World Wide Fishing!

South African 2000 - Part 2
By Skip Lynch
Albany, Oregon, USA

Entrance at Addo

Sunday, March 12, 2000 - 4:51pm -- City Lodge, Port Elizabeth

We spent the morning at the Addo Elephant National Park. We saw more than a few dozen elephants, several kudu, warthogs, red hartebeest, eland and more birds than I could identify with my books. We then went back to a friend's house for a braai (bar-b-q or cookout) of beef, pork, chicken and sausage (boerwors). The food was just wonderful and the company was even better. Port Elizabeth may be even nicer than Cape Town. I have one more week left here in SA. It's going to be a very busy one too. We really haven't had a break . . . I mean, I haven't had a really quiet moment since I left Jo'burg/Pretoria.

Addo Resident After the cookout, I met my buddies Loubser and Chris in the hotel bar to plan our evening. Even though I really needed a night alone, I wanted to be a considerate guest. Chris Kitson turned me onto a new drink: Cianzano and Lemonade. Let me explain it this way, it's Cianzano "Blanco" vermouth in 7-Up. But you'll need to drink a butt-load of it to get anywhere near tipsy. Beer and mixed drinks were very cheap (especially when you consider the exchange rate).

We left the hotel and walked a few blocks down the beachfront road to an open-air bar that had a live band performing. The music was all covers of the U.S. alt-rock play list, but it was reasonably well done. By 10:00 P.M. we were hungry again, and guess what (?), we went out for steak!

Wednesday, March 15, 2000 -- La Montagne Resort, Ballito

The one interesting thing that I witnessed was the cricket match from India. The Proteas had won the Test Match in convincing style. But the five, one-day matches were proving to be different. On Thursday, the SA Proteas blew a sizable lead and eventually lost the match on a really bad call. On Sunday, they just flat-out got their collective butts kicked. On this day, however, the Indians won the toss and posted a good run total on 7 or 8 wickets. The Proteas fought and clawed their way back before finally winning on a 6-run shot by Herschelle Gibbs with only one over remaining. What was interesting about all of this was that at Victoria CC, we were all a bunch of white guys sitting in the 19th Hole cheering on the SA team while our waiters and bartenders were all Indians. They were cheering for their home country under their breath. When the winning score was made, the wait staff disappeared into the shadows.

For dinner, my traveling companions, Fanie Jordaan and Willem Labuschagne wanted to show off their braai skills. I stepped out onto the veranda and saw Willem grilling two porterhouse steaks, three T-bones and an 18" piece of boerwors (not to mention the three kinds of salad and the lemon meringue pie for dessert). When I asked who was going to eat all of that, he calmly replied, "We are." Well, let's just say that we didn't come close.

Thursday, March 16, 2000 -- Fanie Randall's House, Durban

I saw something that really disturbed me today. Fanie's car was running low on gas. So he whipped into a gas station at light speed, scattering the black, women attendants standing there, smoking his tires, all the while screaming in his Dr. Strangelove voice, "Get out of the way you f%#@ing swine!!!!" I came unglued. I told him that I understood that I was a visitor in his country, but I wasn't going to tolerate that kind of behavior in my presence. He back peddled and tried to say that the women thought it was funny too. I looked at the women's faces and I knew they were scared by the near miss. I was steaming.

Friday, March 17, 2000 -- Splashy Fen, outside of Underberg St. Patrick's Day!

We left Durban for Underberg around noon. It's not a long drive, but with Fanie . . . well. . . Oh, he's ok . . . in small doses (racist shrieks aside). We met up with Trevor Shuttleworth (and his 4-year-old son, Scotty) and Matthew at the Underberg Country Club and home to the Underberg-Himeville Trout Fishing Club. (Shown below and right.)

Pool at the Underberg Country Club

By the time Trevor showed and we set off for the fishing camp (4:00 P.M., the rains had started in earnest. I mean it was pouring! Heading out from the clubhouse we started our drive with wipers furiously beating away the rain.

We left the relative comfort of the highway and started up a gravel road. The gravel road ended and we found ourselves stuck in the mud, twice. This could in no way be misconstrued as a road. It was at best a cattle trail. It finally took a four-wheel drive tractor to pull us out of the mud.

Drakensburg Mountains Once we finally arrived at our rondavel, it was nearly dark and the nearby creek was swelling rapidly. It was a beautiful creek whose headwaters are in Lesotho. It tumbles down the Drakensberg Mountains through grassy meadows and rocky canyons. The section of the creek we could see reminded me of Soda Butte Creek in Yellowstone. And like Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River it feeds, this little creek muddies rapidly and clears slowly.

