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Andaman Islands 2016

Andaman Islands 2016
A tale of adventure and exploration shared with friends

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Traversing the seas of the Andaman Islands with a bunch of mates, 500 tropical islands, cannibalistic tribes, unchartered waters, naïve fish and the prospects of the unknown…. The opportunity to go on a wild and adventurous exploratory trip to a remote and exotic location doesn’t come around often so when it did I didn’t hesitate to get involved. After carefully selecting a group of guys, the team was in place. We started planning and preparing for what was going to be one of the most memorable trips of our lives….

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One of seven union territories of India, the Andaman and Nicobar are a group of islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, and consist of 572 islands of which only 34 are inhabited. Interestingly, one of them are home to the only known Palaeolithic people, the Sentinelese who are believed to be cannibals and have absolutely no contact with any other people by means of what India calls a ‘non-exclusion zone’. A strong and constant reminder of the kind of place we were going to be venturing through.

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The day had arrived and we set off on the long journey from South Africa. After reaching our final destination, we sorted out a couple of last minute things on one of the main islands that had a little bustling town where you could still see the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami. Nevertheless, the people are all happy, dogs run amok and cows don’t have a care in the world. This was a true Indian Island experience in itself and set the tone for us all. We boarded our vessel which we were to call home for the next 11 days, settled in, rigged up and set off. There is something to be said for waking up each morning to a new island and flat which you have all to yourself with no one in sight for a very long way. The isolation of these islands from everything else is pretty special. One gets to really feel what it is like to go into the unknown, to explore places that have never seen modern man let alone, fly-fisherman!

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Temperatures are hot! We are talking 38 degrees in the shade with humidity through the roof. It just so happened that on this trip there was barely a breeze on the ‘windy’ days. For most of us it was a serious adjustment both on the vessel, islands and on the flats.

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The fishing, well, when you get to a place that has not felt the impact of humans it really puts things into perspective as to how things used to be “way-back-when”. Crystal clear flats, fish in their droves, triggers tailing, bluefin buzzing you in the waves, GTs smashing baitfish on the drop-offs. The one day we had a bale of turtles, as many as 40, milling around on the flats in an area no bigger than a rugby field. For most of the group this was to be the first flats fishing experience and as to be expected, it took some time to get into the groove… especially when targeting the trophy sized Titan triggerfish with its super fussy demeanor.

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All in all, we got some great fish between us, missed a lot, had some 40 kilo GTs charge in but as it goes with these big guys, seeing them, hooking them and ultimately landing them is a different story, and let’s just say we have a score to settle next year upon our return. We fished the upper reaches of mangroves for Barramundi on old clapped out diesel engine dhungi boats, we fished drop-offs for massive grouper, we bommie-bashed for a plethora of species, saw schools of massive Bumphead parrot fish, caught the elusive Unicorn surgeon, bush-wacked through jungles in jeeps, and even landed up playing cricket with the Andaman Premier League on one of the inhabited island where we stopped to replenish supplies. It was a real gas from beginning to end! Each evening the stories would unfold of the day’s experiences, cameras past around to confirm any suspicions. Bevvies (beverages) were consumed, fines were issued, curried fish demolished, and toilet hour… never fun.

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Known for its world-class popping and jigging (or as the term was dubbed- jigpop), The Andamans is the kind of place that even the die-hard “it only counts on fly” kinda guy has to at least give it a go and so we agreed to each have one short session sampling the deep blue with the heathen tackle. The action was biblical! Triple hook ups, and even quadruple hook ups, while fishing in 100 meters of water, sharks chomping through 30 kilo fish, Flying Fish getting smashed by schools of tuna next to us. We were just waiting to hear David Attenborough start narrating in the background.

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All in all, the trip was fantastic. The islands are beautiful, the water pristine, the flats untouched but one thing that really stood out for me personally was the importance of group dynamic and having the right kind of people for the right kind of trip. Each and every one of the lads brought their very own unique charm to the trip. There was a feel of kinship and comradery between the guys and that makes a great trip even better. In the end, we not only experienced an awesome untouched fishery but forged a fellowship among ourselves that will ensure we have many more trips together to remote destinations and I for one can’t wait! Sure fishing is about the places you go, the fish you catch and the interaction you get with Mother Nature but a big part of our pursuit is the friendships made along the way and the opportunity to share in the experience with your mates.

