, in fact, most of the time they are fickle little bastards who would rather just chill in their little hole than eat any of your synthetic manmade offerings.

Tigerfish have a habit of “switching on” and “switching off”. Like most predatory fish they won’t constantly feed and hunt but rather conserve their energy and wait for the most opportune moment where the conditions are right and they can get the most out of the feeding period. This is not to say that a Tigerfish will not react to an easy meal swimming past at any given time of the day, but trust me when I say, you will know the difference between an active feeding period and a lazy period.

Kasinga Rapids on the Mnyera River

Sometimes the smallest change in weather or river conditions can be the trigger for Tigers to start eating, the trick is, it’s hard to be in the right place at the exact right time to capitalize on the frenzy. The best advice I have ever been given on Tigerfish is to just keep casting even when you aren’t getting as much as a nibble, just keep hitting your targets, at some point something will eat.

On a recent filming trip for the WildFly Fishing Series to Tanzania with Kilombero North Safaris, I came down with one of the worst cases of “Tiger Blues”. Guys who have fished for Tigers when it’s really tough will know what I’m talking about here. I had spent the whole day casting on the Mnyera river not having landed a single fish. Bites were few and far between and the ones that did eat the fly I managed to screw-up with a perfectly executed trout strike. I was a broken man, drained both physically and mentally.

Coming down with a bad case of Tiger Blues

Craig Thomassen who was with me on this particular trip could see the agony on my face and quickly intervened with a well-timed “Tommo talk”. He told me to think of it as a slot machine at a casino and I’m playing with an endless amount of coins. Every cast is a coin into the machine and the only time I don’t have a chance of winning is when I stop inserting coins, and at some point, you are going to hit a jackpot.

The African sun was calling last rounds on the Mnyera and still, I was fishless. My guide Johan Du Preez from Tourette Fishing was trying his best to keep me motivated literally squeezing out the last couple of casts I had in me. He set me up to fish towards a large piece of timber in a deep channel, it was nothing special in terms of structure, in fact, the Mnyera is littered with identical targets all over the place, but I placed my bets and made the cast as tight as possible into the structure. The result of that one cast late in the day yielded the biggest Tigerfish I have ever landed in my life, weighing in at a whopping 22 pounds, I had undoubtedly hit the jackpot.

The Jackpot, a 22lb Tanzanian Tigerfish

The rest of the trip we managed to get a few good double figure tigers, the ones the Mnyera is renowned for, but nothing came close to the one that I caught on that day, one fish for the whole day on the very last cast and she will be the one I remember for the rest of my life.

Return To Zambezi

The Zambezi River… known for its natural beauty breathtaking sunsets and a certain piscatory canine that inhabits its darkest corners. Anglers with rods of varying kinds annually flock to these waters all in search of one fish, a trophy Tigerfish.

Over the last two years, I have developed a love-hate relationship with big Tigerfish. When they sit on the bottom of a river with a toothy grin, barely moving and ignoring every last one of my flies, flies that took a lot of time and effort to prepare, I hate them. When they decide to have a taste of the hair and feathers pulled past their stuck up faces, only to spit it out a second later in a disrespectful “get that out of here” aerial display, I hate them.

But when stars align and they oblige by attacking those very same flies with vigour and intent and somehow you manage to keep them hooked until safely in the net. Then I love them more than anything else on earth.

On my very first visit to the Zambezi, there wasn’t a lot of love going around. For some reason the fishing was tough, but it wasn’t all the fishes fault, there was a lot of angler error that stemmed from frustration and impatience. When I got an invite to go back to the Zambezi for the second time, preparations started early and a lot of it was mental preparation.

I have been fortunate enough to fish for Tigers in a few different bodies of water, mostly smaller rivers with fast flowing currents and rapids but in the Zambezi, it’s a slightly different ball game. You only get a few chances at a big fish and you have to make those chances count. That means your knots need to be perfect on every tie up, you need to focus and be ready for the take, and whatever you do don’t trout strike!

All this is hard to put into practice when the chaos of Tiger fishing erupts. Possibly the hardest thing on earth is to keep your calm when a big angry dinosaur is jumping around trying to pull your rod from your hands, but if a trophy is what you are after, patience and composure is what you would need to conquer the beast.

So with my new found outlook on the Zambezi and its Tigers, I touched down with Airlink at Kasane airport ready to redeem myself. We were based at the beautiful Kaza Safari Lodge on Impalila island where Brett Macdonald’s team looked after our every need for the next 5 days. Trust me it’s not easy accommodating a film crew but the guys and girls at Kaza did a splendid job of hosting us. As fast as we could unpack and set up our gear we were out on the water and casting flies into the mighty African river. It’s always good to settle the early adrenaline and nerves with a few smaller fish in preparation for the big one and that is exactly what we did on day 1 and 2 of the hunt. We bagged a few fish ranging from two to four pounds and a few feisty six to eight pounders that put a good stretch in the line.

I started to feel a lot more confident and so, on the 3rd day, we decided to make the run up to Golden Pond, an area renowned for double-figure Tigers. We reached the pond after a cold hour and a half run from the lodge. It was “go” time and I immediately settled into a rhythm, a slow and steady retrieve keeping contact so when anything decided to eat I would be ready to tighten up and make sure the fish is hooked properly. Employing this technique yielded fewer bites but I was sure when something should eat, it would be a good fish.

The morning didn’t deliver much action but I maintained my confidence that I would get a good bite if I persevered. My patience soon paid off as we drifted into a strong reverse current created by a small channel draining into the main channel of the river. Birds were flocking to the area and everything about it looked fishy. A slow and steady retrieve, I started working the area and soon figured out the flow and how to get my fly down to where the currents converged. It didn’t take long for a bite and I was on with my first double-figure Zambezi Tiger, a beautiful fish of about 12 pounds. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to start the trip back to the lodge before it got dark.

