Tag: feautured

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.

Getting to Mount Kenya by vehicle from Nairobi is interesting to say the least.

It’s 160 km and takes around 5 hours on what are ostensibly tar roads which would have Mr. MacAdam spinning in his grave. The gay abandon with which Kenyans drive is akin to putting a bunch of drunk teenagers into dodgem cars and advising them not to crash into each other.

Road signs and markings, if there are any, are really more for adding a splash of colour to the terrain rather than having any actual bearing on the way the traffic behaves. Overtaking is a bit like playing chicken with a chicken and often leaves passengers clucking accordingly.

The drivers themselves though, seem to consider this mayhem completely normal, hardly batting an eyelid as their unsuspecting passengers hurtle towards the windscreen each time they slam on brakes to avoid a certain head on collision.

One needs to be particularly careful when sucking on a cold bottle of Tusker beer snatched from the cold box in the rare moments when both hands are not required to maintain contact with your seat and you are not squealing like a debutante seeing her first party dress. The neck of the bottle is likely to knock out your front teeth, and possibly much worse, if not in full control when snatching a mouthful between violent overtaking maneuvers.

The first glimpse of the monolith that is Mount Kenya is impressive. Rising 5200 meters into the sky, with smatterings of snow near the summit, it’s difficult to believe you’re virtually on the equator in Africa.

Once off the main road a sense of post adrenaline calm pervades and the Tuskers are far easier to imbibe.

The magnificent lush green Montain forest envelops the surrounds in a kind of fairyland splendor and strange sounds emanate from unseen fauna hiding in the canopies.

Of course Gareth, myself and Jerry were here to fish, whilst also filming a TV show on what Kenya offers sport fishers.

I’ve often wondered at the passion for fly fishing that saw the early colonials going to such unbelievable lengths to introduce Trout into remote and extreme areas like New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and Kenya. I mean didn’t they have anything better to do? There they were, busy taming wilderness areas full of dangerous animals, unfriendly locals and tropical diseases, yet they had time to consider sending tiny eggs on rickety boats from Europe to hatch out and then introduce these temperamental salmanoids into rivers and streams all over the world! You’ve just got to appreciate that if you’re a fisherman.

With its altitude and gin clear water, Mount Kenya has the perfect habitat for Trout to breed and thrive. One strain of Rainbows has proliferated in these cold source waters, in particular the Ragati River. Called the Ragati Red, at first glance it looks like a spawning male in full colour, but in fact even the females carry the telltale red markings year round. I wanted one of those in my net!

We spent our first night in the National Park at the famous Serena Mountain Lodge. Built in the 70’s entirely out of wood with sweeping views of the mountain overlooking a waterhole frequented by Buffalo and Elephant, it’s like stepping back in time. There are no TV’s, but the walls between rooms are flimsy enough to be intimately involved in your neighbor’s proclivities, which can be more interesting anyway and there are no irritating adverts.

At first light we fired up the trusty Land Cruiser and headed into the Ragati Conservancy forest. Stopping only to chop trees that had fallen across the muddy tracks we soon arrived at a charming log cabin tucked away and reached by crossing a small wooden walk bridge over a crystal fast flowing stream that we knew held Trout. This was home for the next few days.

 

 

Of course Gareth, as is his wont, rigged his rod with lightning speed and blundered immediately into the nearest water, frightening not only the fish, but the local ghillies as well, who are there to spot for dangerous animals as well as fish.

Allowing Gareth only enough time to snag his fly in the nearest tree, Jerry calmly wandered down to the same pool right in front of the cabin and poached a beautiful Rainbow from right under his nose.

Things were going along as normal

 

 

The dense forest and narrow streams mean that fishing here is technical, with short accurate roll casts being used often. Most back casts will result in unpleasant expletives and lost flies. Even walking in the stream itself the overhanging canopy remains a challenge.

But very soon we realized even the thinnest lie or smallest pool could produce plump specimens happy to hold in the frigid water and eager for a meal to arrive.

It’s easy to be mesmerized by the brilliantly coloured Turaco’s and Parrots fluttering around overhead amongst various species of monkey, but the steaming piles of elephant dung on the narrow paths are a reminder to keep your wits about you. There is good reason why its mandatory to have a local guide with you at all times, although to be honest they are armed only with a machete, which I wasn’t certain would suffice in the case of a startled buffalo in tight confines.

 

 

The night sky is breathtaking in its scope and clarity, but the eerie screams of the nocturnal Tree Hyraxes found here are a little unnerving at first.

The beautifully appointed 4-bedroom log cabin with a large open fireplace is available for hire on either a self -catering or fully catered basis. We were spoiled by the owners with fantastic fare and hospitality. I particularly appreciated the fine linen on the massive beds which made it rather more difficult than necessary to consider throwing a line for the early morning rise.

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “size doesn’t count”, but I do know they didn’t fish.

The Ragati River flows into a large dam on the lower slopes with plenty of space for casting, and more importantly, flat areas for positioning the cold box. It was to this area I gravitated while the youngsters explored the many pristine forest streams.

Only steps away from my cooler I was able to put in long raking exquisitely timed casts while simultaneously enjoying the solitude and a cold Tusker. After hours of patient practice, I can even do this sitting down.

It wasn’t long before a large Mrs. Simpson I had judiciously appropriated from Jeremy’s box worked her magic and my line went tight. I knew immediately it was a decent fish, but it was only when I had it a little closer to the bank that I could see the dark red flanks of a magnificent Ragati Red cock fish. Around 5 pounds of pure muscle, this was to be the trophy of our time at Mount Kenya and certainly a fish I shall remember always.

 

Fortunately, I had a cameraman with me, so had photographic proof to present to my mates around the fire that evening. Not that they wouldn’t have taken my word for it of course.

So if you’re ever at a loose end in Kenya, I strongly recommend you try to get up to the Mountain and the Ragati Conservancy (bookings@ragati.com).

Even if you don’t fish it’s a magical experience.

My only advice would be to hire a helicopter to get there if possible.

© 2018 Wildfly Travel

Powered By Wildfly TravelUp ↑