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The A Team
The A Team
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The Chilean Mixed Bag

I love Argentina and Chile, the food, the people and the wine, did I mention the wine, drink a glass or two of fine Malbec on the river with lunch and I am positive your casting becomes better, your line control sharper, your wading a little slower and less ‘rock rabbit like’ but it puts you more in the swing of things, pardon the pun!

Oh yes and of course the fishing, Argentine and Chilean Patagonia has the most wonderful trout fishing on the planet. On top of that Chile has something a little different, King salmon or Chinooks as they are known, were introduced from Canada in the mid 20’s.

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These foreign bruisers did take a while to establish themselves but eventually did well, feeding out in the nutrient rich Pacific ocean and then running back into the rivers to spawn and gobble big bright flies. Now the poor old trout that were introduced a hundred years earlier probably really had their noses put out of joint. They were the top of the food chain, the heavyweights of the rivers, now they were getting jostled off their spawing beds and harassed by their newly arrived big brash American cousins the King salmon. While some might argue that the introduction of salmon would have been detrimental to the trout fishing, I feel quite the opposite, while numbers of trout possibly decreased due to increased competition, now there was a massive protein source available in the form of salmon eggs and even rotting flesh of the post spawn salmon. Now Chilean trout in the river systems that have salmon are on average much bigger and stronger than their counterparts that do not share the river with salmon.

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While my past few trips to Chile have been affected by the El Nino phenomenon and fishing days have been in short sleeve fishing shirts and buffs as opposed to thermal tops and head to toe gortex, lower rivers and hot dry conditions mean less salmon in the river but glorious conditions for trout, sight fishing, with dries and nymphing likely looking runs. This year the heatwave affected the salmon fishing but didn’t dampen the groups spirits, the Actuary amongst us calculated just over 190 bottles of wine for the week between 8 anglers! We had a blast both on and off the water. The one trophy King salmon going very deservedly to Graham Tait, a long time supporter of our Guide Dog Charity Flyfishing event having come second twice in the past and the winner last year, he landed a 38 pound beast. The rest of the group enjoyed a thoroughly mixed bag of some smaller salmon, both King and Atlantic, fat Patagonian perch, beautiful butter golden resident browns, their greener sheen sea run brothers, and trophy rainbows up to 12 pounds. In an age of growing unpredictability of fishing conditions due to climate change, Chile’s very diverse fishing has so much to offer, and there is the wine of course…!

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Jurassic Lake – Home of the giant rainbow

