The road from the bone dry low-veldt
rises slowly at first, then more urgently, through 180° alpine hairpin bends
that would sore test the unsober. The thorn scrub is left behind as lowland
deciduous woodland appears. At a stop to admire the view, an African relative of
the blackbird chuckles away, giving the moment the air of an English suburban
Here, in the mountains, the Ebeneezer dam offers excellent
trout fishing. But I had a problem – one of my own making. As part of the
whistle-stop tour of South Africa, it had been suggested that I set myself the
(rather ridiculous) task of catching a cold-water trout in the morning, and a
black bass later in the afternoon, from down in the broiling lowlands. At the
time it had seemed a good idea, but the reality of catching to order now
threatened to spoil a magnificent day. Anyway, time was short.
I suppose these were modest fish by British standards, but they were quite special to me. You have to know the harsh reality of Africa to realise how pleasing such fish can be. These fish were far from their native home – just like me.
The trout man who insists upon huge hatchery-fattened fish may seek for weightier quarry than these African trout, although even so, they are regularly taken to over 6 lbs. Big enough for all but the greediest of men. The angler who knows in his soul that there really is more to this game than staggering under the weight of a fish, will get so much more pleasure from these cloud-line emigrants.
South African Airways, the only way to go.
A brown trout…
and a rainbow from the highlands of
For a lowland bass, a good guide with a boat to match is essential
At 11 am. we headed downhill,
through eucalyptus groves and vast tea plantations. Rows of pretty girls with
beaming faces were plucking at their waist-high crop. Yellow dresses shone
brilliant against the dark ranks of tea bushes, which marched in impressive
order, seemingly endlessly, across the hills and far away. Then through avocado
groves, and high citrus orchards. Neat, but bare-footed children walked the
road, apparently from nowhere, and with no obvious destination within miles. A
little further down the mountain every square inch of ground was covered in
bananas – miles and miles of them. Can there possibly be enough people in the
world to eat so many bananas?
The temperature rose by the minute as we descended, as we turned into the track down to the Tzaneen Dam, we deep frying quite nicely.
Top South African bass-fishing-pro, Alan Kenny, was waiting to meet us. Alan is very well known for his ability to conjure black bass in almost any conditions. Arriving in the glaring heat of the noon-day sun, we were going to need all the expertise we could muster. Black bass fishing is a technical sport that nevertheless requires more than a pinch of old-fashioned skill.
Alan is a serious (in the modern meaning of the word) professional. With a purpose-made bass fishing boat capable of speeds up to 75 mph., an array of pre-made-up rods, and a ship-load of electronic gizmos, he had obviously done this before.
Take off was a white-knuckle business – nothing less. Alan called this rocket-assisted affair – ‘getting out of the hole.’ Happily, I discovered that my ability to breath out as well as in, recovered after a few minutes. Alan was relieved to discover that I’d had some previous black bass fishing experience, and we were soon tossing some disgustingly squidgy plastic-bodies crayfish imitations into floating brushwood piles that looked as though they might be better approached with a chainsaw.
Everything about this fishing is completely alien to the British angler. Short lure rods are equipped with little multipliers, and the lures are tossed out with a staccato overhead flick. Most British anglers would recognise Rapala plugs and spoon baits of one sort or another, but few will have seen Alan’s decidedly un-nerving range of plastic worms, and creepy-crawlies, with the cunningly hidden hooks.
The method was simple enough. Toss the jelly-like lure into the fishes’ hidey-hole, then look out for anything that might suggest that the fish might have snaffled it. Bass being pugnacious and aggressive creatures by nature, the take is often a very violent affair. But even black bass can be cautious, not to say even subtle at times, so that a gentle twitch is all the indication you’ll get.
With nothing found to be at home
in the first dozen or so spots we tried, Alan powered off to another area of
this huge, dammed lake – to a stand of drowned trees, with their feet in 20’
of water. I put on one of my own lures, a Rapala deep diver with an exaggerated
action. My first cast produced an instant, and very violent take that turned the
rod into a half-circle. The bass charged up to the surface, thrashing its head
from side to side, and tail-walking across the water. Then it dived under the
boat, so I needed to push my rod-tip under the water to be able to play the fish
on the other side These perch-like fish are very strong for their size. As the
fish tired, Alan lifted it by the bottom jaw, and swung it aboard – she
weighed 3_ lbs. A good start.
South African Airways reservations 0870 747 1111 Standard fare, London – Cape Town Expect to pay around £600 return (that’s a bargain) Flights are Every day to Johannesburg and Cape Town Flight distance/time 6,000 miles/ 11 hours
Paul Coetzee Fishing Safaris http://www.explore-southafrica.co.za/
email@example.com (Paul can arrange everything for you)