Hair-raising descents and lung-busting ascents through impenetrable montane forests, elephants to share the trails with and rivers boasting chunky rainbows and browns. For Kieran Avery this is all part and parcel of a mission fly fishing in Kenya’s Highlands.
“It was the end of an intense and satisfying day of fishing on one of our favourite stretches of river – it had been a successful one with a mixed bag of brownies and rainbows of up to 2.5lbs weight. This is one of the few stretches of river we have found where the two species live side by side. We were on our way back down to the river to find the only path which allows access both in and out to this stretch. I was leading. We were walking beside the river and pushing through thick bush when a slight movement ahead suddenly caught my eye; I stopped and peered through the bush to where a big brown moving mass obscured my view. No more than 20 feet away a big bull elephant was walking rapidly towards us.
Elephants have acutely sharp hearing but their eyesight isn’t great – in this case the sound of the nearby rapids drowned out the noise we were making and so neither the elephant nor we knew that the other was there. We quickly back-tracked and he stopped where we had just been standing as he picked up our scent – a shake of his head and a loud trumpet and he was off, crashing through the bush past us. The elephants in these forests are not too fond of people – years of crop raiding and the inevitable human retaliation have built a deep, easily-sparked anger within them, making a chance encounter pretty dangerous. There is nothing quite like a close encounter with a wild elephant while on foot to get the adrenaline rushing!
I grew up in Kenya, where I was introduced to fly fishing at a young age by my old man and my equally keen brother. Our dad was never that enthusiastic but somehow he raised two ultra-keen fly fishermen. Throughout our schooldays in Kenya, most of our weekends were spent in the highlands, exploring new rivers in search of those elusive trout weighing over a pound. A pounder was, and still is, a very respectable trophy from a Kenyan river.
Kenya is blessed with massively diverse aquatic landscapes: warm ocean waters; the world’s largest desert lake; glacial tarns and the streams which flow from them. So for a fisherman or general outdoor enthusiast the country is a playground waiting to be explored. Kenya might not jump to mind when one thinks about destinations for trout fishing but, if you have time, energy and a willingness to endure some discomfort off the beaten track, then Kenya has some unbeatable trout fishing to offer.”
For the rest of Kieran’s story, check out issue 18 of The Mission below: