Have you ever fished a river where no white man has been, let alone fly fished? Well if the elders in a remote mountain village are to be believed then I have, and several times at that. Imagine walking into a village and the children run screaming “Mlungu!” (white man!). Its a surreal experience visiting a village so isolated that the many village residents had never seen a white person. Now fishing for trout in a place like this is really what makes me tick. Let’s just say that the rivers hadn’t been fished in living memory which is good enough for me.
This post is about a trip to what I judged to be the most remote corner of Lesotho. We named the gorge “Coronary Crevasse”, and it’s accessible only via “Heart Attack Hill”. Coronary Crevasse is in my books is the ultimate destination, no matter the size of fish you may catch, it’s the adventure and excitement of catching a fish in a place so remote. However it’s the journey to get there that really makes these trips so special. This is what I call Back Country Basutholand. Places like these are the ultimate destination for the adventurous fly angler who can’t afford an overseas trip to some exotic destination. I have fished in some fairly exotic locations before and yet what’s right on our doorstep is what I yearn for the most.
Eastern Lesotho has numerous high altitude rivers which are very seldom if ever fished. By seldom, I mean once every few years or even every few decades. There are just not a lot of fly fisherman out there who are willing to walk that extra mile. Most fanatical hikers and adventurers don’t fly fish, and most fanatical fly fishers prefer to spend a week fishing, rather than 6 days hiking and two days fishing. All fly fishers seem to like the idea of a long hike into the back country to find trout that have never seen a fly, but very few actually ever do it. They lack a bit of the JFDI (Just Fucking Do It) attitude.
In April 2005 I dragged a group of mates on a mission to fish what I judged to be the most remote river in Lesotho. We hiked up the Drakenbsberg escarpment and down the valley the other side. After a day and a half of walking we had still not found a fish. The local herd boys all said there were fish in the river, but much further downstream. Now if a Basutho herd boy says the fish are far, then you know they are far. With limited time and and eager mates wanting to catch fish, we decided to walk a day north to another river which I knew had fish in. It was probably one of my most productive fishing trips I’ve ever had, but I still had an empty feeling after that trip. I just had to explore that river lower down and find those trout.
In December 2006 I decided that I had to make a mission back to explore the river further downstream. It was about at this time that I first used Google Earth to explore the rivers of Lesotho. From Google Earth I could clearly see where there was a waterfall which was not marked on any map I had previously seen. I knew this was where we had to head to find trout. It was probably my most memorable trip into Lesotho, and not because of the fishing, because of the journey and the awesome bunch of mates who tagged along. We fished two rivers along the way and had some great fishing in both rivers. As you may have realized by now my blog is not about how many fish we caught, what fly we caught them on, or what rod I used. I like to write about journeys into inaccessible places to catch trout that have never seen a fly. It was some time ago, but it’s as clear as if it happened yesterday. I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
Yass, what an adventure! I guess you’d want to avoid Berg Adders and broken ankles up there
Ya forgot to mention the secret ingredient of that last concoction-foot cheese! I absolutely loved this story! Pure In your face DIY adventure! I would trade a thousand pay-for-fish for just one of those trout-it doesn’t get any better.
In 1974 three of us saw a Life cigarette add in the movies of a plane flying over Maletsunjane Falls and we decided we were going to walk there – the catch phrase was “oh man Life is great!”. Some planning went into the trip, but we were totally unprepared for what followed. Three of us bundled into a 1959 Anglia and off we went to the Frasers shop at Qaba – a road that will today only be tackled in 4×4 vehicles. We left the car there and began the slog. Through rivers and over mountains, valley after valley. No tent, sleeping bags bought at a petrol station for R3.99, shoes were vellies from some shoe shop, food was Maggie mash, bully beef, Pro Vitas, sardines and oats. We had curry powder and we forgot salt. Instant coffee and soup were our saviours. We tried to catch trout with a landline and grasshoppers without success. By day the sun blistered us and by night we froze. As we walked we were hoarded by pikanins, asking where our donkeys and horses were. Lots of laughter and merriment since many of them has never seen white people before, only heard of them from their fathers who worked on the mines. We made it, first to Ketane Falls and then to Maletsunjane, supposedly the first white people to have walked there on foot. Would we do it again? You bet’cha! The next year we guided a group of nearly thirty members of the university’s hiking club to Maletsunjane! What an experience it was!!
Wow that’s an epic adventure. have u written about it. that’s one of those adventures that needs to be shared right here on this site. would love to hear the details and the stories. within that trip there must be many fascinating stories to tell. I have longed to explore the ketane valley. one day. Thanks samuel