Sometimes, it just takes a fish…
The drive in had been special. Up over Sani – that special pass into Lesotho which will soon be lost to tar – with a not so quick stop at Sani Top for a burger and Maloti Lager. We were on route to Katze to visit Ryan and Jen Weaver. The main road from Sani to Mokhotlong and onwards has been tarred. What used take three hours is now a 45 min drive.
The nostalagia for the old rough roads was forgotten when we turned onto the A1. The ‘main road’ through the heart of Lesotho. The further from the tar we got, the more real the road became. At the neck of the highest pass, after using low range to get to the top – it took only 2 hours to cover the 20km climb – we were flagged down by three very nervous looking Frenchies. The girl in the backseat looked like she was about to disown her male travel partners, who seemed to sit on the edges of the front seats, at any moment. “Is this the road to Mokhotlong?” the driver asked in a tone that clearly expressed his hope that this was not the wrong road.
The relief in the car could have been chewed when I told that, yes, this is the road. Just keep going slowly. I didn’t have the heart to tell that they’d be getting in very late if their semi-luxury rental SUV actually made it to the main road.
The views from up here are endless. The earth is constantly falling away beneath you as slowly descend from the escarpment. Just as you feel like you’ve hit a plateau; another breath taking gorge drops away from amongst under the road. It makes for sharp eyes on corners and a good grip on the wheel.
We crept into Katse well after dark. Ryan was up waiting with dinner and Chloe presented us with hand written welcome cards. Having recently experiencing a profound loss in their family, two of my favourite people in the world are going through the process of healing. A long slow journey that I believe they are making beautiful progress along. Fishing has been a part of our relationship since the very beginning. It is what our friendship has built around. It wasn’t the focus of this visit.
It’s not an easy thing seeing your friends dealing with pain. It reminds you of how unfair life is and how good people are confronted by the most unfair challenges. Much of what we spoke about was coping and healing… what moving on meant, not forgetting, being angry, sad, focussing on the good things are still all around, being confused and celebrating life.
One afternoon wound up under a grove of willow trees on the Bokong river, beside a pool so clear it seemed woven from the fabric of dreams. I couldn’t feel, but I knew the Weavers could feel that a part of them was missing. Jen was quiet and contemplative. Chloe, as always her typical bubbly self, took herself to join the local children digging up wild potatoes just behind the picnic . Ryan, JD and I went for a walk with a fly rod. While JD fished, Ryan and I spoke. Clearly he still hurt – that won’t change for a long time – but the talk was all about moving forward, lessons learnt and growth. About holding onto what was dear and how his family was, and will continue to, weather the storm.
We got to long pool with deep narrow run. The water cascaded white down along a low rocky cliff and bubbled out from a dark overhang. “There MUST be a fish under there!” was my thought made verbal. Ryan grabbed the rod and while JD and I stood back he quietly snuck up to the low river.
Each fly fisherman has a unique cast. Subtle differences from person to person make each fisherman’s cast his own wafting signature. Ryan has this slow methodical rhtymth to his cast. It seems to search the river before his fly is even in the water. It dovetails neatly into his personality and character. He slowly worked his casts up towards the dark shadow under the cliff. Then he dropped his Basotho Basher right into the neat, barely visible seam that was created by the subtle side eddy of the cliff.
I imagine, from the perspective of the fly, being sucked down in a tempestuous maelstrom of crashing currents and spinning eddies. Drifting totally free, the last moment becomes dark as the sleek cock fish inhales it.
It erupted from the crystal clear water, followed by cheer from JD and I. Ryan’s rod bent over as the cockfish fought, broadside into the current, for its freedom. It came cartwheeling out of the water at least three more times. In his slow and thorough manner, Ryan brought the fish hand. The dark bronze back, pink cheeks and pearly belly covered by those distinctive speckles. Ryan was smiling. Time stood still.
It those moments of the fight and the appreciation of living beauty, there was no sadness, regret, questioning or anger. It was a man, his fish and that moment. It may have lasted mere fractions of time, yet they became everlasting. I believe that it is the healing power of moments like these, no matter how brief or in what form, that we should all be seeking out.