Tag: Featured Blog

Zambezified

Kipling’s writing immortalized the great grey-green greasy Limpopo – it would be fascinating to read his words had he experienced the majesty of the Zambezi River on his travels.

What a spellbinding waterway it is.

 

Fly Fishing on the mighty Zambezi River with River God Adventures

 

The longest East flowing river on the continent of Africa surely traverses some of its most precious and game rich terrain.

Rising in the North Western reaches of Zambia and offering  life giving waters to the inhabitants of six countries on its relentless 3500 km passage to the Indian Ocean, it is used for vital electric power creation on both the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dam projects.

The spectacular Victoria Falls are probably the rivers most impressive single feature, but for anyone who has spent time on its waters the Zambezi will inevitably leave an indelible mark.

 

Victoria Falls Photo Credit Mario Micklisch 2014

 

Now we fish a lot, and if there is one river that has drawn us back again and again, it’s this one. Of course the notorious hard mouthed Tiger Fish plays a significant role in this. But its much more than that.

The Zambezi is not a particularly deep river and thus is not navigable in large boats, but it spreads out over the plains of Southern Africa, creating beautiful islands and pristine white sandbars where nature in all her glory seems to spend more time than in other places. In the drier month’s animals of every type congregate along the banks and lagoons, where the certainty of water is secure.

Huge herds of Elephant and Buffalo inhabit the islands and frolic amongst the papyrus in the searing heat, while hippo and crocodiles happily co-exist in their watery world.

 

 

We were back on the section of river between the Kariba wall and Cahora Bassa, which boasts both the Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side and Mana Pools National Park opposite in Zimbabwe. Truly a Garden of Eden experience.

We stayed first at Royal Zambezi Lodge (RZL), which is one of the bigger operations in this area, offering all the luxuries and amenities expected these days in Africa, whilst at the same time doing so in an understated and friendly environment. Families with children are welcomed at RZL, which is unusual in an area rich in big wild cats and large herbivores. The fantastic well stocked bar perched on a wooden deck in the deep shade of a magnificent Sausage Tree was a favourite haunt and one could spend hours there cooling off in the sparkling pool with a cold Mosi in hand simply taking in the mighty Zambezi and its wild inhabitants.

 

A warm welcome from the Royal Zambezi Lodge

 

Unfortunately for us, an early rainstorm morphed into a full on deluge and more than 170mm of rain fell on our first night, turning the river a roiling chocolate brown. But even then we were able to entice 7 different species onto our hooks over the next couple of days as the water started to clear.

Our next stop was a wonderful new Zimbabwean operation called “River God Adventures” offering something completely new. A fully kitted out “house boat” that is able to navigate the river due to its shallow draught. Sleeping up to 8 guests comfortably, with a hot water shower and flush toilet on board, as well as a large galley churning out the kind of food that has made Zimbabwean chefs justly famous.

 

 

Although we did not have time to do the full trip, the normal itinerary is a 5-night voyage from Chirundu near the Kariba wall down the river to Masau Camp, near where the river enters Cahora Bassa. From a fishing perspective, this means that one gets to fish both the wide slow sections of the river as well as the deeper faster flowing gorge area.

The freedom to pull up onto an uninhabited stretch of beach for sundowners and dinner served al fresco under a gazebo on squeaky white sand, while taking in the sights sounds and smells of Africa is a special experience indeed and is certainly one of the reasons this operation is already running high occupancies and should be booked well in advance.

 

An evening spent on a secluded stretch of the Zambezi River

 

I am convinced the Zambezi is one of the most spectacular rivers on the planet, but I may be biased. I suggest you jump on an Airlink flight to check it out for yourself as soon as possible. I bet you get hooked too.

 

For more information please email:

Royal Zambezi Lodge reservations1@royalzambezilodge.com

River God Adventures info@rivergodadventures.com

 

The vast open spaces of the Northern Cape in South Africa are breathtaking. Not in the way a Renaissance Cathedral in Rome, or your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon would do it, but rather a slow realization that here you need to calm down and breathe, or somehow be out of place.

The vegetation is sparse and desert like, with scraggly bushes eeking out a life virtually devoid of water. Koppies of granite and great boulders steam on the landscape in perpetuity and serene, seemingly endless vistas, devoid of man, draw the eye.

But simply add water and this outwardly inhospitable land sustains crops of all kinds. Huge vineyards stretch to the horizon and fruit of every variety thrive. The small towns are quaint splashes of green against the backdrop of the desert and the local people friendly and relaxed.

Then through all this runs South Africa’s largest river, the mighty Orange.

