Tag: Smallmouth Yellowfish

More Space Than Time

It’s taken me four trips to the lower Orange River to fully appreciate what this majestic piece of the earth’s surface truly offers us members of the species homo sapiens, and how puny we seem when faced with space of this magnitude.

A visit to this generally arid and remote part of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa, and the mighty river that runs through it, is in many ways, a life changing experience…

Wide open spaces and a river runs through it.

Firstly, once out on the river below the Augrabies Falls, there is absolutely no wi-fi or cell signal. There, you see, life changing, in a good way.

Then, you will come across no other people on this trip. Nada, zero, not one.

It’s you, your mates and an endless spectacular rocky desert landscape. This would be scary if you were not gently bobbing down a large, drinkable, crystal clean, fish filled river, on an inflatable boat. So basically, it’s umm, life changing.

Gently bobbing down the Orange in search of gold.

Kalahari Outventures (KO), our preferred operator in this area, have the important details down to a fine art after a decade of taking clients into the wilderness. To the point where one can expect to enjoy a bitterly cold beer or G&T with ice at the end of the day on a squeaky clean sandy beach, while the guides erect the tents and begin preparations for simple but delicious meals.

Home for the night.

The breathtaking night skies are reason enough on their own to make this excursion and with no dangerous animals to worry about, one is able to pull a mattress up near the fire and drift off to sleep under a magnificent canopy of endless twinkling stars.

I first did this drift 10 years ago with my whole family, the youngest member being 6 years old at the time. It was one of the happiest holidays we have ever had together, with the memories of that trip still discussed and laughed about to this day. You could say that for all of us it was…you guessed it…life changing!

Our subsequent visits have been fairly focused on fishing the river for the TV shows we produce in that genre, and even in this quest we have never been disappointed.

The water is literally teeming with fish and the experienced guides are available to advise and assist in getting flies in the right place to make sure you land a Smallmouth Yellowfish. This indigenous species is remarkably powerful once hooked and they will provide hours of fun to those who enjoy catch and release angling.

Brian with his first Smallmouth Yellowfish.

More recently, Craig Eksteen, the owner of KO, and his friends have “unlocked” the mystery of the Largemouth Yellowfish and it’s now possible to pursue this apex predator with a reasonable chance of success. Slow growing, to well over 20 pounds, these magnificent beasts cruise the deeper sections of water and can be targeted with fast sinking lines and flies. The area below Augrabies Falls has been declared a conservancy and now only catch and release fishing is practiced there.

A Happy Craig Eksteen with a beaut Largemouth.

Time was not on our side when we planned our last trip there, so we chose to fly to Upington on Airlink (daily flights), saving at least a couple of days of driving.

A comfortable two hour transfer to the town of Augrabies, with a well-stocked cold box, and an overnight at the splendid Tutwa Lodge saw us in fine fettle for our river foray.

Tutwa Lodge at sun up.

But you don’t have to fish to enjoy a sojourn to this beautiful area, or a rafting trip down the river.  A visit to the Augrabies Falls, wine and brandy tasting at the many wineries, great lodges and restaurants (try the succulent Karoo lamb) and friendly locals, all add up to a unique tourism experience. 

Should you choose the rafting option though, all I can say is… be ready for a truly life changing experience!

 

 

 

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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