At 5am on Saturday morning we climbed out of bed, packed the car and headed for the Drakensberg. Stopping for petrol proved annoying when the standard garage told us they were out of diesel and we were forced to head into Pmb to find some. Otherwise all went well until we reached the Underberg turn off when I forgot that it was shorter through Nottingham Road and we headed for Underberg on my 111km worst road.
After passing through Himeville the road turns from tar to dirt for the last 40kms. The dirt was in good condition bar the fact that they seem to be working on it. This meant large piles of rubble for long stretches leaving only one lane for cars. Luckily there wasn’t much oncoming traffic so this didn’t bother us too much.
We eventually arrived at Lotheni at 8:30am where we were greeted by a lone Eland at the gate instead of a guard. We proceeded to the office where we checked in and were thankfully allowed to move into our chalet early.
I kitted up the fly rod and we headed for the river…game on.
Once again I opted to fish my standard stretch from Cool Pools to the swing bridge. This meant walking from the chalet to the pools during which time I explained to Sharon how I’d fished the stretch several times but always caught my fish near the end of the beat. She asked why I didn’t just start there? I couldn’t really answer.
Thinking about it now the beginning of this beat is blessed with many long, deep pools in which a nymph may well be deadly. These pools are also highly likely to hold some of the larger wild Browns and I suppose that’s why I always give them a chance.
Sadly this stretch of river produced no fish. I’m not sure if this was 100% conditional since I didn’t fish it particularly well. My casting seemed a little rusty and I was rushing in places. I also managed to tangle my line on several occasions and hook ever small twig in the river forcing me to change my tippet more often than a cared to. I did manage to spook a fish or two which gave me a glimmer of hope for the afternoon session.
When I eventually reached the swing bridge fishless I was relieved to be leaving the river, a thought I don’t often have when no fish have been landed.
We walked back to the chalet where we finished off the last of our egg mayo sandwiches which had been prepared for breakfast on the drive up. This gave me a nice chance to regroup and relax prior to the afternoon’s session.
Note: I really was beginning to believe that the rod I had bought from Mario (a 2 weight stream rod as opposed to the 5 weight dam rod I normally attack the rivers with) was cursed. This was my third outing with this rod and it was yet to produce a fish.
At 2pm I headed back down to the river ready to right my wrongs. Sharon had studying to do which meant this session was fished alone. This time I opted to fish the stretch from below the chalets to roughly in line with the campsite.
Amazingly I got into a fish on my second or third cast and, better yet, it was on a home tied dry fly. I milked the fish for all it was worth taking several photos and enjoying the first fish of the trip and the rod.
This session was fished into a fairly strong breeze and with a lot of glare on the water. I usually fish small streams from in the water but in this instance I spent the majority of the time fishing from the left bank. Although this meant casting across the current, which is not ideal, it did mean the glare didn’t bother me and that I could cast across the wind instead of into it, allowing a much better presentation of the small dries.
I managed to land another fish close to the campsite, miss two and lose one to a wind knot which I was too lazy to fix. Lesson learned…again…
When I eventually climbed out of the river by the campsite the morning’s session was long forgotten and I was feeling pretty good.
I got back to the chalet at around 4:30pm and Sharon and I spent the rest of the evening celebrating national Braai day. Thankfully our weather was better than the rain in Durban but our braai was still made in a strong wind proving our dedication to the cause.