While Fred was chasing GT’s in the rugged Djabouti desert, I was chasing rainbows in the lush green valleys of the Drakenbsberg. While I was catching fish of 8″ long, Fred was casting 8″ long flies. According to my wife Fred was actually fishing. He was catching big fish. She says what I do is not fishing. Well whatever it is, it makes me tick!
Over the Easter weekend I hiked into one of my favourite valleys to scratch an itch that I call fishing. It was far more of a hike than it was a fishing trip, as we hiked close on 30km, and had only a few hrs of fishing while the fish were in the feed. It’s the upper most reaches of one of KZN’s most famous trout rivers and yet I’ve only met one other person who has fished there and I’m probably not as high as I have been. How can that be? Well it’s remote. Very remote. It is definitly the most remote trout fishing in the Drakenbsberg, if you measure the distance from where you can leave a car, to the highest fishing water. That includes the remote rivers in the Northern Drakensberg.
My visit to this river in the spring of 2015 inspired me to start writing this blog, and hence the name of this post. I came up with the name for my blog after I was asked where I was fishing the next day. We were on a family holiday at a nearby resort, and my reply was “it’s a stream beyond those hills”.
To access this section of river without trespassing through private property, you have to walk about 15 km over two large mountain ridges, and then you are at the very top of the river. To access it illegally is much easier, but you need to risk running into some grumpy landowners. This is also a 15 km walk but at least there are no mountains to climb and you can start fishing about half way.
Yesterday I chose the illegal route as that’s the only way I could fish it in on day trip. I suppose I should ask the land owners but I don’t know who they are. Maybe I will find out for the next visit. It’s brutal as a day hike goes and my legs today can certainly feel that they were used.
I took a regular fishing buddy of mine, Andrew Descroizilles. We left Kokstad at 4 am and arrived at our parking place at 5:45 just as the sky in the east was starting to light up. As we opened the car door we felt the huge temperature difference between home and in the berg. The frost was thick, but thankfully the air was still. A beautiful autumn day was in the offering, we just would have to wait a bit for water warm and the fish to come on the bite. We walked for 2 hours to get to the start of the gorge where we made stopped for breakfast, and make a cup of tea. I suspect that the section leading up to the gorge puts a lit of people off going higher. The water is thin with very little holding water even whenever the river is full.
We actually had to wait untill midday for the first fish to show itself. There was not a fish to be seen anywhere and so at 10:30 I suggested we have an early lunch so as to wait for the fish to come out and start feeding. That’s unfortunately the nature of these rivers at this time of year. The fishing time in the day is relatively short, and as inviting as the water may look, it’s hardly worth wetting a line before 11 am.
It was incredibly difficult tearing myself off the river as it just seemed to get better and better and the fish were by now out and about. Rockhopping up the river, rod in my hand and catching a fish in every pocket is about as close as I will come to heaven meditation. You soon snapp out of it as you become aware that every corner you round, you get further from home. The three hour walk, the 2 hr drive, my beautiful wife and baby, and the oxtail stew eventually got the better of me and I turn round and trotted off back down river to find Andrew.
If you enjoy flicking dries into pocket water, if you value fishing in places that are seldom fished, if you enjoy hiking, if you enjoy spectacular mountain scenery, then this place is for you. If you enjoy catching big fish, then I’m sorry this is the wrong place. This is my kind of place, where the fishing is secondary. It’s the kind of place where I would be pushed to decide which is more important, camera or fly rod.
The very upper reaches of this river where the main river splits into two tiny streams, is the place where I wish my ashes to be sprinkled. My soul, if I have one will be quite content to chill out u there for the rest of time, unless of course I find somewhere more beautiful. Let’s hope I do although somehow I think not.