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Like many I had heard about this mythical piece of water a while back, and to the surprise of many I have never really been motivated to tick the box or add it to my already overflowing list in a bucket.
But the stories, the images, the bombardment of youtube clips got the better of a good group of clients I am now lucky enough to call friends and they forced my submission – “Organise it Jono, come on – the best operator, the best part of the lake, at the best part of the season – take us, you know it makes sense.”
Don’t get me wrong I love trout, especially big and wild ones, Argentina – adore it! I need no encouragement there – the people, the scenery, the Malbec – ok lets not even go there. We travel as a company to Argentina and Patagonian Chile 3 times a year, the common denominator – big wild, breathtaking rivers, drift boats, white water, double handed rods and strong, strong fish, why would you possibly want to fish a lake….But I had a group that wanted to go so it was time to make some phone calls.
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I chatted to my good friend Danny, a renowned guide and outfitter in Bariloche, if it swims in South America and you can catch it, he has the inside scoop – and better still he always knows someone who knows someone – he is better connected than a Soweto taxi driver in a roadblock!
Turns out he knows the family that owns the largest Estancia on the Lake – Estancia Laguna Verde, a 15000 Ha Ranch with over 15 km of varied shoreline, over 10 km of the only feeder River the Barrancoso, 12 smaller lakes linked by a spring type Moro creek and all bursting with freakishly large fin perfect, rainbow rockets.
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Upon further research, early season when the feeder river runs fresh and full of glacial melt is the time to go, huge mature fish gather in the bays surrounding the mouth and then run the river heading up to the upper reaches to spawn. After overnighting in Calafate and getting over any long haul flight syndrome with a huge lamb Asado ( butterflied over an open fire ) a several bottles of amazing wine, we were on the road to the lake, 2 hours of tar and then 3 hours of painfully slow farm track, over sharp volcanic rock that would have been quicker to walk over.
The lodge while basic by appearance from the outside is beautifully renovated on the inside, cedar wood floors, the original thick stone farm house walls, huge leather backs a roaring fire with a breathtaking view over the main Laguna – Laguna Verde.
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The fishing, well by the second evening all at the dinner table had to come up with an adjective that encapsulated what they thought of the fishing and I got shot down in flames as I couldn’t improve on “obscene”. Imagine, if you can, fishing a large windswept hatchery pond, filled with solid, stacked, spade tailed wild fish.
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Every evening the anglers were buzzing with arithmetic, “ 36 fish, 11 over 10 pounds, 2 over 15” , then on to the next angler, then the next. I was often looked upon as the leper sitting quietly at the end of the bar “ really 8 fish Jono – whats the matter with you?” I just found it all too much, fish numbers were so plentiful both in the lake and the river system that it became just too easy to make a pig of oneself.
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By half way through the first day I made a choice to only sight fish, using dry fly if there was some good light and dry and dropper only if conditions were difficult.
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Standing on a calciferous weathered rock with my hands in my pockets, keeping warm, I would wait for a cruising grey lump, if I thought I could do better and wait for a larger fish I would. On the river a nymph upstream under an indictor was murder, a skated mouse or large foam dry not as productive but seeing a 15 pound sip the dry in a river you can jump across just amazing!
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By being this selective I cut my catch rate down to a sensible 8-12 fish a day but all absolute hogs. Was it too easy, possibly, but its Horses for Courses I guess, a heavy 74 year old, unsteady on his feet by his own admission, landing 30 trophy fish in an afternoon session on a slow stripped leech with a scud pattern behind it – thats just nuts!
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Is it the best wild trout fishery on the planet, indeed it must be…!
Mavungana Flyfishing is the exclusive South African agent for Estancia Laguna Verde. We have the second week of the season – as good as it gets join us for the mayhem!

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Tigers of Chobe 2015

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With talk at the beginning of the year of poor conditions on the Zambezi, Kasai and Chobe rivers. Things weren’t looking great. Anglers returning from their week-long trips with little to show for their efforts confirmed our suspicions and we knew we were up against the wall for this one. After chatting to Jono who has fished this stretch of water more than most of us combined, we decided under the circumstances that this trip required some careful thought and meticulous planning. So a week before my flight I found myself sitting at the airport with Jono between one of his connecting flights going over satellite images and making notes furiously.
We had a plan!

Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park

Then just days before departure, we had a group of 4 of our guests cancel last minute as something came up with work. This left us in a very unique scenario, I had just 1 client with me. Upon arriving at OR Tambo I met my guest from Canada. We set off for customs and while waiting in the que, I notice an old mate of mine from Cape Town. After shouting to get his attention, he turns around only for me to discover it was not my long lost buddy, but rather our Proteas premier bowler, Dale Steyn with Quinton De Kock and their two girlfriends Sasha and Dunty. The plot thickens even further when Dale (who must have been very confused at the time) sees my rod tubes in hand and says “where you fishing?” It just so happens that we were all going tiger fishing to the same place. I must admit, it was a series of very random and coincidental events and quite overwhelming. Of course my Canadian friend had absolutely no clue when it came to cricket and thought nothing of it.

Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park

Flying into the dust ridden town of Kasane, Botswana we all landed full of enthusiasm to a typical hot African day. After a quick cross over the river border into Namibia we were minutes away from docking at our base for the next 5 days – Ichingo River Lodge.

