After a lazy start at the Weavers I headed towards Knysna but a last minute decision caused me to go via Montague rather than the normal and quick N2 route. The decision to head left at Ashton was spurred by the need to check a section of the Groot/Gouritz that lies well off the beaten track.

Full of difficult Smallmouth Yellowfish, this system can be difficult as hell to get right. The water is often a shade turbid and the flow can be hit or miss. Often too little for decent drifts or too full. However, when you hit it right you can get well over 50 fish in a day.

I wasn’t in the right vechicle, my 4×4 was nestled snuggly in the garage in CT but Bumble the Opel Corsa dealt with the 200 odd kilometers of dirt exceptionally well!

It's been awhile since I just drove with only an inclining of where I wanted to get to.
It’s been awhile since I just drove with only an inkling of where I wanted to get to.
Another fork in the road...
Another fork in the road…

I’ve been wanting to have a look at this section for ages but have never made the mission. It certainly was a detour that made the normal 4 hours to Knysna a 10 hour trip. But what a treat getting off the tar and just exploring. As I mentioned in the Blanking post, it so often is about more the fishing!

But I did get to fish. The first view of the river had me super excited – a tiny corner of a bend that looked relatively clear. I felt that excitement building! It a circling and crying Fish Eagle that slowed me in getting to back into the car.

The views from the pass into the gorge had me itching, although I did realise that the river had its typical turbidity which would make spotting fish super difficult and add a huge dimension of guesswork to the nymphing.

The first view... Anticipation...
The first view… Anticipation…
Views down the valley. Its hard country out here.
Views down the valley. Its hard country out here.
A huge pool beckons.
A huge pool beckons.
I'll be back - there's a lot of water up here!
I’ll be back – there’s a lot of water up here!

But that didn’t really matter, I was here, at last.  It had taken a good five years to take that left turn and go explore! I parked at crossing, tried to get rid of some of the dust and eagerly strung up the #5. I didn’t have much time so I got right to it. I slowly worked my way up the fringe of a big, shallow pool. About half an hour I had solid bump but no hook – bouyed, I kept working the length of the pool. No more joy.

The wintery afternoon light was stunning and after an hour I set up the tripod to get a couple of selfies. I always laugh at myself trying to get a few decent pics with a subject when I’m on my own. The focus just never works out with the autotimer! But then the expected happened…

In the middle of a timed burst I hooked up. I got such a damn fright I ended up doing everything wrong and lost the fish. Cursing and laughing I packed up and to hit the road. I had to get home, it had been a long day and I still had one more to spot to check.

Sometimes its all in the timing!
Sometimes its all in the timing!
Working the still of the pool.
Working the still of the pool.
Light Fantastic
Light Fantastic

It was another slow drive over another spectacular pass with mountain vistas stretching over the Karoo and into forever. I eventually found the bend I was looking for and bundu bashed down to the cliff edge. And there I sat on edge as I watched two Yellows slowly cruise along the bank edge. Then a large barbel broke the surface on the opposite bank. I needed to get on the road but, as you do when confronted with such sights, I sat on. All hell broke loose upriver as what I presume was Smallmouth Bass destroyed fry in the shallows. In the next fifteen minutes I saw another two Yellows, another barbel and several Bassy rises.

There was no way down the cliffs and I most certainly didn’t have time to find the farm owner and walk back upstream. I would have been out of light anyway.

Now to plan the return!

A large surface disturbance in the afternoon reflection
A large surface disturbance in the afternoon reflection
Evening light.
Evening light.
Another bend, and full of fish!
Another bend, and full of fish!
Something went mad in the shallows - I'm presuming a Smallie (bass) was smashing up some fry!
Something went mad in the shallows – I’m presuming a Smallie (bass) was smashing up some fry!
Fred Davis

Fred Davis

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