Splashy Fen

I cast for a half-hour in the fading daylight. Swinging a heavily weighted, #10 black woolly bugger through the currents, I hooked a sizable fish that I just couldn't turn. The fish gained his freedom when I could no longer follow him downstream in the growing current. Oh well, I'll get 'em tomorrow.

Saturday, March 18, 2000 -- Splashy Fen, outside of Underberg

Spent the day fishing with Trevor and Matthew on a private lake near Splashy Fen. The skies were clear and the air was fairly hot. I thought it was amazing that we were fishing for trout in 65o F water. In spite of my precautions, I still sunburned my chest.

Scotty's first trout Trevor and Matthew have fished that lake a lot and it showed in the fish totals of the day. I caught one nice 3.5-4 pound fish but I lost several monsters. It happened over and over to me. I'd get the fish hooked and nearly as quickly, he'd have me snapped off. The first fish I hooked, a huge brown that may have been the fish of the day, broke me off at the knot (I was having a bad knot day). Others just snapped off the 6-pound tippet like it was nothing. Most of the fish that day were taken on #12 soft hackles in black or peacock herl. Matthew caught a nice 6.5-pound brown trout, and little Scotty Shuttleworth caught his first fish, a 4 pound plus rainbow, while trolling a purple woolly bugger I had tied.

The wildlife around the lake was scarce, except for the Egyptian geese and Grey crowned cranes. We didn't see a lot of insect life, aside from damselflies and dragonflies. Leeches were prevalent in the lake as were baitfish.

Trout were first introduced to South Africa in the 1850. Since then, brown trout have adapted exceedingly well in the lakes, while the rainbows have done equally well in the cold water rivers. There are several trout farms throughout the Drakensberg and in Mpumalanga. Splashy Fen is one of the premier trout farms. They specialize in trophy trout production and sell fish to private game/fishing farms.

Trevor and Matthew are keen to get their fishing business off of the ground. They are making their own float tubes (they call them "kick boats"). The 6-foot pontoon boats have a seat, but your legs dangle in the water, and you propel yourself around the lake with flippers instead of oars. The pontoons are short which makes the boats very maneuverable. They're custom-building these for their friends for about R1,000 (about $160.00). I thought the boats were wonderful for lakes, but poorly suited for river travel.

Also, Trevor and Matthew are excellent "fish camp" chefs and we all ate like kings. I'm still bummed that we couldn't get up to the camp Thursday evening. Had we done that, I might have had at least half a day to fish the river that ran next to our rondavel. It was so pretty and the water looked very fishy. By Saturday morning, the rains had the river swollen way beyond fishable. Maybe the next trip.

Sunday, March 19, 2000 -- Somewhere, 30,000' over the Atlantic, SA Flight 205

Fanie and I left Splashy Fen early and arrived back in Durban about mid-morning. We had time to watch a little of the last one-day cricket match with India before heading to the airport. My trip home is over 39 hours in total (Durban to Johannesburg, Jo'burg to Cape Town, Cape Town to Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta, Atlanta to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City to Portland, and then a shuttle from PDX to Albany).

The woman on the aisle seat was upset that she had to sit next to a black woman who had the middle seat. Actually the woman in the middle ignored all of the huffing and snide, under-the-breath comments. I thought the woman in the middle was extremely nice. We chatted until we ran out of daylight. But let me tell you, that's a long freakin' flight from Cape Town when you're stuck in on a packed flight, eated in the window seat. No wonder I ended up with two blood clots in my left leg.

The reason that the plane had to fly out of Cape Town is because a 747 loaded with enough fuel to reach the U.S. is too heavy and the air is too thin for the high altitude take-off from Jo'burg (remember that Jo'burg is nearly 5,500 feet above sea-level). What they have to do is load the plane with enough fuel to get it to Cape Town, refuel it to the gills and take off from sea-level (it adds about 3.5 hours to the total trip). Even then, the plane doesn't carry enough fuel to directly reach Atlanta (thus the stop in Ft. Lauderdale - another hour and fifteen-minute layover stuck on the plane). The flight from Cape Town to Ft. Lauderdale is the longest non-stop flight in all of aviation.

Southern Africa has a bounty of excellent flyfishing. Trout are often overlooked because of the warm water species like large-mouthed bass, small-mouthed yellowfish and tigerfish. But the higher elevations hold some stunning scenery complete with beautiful rivers full of hungry trout. The price of a flight to South Africa is quite affordable (around $1,300), and the buying power of the U.S. dollar (about R6.50 = $1) is great. ~ Skip Lynch

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