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Being in the Karoo, and perceived as being in the middle of nowhere, takes some nostalgic ways of getting people to our neck of the woods. The good old days of travelling by train are not what they used to be, but it does offer something different. On almost every fly fisherman’s bucket list is a double-figure trophy trout and here in the Eastern Cape we are blessed with several waters that offer that opportunity. This is due to the dogged determination, dedication and the fish fingers of our Welsh Piscatorial Genie… Martin Davies. He has developed genetics in our trout that grow seriously big and strong. I have developed packages for “Trophy Trout Trips”, fishing three waters that are consistently producing trophy fish.
What makes the experience unique is travelling from Johannesburg to Somerset East leisurely by train. The train departs from Johannesburg en route to Port Elizabeth on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, leaving at about 11H30, travelling overnight and arriving the next morning at 06H00 in Cookhouse (most of the time anyway, as the railways are not always punctual). Thank goodness for cell phones as the timing of the train journey is communicated from 05H00 so nobody has to freeze on the platform of a railway station. The Train travels back from Port Elizabeth on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The trick is to book a coupe if there are only two people or a compartment if the group is four people as the spare bunks can be used to store your equipment including kick boats, unlike air travel there is no restriction on the weight of your gear. With the price of fuel these days the return train trip is about R2000 without the stress of driving.
Martin Davies explaining Loch Lochy to Gia de Goede
I pick up the passengers early Thursday morning in Cookhouse en route to “Loch Lochy” in Hogsback which is about a two hour drive, so we are fishing nice and early and enjoy a full days fishing. Loch Lochy is a new water, all of 80 acres, producing ten pounders, managed by Martin Davies, (cell 082 3981088) offering guided trips to this spectacular stretch of water at the base of the third hog of the Hogsback mountain range.
Stunning Loch Lochy looking at the “hogs” of Hogsback.
We overnight in the Hogsback village to catch the sunrise session on Friday morning on Loch Lochy. Over lunch we travel about two hours to Thrift dam in the Winterberg to fish the evening rise. Saturday morning session is at Thrift before travelling about two and a half hours to the Bankberg Trout Fisher’s Club water in Cradock for the afternoon session.
Eugene Tait with a 2,3kg prize from Thrift dam despite the windy conditions
We spend the night in the Cradock mountains to make the most of an extended Sunday morning session, with lines up at about 14H00 before heading back to either Cradock or Cookhouse to catch the train that evening at 18H00 back to Johannesburg.
The overnight train journey takes you back to Johannesburg arriving at about 11H30 Monday morning. It is a lot of fun. Whilst none of our group were able to tick their bucket list this time round, our best fish was still a hefty 3,4kg hen.
Large hen fish from Cradock
I have only recently started using a floating net and cannot understand why it took me so long. It allows the fish to relax and recover while you go and fetch your camera from your rucksack and then get your camera organised to take photos without having to handle the fish. Most fish tend to burrow downwards keeping them in the net.
Floating net the best invention yet.
Just in case the odd one jumps the net, I don’t remove the hook until I am ready to release the fish. Once you have taken your photo you leave the fish to recover while you take your camera back to dry land and then simply tilt the net to free the fish. I have found this minimizes handling the fish and one does not have to worry about dropping your net, especially in a river, or become tangled in the stretchy cord or magnetic release. I think it really does make a difference.
The Angler and Antelope in Somerset West