Ichingo River Lodge - Chobe Rapids
Ichingo River Lodge – Chobe Rapids

Wasting no time at all, we dropped off the bags, set up the rods and headed off to take a closer look at conditions and get stuck into the hard hitting tiger fish. The level and flow of the Chobe was decent and clarity wasn’t bad. By the end of the first shortened afternoon session we had boated 5 fish between 7lbs and 9lbs and Stephen had landed his first double figure african tiger fish, a respectable 10.5lbs. I had also identified a micro plain on the Namibian side that was busy draining. No bigger than a football field but it looked good and was definitely going to get some close attention the following day.

Stephen and his first trophy tiger
Stephen and his first trophy tiger

The next morning saw an early rise and we were on the water in position to drift the now draining plain as the light had started to turn – Perfect, 3 double figure fish before the sun was even over the horizon. Biggest – 15lbs and we hadn’t even gotten further than 500 meters from the lodge.

Stephen with yet another trophy tiger
Stephen with yet another trophy tiger

Bus!
Bus!

Over the next couple days we couldn’t go wrong. We had a pattern and it worked like clockwork. We fished hard for 3 hours each session hitting the water at first light, returning mid-morning to eat, relax and chat fishing and cricket while avoiding the dog hours of the day. With cooler boxes packed, every afternoon we would make a run into Chobe National Park to enjoy the world class game viewing from the comfort of our boats, followed by an afternoon session till last light. All in all a very comfortable daily routine finished off with plenty stories shared around the dinner table of the days experiences.

smiles all round
smiles all round

Day 3 saw an early rise after a very… very late night and a couple too many tequilas where only 3 out of the 6 of us made it out of bed. We set off, red eyed and barely awake to the head of the Chobe Rapids. What we saw next I will never forget. The massive deep pool was full of the unmistakable red fins of Tigers ‘head and tailing’ in their 100’s and they were EVERYWHERE. We couldn’t make out what it was that they were feeding on as it was still too dark to see but we weren’t bothered as we knew that if they were feeding it was game on! We calmed the nerves and proceeded to drift quietly through the pool sight fishing to individual fish that we had hand picked by means of choosing the fish with the biggest gap between dorsal and tail. Fast sinking lines were all we had rigged so it was fast paced fishing. Pick your fish, throw at her, strip on the drop and within no time – bang! The best freshwater fishing I have ever done in Africa! Truly exhilarating.

trophy fish off the surface
trophy fish off the surface

That afternoon we identified what was bringing these fish onto the surface and behaving like trout. Huge towers as far as the eye can see were millions of midge. They blanketed the water each evening and the tigers ate on mass the next morning dew to the New Moon restricting them from eating at night. Each morning this phenomenon continued and was truly an amazing experience

#SurfaceSmash
#SurfaceSmash

On the last evening around dinner Dale, who till that point had not had great luck (loosing most of his fish on top water lures), asked if he could join our boat to do some fly for the final session before we all departed back to SA. So the next morning, armed with a fly rod in hand we went through the basics, low and behold he could cover water and learnt super quickly.
The iconic African Fish Eagle
The iconic African Fish Eagle

As it goes with Murphy up to his usual tricks the last morning of the trip happened to be the slowest. Never-the-less we pushed on, fished different spots, tried different techniques with only a couple bumps to show for our efforts. By 9am we were at the bottom of our last drift when I was about to call lines up and – BANG! Dale was into a fish. A couple tense minutes went by as we went through the paces and up came the tiger. By this time I was at his side with net in hand going over handling the fish near the boat…. The tiger turned on the surface right in front of us and at that very moment, the hook just popped out. I must point out that by this time I was in no way going to just let this fish ruin the whole morning’s work. I lunged forward and as this very rude fish was getting into 2nd gear, I managed to net and boat a free-swimming tiger fish. Something that on any other day would never have happened. After a couple shouts, cheers and some inappropriate hugs we got a picture of a true cricketing legend and now friend with a respectable 11th hour Tiger. A great way to end the trip.

Despite Murphy's tricks, we got the fish in the end
Despite Murphy’s tricks, we got the fish in the end

There are so many good fishing trips that we all get to go on and experience… every now and then, you stumble upon a great one!