The next day we headed straight back to the spot and with the same tactics hooked four fish and landed two, all over 10 pounds, the biggest weighing in at 14 pounds. It turned into one of my most memorable trips, not so much for the fish I caught but for implementing a plan and it paying off in the end.

The Zambezi remains one of my favourite fishing destinations, it’s one of the few freshwater destinations on earth where your chances of landing a ten-pound fish on fly are very good, and doing it in some of the most beautiful scenery around is the added bonus. By no means have I cracked the code on those monster Zambezi Tigers, I haven’t even scratched the surface but if there is one piece of advice I can offer to the excited angler stepping on to its shores for the first time… slow things down, be patient, focus, and be deliberate at what you are doing and you will be rewarded handsomely.

Gkhui Gkhui and the Magic of the Karoo

It was mid-November and I was heading south to one of my favorite locations… As the last bit of concrete and steel from South Africa’s judicial capital disappeared in my rearview mirror and the horizon lit up with dancing illusions on the salt pans of the Great Karoo my mind drifted back to the places I’ve visited in the last 12 months. I was lucky enough to see some amazing and breathtakingly beautiful places but none quite like the Karoo.

There’s something about this semi-desert region of Southern Africa with its long narrow roads and vast plains of emptiness that I find alluring. It’s difficult to describe, probably because there isn’t much to describe, but the Karoo just feels right to me and every time I go back I get a familiar, coming home, feeling. This time the Karoo was going to be home for at least a week, as we got invited by Chris van der Post and his family to film an episode of the WildFly fishing series at their lodge on the banks of the Orange River. Gkhui Gkhui River Lodge is a brand new fly fishing and hunting lodge that was built early in 2017. The luxury accommodation is situated 20 minutes outside Hopetown, around some of the best Yellowfish waters I have come across.

 

When we first walked down the pathway towards the main entrance of the lodge my expectations were already exceeded and like the first couple bars of a catchy song I could tell the rest was going to be good. We were greeted by Chris and his friendly staff who were waiting to serve us lunch and the start of what was to be an unforgettable dining experience. No kidding, the food was unbelievable as Chris’s wife and sister-in-law cooked up traditional “boerekos” with a modern day twist, think Bobby Flay born on a farm somewhere in the Free State.

With stomachs filled we set out for an afternoon session on the river. As luck would have it we timed it perfectly, timing plays a big role on this particular stretch of the Orange River. With Vanderkloof Dam 45 minutes upstream, the river rises a considerable amount when they let out water at the dam wall for the purpose of generating electricity. Around mid-morning, the water rises and then starts to drop again late afternoon. Chris explained to us how the fishing really comes on when the water levels start to drop.

My game plan for this particular trip was to do a lot of sight fishing to Smallmouth and Largemouth Yellows and where possible present big dry flies to see if I could peak the interest of any golden resident. Unfortunately, due to dam upstream being low, coming out of a major drought the water color wasn’t its usual emerald green and slightly murky but clearing as the levels dropped. I stuck to the plan though and rigged up a dry- dropper rig to fish the waters around the lodge and the plan paid off. I even convinced a juvenile largie to eat the dropper nymph in the very first session.

Part of our mission was also to target some Largemouth yellows and the next day we did a few drifts, looking for some big largies. I started off with a solid take on large streamer I was stripping through some flooded weed, the fish didn’t stay on for long however and then it went quiet. Now I’ve done enough largie fishing to know that it’s just par for the course but when the wind picked up later in the afternoon bringing with it some dubious looking clouds we made a collective decision to focus on the smallmouth yellows, targeting them on dries. I would have to go back another time, hopefully with some better conditions to bag the elusive one.

So the next 3 days we spent searching for yellows who would rise to the surface to eat our dry fly presentations. Chris who knows this stretch of the Orange River like the back of his hand would move between upstream and downstream spots to accommodate the high water levels and ensure we fish the most productive waters at the right time. What followed was the best dry fly fishing I have experienced in quite some time. We would walk in pairs and spot fish in pocket water, one angler would line up the cast as the other kept eyes on the fish, a short cast with a slight plop of the fly would do the trick as we stood and watched every fish slowly rise to investigate. We had some refusals, some missed takes and also dropped one or two good fish but we also managed to land some good smallmouth and capture a few of the best dry fly eats I’ve seen on film.

On our final day the foul weather finally set in, we woke up to a miserable drizzle and wind that would later pick up to 20 knots. Now, what’s a fly fishing trip without bad weather…? I wasn’t too bothered though, we had some amazing fishing the day before and finished off the show with some good footage that we can string together for what in my opinion will be a great episode and something completely different. It was decided that we would stick around and fish a small branched off stream in front of the lodge which so happens to be fairly sheltered from windy conditions if they do occur. My good friend Richard put the camera down for a couple of hours and got behind the rod. We noticed some fish rising so I tied on a large beetle. Rich made a cast towards the rising fish making sure to plop the fly at the end of the cast. Sure thing the fish came up to see what the ruckus was and in the same breath sipped down the beetle like it was a dry martini. With high fives and hero shots out of the way I pulled out my little point and shoot camera and we took turns at filming and fishing for these eager yellows and ended the short session with 6 smallies on dry and some crazy takes on camera which I will be editing into a little behind the scenes vlog episode, so stay tuned.

On the whole, it was another adventure for the books and it just reaffirmed my stance that the Orange River is a world-class fly fishing destination, and Gkhui Gkhui lodge is the complete package for anglers looking to experience the best that the Orange River has to offer. With experienced fishing guides, luxury accommodation and excellent catering it’s worth booking your next fishing adventure with Gkhui Ghkui River Lodge.

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