A Winter’s Day At Hella Hella

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At 4am I was awoken by the sound of pouring rain which left me wondering if our trip to the Umkomaas was still on the cards. Thankfully as I lay there the downpour slowly abated and by the time I climbed out of bed there was just the slightest drizzle. I made a few rolls, packed the car, and then waited for Keegan and Nick to arrive so that we could head for Richmond.

After a quick coffee stop we were soon descending into the Umkomaas valley. It was a chilly 10 degrees when my car started pulling to the left and I was forced to pull over. As I feared my front left tyre was flat and so began my first ever tyre change in the Fortuner.

Apparently you’re meant to lower the tyre using a meter long tool which you insert into a slot in the boot. Problem 1 – the tool is stored in sections which require a screwdriver to assemble and the tool kit provided doesn’t contain a screwdriver. Fail! Anyway, after trying to thumb tighten these screws and nearly losing section of the tool into the innards of my car, I remembered that my  fishing Gerber has a screw driver on it.

Rather than getting us moving this just introduced a new problem – how do you align a meter long tool, through a tiny slot (no giggling or comments boys), with a tiny groove, completely blind? A fiddly few minutes later, having used several phones as torches, I finally connected and managed to lower the tyre.

Jacking up the car ran smoothly and soon I had the flat tyre off the vehicle. Surely this was the end of it and we’d be fishing soon? Sadly not! Having got the flat tyre off the vehicle we quickly realised that the car was not jacked high enough off the ground to put on the fully inflated tyre. Problem number 3; after further cranking the jack to it’s maximum height the tyre still didn’t fit on. Realising this was since the car was parked on a steep downhill, and that the weight of the car was therefore on the front tyres, we needed to move the car to flatter ground. This meant putting the flat tyre back on and driving down the hill to a more level section.

Problem 4; with the flat wheel back on I started to lower the car only to discover that the jack was now stuck in position. I was physically unable to lower the car. It seemed the jack had been extended too far and had come off it’s thread. Now we were truly stuck and I was left wondering what my options were. My first idea was to dig a hole under the wheel so that I could get the spare tyre on. This however wouldn’t help with lowering the vehicle. Plan 2 was to push the car off the jack. This could however cause damage and the car and as it was still on 3 wheels would be tough.

Finally I remembered the other car and we fetched Keegan’s jack. The plan was to lift the car higher using his jack, thus allowing us to remove my jack. It seemed like a good plan until we discovered that his jack was far smaller and couldn’t extend high enough to even touch the chassis. After a little pondering we found a large rock and mounted the jack on top of it. This allowed us to jack the car up higher, and to get my jack out. It also meant the car was now high enough to get the spare wheel on. The only problem was that the rock was cracking under the weight so we were forced to work under time pressure. None the  less we got the job done and were finally back on the road.

Five minutes later we arrived at Hella Hella, paid the rod fee, and headed for the river. Paul and Tom had waited patiently and were busy brewing fresh espressos when we arrived. We kitted up our rods and cleaned the oil off our hands while they sipped lazily on their coffee. And then we finally headed down to the river.

A nice view of the Umkomaas
A nice view of the Umkomaas

Knowing the beat better this time we headed further downstream before beginning the fishing. The water was lower and clearer than the month before, and it clearly made fishing more difficult. All the usual spots were dead, with no signs of fish. In fact an hour in none of us had had so much as a bump. I was beginning to think that perhaps the tyre incident was going to be the most excitement we had all day.

Eventually we decided to regroup and sat down to a small snack and more freshly brewed espressos (well, Paul and Tom did anyway). With the river being lower than before the new plan was to go in search of bigger and deeper pools. This led us further downstream and we soon found ourselves on new water and, better yet, deeper water.

Keegan was the first to reach the new water and got into a few nice scallies fishing off the cliffs of the deeper pool. Soon the rest of us were in on the action and within 30 minutes we’d all landed multiple fish. Well, everyone except for poor Tom who was battling away with no luck.

My first fish came midway down the pool where I leaned out over the edge and the cliff and somehow manage to cast around a corner and into a pocket of water protected by reeds. Almost instantly I saw the tip of my line pull slowly underwater and I struck, sadly too late as I lost the fish. I put in a second perfect cast and thankfully landed a beauty of a fish seconds later.

Paul and I then decided to rest the pool and headed further downstream where we found even more pristine water, and picked up a handful more fish. The rest of the boys sat at the main pool where I assume they made pigs of themselves.

An hour later we rejoined the group who were still targeting the pool, although things had slowed substantially. Sadly Tom was still without a fish as we sat down for lunch. He enjoyed yet another cup of coffee (yes, I’m jealous) and then started flicking his fly in front of us as we relaxed on the banks. Thankfully he connected with a fish and was on the board, It was his first ever Natal scaly.

I then decided to call it a day and headed home, leaving the rest of the boys plugged away for more fish (I believe successfully).

Releasing a Natal scaly
Releasing a Natal scaly

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