The end of a great trip
The end of a great trip

inside!
inside!

BANG!
BANG!

Last cast
Last cast

Mavungana Flyfishing River Clinic 2015 – Verlorenkloof

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Mavungana Flyfishing recently conducted our annual river clinic and this year it was held at Verlorenkloof Estate which is located on the eastern escarpment slap bang in the middle of the trout triangle of Mpumalanga. Home to 6kms of the upper Crocodile River that at this time of the year (May/June) runs clear, cool and at a comfortable water height – perfect for fishing to wild rainbow trout on light outfits. The river offers a variety of different types of water to cater for a wide range of technical application. However if your presentation is not up to scratch you will be left thinking (my favourite saying) “there are no fish in this river”. But if you get a suitable drag-free drift through some good water, the fish are there for the taking!
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This year we had 12 anglers grace us with their presence over 7 days. A few familiar faces that are no stranger to the ebbs and flows of river fishing dusted off the cob-webs and got down to work, affording us the opportunity to hone their craft and target some tricky lies and great fish while learning the various mends and techniques required.
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This year saw a lot of rank beginners join us and when I say rank beginners, I mean to fly-fishing as a whole. Now for those that are not familiar with the technical competence required to fish a skinny clear river to wild trout, its no small task and takes some doing to wrap your head around so when clients arrive with 6wts, sinking lines, gum boots and rugby shorts….. you know things are going to be interesting!
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After setting them up with the necessary rods, waders and odds ‘n ends, we set off down to what promised to be a comical day with no shortage of entertainment. After a basic demo and a couple beautiful fin perfect fish to dispel any notion of there being ‘no fish in this river’ we set them off to get down to business and come to grips with what river fishing is all about: thin tippet, small dries, tight loops and accurate casting.
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With more grass and trees being hooked than anything else, lets just say the fish were nice and safe in the water. After some hard hours on the water and a couple days to get the basics right the newbies started to make contact with water, the stars would align and a fish would rise to sip the #16 cdc dry fly off the surface. This however is only half the battle won and the mark of the next chapter in the book of stream fishing. Setting and landing these little critters.
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Suffice it to say many fish were hooked, some lost, and some prize specimens landed. All in all the trip was a steep learning curve for all who joined, good times were had, new friends made and plenty comical memories banked for some future stories around the fire.
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Kalahari Gold – March 2015

Mavungana Flyfishing recently hosted another trip down to the Green Kalahari, otherwise known as the Southern Kalahari or Richtersveld. Call it what you want, this location never disappoints! Our group consisted of 8 highly qualified medical specialists at the top of their game that had all become friends over the years and all had a common love for flyfishing, little did they know what was in store for them over the days to come.

The team
The team

All newbies to the area, they arrived with a spring in their step, an open mind and armed to the hilt with all sorts of gear and contraptions they had been hording from the 40 plus years most of them had been fishing. After some careful inspecting and some serious persuading we had reduced the gear each would be taking on the drift to a modest size and work was done for the day. A “couple” drinks at the bar ensued with some interesting stories and sprinkled with some whiskey induced dirty jokes lead to some red eyes and strong coffee the next morning when we rose at dawn. With the open Landy loaded and sunglasses firmly in place, we set off for what was to be one of the most memorable fishing trips any of us had ever experienced.

The start of the drift
The start of the drift

Upon arrival at the water we were greeted with warm clear water, blue skies and a silence only broken by one of the many fish eagles that call this stretch home. After prepping the expedition-spec rafts and doing the mandatory safety talk we set off down the river to tackle the 35kms of water set in front of us for the 3 night drift.

One of the many Fish Eagles
One of the many Fish Eagles

After a couple moans and groans the guys got into the swing of things and worked off some of the alcohol from the night before. There was some rain predicted for the trip and when it rains in the desert…. It does a proper job of it. Luckily they were typical summer storms so the barometer was not causing havoc and high pressure held well. The fishing that followed can only be described as obscene. Double ups and triple ups were common place. At times it was literally “cast for cast” guys were hauling fish after fish out. We got cheeky enough to forget about short line nymphing techniques, hell we even cast aside the old fashioned New-Zealand style rig and got back to basics. Upstream dead drifting a single nymph… Yep you heard it, 1 fly, floating line and a good old mend or 2 to mix things up.

