This is all true by the way, no fisherman’s story…!
Only an hour’s drive north of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International takes you to the southern part of the Bushveld where there are some delightful small tributaries of the Crocodile River which in turn is a tributary of the ‘great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about by fever-trees’ as Rudyard Kipling described it. Despite Kipling’s snot-like description of the mighty main river, the little bushy tributary I was going to fish was clear and only about two or three rod lengths wide and up to about thigh/waist deep maximum depth. Being our summertime here the daytime temperatures go up to about 35 degrees with clouds building up during the day and the usual late afternoon thunderstorm which clears away the accumulated humidity.
My target was the Largescale Yellowfish, a strong indigenous Southern African cyprinoid prevalent in the north-east of the region. The fish looks like a cross between the European barbel and common carp. It fights at least as hard as each of its Euro cousins. The yellowfish group comprise several species each of which are endemic to their own areas within Southern Africa. As to fishing for them, they are generally insectivorous and in summer daytime Hydro psyche larva and mayfly nymph imitations are reliable fished upstream Czech nymph style. In the evenings, we get the caddis emergers and adult caddis/Baetis mayfly hatches which can be spectacular when fishing emergers and dries especially skittering caddis imitations.
Anyway, my fishing mate and ace photographer, Andrew, came up with me and we met our friend Mario who had lived all his life on a farm by the stream we were going to fish. I set up a bog standard set-up with my 10′ 3 weight ESN rod, 5lb tippet and a size 14 Czech tan nymph and size 16 PTN.
I may have forgotten to tell you I had got stung by some angry bees that morning which left my face puffy and red. Nothing to do with any overindulgence the previous night just for a change. I was looking forward to a relaxing and quiet afternoon hopefully fishing in the shade of the acacia trees whilst my bee stings subsided.
I started off fly-fishing upstream from the sill of a longish pool. All calm and serenity as it should be. Apart from some multi-coloured malachite kingfisher perched on a nearby acacia branch who glared at me like I had stolen his fishing beat. I then trekked a hundred yards or so further upstream to test the head of the pool which was framed by a rocky rants (cliff) on either side. I found a convenient ledge to sit on whilst I serenely lobbed my little nymph rig upstream. Lazy old sod!
Everything was right with the world. Mario suddenly screamed out ‘DON’T MOVE’! ‘What seemed like a minute, passed’ to paraphrase a Monty Python sketch. Eventually I saw a thin bright green snake about 3 or 4-foot-long sashaying towards me. I shat myself. My basic herpetology told me this could be a green mamba, one of Africa’s most lethal snakes. Luckily, I kept so still it went past me into a gap in the cliff rock a couple of yards from me. I shivered and carried on attempting to fish keeping more of an eye on the rocks than on the river. Eventually Mario and Andrew reckoned let’s call it a day. I dared to move for the first time in an hour. It was still steaming hot and we were all very thirsty. So, as we wended our way a bit further upstream towards the farm house we came across the skeleton of a freshly-killed buck. ‘Oh!’ exclaimed Mario calmly, ‘that was probably the kill the leopard made last night and which the pack of hyenas finished eating this morning just as you arrived!’ I again wondered what the hell had I done wrong this week to deserve bee stings, snakes, leopards and hyenas all in one day? And incidentally bugger all fish.
Just before the homestead was a donga (shallow dry eroded river bed) with a signpost on the other side facing away from us. I walked across the donga only to read the sign.
‘Beware of The Crocodile’ it said.