Kalahari Gold – March 2015
Mavungana Flyfishing recently hosted another trip down to the Green Kalahari, otherwise known as the Southern Kalahari or Richtersveld. Call it what you want, this location never disappoints! Our group consisted of 8 highly qualified medical specialists at the top of their game that had all become friends over the years and all had a common love for flyfishing, little did they know what was in store for them over the days to come.
All newbies to the area, they arrived with a spring in their step, an open mind and armed to the hilt with all sorts of gear and contraptions they had been hoarding from the 40 plus years most of them had been fishing. After some careful inspecting and some serious persuading, we had reduced the gear each would be taking on the drift to a modest size and work was done for the day. A “couple” of drinks at the bar ensued, with some interesting stories sprinkled with a few whiskey induced dirty jokes. This lead to some red eyes and strong coffee the next morning when we rose at dawn. With the open Landy loaded and sunglasses firmly in place, we set off for what was to be one of the most memorable fishing trips any of us had ever experienced.
Upon arrival at the water we were greeted with warm clear water, blue skies and a silence only broken by one of the many fish eagles that call this stretch home. After prepping the expedition-spec rafts and doing the mandatory safety talk we set off down the river to tackle the 35kms of water set in front of us for the 3-night drift.
After a couple moans and groans, the guys got into the swing of things and worked off some of the alcohol from the night before. There was some rain predicted for the trip and when it rains in the desert…. It does a proper job of it. Luckily they were typical summer storms so the barometer was not causing havoc and high pressure held well. The fishing that followed can only be described as obscene. Double ups and triple ups were commonplace. At times it was literally “cast for cast” guys were hauling fish after fish out. We got cheeky enough to forget about short line nymphing techniques, hell we even cast aside the old-fashioned New-Zealand style rig and got back to basics. Upstream dead drifting a single nymph… Yep you heard it, 1 fly, floating line and a good old mend or 2 to mix things up.
With a very modest estimation, we hit north of 700 Smallmouth Yellows in 3 days with a lot over 6 pounds and more than a few knocking on the door of 10 pounds. The average size of the fish is something I have never experienced in this area before. Big, fat and fin-perfect golden yellowfish. We managed around 20 Largemouth Yellows for the trip as well which is a statistic you just don’t hear that often. Averaging 5 pounds they weren’t the biggest but as most that have caught them will attest, they still pack a serious punch and keep you on your toes! Each night there were plenty of stories around the campfire of the daily encounters, the big fish landed and the token “ones that got away”.
Managing to dodge most of the thunderstorms that were in the area, on the last evening of the drift the lightning, thunder and cotton wool clouds rolled in on the back of some serious winds and we knew not to push our luck, so we pulled off to our camp that was already setup up with the fire going and lamb roast busy cooking. We battened down the hatches so to speak and sat it out with a couple cold ones to keep us going and the last bit of ice that we had amongst us. The weather moved off after a couple hours and we called it an evening knowing that the worst was behind us……
3am that morning I awoke to a weird splooshing sound from just outside my tent. With curiosity getting the better of me I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and went to have a better look, only to discover that half our camp was in the process of being washed away! The river had risen 1 meter within a couple hours from a storm further up river. Our whitewater guides had awoken (on the bottom level of camp) literally in the river. Rafts had been dislodged and washed downstream and our kitchen and sitting area were completely under water. Luckily our tents were set up with enough foresight on higher ground and there were no casualties. All our paraphernalia that was effected was easily recoverable and rafts retrieved from downstream.
A couple hours later the guests awoke and we tried to fish but with very little success due to the dirty, oxygen-depleted high water levels. Luckily everyone had all gorged themselves on Yellows till then so the spirits remained high and we spent the morning doing some white-water rafting down to our extraction point.
Trips like this just reaffirm the impact urbanization has on a water system and the affected natural resources. This is a place that couldn’t be more remote, where you enter the river and don’t see another person, power line, house or artificial light for 4 days. Where there is no road access or human interference all around you and the results speak for themselves. I for one can’t think of another place within our borders that is as pristine and untouched. A place I will always hold close and appreciate.