Last Minute Lotheni

Last Minute Lotheni

Warren And Sharon On A Swing At Lotheni

Sharon and I made a last minute decision to head to Lotheni for the weekend. This meant doing a quick shop after work and packing for an early departure the next morning. We did of course follow this up with a trip to the Plantation’s pub to watch the rugby and enjoy a quick steak, egg and chips. We also ended up doing shots of chocolate vodka but I’m not quite sure how that happened.

At 5am on Saturday morning we climbed out of bed, packed the car and headed for the Drakensberg. Stopping for petrol proved annoying when the standard garage told us they were out of diesel and we were forced to head into Pmb to find some. Otherwise all went well until we reached the Underberg turn off when I forgot that it was shorter through Nottingham Road and we headed for Underberg on my 111km worst road.

After passing through Himeville the road turns from tar to dirt for the last 40kms. The dirt was in good condition bar the fact that they seem to be working on it. This meant large piles of rubble for long stretches leaving only one lane for cars. Luckily there wasn’t much oncoming traffic so this didn’t bother us too much.

We eventually arrived at Lotheni at 8:30am where we were greeted by a lone Eland at the gate instead of a guard. We proceeded to the office where we checked in and were thankfully allowed to move into our chalet early.

I kitted up the fly rod and we headed for the river…game on.

Once again I opted to fish my standard stretch from Cool Pools to the swing bridge. This meant walking from the chalet to the pools during which time I explained to Sharon how I’d fished the stretch several times but always caught my fish near the end of the beat. She asked why I didn’t just start there? I couldn’t really answer.

Thinking about it now the beginning of this beat is blessed with many long, deep pools in which a nymph may well be deadly. These pools are also highly likely to hold some of the larger wild Browns and I suppose that’s why I always give them a chance.

Sadly this stretch of river produced no fish. I’m not sure if this was 100% conditional since I didn’t fish it particularly well. My casting seemed a little rusty and I was rushing in places. I also managed to tangle my line on several occasions and hook ever small twig in the river forcing me to change my tippet more often than a cared to. I did manage to spook a fish or two which gave me a glimmer of hope for the afternoon session.

Warren Enjoying A Beer At The Bierfassl

When I eventually reached the swing bridge fishless I was relieved to be leaving the river, a thought I don’t often have when no fish have been landed.

We walked back to the chalet where we finished off the last of our egg mayo sandwiches which had been prepared for breakfast on the drive up. This gave me a nice chance to regroup and relax prior to the afternoon’s session.

Note: I really was beginning to believe that the rod I had bought from Mario (a 2 weight stream rod as opposed to the 5 weight dam rod I normally attack the rivers with) was cursed. This was my third outing with this rod and it was yet to produce a fish.

At 2pm I headed back down to the river ready to right my wrongs. Sharon had studying to do which meant this session was fished alone. This time I opted to fish the stretch from below the chalets to roughly in line with the campsite.

Amazingly I got into a fish on my second or third cast and, better yet, it was on a home tied dry fly. I milked the fish for all it was worth taking several photos and enjoying the first fish of the trip and the rod.

This session was fished into a fairly strong breeze and with a lot of glare on the water. I usually fish small streams from in the water but in this instance I spent the majority of the time fishing from the left bank. Although this meant casting across the current, which is not ideal, it did mean the glare didn’t bother me and that I could cast across the wind instead of into it, allowing a much better presentation of the small dries.

I managed to land another fish close to the campsite, miss two and lose one to a wind knot which I was too lazy to fix. Lesson learned…again…

When I eventually climbed out of the river by the campsite the morning’s session was long forgotten and I was feeling pretty good.

I got back to the chalet at around 4:30pm and Sharon and I spent the rest of the evening celebrating national Braai day. Thankfully our weather was better than the rain in Durban but our braai was still made in a strong wind proving our dedication to the cause.

Sharon had taken it upon herself to show that woman could also braai and took ownership of the whole process from coals and raw meat to an awesome meal of steak, wors, salad with biltong dressing and garlic bread. It was fantastic!

Having got up before 5am and having spent most of the day in the sun battling a river we were both rather poked. We lit a fire in the room and were in bed by 9pm.

Sunday morning got off to a much slower start than usual for us. Rather than rush down to the river or head out on a hike we opted to pack up slowly and relax. Strange, I know, but it was surprisingly pleasant.

Once everything was in the car and we’d enjoyed a few muffins for breakfast we headed down to Cool Pools with the intention of relaxing and swimming. After feeling the water swimming was quickly crossed off the list and we entertained ourselves in other ways, often returning to childhood memories by racing sticks down the river (and Sharon’s crocs down a waterfall).

When the wind started to pick up we called it a day and headed for Nottingham Road where we’d decided we’d have lunch.

As I mentioned earlier the route via Nottingham Road is both shorter and more pleasant. It also has roughly the same 40kms of dirt road but the condition of the road is far worse than from the Underberg side. That said if you have a bakkie or better this certainly is the better route. Thankfully the bad road conditions were quickly forgotten when we came across an African Wild Cat in the mountains.

Lunch was had just outside of Nottingham Road at the Bierfassl. We relaxed in the sun, enjoyed a couple of Austrian beers (Erdinger and a fruitier Paulaner) and satisfied our hunger with various sausage dishes. It was awesome!

Magies vol, ogies toe (almost) we climbed back into the car and headed slowly home stopping at a few of the sights on the meander.

All in all an awesome, last minute weekend away.