Kenny Kling with a trophy SM Yellow
Kenny Kling with a trophy SM Yellow

With a very modest estimation we hit north of 700 Smallmouth Yellows in 3 days with a lot over 6 pounds and more than a few knocking on the door of 10 pounds.The average size of the fish is something I have never experienced in this area before. Big, fat and fin-perfect golden yellowfish. We managed around 20 Largemouth Yellows for the trip as well which is a statistic you just don’t hear that often. Averaging 5 pounds they weren’t the biggest but as most that have caught them will attest, they still pack a serious punch and keep you on your toes! Each night there were plenty of stories around the campfire of the daily encounters, the big fish landed and the token “ones that got away”.

Another fin perfect golden SM Yellow
Another fin perfect golden SM Yellow

Managing to dodge most of the thunderstorms that were in the area, on the last evening of the drift the lightning, thunder and cotton wool clouds rolled in on the back of some serious winds and we knew not too push our luck, so we pulled off to our camp that was already setup up with the fire going and lamb roast busy cooking. We battened down the hatches so to speak and sat it out with a couple cold ones to keep us going and the last bit of ice that we had amoungst us. The weather moved off after a couple hours and we called it an evening knowing that the worst was behind us……

Camp on the last night of the drift - note the inflatable walls
Camp on the last night of the drift – note the inflatable walls

3am that morning I awoke to a weird splooshing sound from just outside my tent. With curiosity getting the better of me I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and went to have a better look, only to discover that half our camp was in the process of being washed away! The river had risen 1 meter within a couple hours from a storm further up river. Our white water guides had awoken (on the bottom level of camp) literally in the river. Rafts had been dislodged and washed down stream and our kitchen and sitting area was completely under water. Luckily our tents were setup with enough foresight on higher ground and there were no casualties. All our paraphernalia that was effected was easily recoverable and rafts retrieved from downstream.

Garth van Heerden, Schalk van Heerden, Gareth Reid, Kenny Kling, Louis Boezaart, Wim van Wyk, Con Masureik, Gerrie Dekker, Raoul Dippenaar
Garth van Heerden, Schalk van Heerden, Gareth Reid, Kenny Kling, Louis Boezaart, Wim van Wyk, Con Masureik, Gerrie Dekker, Raoul Dippenaar

A couple hours later the guests awoke and we tried to fish but with very little success due to the dirty, oxygen depleted high water levels. Luckily everyone had all gorged themselves on Yellows till then so the spirits remained high and we spent the morning doing some white-water rafting down to our extraction point.

Garth van Heerden and one of his many Largemouth Yellows
Garth van Heerden and one of his many Largemouth Yellows

Trips like this just reaffirm the impact urbanization has on a water system and the effected natural resources. This is a place that couldn’t be more remote, where you enter the river and don’t see another person, power line, house or artificial light for 4 days. Where there is no road access or human interference all around you and the results speak for themselves. I for one can’t think of another place within our borders that is as pristine and untouched. A place I will always hold close and appreciate.

One of the Largies to come out. Unfortunatley there was moisture on the lense of the camera
One of the Largies to come out. Unfortunatley there was moisture on the lense of the camera
Gerrie Dekker and a fat yellow
Gerrie Dekker and a fat yellow
Schalk van Heerden and a Orange River Yellow
Schalk van Heerden and a Orange River Yellow

And another moose
And another moose
Wim van Wyk and slighty darker Yellow
Wim van Wyk and slighty darker Yellow

The Kosi Bay Experience

Andy Killick scanning the surf zone
Andy Killick scanning the surf zone

As the name dictates, this is not your average fishing trip with manicured lawns, leather sling bags and a #16 Parachute Adams. Kosi Bay for those that have not been, is a place of beauty and is far more than just another fishing trip…. It’s an experience! Steeped in history and tradition and still under the rule of a king, it is a place that has been left behind by modern man. It is a place where water and electricity is a scarce commodity, where tyres run deflated and the diff-locks engaged, where speed humps are replaced by tree roots and sand dunes, where your biggest concern is what the tides are doing and if there will be ice for your gin and tonic.
Jonina Fourie into her first fish of the trip
Jonina Fourie into her first fish of the trip

