Friday, 5 December 2014

Bushmans River, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The Bushmans is quite simply the prettiest trout stream I have fished. That takes some doing, but I was blown away by the setting the second I crossed the cattle grid into the Giant's Castle reserve in the Drakensberg mountains - a tortured landscape of imposing mountains awash in green from recent summer rains.

The Bushmans river was first stocked with brown trout 120 years ago and the trout have thrived and spawned successfully ever since. It is one of South Africa's premier brown trout streams and for the magnificent scenery alone it is easy to understand why.


I had the pleasure of having my sister along for the day and she proved a fine fishing photographer in the making.

We set out just before 7am when the river and valley floor was still in shadow. The light inexorably advanced until its warmth started to tickle the river. Shadows eventually all but disappeared except in the most narrow and sheer of ravines.




Before long my indicator checked and I lifted my rod into the pulsating pressure of a fish. It was a beautifully marked and lissome brown trout with a belly as yellow as butter.



As the sun's warmth began to be felt I noticed a caddis fluttering above the water in short, rapid spurts of flight as caddis so often do. I tied on a deer hair caddis pattern which soon accounted for three trout in splashy and aggressive rises.



We moved steadily upstream from the camp, past a tributary which I have since learned is called the Tweedassie spruit. I momentarily debated with myself whether I should fish up the smaller tributary but chose to follow the right branch up the Bushmans. It had more water and looked more inviting.

Later in the day we followed a path back to the camp which took us over a footbridge spanning the Tweedassie spruit. From the bridge I spotted the largest fish I had seen all day. It was a brown trout of about 12 or 13 inches holding station downstream of the bridge in featureless water no more than a foot deep. Had I chosen to fish up the tributary I wouldn't have expected a good fish to be in such open and shallow water and would probably have spooked it wading to the better looking water upstream. A lesson is in there somewhere.



In the sporadic deeper pools I tied a Zak nymph below the Caddis pattern in the New Zealand style and the nymph would garner more attention than the dry.

Several times (perhaps three or four times) the dry fly dipped or checked and I lifted into a fish, feeling weight and seeing the sunlit flash of a panicked fish's flank below the surface, but on each occasion the nymph came free. I investigated the hook but it seemed fine and was sharp enough to pierce my skin. I should have changed it sooner but lazily persisted with it. The final straw was when I seemed to hook into a trout a little more hefty than the rest only to see the line again go slack. I gave the cursed Zak a swift burial ceremony and promptly landed the next fish on the same pattern but different hook.




The trout were carbon copies of the fish I had become so accustomed to catching in the rivers and streams of Wales.



At 12pm threatening looking clouds started to gather on the escarpment and soon the sound of thunder started to roll across the valley. Not wanting to find myself caught in the mountains in an electrical storm with a 7'5 foot lightening conductor in my hand we beat a hasty retreat to the camp. We made it back just as the first heavy drops of rain started to fall. The morning session had gone so perfectly I wasn't in the slightest disappointed by the premature end to the fishing.



As far as streams go, this one comes pretty close to what my ideal 'fishing heaven stream' would look like.


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