The mighty Orange River

A mate of mine, Eddie, who likes fishing, called to ask where I thought he should take a group of 14 male friends (myself included) to celebrate his 60th birthday and enjoy a bit of fishing along the way. After considered thought, I suggested he do the 4 -night canoe trip down the Orange River below Augrabies Falls. I had been down this stretch some years ago with my whole family, ranging in age from 6 to 60, and then been back twice since to fish and film there.

Given that the Seychelles trip I also mentioned would have cost him a couple of million Rand, Eddie grabbed at this far more reasonably priced option like a hungry Pitbull snatching a steak off the braai. At less than a fifth of the cost it’s not surprising really.

One call to Craig Eksteen, owner operator of Kalahari Outventures (KO), who has exclusivity on this section of the river, and it was all set up.

Eddie couldn’t pay the deposit fast enough, especially when I mentioned Seychelles again in passing.

As the August date drew closer there was a flurry of activity on the Whats- App chat group set up for the purpose. Warnings were posted regarding whistling in front of spouses while packing, and thoughts concerning how much a case of whisky weighed, given that space was at a premium on the boats, were bandied about. More consideration was given to the potential problem of disappearing ice than at the last global warming summit. There was even the odd mention of fishing tackle.

The diverse routes that Airlink provide make getting to Upington a breeze

A jaunty bunch of Joburgers in large SUV’s fetched me at Upington Airport. I had used the far more comfortable option of flying Airlink from Pietermaritzburg via Jhb, leaving in the morning and arriving before lunch. As all tents, chairs, cold boxes and food are provided, flying is definitely worth considering, especially if time is tight. A transfer of around an hour and a half is easily arranged with KO.

The vast vineyards of the Northern Cape

We meandered our way to Augrabies, past vineyards and farm stalls, stopping only to check on the ice in the cold boxes and for a delicious lunch at Vergelegen Country House in Kakamas, a town not much bigger than a large TOPS at Spar bottle store. How they managed to serve 15 (our numbers had grown slightly) hungry men who descended on them with no warning, and to do it with panache and humour remains a mystery. But if you’re after superb Karoo lamb and hospitality, in the local vernacular, “maak a draai”

We drove through the town of Augrabies- but I was opening a beer and missed it.

The Augrabie Falls are worth a pitstop

We weren’t stopping, but fortunately I’ve seen the spectacular 60-meter waterfall named after the town before. With immense water pressure ripping through a narrow 240 meter high gorge its busy creating – it’s well worth a turn.

Due to the dithering of 4 truckloads of semi-inebriated males of all ages, we were now racing against the sun beginning to set somewhere over Namibia. It behooves a gentleman to be seated with a wee dram to hand at the going down of the sun-I was sagely advised.

Accordingly, in a billowing cloud of dust we finally arrived, in good time, at the well-appointed self- catering farmhouse Craig uses as a base for his trips. The fire was set in the boma looking onto the golden orb dropping away in a blaze of orange and purple captured all around in the dust hanging over the immense barren vista.

Since I last did this trip, Craig has added to his fleet of old canoe’s and now also uses the more spacious and stable Ark type inflatables. Fortunately, we were issued these and early morning packing began.

This was an amusing scene as us city dwellers suddenly realized we had space only for the bare essentials and needed to make the heart wrenching decision on which of the 3 sweatshirts and 4 pairs of underpants we brought all this way should be left behind. It was essential to allow space for the whisky.

Finally, locked and loaded, we meandered by vehicle through vast vineyards and date plantations, arriving at the broad expanse of the river as if to an oasis in an Arabian desert. A quick safety briefing and the motley crew staggered onto their boats and wobbled away onto the water like newborn ducklings. Ugly ducklings, I might add.

3 days of fun, laughter, camaraderie and friendship ensued on that river. Stopping to fly fish in likely looking rapids and holes along the way, then pulling up on a sandy beach in time for sunset and making it home for a night where the galaxies sparkled overhead and the fire crackled with good cheer. With the help of the excellent and willing young river guides camp was set and good hearty food prepared. Other than the odd scorpion there are no dangerous animals to worry about, which is an unusual sensation on a remote river in Africa.

We did not see another human being for 3 days. There are few places left where that’s possible.

The water was colder than the Smallmouth Yellow fish we were after prefer when feeding, yet this fishery is so protected by distance and its custodians, that every single person (including some novices) on our trip caught fish on fly. The Orange River this far down is clean enough to drink and clear enough to see the vast numbers of fish moving below. Long may it last.

So Eddies birthday on the Orange was memorable in every way and I was reminded that this region of Southern Africa is a jewel, much like the rough diamonds that enticed men here in the first place.