Located in the most north-eastern corner of our country on the Mozambique border, Kosi Bay is a main attraction for the serious saltwater angler looking to do battle on the South African coastline. It is where dreams can be made and where spirits can be broken. Consisting of four lakes and the adjacent surf zone littered with bays and the promise of big fish. Notorious for its century old fish traps and the tropical fish that we target.
Andy Killick fishing the mouth just before a storm
Andy Killick fishing the mouth just before a storm

Mavungana Flyfishing recently conducted our annual saltwater clinic over the prime New Moon springs of the favoured month of February. This coincides with the “Marula Tide” which is THE biggest spring tide of the year resulting in a tidal variation of 2.3 meters. As you would imagine this translates into the system being in serious turmoil dislodging baitfish from their safety, flushing out the various crustaceans from their holes and the flooding of otherwise dry bankside. This puts most of our target species into overdrive looking for an easy meal. The downside of these conditions is that they are generally associated with strong winds, heavy rips and general tough fly-fishing conditions. Never-the-less, it is safe to say most who dare tackle SA surf on fly need a good helping of skill and proficiency, a dash of luck and a seriously good sense of humour!
One of the many 3 Spot Pompano that was caught
One of the many 3 Spot Pompano that was caught

After arriving at our camp, guests settled in and adjusted to their surroundings. We quickly setup, loaded the vehicles and headed down to Kosi Mouth where we would be focusing our fishing for the next 5 days. It always amazes me how this particular mouth chops and changes so regularly with new sand banks and channels developing all the time from the ebb and flow of the tides. After identifying the key target areas, guests who were all fairly new to the salt, were positioned and set off to work and dust off the casting cobwebs which usually takes at least a session to get into the groove and come to grips with the environment. Trips of this nature and Kosi especially is a place where you need to be on top of your game, casts of more than 20 meters off both shoulders usually into a strong wind is par for the course. There is no place for trout striking and figure-of-eight retrieves. It’s fast paced and physically demanding, where line management, double-hauling and double-handed retrieves at break-neck speed are the order of the day. Countless times I have seen guests arrive and get the shock of their lives on day one when they see what they are up against, fishing into an onshore wind on a shore-break pushing tide. The kind that punishes an average cast by depositing the fly at your feet before you have begun your retrieve. Its tough fishing in tough conditions which requires hard work, determination and patience and funnily most of us wouldn’t want it any other way. Without exception by day two and after a bit of guidance, anglers are covering water and putting themselves into a position to catch fish.
Leon duToit getting into the thick of it
Leon duToit getting into the thick of it

The next couple days that followed was what can only be described as a comedy of errors combined with some challenging fishing conditions. The surf zone this season has been tougher than normal with days of very little action interspersed with some days with the fish being a little more active in the tidal zone. The good fish were around but being very fickle. Clients had shots, but not being able to convert, left many an interesting story later back at camp. Big Bluefin Kingfish being fought in the bricks only to come undone just before being landed. Bonefish in the estuary making blistering runs only to be left with a slack line and a jaw on the floor and unidentified silver slabs reefing leaders. Suffice it to say that it kept things interesting and everyone had there encounters that on another day could have been a very different story with a “happily ever after” at the end. One interesting encounter was when Andy Killick – a 65 year old retired geologist that is fitter than most and has an uncanny similarity to Indiana Jones had just had a Springer spit the fly on the jump while fishing a sand bar on an outgoing tide, when all of a sudden noticed a mullet float right by only to be smashed by what he could only explain as something with a dark fin. After a second attempt the job was done and the mullet floated no more! A stark reminder of the food chain that was at play. Begging the question as to where we fitted into the picture?
Theo Prasinos prospecting the north bank
Theo Prasinos prospecting the north bank

By the end of the trip we had managed to rack up 6 different species of fish, with countless others being lost. We had big fish chases and witnessed some interesting smashes, were treated to some stunning sunrises and made some new friends along the way. As always and despite all the “ones that got away”, Kosi Bay never disappoints and you leave with fond memories, an improved skill-set and a sense of enrichment that is hard to beat.
Jonina with a Kosi Lakes Garfish
Jonina with a Kosi Lakes Garfish
The Prasinos
Kirsty with a Queenfish
Kirsty with a Queenfish

Tips and tricks – Split shot idea

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With summer on the way, the much anticipated yellowfish season is around the corner.

