I would describe my first trip to the Lesotho highlands as satisfying. The fishing was slow due to a huge thunderstorm, which capped the mountain tops in snow and chilled the Bokong River on the day of my arrival. Although the fishing was no walk in the park (the previous trip can be viewed at: http://feathersandfluoro.com/?p=6411), the yellowfish were big and it was fun casting flies to sighted fish. With some beautiful Bokong smallmouth yellowfish under my belt, I headed back to the land of thunder in April to catch some trout.
I crossed the border near Maseru and headed up the southern highlands in search of an infamous brown trout fishery. The weather of the river valley was as fickle as blue ice on a mountain ski slope, but when there was no rain and the water flowed clear, browns of 31 inches and bigger could be spotted from the high banks, I was told.
The drive was slow due to road works in the mountains and after a six hour stop-and-go mission the light started dimming as the sun set behind the mountain peaks. The delay in reaching my destination made the itch to see a 10 lb brown rising in clear water grow, but that dream was spoiled by heavy thunder clouds rolling over the mountains above the pass and into my destination river valley.
I arrived at a narrow bridge crossing leading to the thatched chalet I booked for three day’s accommodation and watched how the river clouded with muddy rain run-off. That was the last straw I needed to see and instead of rigging a rod to fish the evening rise, I cracked a Maluti Lager to drown my sorrows.
Two days passed before I couldn’t deal with getting drenched during site-seeing pony treks any more and I went fishing. Reluctant to cast a fly in the mud-and-grass cocktail of a river I got off to a late start on the morning of my third and also last day in Lesotho.
Elvis, the local fishing guide that accompanied me, pointed to the banks and tail-out of the first pool we arrived at. Even though the water looked like sewerage, it was a great day for fishing, there was no wind and the sun reflected on the calm surface of the pool. I tied a biggish nymph to 4X tippet and started fishing the tail out with an active, figure-of-eight retrieve. The bulky fly created enough movement in the murky water for a brown hugging a large rock in the tail-out to sense it passing by. The fish rolled on the surface, exposing its buttery yellow belly as it took the nymph. It was tricky to fight a dirty-fighting fish in the dirt, but I soon had the upper hand and slid the lovely 16 inch brown into my net. Some souvenir mug shots were taken by Elvis before the fish was released and the nymph ‘plonked’ into the head of the pool with a more enthusiastic cast.
The tip of my floating line stopped as the fly was worked back with my left hand and I tightened up into a monster brown. A heart-stopping fight followed involving a line-wrap on a metal bar that was hidden under the muddy water. I considered myself lucky to get the fish in the net after taking a plunge into the river to unwind the fly line from the piece of rusted oil drum it was tangled around.
Elvis smiled broad when I lifted the net and shouted: “Seven pounder!”
It was the biggest and prettiest brown trout cock fish I had ever caught in Southern Africa. After a brief photo shoot, the trophy brown was released with shaking hands back into its pool to spawn and reproduce some more next-generation beauties.
From there on it was a fairly relaxed fishing day and I never felt intimidated to cast the fly into a large, murky pool, knowing that the browns were hungry and that they could somehow detect it in the turbid water. I managed to land six more fish, none of them as big as the second fish of the day, but every one a chatoyant gem and uniquely coloured like a tiger’s eye.