I have just returned from a road trip for a family celebration in Port Elizabeth. On the return journey I managed to use up some accumulated brownie points and sneak in a little flyfishing among the Karoo Acacia and also on one of my favourite South African streams, the Karingmelkspruit – it is my belief that a road trip or any trip for that matter, isn’t complete unless it involves flyfishing at some stage – not that difficult because if its wet there is almost always something to tempt with a fly.
This trip was no different except for the Karoo leg in Somerset East. Alan and Annabelle Hobson were our welcoming, friendly hosts at their comfortable and quaint Angler and Antelope Guest House, (http://www.anglerandantelope.co.za/) a deconsecrated church and ancillary buildings converted into a guest house. What made our fleeting stop and afternoons fishing so fascinating was that it defied all logic or certainly my understanding of suitable habitat for trout in clear, cold mountain streams. Who would have thought that there was quality flyfishing for trout in the hot, dry, dusty Karoo environment? It was my first eye-opening visit and it definitely won’t be my last. Apart from the trout in spring fed streams that periodically flow underground keeping water rich in nutrients and temperatures around 16 degrees C, there are indigenous fish species like Yellowfish, Witvis and Mogel to be caught on fly in challenging conditions. Alan put me onto a new private section of the Naudeshoek Spruit where we caught pretty, spirited rainbows in good condition and I lost a solid fish at the net of 18 inches as a result of a straightened Grip hook! But, it is not just the rivers and streams in the area that hold a head of trout. Alan related stories of the trophy fish in their local stillwaters, a definite tick for my next visit. Of course, Somerset East has more than flyfishing to offer the visitor – it has a fascinating history, the place where the Great Trek is believed to have started, a gallery housing a collection of Walter Batiss’s art works which he bequeathed to “the people of Somerset East and South Africa.”, interesting fauna and flora, and more. Our stay at the Angler and Antelope was over far too quickly. Apart from all it offers, Somerset East and the fascinating and different flyfishing available should be on every serious flyfishers priority bucket list and there is no better guide and host than Alan and Annabelle.
The Angler and Antelope Guest House
Alan keeping a low profile – spooky trout
Another feisty Naudeshoek Spruit Rainbow
Trout streams in the Karoo? …. no way!
The drive home takes you along dusty farm roads, past scattered homesteads and interesting game sightings.
Next stop Lupela Lodge (http://www.lupelalodge.co.za/) on the banks of one of my favourite South African streams, the Karingmelkspruit, and a couple of days with our friendly, salt of the earth hosts, Denise and Alf Ross. Unfortunately the devastating drought conditions have taken their toll on the river, which is down to a mere trickle between the larger deeper pools. Conditions that are currently being experienced over most of the inland, central to eastern parts of the country. Despite this I spent the best part of a day in the low water conditions, stalking spooky rainbow trout up to 18 inches, landed this time without any long-line releases caused by straightened hooks! My good friend Pieter Taljaard and nymph ‘O’, aka ‘the Guru’, will be proud that for a dry fly man, I caught most of the trout on nymph. Even in the late afternoon when the river came alive with trout rising to invisible insects and refusing all my usual dry flies despite inquisitive inspections, I cracked the code with a tiny emerger fished just below the surface film. The lack of flow meant that normal upstream dead drift and line mending needed to be replaced with a active retrieve. The stay at Lupela reminded me of the stark beauty of the place, the wonderful hosts and the need to return sooner than later.
The Karingmelkspruit at Lupela Lodge. A beautiful setting among sandstone outcrops
What was once a sparking riffle! The rain will come, hopefully soon.
The kind of Rainbows found in the Karingmelkspruit.
No sign of running water
But, still they are there and in good condition.
The long drive home took us through Rhodes the known Centre of the Universe, and a quick stop for coffee with friends, then over Naudes pass at 2500 metres above sea level, a short cut though the Pitseng link now in very passable condition, to Underberg and finally No. 18 on the Hillside in Westville.
Near Rhodes at the confluence of the Bell, Sterkspruit and Kraai Rivers – the devastation of drought
The skeletal remains of the Umzimkulu River at Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg
A reminder to keep one eye on where you are stepping!
Thank you Alan and Annabelle and Denise and Alf, I will be back.
Please note that all written and photographic material contained in this blog and its posts are the sole ownership of the author/photographer and may not be copied or used for any purpose whatsoever without the prior consent of the author/photographer having been obtained – Peter Brigg