Thanks to a not very cooperative Achilles, it had been a long wait for me to get into my first river of the season, some 6 months after they opened.
Western, Karen, Sharon and I headed up to Lotheni for the first long weekend, hoping for a combination of some relaxation and epic fly fishing. Now I’ve always known that the Lotheni River was very technical wild Brown waters, but this weekend really just emphasised that point.
At around 2pm on Saturday Western and I walked from the campsite, back towards the main camp, rods in hand, and eager. We entered the river at the small feeder stream the road crosses, and I carefully chose my first fly for the trip…the deadly R.A.B. The river looked full compared to last year, but we were on a stretch I hadn’t fished before so it was hard to tell. I examined the water, and it looked good, even though I couldn’t immediately spot any fish. Carefully I pulled some line of the reel, and gently laid my fly on the water. It drifted back to me perched smartly on the surface, but nothing.
Meanwhile Western had also stripped some line off this reel, and tried the somewhat different tactic of shocking the fish to the surface with giant splashes. Truth be told, this wasn’t his fault. Sometime since I gave him his rod last year, it had developed the incredible ability to muster up a howling gale from even the most pleasant conditions. The Indians had their rain dance…we had something better…Western’s rod.
We slowly made our way back to camp, fishing in what were very tough conditions. I tried everything in my dry fly arsenal with no success. Not only were there no rises, but I also didn’t see any fish, or even signs of them being around. To be fair, the howling wind was making it difficult to cast, and the ripple of the surface of the river meant the chances of seeing a fish was slim. It would probably have been a better option to put on a nymph at this point, but I just love the dry fly, and was going to have to completely give up before switching to a nymph is such good dry fly water. (Okay nymphers…go ahead and attack me now).
Eventually we were back in line with camp and called it a day. Being trout fishing we couldn’t even find reprieve in the walk back to camp, as we clambered through head high grass, brambles, and up incredibly steep banks. That first beer sure was earned.
A few mates from WeizterFish were staying in the Mountain Cottage, so we headed over to find out what we were doing wrong. It turns out not much. Daryl and Koos had arrived the day before and had been fishing solidly since then. One of them had been nymphing, while the other fished the dry fly. Neither of them had had much success, and they had both blanked in the afternoon, along with us.
The next morning we headed out with the same vigor as we had the day before. This time we fished the stretch from Cool Pools back to the Swing Bridge. The girls tanned in the sun while we bashed through bushes, climbed up hills, fell into rivers, stubbed our toes, oh, and did some fishing.
We continued with the dry fly tactic hoping for an improvement the previous day’s performance. True to its word, as soon as Western touched his rod the wind came up again. Luckily it wasn’t as strong, and was on and off, so we got some fishing in. The stretch from Cool Pools offered a few large pools, and even with our “careful” approach, we still didn’t manage to spot any fish in them.
About an in hour, and still fishless, I spooked my first fish. It’s not often that you’re happy about spooking a fish, but in this instance it offered proof that there were in fact fish in the river.
We continued upstream, and I was fast running out of flies and options, when I noticed a hatch coming off the water. Almost immediately I picked up a small Brown from an undercut on the bank. I was fishing a #16 Royal Wulff on a 7x tippet. Finally! A few more meters up river, and I noticed a fish feeding off the surface. I landed my first cast perfectly, but nothing. The second cast however saw the fish rise to the fly and I was on again. Another few meters, and I was into a third. Things had certainly taken a sudden turn for the better. All three fish we in the region of 6 inches.
In the same period Western, who was fishing next to me on the opposite bank, managed to get 2 fish to rise to the fly, but sadly missed both. He was also fishing with a Royal Wulff.
And then, as quickly as it started, the river went dead, and we headed back through the brambles to the Paj. We drove back to the pools and had a quick dip before heading back to camp for lunch.
So as I mentioned, the Lotheni is a fantastic piece of wild Brown Trout water, but it is not easy. In fact, it’s a difficult, technical piece of water that requires precision casting with very light tippets and small flies. But then isn’t this what Brown Trout fishing is all about?