Yesterday I hiked into the Drakensberg with family and close friends of my great friend John Hone, to pay our last respects, and to scatter his ashes as well as erect a small plaque in his honour.
John passed away on 1 May 2012 after a long struggle with Leukemia. I have so many cherished memories of hiking in the Drakensberg with him, usually in May each year when we would spend 9 to 10 days exploring and photographing this wild and beautiful mountain evironment with a small group of friends. Yesterday was yet another memorable occasion, one with mixed emotions, of joy, laughter and reflection. It was a time to celebrate his life, but also one of sadness at saying our last farewells till we meet again one day.
I, and some of the others that were there had hiked through this valley many times in the past, but hadn’t returned in the last 10 to 12 years. As we hiked below the towering escarpment all those years ago, those flyfishers in our hiking party had often wondered if the slip of a stream at around 1800m that cascaded down the steeply sided valley with its gin clear waters, pebbled runs and inviting pockets, held a head of trout? So when the invitation came to attend the ashes ceremony in the mountains, John’s wife, Barbara invited us to bring our rods, among other things, along. In her words, “John would have liked that”. I didn’t need a second invitation and packed a 1-weight rod, some 7x tippet and a few dry flies.
At our lunch stop and before the scattering of John’s ashes, I strung my rod and cast into the first small run above where the rest of the group were busying themselves with boiling water and tucking into packed lunches: first cast and a small rainbow turned beneath the fly, but I couldn’t raise him again. I moved upstream and in as many pockets I took 6 pretty rainbows with the best at around 8 inches and signs of many other small fish. I was excited about this discovery and have vowed that when next season arrives and conditions are right I will return again to spend some time in this magnificent mountain environment and fish the stream for the bright, spotted rainbows that call it home ….. and also, because John would hive liked it!
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