A quick tip that will save you from loosing half you split shots from the pack.

Take an old plastic hook box and put in a layer of prestic in the bottom, then push in your splits shot on the prestic.

This will save you from losing a few splits shots every time you only trying to grab one.

Tips and tricks – Gear care

 

It’s important to take care of your gear. Rods and reels can last you a life time if looked after.

Rods:

Always give your rods a rinse in fresh water and wipe down with a dry cloth after a fishing trip. Especially after a salt water trip!!  once the rod is dry, especially the cork, put in the rod bag and in the tube, we also collect the silica packs from medicine bottles etc and put them in the bottom of our rod tube, this is just an extra precaution to absorb any moisture we may have missed.

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Reels

Rinse you reels off after every session, even if it has a sealed drag system. Especially after its been in saltwater.

Strip the reel down, rinse in warm water and use a small brush to get rid of any sand and salt. Soak overnight, then dry off and leave to dry for a day, making sure the backing is dry before putting in its case.

Use reel grease on the bearings and moving parts, if its a cork drag system rub a thin layer of drag lube over that as well.

Make sure the drag is on its lowest setting and pack it away for the next trip. You can also throw in a silica pack or two.

Silica packs in reel case
Silica packs in reel case

 

An African Summer in Norway

Every July we head to Norway, Mavungana Flyfishing is very privileged to have exclusive ownership of a couple of weeks at the most beautiful Atlantic Salmon fishing lodge on the planet – Osen Gard. So how did we come to have our bum in the butter to this degree, Mark Taylor who worked for me in the formative years of Mavungana Flyfishing in Dullstroom in the very late 90’s left to pursue a career in International guiding. Ultimately managing a top lodge in Argentina and then doing the same in the Northern Hemisphere summer in Norway, everything was uncomplicated until the Norwegian lodge owner’s beautiful daughter returned from university and they fell in love. The rest as they say is history, they are married and Mark runs the show, speaks fluent Norwegian and we a very lucky to host groups of our clients to the lodge every year.

John & I fishing the canal
John & I fishing the canal

After 17 years of dedicated service and friendship I took John Thoabala, manager of the Dullstroom store with me.Marks’ messages leading up to our departure were ominous “driest summer in 119 years – pray for rain Buddy” were making me pretty twitchy. The picturesque drive to the lodge after being collected from the airport took us around the edge of Svadal lake, this is where the river starts and all there was a pitiful trickle down dry brown rocks. Everyone in minibus drew a collective breath, salmon need a good flow of fresh water to run up and spawn and unless they were getting a lift up to their spawning grounds in an air-conditioned truck, the salmon weren’t going anywhere!

Beach weather in Norway
Beach weather in Norway

I was gutted, was John going to catch his salmon? On the third evening not a fish had been touched and some cloud cover came over. Upon going to bed I looked out to see some fine drizzle. Up the next morning I shoved my head out of the window and the gentle rain was still falling, everyone was excited, we bolted breakfast and threw on waders and jackets, stopping at the water marker the level had come up 4 cm – game on. John’s fish took as any classic salmon does, John played out of his boots, not lifting the rod and setting the hook perfectly like a veteran Scottish Ghillie. The fight was a blur of heated advice and instruction and long solid runs. The cumulative whooping and high fiving as the net was slipped under his fish echoed throughout the valley, John walked back to the lodge to ring the ceremonial bell and an emotional tear tricked down my cheek, fortunately hidden by Smiths polaroids and my hooded rain jacket…

John's new baby!
John’s new baby!