Upstream of the hunted camp with the iNjisuthi Buttress lit by the first rays of the sun.
Many streams have their source deep in the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg Mountains, some well-known, others less so. One of these is the iNjisuthi, a wisp of a stream tucked away in the deep crags at the base of the escarpment. It is here, below the prominent peaks of the iNjisuthi Buttress, where the clear waters of the iNjisuthi begin their journey downstream, joined by the Del-mhlwazini not far below the hutted camp. Further downstream it is known as the Little uThukela, eventually joining the main uThukela River some distance past Winterton. In the higher reaches it is a small, steep stream, tumbling over a jumble of water- worn stones, between massive sandstone boulders, flowing through pockets and pools deeply eroded over the millennia – banks protected with indigenous forests, wild grasses, rod-breaking nchinchi and budlia bushes. Its arguably one of the prettiest of the Drakensberg streams, blessed with a natural, pristine beauty.
The tiny Del-mHlwazini tributary that flows a short cast away from the cottages.
The story goes that the name of this stream originated from the amaHlubi people who, many years ago, hunted with their packs of dogs in the foothills of the Drakensberg. In search of a place where game was more plentiful, they moved south from the uMlambonja area (meaning “hungry dog”) near where the Cathedral Peak Hotel stands today. The area they discovered was exceptionally rich in game, and so it was given the name iNjisuthi — the place of the “well fed dog”.H
I don’t recall exactly when I first visited the area, I do know it was a long time ago. At that time it was part of a private farm owned by Tiny and Pat Harries, aptly named Solitude Mountain Resort. The hunted camp with its comfortable self-catering cottages, now part of the uKhalhamba World Heritage Park a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, was built by Tiny Harries. It is one of those places at the very end of the road where one feels part of the mountain environment, rich in animal and plant species, and a wealth of priceless San rock art. Over the years I have visited iNjisuthi countless times in pursuit of the small, spirited rainbows that have survived there since their ancestors were first introduced over 120 years ago.
My last visit to the iNjisuthi was some time ago now what with Covid lockdown restrictions and other militating factors. With my eldest son Craig. we spent a couple of nights in the permanent tents in the camp site and had two sublime days fishing. In small stream heaven and near perfect conditions we picked our way upstream each day catching a mess of healthy, wild rainbow trout. They held in all the right places and rose freely to our dry flies, river wise, street fighters that despite their diminutive size of 8 to 10 inches, once hooked, used the turbulence, currents and underwater obstructions to their best advantage to rid themselves of our flies. Many fought the good fight and lost, but others succeeded in freeing themselves.
I also netted, on this visit, the largest trout I have ever had from the higher section of the stream above the hunted camp. It was in a pool with a small fall cascading in at the head. Fishing blind I dropped the Elk Hair Caddis just off to the right of the main current and next to a large boulder, a good fish rose and sucked the fly in, I felt the pull and then as sudden as the strike, it was gone. It had felt the steely deciept of the imitation, there wasn’t going to be a second chance so I moved on deciding to try later on the way back downstream. It was late by then and the sun had slipped behind the escarpment. I tied on a #16 Klinkie and cast to the same spot, nothing, I cast again, again nothing. On the third cast I dropped the dry onto the left side of the current… bang!, it hit the fly hard, a short fight and I slipped the net under a magnificent, wild iNjisuthi rainbow just short of 14 inches. Its colours, almost unfairly beautiful, iridescence in the late afternoon light. A ripple of muscle and it slipped from my hand back into its liquid world – a moment to remember.
It was this pool that that held the almost 14 incher.
We reluctantly packed the next day and left for home as storm clouds gathered over the mountains. We were treated to spectacular, constantly changing views of the high Berg as the clouds opened up again and swirled amongst the peaks with shafts of filtered sunlight creating a soft luminescence over the staggering beauty of the landscape. The silent countryside brought home the magic and otherworldliness of our destination. It was difficult to draw ourselves away from all of this.
The iNjisuthi is high on my list of favourite small stream, a place of solitude and natural wildness.