Waiting on a load of Trout

A roadside pause in the valleys of the expansive uMkhomazi River catchment in early Autumn

There is a hatch of invertebrates. In the absence of a hushing wind, I can hear the wings of the swooping swallows as they gorge themselves on autumn’s bounty. I do too. Wild Dagga holds onto its last orange blooms. Cosmos threatens to take over its glory. And the sun can no longer roast me. It tries, but autumn has arrived to thwart its efforts.

The river glistens in the deep valley below me, its ribbon reflecting a glorious sky, its rapids in a white-toothed grin.

Clouds crest the horizon towards Lotheni, but they lack the ferocity of summer’s lift and energy. The Kamberg was generating a table cloth of silky mist a moment ago, but it has surrendered its veil to the mild and peaceful sunshine.

The Drakensberg at Lotheni

The Browns in the river are quick and spooky, but that said, they are rejecting the lowly nymph, preffering to rise to a hopper tossed on the breeze. Their nebs breaking the surface, their gleaming golden flanks dripping in the angler’s hand. Many more of them are but an underwater flash. A wink. A fleeting coppery memory, accompanied, at most by the sensation of a tug at the line.
The wind buffets the flung fly. Its landing is as chaotic as the hapless hopper it seeks to emulate.

From where I stand at the roadside beneath a shady tree, my mind is tethered to the next valley where I will fish next week, and to the valley beyond, where I fished last week. My consciuosness takes in the hills in front of me, but my mind wanders to the narrow thread of water collecting their succour down below, out of sight.

I fetch my phone from the car and call an old friend. His age and illness have him bound to his city home. I know , that given the spark, a fuse from his armchair to this view will ignite in an instant. I dont think I am wrong. I describe the sunshine, the yellowing veld, the cosmos, and the curulean blue sky. I tell him of the Trout we caught last week. I hear a sigh. It is not a bitter sigh. It is a sigh that smiles the smile of a million similar memories. The sigh of a soul that knows, that loves, and that has lived these places, these things. I say something about him seeing this vicariously, through me. I needn’t have. He gets it. We say our goodbyes, and I see the hatchery guy’s bakkie taking the twisting road down the other side of the valley. He will be with me in a few minutes, and I will lead the way to the turnoff to the highland lake which will receive his load of Trout.

I consider that my own armchair days will oneday be the better for this day, and I turn the key in the ignition.

A Drakensberg Trout river


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12 Responses

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it Rod. Thank you so much for dropping a comment. The feedback is always appreciated.

  1. Beautifully written, Andrew. I hope I have similar memories in my armchair days! Maybe your call was to Tom Sutcliffe? I never met him, but I’m sure you did. A great loss to the South African fly fishing fraternity.

    1. Thank you Richard.
      My call was indeed to Tom, and I am so grateful that I got to speak to him, and share photos with him one last time just 3 weeks ago. His passing certainly does end an era in flyfishing in which his mark remains indelible. We are all the richer for having known him.

  2. Thanks for the lovely pics Andrew!.Missing the KZN mountains/river scenery.The Western Cape,although different,doesn’t come close to the Midlands and Drakensberg regions.

    1. Thank you for dropping a comment Marco. It is always encouraging to know that the journal is being read and enjoyed, and makes the effort worthwhile. It means a lot to me.

  3. Reading your blog from Portugal.
    Always enjoy the read.
    Brings back memories from times spent in the berg.
    Such a beautiful tranquil place.

  4. Great ,thanks for the analogy awesome that the browns are rising to the dry’s ,be up on weekend ,can’t wait.

  5. Thank you for these regular pieces of inspiration, your continued commitment to these blogs is highly appreciated.

    1. Thank you Andrew. And in turn, there is no doubt that my commitment to keep the blog going is fueled by the affirmation of comments like yours.

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