Whether catching an International Game Fish Association World Record carp on fly (at Hartbeespoort Dam, no less) or guiding in Gabon, Tanzania, and on the Vaal, Roelof Botha – our featured fly fishing guide in The Mission Issue 44 – quietly gets on with the job, no matter the species or location. [The picture above is Roelof’s 16.95kg IGFA world record common carp caught on fly at Hartebeespoort Dam.]

5 best things about where you guide?  

  1. Gabon. There are not a lot of places in the world where 200lb-plus tarpon aggressively eat your fly next to the boat. Adrenaline rush of note.
  2. Tanzania. You realise just how wild the Selous (now Nyerere National Park) is. It really feels like you’re fishing in Jurassic Park.
  3. Lower Vaal River. The banter with my fellow guides at Diamond River Outfitters. They’re a great bunch of like-minded guys.
  4. Gabon. It’s a massive privilege to see the wildlife there on a regular basis. Species you don’t get to see elsewhere, like African manatees, slender-snouted crocodiles, African dwarf crocodiles, etc.
  5. Lower Vaal River. Casting big streamers to a healthy population of largemouth yellowfish for a morning session and then some epic smallmouth yellowfish dry fly action in the afternoon really makes this section of the river special.

roelof botha

5 fishing-connected items you don’t leave home without before making a mission? 

  1. Canon 250D. Nice and compact for capturing memories.
  2. Leatherman knife my wife got me. It has so many uses as well as being a great minor-surgery tool when in the middle of nowhere.
  3. White gold, aka toilet paper (preferably two-ply). It’s great for cleaning sunnies as well as other uses when far from civilisation. It can make you a hero when a boskak whispers someone’s name.
  4. Backup lighter. Dropping your only lighter in the Atlantic at the start of a long day only happens once.
  5. Sunscreen. The African sun is not your friend.

5 bands to listen to while on a road trip?

  1. Pearl Jam.
  2. Fokofpolisiekar.
  3. Creedence Clearwater Revival.
  4. AC/DC.
  5. Queen.

5 things you’re loving right now?

  1. Being a new dad to a beautiful baby daughter.
  2. Watching my stepson compete in school sport. He is an insanely talented youngster.
  3. My two lever action rifles, a 45-70 Gov’t and a 44 Mag. There’s just something addictive about running a lever gun.
  4. The Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup for a fourth time. I’m proud to be South African.
  5. YouTube. I can go down some serious rabbit holes.

roelof botha

5 indispensable flies for saltwater?

  1. Arno Matthee’s mullet pattern.
  2. Clouser minnow.
  3. Alphlexo crab.
  4. Brush fly.
  5. Crease fly.

5 indispensable flies for freshwater?

  1. One Finger Salute carp fly.
  2. GRHE.
  3. Variety of Muishond patterns.
  4. Galloup’s Sex Dungeon.
  5. Ed Truter’s Balbyter.

5 favourite fly fishing destinations across Africa?

  1. Gabon.
  2. Tanzania.
  3. Van der Kloof Dam.
  4. Lower Orange River.
  5. Lower Vaal River.

5 of the most difficult guiding/teaching experiences so far?

  1. Going out alone in Gabon on the skiff for the first time, after just getting my skipper’s licence, then getting hammered by the biggest storm of the season 20 miles from the marina. I was very glad to have done surf launches for the licence.
  2. Having the responsibility to oversee the building of a camp in Tanzania, locating fishing spots and not understanding a word of Swahili as my first guiding job and experience.
  3. Being away from my family for extended periods.
  4. Keeping up with Arno Matthee. The guy is a machine.
  5. Sleep deprivation is a young man’s game.

roelof botha

5 of the best things you have picked up from guiding?

  1. Humility and a willingness to learn make life much easier.
  2. Managing expectations. It’s an art form.
  3. Having a plan, A, B and C.
  4. Adaptability. Conditions and people are ever-changing. Adapt or die.
  5. Confidence. Making decisions and trusting what you have learned takes time, but very rewarding when it all works out.

5 of the worst things you have picked up from guiding? 

  1. Strip-setting my garden hose as soon as I feel resistance. It takes a while to break the habit.
  2. A deep passion for wearing flip-flops everywhere.
  3. Answering with “Three o’ clock, twenty yards” when my wife asks if I know where our dog is.
  4. Bug-bitten feet out of a horror movie.
  5. I can be a bit grumpy when I’m away from water for a while.

5 flies to pack (in the smuggler kit under your driver’s seat) to cover most species? 

  1. Woolly Bugger.
  2. GRHE.
  3. Clouser minnow.
  4. Alphlexo crab.
  5. Muishond variation.

roelof botha

5 people you would like to guide or fish with?

  1. My dad. It would be a massive privilege to take him to Gabon to fish from the beach for tarpon and Jack crevalle.
  2. Arno Matthee, a fly fishing legend and pioneer. Although we guided together in Gabon, I would love to fish with him for milkfish and permit.
  3. Rassie Erasmus. Maybe, if I fish with him, he could come up with some innovative ideas on targeting largemouth yellowfish.
  4. Eddie Rall. Every day guiding with my good friend Eddie is a blast, what a character.
  5. CJ Cronje. He and his dad were my first clients in Gabon. CJ recently started guiding for FlyCastaway and it would be great to fish with him and be guided by him.

5 fish on your species hit list?

  1. Golden mahseer.
  2. Giant Labeobarbus in the rivers of Angola.
  3. Tailing redfish.
  4. Mangar.
  5. Atlantic permit.

5 of the most underrated species in your book?

  1. Carp. It’s a predictable answer, but what’s not to like about sight-fishing and stalking tailing fish that also pull some drag.
  2. Jack crevalle. Strong, aggressive topwater smashing beasts.
  3. All Labeobarbus species. They’re loved by South Africans, but the rest of the world is missing out on some great dry fly, nymphing and streamer action.
  4. Grass carp. They’re not much to look at and invasive, but the level of difficulty in fooling one on fly as well as their size, makes them a great challenge.
  5. Sharks. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I spot one, I want to have a cast at it.

roelof botha

5 things (outside of the fishing) that make where you fish so special?

  1. The wildlife in Gabon and the jungle scenery are unreal. There are not a lot of places where lowland gorillas, forest elephants and flocks of African grey parrots still thrive.
  2. The Selous in Tanzania, and the location of the camp, is really one of the wildest places in Africa. Just being there is an experience you won’t get anywhere else.
  3. Guiding with Rob and Eddie at Diamond River Outfitters on the lower Vaal River is a joy. They’re a great bunch of guys and the banter and laughs are legendary.
  4. Being able to guide with Arno Matthee. Growing up, when I’d just started fly fishing, I used to read in magazines about his guiding exploits and I dreamed of one day doing the same. Being taught by him and then guiding with him in Gabon was a privilege (as long as you have a thick skin).
  5. The hyena in the Tanzania camp that came every night to see if we left our shoes outside or anything else it could put in its mouth. That was a great experience. I had to track it a couple of times to retrieve fly tying kits, stripping baskets, shoes and some kitchen utensils.  

Catch the rest of Roelof’s high fives answers in The Mission Issue 44 below. No fee!

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