By Justin Bean
It all began with a friend phoning me and saying: “We have booked a Lesotho trip and there is a space open…” Needless to say I responded with: “When do we leave?”
Lesotho has always been on my bucket list, and when the opportunity presented itself for me to go and explore the mountain kingdom I couldn’t think of any excuse not to go. Lesotho has been a very popular fishery the last few years as the Trout and Yellowfish fly fishing opportunities is out of this world.
The crystal clear rivers, cascading through the Maluti Mountains plays host to some of the finest Trout and Yellowfish specimens to be encountered on the African Continent. The water stays cold throughout the year and because of this the Trout can flourish and grow to trophy proportions.
Having left Pretoria at 4 am and with an estimated time of arrival of 12:00 pm, Charl and I got horribly lost, thanks to our faithful GPS. It indicated that we were on the right road, but as it turned out, we had taken the road less traveled, also known as the Kingsley Holgate route. We only arrived at camp by 18:00 pm. I must say however, that getting lost was actually a great way to see what rural Lesotho has to offer whilst traveling though it’s wild but beautiful landscapes.
The guides welcomed us (upon our delayed arrival) to the campsite, with wry smiles and cold beers. The rest of our party arrived just before lunch time, and they had already put in an afternoon session in our absence.
After unpacking our gear and settling in, we had a quick briefing and after a hearty supper we retired to our village style accommodation constructed out of local materials; with mud floors and a thatched roof creating a rustic atmosphere.
The next morning dawned upon us, and as the sun came up over the glistening mountains and spectacular waterfalls; we rigged our 5wt rods with 10ft leaders before heading out to the water. The guides suggested the previous evening that we start off with a Dave’s Hopper as an indicator fly and a hot spot PTN dropper tied to its hook shank at about 40cm, NZ style. This was then exactly what I tied to my tippet.
Just as I was getting ready to head down to the river one of the guides approached me and said that we were too early and that we must take our time as the Yellowfish only starts feeding when the water heats up at about 10:00 am. As I was already up and Adam I then went for plan B and I rigged an intermediate line with a white and chartreuse Cat’s Whiskers in search of some Trout. The guides told us that there are some huge trout in these waters in the eight to ten pound range, swimming in between the schools of Yellowfish.
I made my way down to the river, and headed to a spot where the water was a bit slower and became noticeably deeper than where the camp was situated. I spent some time stripping my fly up and across the depths and to my surprise I landed a 52cm and a 54 cm Yellowfish whilst looking for that 10 pounder Lesotho Rainbow to devour my fly.
Later on we headed out with the guides and stalked some huge schools of Yellows holding in some thin water. We approached them with caution, taking care not to spook any of the fish and presented our dry fly offerings with great expectations. Some of the guys got into some nice fish and after a productive session we headed back to camp for lunch.
After lunch we headed back out to the river but I had some bad luck as I encountered many bumps and takes but with no fish to show for it. I managed to snag every bush, rock, grass and tree in my immediate vicinity but it did not dampen my spirits as the Yellowfish swimming around in front of me kept my mind occupied.
While taking a water break I rigged a new leader set up and took in the spectacular view. The section I was fishing then suddenly started to fill up with a school of about 300 Yellowfish and I knew that my luck was about to turn around!
I made a cast, mended the fly line and without warning I was on fighting the fish! My friend Andy was standing by with the camera and after landed the fish he took a couple of quick photos after which I let the fish go back into the gin clear river. The fish in Lesotho fight very hard and they don’t give up easy. Because of this it is important that you fight the fish hard in order to catch and then release it as quickly as possible in order for the fish to survive.
Regarding tackle, we used floating lines with 5wt rods and matching reels. Make sure that your reel has a good drag as you don’t know when you could encounter the fish of a lifetime. We mostly used 4X tippets and our leaders were on average between 10 and 14 feet. Be prepared to lose some flies as there are some very big fish and they do tend to take the flies aggressively upon occasion. Make sure to have a wide selection of flies, with various Hopper, Mayfly and Caddis dry fly patterns. Also make sure you have a variety of nymphs and don’t forget those hot spot PTN’s!
Additionally, you need to pack ample water in your day pack every day as you are about 3000m above sea level, with the only form of transport being that of your own two feet. There is a lot of hiking from spot to spot but it’s more than worth it as you will be spoilt by amazing fishing and breathtaking views of the river and the surrounding villages. Take your time and have an occasional stop to huff and puff as most of us were not as fit as we thought we were.
In short, pack wisely and book a trip with a reputable outfitter as local guide’s knowledge is an absolute must. Also, make sure to follow the travel instructions provided by your guide to avoid getting lost (like we did).
I have to thank Charl and Vic Terblanche for the opportunity to fish these waters. Our group of 5 guys landed some decent sized fish with an average of 20 fish per person per day making the journey to the mountain kingdom worth the effort. If you are interested in sight fishing crystal clear waters in search of trophy Trout and Yellowfish, then look no further than this magical country called Lesotho.
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