Lesotho: Heading Up

Lesotho: Heading Up

After the day of lessons, it was decided that it was time to head off the beaten track. While Ryan and I had be learning our lessons the day before, Rex had headed up to meet the chief of the village. Apart from paying the necessary respects, he took the opportunity to find out about fish and fishing. The chief said very few fisherman had been past his village in the last few years but definitely quite a few in about 2010. He also said that the small this season and we would struggle to get big ones, however there were lots upstream. After negotiating the price for donkey hire, Fey went fishing.

So early we were up, packed our packs, left them with our Basothos to load onto the donkeys and headed up to the chief’s hut to drop our vehicle and for Ryan and I to pay our own respects. There was much amusement at my neon orange socks which had survived the party which had slowed my start to the trip. I couldn’t resist wearing once or twice and was abused relentlessly about the fish climbing over the mountain when saw me coming, etc…

Coffee, journal and views. Life is only better in neon socks!
Coffee, journal and views. Life is only better in neon socks! Photo: Rex Fey

After the necessary arrangements, and Ryan’s very near miss at breaking his rod tip in the bakkie’s tail gate, it was off. We spent an easy morning fishing upstream with our donkeys and happy Basothos laughing at us (or my socks). The rainbows were prolific and came happily and easily to the dry fly. It was fun fishing that nobody can complain about. I still had the hankering that is wasn’t exactly what I came for but as the morning wore on the scenery and immensity of the valley really made the fishing minor in the day.

The views from the chief's hut. Not terrible at all!
The views from the chief’s hut. Not terrible at all!
Photo time with the chief - a necessary part of the negotiations.
Photo time with the chief – a necessary part of the negotiations.
Ryan covering a rise
Ryan covering a rise
Rex; prospecting.
Rex; prospecting.

I got the feeling that the earth here is young and raw, small crystals litter the slopes and are embedded in almost every rock. As the sun rose and I walked the rocks seemed alive with light. Jagged edges of cliffs and fresh boulders in the rock fall areas gives one the feeling of being insignificant in an ever changing and shaping environment.

By midday we had selected a campsite protected by boulders and furnished with the babbling stream as it spilled into a beautiful fish-filled pool. I was almost dismayed when, after a coffee, Rex and Ryan passed out – Rex in a hammock and Ryan in the tent. Buggered if was going to sleep, I set off to do some fishing.

Lazy bum 1
Lazy bum 1
Lazy bum 2
Lazy bum 2

Rainbow after rainbow came to the dry out some magical water. It was a treat. Pushing upstream I came across a fishing Basotho herdsman who was too shy of the camera and seemed to feel that there were no ‘Mkula’ (grand) fish in the river. I wasn’t worried, there were fish enough for both and I soon left him standing by side of bottomless pool that I was convinced held something proper.

There are beautiful, deep blue pools spaced almost routinely up the river and in boom years they must harbour some farm animals! – Rex (amongst other regular Lesotho fly fishermen) has a theory that the rivers run in “Boom and Bust” cycles where the population of a river will grow in numbers, then have a die back due to weather/food issues after which there will be a low number of really big trophy fish, then they spawn and die off while their many progeny populate the river in large numbers again. Since the trip we have that this particular gets big rainbows – we didn’t find them and I will bet my bottom dollar that there were no trophy rainbows there this year. However, I would love to fish there when they are! These pools scream big fish!

As hard as we fished many of these pools, we only managed small fish!
As hard as we fished many of these pools, we only found small fish!
So many pools.
Photo: Rex Fey

I eventually realised that it if I wanted to hit camp before dark I should back. I stowed my rod and took a lazy stroll down the river and really tried to drink in the scenery. The shouting herdsman on the mountain, the sheep bells echoing off the valley walls, the lammergeier soaring high above and the myriad of small birds making ready for the night.

There was much chatter at camp about the following day’s plan. With the lack of big fish in the river, we decided a day hike (with fishing higher up) for a night on the Drakensberg escarpment was in order. With the anticipated early departure, we packed the basics and settled down for night. Again, as always, there was much banter and noise about fish and life in general!

How's this for a switch back?
How’s this for a switch back?

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