We’d arrived in Rhodes for the 2018 annual Trout Festival in torrential rain below pewter skies and pea soup mist in the passes. The rivers were over their banks and muddy, the fishing prospects were slim to nil. We hung on the hope that in the Highlands as soon as the rain holds up, with the porous nature of the geology, the rivers fine off quickly and begin to clear within a day or two.
Later in the day the pub at Walkerbouts was, not unexpectedly, a hive activity with stranded flyfishers. Over a couple of beers, Tony Kietzman, veteran local fly fishing guide through a cloud of pipe smoke, asked, “have you ever fished the Glen Nesbitt, a tributary of the Bokspruit? I replied that although I recalled a vague reference to it sometime on a previous visit, I hadn’t. “I think it’s the kind of small stream you’ll like, and in these conditions it drains quickly and is seldom discoloured”, he said.
It didn’t need much more thought except to make plans with Ken Quick for an early breakfast and the 40 minute dirt road drive to the entry point just beyond the old Bothwell farmhouse on the road up to Gateshead. Quinten Austin and his son Cuan joined us, but would fish downstream to the Bokspruit confluence. Our first impression of what we could see looking upstream from the bridge, was that we weren’t sure if Tony’s convincing description of the stream was quite as he had described. So we hung over the bridge as flyfishers do and stared into the water rushing below, why I don’t know, but probably for the same reason you kick the tyres of a new car.
It was pointless turning back in search of other water so Ken and I worked our way upstream through the first steep cascading 300m section pricking a couple of small fish straight away. At the first bend the character changed and the gradient eased into a beautiful upland freestone stream, clean except for the deeper water that had a slight opaqueness, a perfect mix of water types that went on throughout the day as we fished higher. The kind of water I get excited about – Tony’s predictions were right.
At a larger pool above the first bend we found the sweet spot of the stream. After netting a handful of small trout each, Ken took a solid rainbow of about 16 inches hard up against the left undercut bank Soon after I was surprised by a pretty 14 incher out of a tiny pocket not much bigger than your average hand basin. It sipped in my lightly weighted #18 soft hackle drifting below a high floating hopper. Getting fish of this size out of such a small stream I’m always glad to have a witness to back up the story. Even then I notice the odd cocked eyebrow suggesting some suspicion of collaboration. But, these are also the ones that usually come around a little later to ask for more information – truth be told I have learnt not to divulge too much. My advice usually is, go and make your own discoveries because every day out is full it’s own little surprises, and no two are alike.
Throughout the morning we continued to take fish in fits and starts, all heavily spotted wild rainbows mostly between 8 and 10 inches and just before stopping for lunch, one or two plump fish of around 12 inches.
We shared our experiences over a bite to eat after having covered probably no more than a third of the stream to its source. The weather was changing again, it looked like rain coming in from the west so we made the call to give it best and made our way back downstream. I’d spent enough time with Ken to conclude that I couldn’t have wished for a better companion, a skilled flyfisher, humble, interesting conversation and an all round good guy.
Later, back in the pub at Walkerbouts, Tony was surprised to hear of the number of fish and size because of the devastation of the previous years drought that left the stream at the point where it had all but stopped flowing. It showed the resilience of these systems to restore themselves, in particular those in the higher reaches in the more natural environments where the human and agricultural impacts are minimal.
I have been back to the Glen Nesbit on subsequent visits to the area one being a particularly notable day with the three known as the ‘A Team’, Woz, Rus and Wally, but that’s another story about the ‘slapit’ technique that I’ll leave for another time.
I have never been disappointed fishing this stream, but I haven’t been able to find Ken’s 16 incher again. I’ll keep trying until I reach the source of this delightful stream where the first trickle seeps out of the mountains.
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