Seriously, if you’re planning a family excursion, a bunch of friends on a break, or a proper fishing trip, consider this fun option….

It’s really hard to beat.

There is arguably only one place in the world where the boundaries of four countries meet. 

This “quadripoint” includes Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and occurs at the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers.

This would then potentially make it possible, for example, to catch a Tiger fish in four countries in one afternoon without getting off the boat.

Anyone keen to give that a go?

Of course wherever boundaries occur in rivers there is the potential for conflict. 

On the Botswana side of the river lies the Chobe National Park teeming with game of every description. There is no fencing to stop these animals moving freely through the rivers and onto the islands between countries. Although the game is not hampered or exploited within view of the various tourism establishments in this area, should they cross into Zambia their visit may well be short lived. But it seems they have worked this out themselves if the barren cattle lined banks of that country are any indication.

Impalila Island, just a stone’s throw from Kasane (Botswana) “belongs” to Namibia and is the ideal base from which to fish this area. It’s less built up and touristy than Kasane itself, with only three luxury lodges perched far apart on this large piece of land.

 

Ichingo Chobe River Lodge is nestled there among huge shady trees overlooking fast flowing rapids which are not easy to navigate or set nets in and thus tend to produce larger specimens of Tiger fish year round, as well quiet solitude. 

The Lodge was the brainchild and home of the late Ralph Oxenham who was legendary in these parts, as much for his tenacity and acerbic wit, as for his love of fishing. The guides too are passionate about the area as a whole, but have an inherited affinity with those in search of fish. Be that as it may, this is a destination where a non- fishing family could happily spend a few days of idyllic holiday. Picnics on the island sand, game walks, drives and cruises, day visits to Victoria Falls, or simply lolling by the sparkling pool are all options, handled by the management and staff professionally and with a smile. The accommodation is in large comfortable en suite safari tents with mosquito nets, air-conditioning and overhead fans. 

The western boundary of the island is called the Kasai Channel, a large body of water which joins the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers and is home to an annual mini Barbel Run, normally in late June or July. At this time of year large schools of these remarkable catfish move into the channel and feed on smaller baitfish, often chasing them from the shallows into slightly deeper water where the voracious Tigers are waiting to snap them up. Flocks of noisy water birds move with the feeding fish, settling briefly on the overhanging papyrus and pouncing on any left -over morsels, and are therefore a good indication of where to cast a line for the hungry Tigers.

But fishing is only one aspect of interest here. As mentioned, the Chobe National Park is a pleasant afternoon sundowner cruise from Impalila and there is something particularly splendid about drifting within meters of drinking herds of Elephant and Buffalo, or a family of frolicking Baboons on an outing. The animals seem less threatened by waterborne humans than those in smoky Land Cruisers. Pods of Hippo grunt and giggle while the stealthy Crocodiles eye one hungrily from their watery world. 

Chobe itself could not be described as a remote African experience, there are simply too many tourists in this area for that. Given that the glorious Victoria Falls are only an hour’s drive downriver, this is not surprising. However, its easy accessibility both by road and air mean that it is a reasonably priced option for visiting and fishing the Zambezi conveniently and in comfort.

In fact, using Airlinks daily direct flight from Jhb to Kasane can have you from the morning traffic in Sandton to your first cast after lunch.

So what are you waiting for?

If you’re looking for the quintessential KZN Midlands experience with rolling mist shrouded hills, roaring log fires and pristine Trout lakes and rivers, you’re in luck. Invermooi Farm, under new ownership, has undergone a major facelift and now offers superb accommodation in a number of refurbished cottages complimenting what has always been considered one of the most beautiful farms in this spectacular area.

I first visited Invermooi as a young boy and have been fortunate enough to have fished the crystal clear dams and one of the best stretches of Mooi River for over 45 years…up until recently this was a well known horse stud, but has now been converted to a working farm. The new owner has put much effort into felling large tracts of pine forest which has only enhanced the appeal of this spectacular property.

There are 4 beautifully appointed serviced cottages, varying in size, available for self catering rental. Even for those who are not keen on some of the best Trout fishing in the country, there are stunning walks and mountain biking trails meandering through the farm and aluminum boats with electric motors on the dams available for hire.

The farm is situated about 20 kilometers from the town of Nottingham Road on the Midlands Meander, where restaurants, pubs, and shopping are all available. Gowrie Golf Course is also situated in the town for those keen on a round of golf.

 

For a family holiday or simply a romantic couples getaway, with fishing of course, Invermooi Farm is hard to beat. Drop into the Wildfly shop on your way through Notties to pick up a couple of the flies that are working and latest info.

 

We look forward to seeing you in the Midlands soon.

