Epic trek into the wild

Lesotho flyfishing mission.

By Garth Johnstone

Three friends with a passion for flyfishing, two of them from the Midlands, recently went on an unforgettable mission to Lesotho in search of water that had never been reported fished before.

The three, Scot de Bruyn, Grevin Price and Joburger Richard White, were looking for unspoilt territory, free from human habitation, where the fishing was superb and the environment untouched.

Chief planner of adventure

De Bruyn, a professional flyfisherman and guide, had been the chief planner of the adventure, mulling it over for at least two years, then spending weeks poring over Google images of the area.

They had zeroed in on a remote tributary of the Senqu, the famous river that is not just a tributary of the Orange River, but the source of the Tugela, too.

“We had all been to Lesotho before. Others have fished this water, but never this high up, as far as we know,” said De Bruyn. “There are no villages or permanent settlements there. The first sign that we were in the right place was the wildlife, which was prolific. Black river duck, francolins, Vaal rhebuck, lammergeiers, dassies feeding in the open instead of hiding in the crags.”

Willing to make sacrifices

De Bruyn said finding the right people for this mission was key.

“They had to be the right guys, who were willing to push hard, make some sacrifices and be a bit uncomfortable.”

But all did not go entirely according to plan. They initially intended to drive into Lesotho via Sani Pass, towards Mokhotlong, and on to their secret destination one Thursday last month, get set up and then start fishing on the Friday. However, they were delayed due to work commitments and eventually only got to the secret spot late on Friday. (The three will not reveal the location to protect this special, unspoilt environment.)

It took nearly an hour to drive 2.4km offroad to the spot where they would leave their trusty Toyota Land Cruiser.

Then their walk into the deep gorge in which the river was located was far tougher and longer than expected. The perspective from aerial pictures had made the kinks and turns in the river seem insignificant, when in many cases this meant a further 200m to 300m added to the route.

At the end of the day, the three had hiked 11.6km from where they had left their vehicle, descending more than 500m over rocks and alpine heath, with more awkward rocks and stone concealed beneath the foliage.

Close call with a puffadder

“It was tough. We were stuffed by the end,” said Price, adding that hauling 20kg each, including drones and camera equipment, had made the hike all the more extreme.

Altitude is also likely to have added to their fatigue, not to mention De Bruyn’s rather hairy moment when, pushing his way through some heath, he stood on a puffadder, which bit his boot. A lucky escape in such a remote spot, particularly with the satellite phone not in working order due to the charger having been left back in South Africa.

Eventually the fishing got under way on the Saturday. A session downriver yielded poor fishing conditions and after noon the three gave up. When they headed upstream, however, it immediately improved and they bagged a trout in the first pool they fished, which was promptly named “Scotty’s Pool”.

Adventure on Giant’s Cup trail

White later reflected on Instagram: “Half a day into our fishing with no result was starting to get the morale down but then it happened. Scotty went tight on what is now Scotty’s Pool. It definitely makes everything worth it in the end.” Four beautiful rainbow trout were pulled out in an hour (and released, of course).

On the Sunday morning, deciding discretion was the better part of valour, the three decided to take in a proper breakfast and then steel themselves for the trek out of the gorge.

“The way out was really, really tough. We were absolutely shattered by the time we caught sight of the Toyota,” said De Bruyn. “Four or five kilometres more and I think we could have been in serious trouble,” added Price.

“The pure joy of seeing the Cruiser was amazing, we all collapsed next to it knowing we had accomplished what we set out to do,” said White.

In search of the Hidden Valley

Price said organising donkeys to help with the packs would be a better way to do things, but the trick would be getting the animals to the remote area.

“You need to be careful. Out there, there is no backup. You can’t afford to have an accident or get bitten by a snake.”

The three described the trip as sensational. “There’s no question, we will definitely go back,” said De Bruyn.

● Follow Scot de Bruyn on Instagram: cartel_flyfishing

● Richard White, Black Rock Productions: www.blackrockproductions.co.za; Instagram: richardwhite_sa