Our issue 6 rapid-fire catchup with the Orange River OG, Taba Phiri of Kalahari Outventures, whom you’ll usually find guiding clients into big fish in the pristine Kalahari Largemouth Yellowfish Conservancy in the Northern Cape.

5 best things about guiding on the Orange River?

  1. The river is pristine and untouched.
  2. Pure wilderness, wild and untamed.
  3. Being able to sleep under the stars and not get eaten. [Ed: Always a bonus.]
  4. Fun and exciting rapids.
  5. Insane fishing.

5 of the most difficult guiding experiences so far?

  1. Showing clients a top-class spot that always works, they try it and don’t catch anything. You then go and have one cast in the spot and catch fish exactly where they fished for two hours. The guide’s curse…
  2. Environmental difficulties, like strong headwinds and thunderstorms.
  3. Trying to explain to clients that they don’t need so much stuff, and getting them to pack less.
  4. Vehicle breakdowns in the middle of the desert in the middle of nowhere, trying to keep spirits high and make sure people still make their flights home.
  5. Equipment and boat failure on a trip. Sometimes you have to make a plan to fix stuff with nothing, like on the last Largie trip: we broke the transom mount and had to do plastic welding by heating the wire in the campfire and then remoulding the plastic housings and bypassing broken trolling motor switches so that our clients still had a working motor.

5 bands to listen to while on a road trip?

  1. Lucky Dube
  2. Black Coffee
  3. Claude Kelly
  4. DJ Fresh
  5. NaakMusiQ
Happy client with a largemouth yellow. Photo Mark Murray

5 common mistakes that most clients make?

  1. Clients don’t listen to their guides.
  2. They bring too much shit with them.
  3. And they buy the most expensive stuff but it doesn’t catch them more fish.
  4. They have a big party on the first night and then suffer for two days with a hangover.
  5. They bring more beer than water.

5 indispensable flies for freshwater?

  1. Olive Nosediver
  2. Black Magic
  3. Brown Caddis
  4. Green Copperjohn
  5. Woolly Bugger

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5 favourite fly fishing destinations across SA?

  1. Lower Orange River for yellows
  2. Pongola River for tigers
  3. Lesotho Highlands for trout
  4. Transkei estuaries
  5. Kosi Bay

5 fish on your species hit list?

  1. Tarpon
  2. Tigerfish
  3. Trout
  4. GTs
  5. Roosterfish

5 people you would like to guide or fish with?

  1. Garth Wellman
  2. John Travis
  3. Craig Eksteen
  4. Keith Clover
  5. Alex Mcleod
thaba phiri
“What would happen if I was taking a boskak*, and turned around to see a leopard staring at me?” Photo Mark Murray

5 shower thoughts that have occurred to you while fly fishing?

  1. I wonder, what else lives in the river besides the stuff that we know, like the river snake that all the locals talk about. Is it really here or not?
  2. So what would happen to my fly rod and what would I do if I hooked a Cape clawless otter?
  3. What would happen if I was taking a boskak*, and turned around to see a leopard staring at me?
  4. What would happen if I woke up in the morning at camp and one of the clients was not breathing?
  5. And what would life be like if I lived on an island on the river here for the rest of my life?

5 flies that to look at make no sense but that catch fish all the time?

  1. Sculpin Head Zonker
  2. Anything with bright orange hotspots
  3. Green Caddis with copper wrapping
  4. Velcro crab patterns
  5. Chernobyl Ant

5 things about fly fishing that you may never understand?

  1. Why doesn’t everybody fly fish?
  2. Why people buy the most expensive gear but it doesn’t help them catch more fish. It makes no sense!
  3. Doing a thousand casts without catching any fish, and then doing it all over again.
  4. Why fish always rise at the same time. One fish rises and then they all rise.
  5. Why you always hook the trees or reeds when a fish is swimming right in front of you.

* Afrikaans for pooping al fresco.

Read the rest of the Thaba Phiri interview in The Mission Issue 06 for free below, or buy the print edition online (we ship worldwide).


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