Illustrious Invermooi

If you’re looking for the quintessential KZN Midlands experience with rolling mist shrouded hills, roaring log fires and pristine Trout lakes and rivers, you’re in luck. Invermooi Farm, under new ownership, has undergone a major facelift and now offers superb accommodation in a number of refurbished cottages complimenting what has always been considered one of the most beautiful farms in this spectacular area.

I first visited Invermooi as a young boy and have been fortunate enough to have fished the crystal clear dams and one of the best stretches of Mooi River for over 45 years…up until recently this was a well known horse stud, but has now been converted to a working farm. The new owner has put much effort into felling large tracts of pine forest which has only enhanced the appeal of this spectacular property.

There are 4 beautifully appointed serviced cottages, varying in size, available for self catering rental. Even for those who are not keen on some of the best Trout fishing in the country, there are stunning walks and mountain biking trails meandering through the farm and aluminum boats with electric motors on the dams available for hire.

The farm is situated about 20 kilometers from the town of Nottingham Road on the Midlands Meander, where restaurants, pubs, and shopping are all available. Gowrie Golf Course is also situated in the town for those keen on a round of golf.

 

For a family holiday or simply a romantic couples getaway, with fishing of course, Invermooi Farm is hard to beat. Drop into the Wildfly shop on your way through Notties to pick up a couple of the flies that are working and latest info.

 

We look forward to seeing you in the Midlands soon.

The Long Con

Tigers have always been my preferred fresh water species to catch on fly and my meagre pen just isn’t capable of adequately describing that adrenalin inducing experience. But on a whim late last year I decided to do something completely different.

So I told my wife I loved her.

The immediate look of suspicion had me wondering if I’d gone too far. And then the moment passed.

When I say passed, I mean in terms of the age old male practice of accruing fishing credits, the actual payment moment had passed. Of course it would have been remiss of me to not to use such a valuable and well- earned credit…..so, what to do?

After much soul searching with my old friend Glen Livet, it dawned on me. I needed a new species!

 

Why a new species? Firstly, that’s what we do. We go out with a sliver of graphite and a roll of string, to which we attach a bunch of feathers and a hook and see how many different species we can fool into eating it. Simple. But in this case it was more about being able to inveigle the missus into thinking I had a really important mission to accomplish.

Accordingly, at what seemed opportune moments, I began to punctuate long sighs with dreamy whispers of all the things I still had left to do in the fast fading years of my life.

A card that can only be played once. With all my guile and cunning, I implored and begged like a blind sunglass salesman knocking on your car window, until finally one day with a magnanimous huff, the old girl gave in.

I had the legendary Vundu in mind!

More people have climbed Everest than have hooked and landed a Vundu on fly. Was this not a worthy quest indeed?

Incredulously from my life long fishing buddies, the suggestion was met with a kind off sniggering disbelief, if not downright rudeness.

So, when in doubt, go to plan T…….For Tiger. It wasn’t difficult to get the boys excited about an end of year excursion back to their favourite Tiger hunting ground on the lower Zambezi.

Deception was the preferred strategy for this adventure.

Our motley crew landed at Old Mondoro. Greeted by intense heat. We couldn’t get the ice into our g&t’s fast enough.

Early mornings and late afternoons were the only times a human could withstand the fierce sun. So these were the hours we fished. But, like any long con, I did not immediately sally forth in search of the main prize, rather tested my tackle on token Tigers, biding my time.

Spending long hours on siesta and at the dining table, always staying close to the cold box, I slowly built up my inner reserves and hydrated my parched body in readiness for the arduous task ahead. Enduring the taunting jibes of my buddies as their tally’s rose and weights increased, until it was time

I checked my trusty 9 weight and stole a big black brush fly from Jerry’s box. Made sure my knots were secure and the hook sharp. Cleaned my sunnies, checked the cold box again and sauntered nonchalantly down to the boat.

On the second drift of the day I saw the spot………serendipity.

Overhanging branches and submerged trees meant taking a chance. So I did. The false cast was tight and precise. The large fly gracefully whistled through the air and threaded through the structure like a well- aimed missile, landing just inches from the bank.

On the first confident retrieve the water exploded where the fly had been so judiciously presented. With pounding heart I set the hook and watched in awe as the massive fish moved away from the shallows peeling line as it swam for deeper water. Tension. On the line and washing over me.

This monster was too big to muscle and the 9 weight didn’t have the backbone to lift it easily to the surface. Wait and hope. Two mind numbing km downstream the great fish finally tired and we managed to bring it on board. 50 pounds of quivering Vundu.

I had climbed my Everest. Alone and unsupported.

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