Kalahari Largemouth Yellowfish Expedition: Sept 2018

Like any other fishing trip, months of phone calls, map reading, logistical planning, and the anticipation of anglers catching their first largemouth yellowfish on the Orange River, all came together on the 8th of September this year.  After enduring hours of roads that never seemed to end, and land so flat you could watch your dog run away for three days, we arrived at the Onseepkans border post between South Africa and Nambia.

Lock, loaded and ready to set off for four nights in the wilderness. Searching for Kalahari Largies.
Ones clothes and tackle for 5 days in the wilderness. All rolled up into your dry bag. Pack light, and pack right

This was the starting point for our five night river expedition into the mighty Orange River Gorge, where rumours exist of bright starry skies, breath-taking scenery, and big fish that have rarely seen a fly.

Our six man flotilla consisted of Tavis and Ivan our two guests, Max and Hein, our partners from Gravity river guides, along with Tourette Fishing’s Keith Clover and Junior guide James Kirsten of Tourette Fishing. We set off in search of the infamous and elusive largemouth Yellowfish. In six inflatable rafts packed full of gear we pushed off the bank and started the drift into the wild.

Navigating braided channels, small rapids and dead end pools in order to get to the prime Largie waters. All done seamlessly with the guidance of professional river guides, who know this stretch of river, in all her various moods, like the back of their hands.

Navigating braided channels, small rapids and dead end pools in order to get to the prime Largie waters. All done seamlessly with the guidance of professional river guides, who know this stretch of river, in all her various moods, like the back of their hands.

Ivan, with the first fish of the trip. A beautiful smallie taken while swinging for a largie.
Growing at around a 1lb per year. Every largemouth yellowfish is a prize catch.

With supposed reports of a cold front stealing two fishing days, we paddled hard to get into the gorge where we wanted to spend the majority of fishing time. Drifting and fishing some bigger, heavily structured pools above the gorge proved to be successful.  By getting off the mark with three ‘smallish’ largies on the first afternoon, the bar was set, and open to a raise.  After the first day of fishing, a basic knowledge as to how the fish were behaving, and more importantly feeding, was gained. Holding tight on tree structure and lured towards rocky ledges and deep holes, the casting game was on.

Fishing for largies is hungry work. But with lunches like this, fry up breakfasts and roast leg of lamb  for dinner, there is nothing to worry about.
Wispy clouds, hinting at the passing cold front.
The Beach, one of the 4 idyllic wild camp sites used during the 6 night trip

After two incredible nights next to the river, bearing witness to the Kalahari’s spectacular star displays, we began our descent into the gorge.  A tough portage, carrying heavily packed boats through a tricky boulder garden, lead us to the edge of the gorge and the first sight of its power and beauty.  Lowering the boats down the steep gorge walls using abseiling rigs, in 32 degree heat, proved to be a physically demanding task, yet the idea of landing a double figure fish was becoming very evident.   A couple smaller largies were taken as we began to fish the gorge.   After getting a somewhat decent largie of 7 lbs, there was no stopping Tavis as he continued to land 3 fish throughout the morning session.        Ivan worked hard and, after landing some nice smallmouth yellows as by catch, was rewarded with his first largie of the trip.

Preparing to lower our boats into the gorge. Tough work, but definitely worth it.
The boat drop, expertly managed by experienced river guides, Hein and Max
Tavis enjoying some action before we shot Big Bunny Rapid
Tavis enjoying some action before we shot Big Bunny Rapid

James provided the group with an entertaining episode and laughs by taking a swim down the infamous Big Bunny rapid. Big Bunny, the same rapid that had Johann du Preez in a pickle on the first trip earlier this year, demands nothing but respect!

Big Bunny Rapid – one of the more exhilarating 60 seconds one can have on a fly fishing trip
Tavis releasing one the three largies he took in the gorge before lunch after the portage.

Day five of the trip held dreams for both Tavis and Ivan.  A spot where the topography loosens its grip on the river exiting the gorge;  holding big sunken boulders, hundreds of holes and ledges, and just enough flow to swing a juicy supernatural baitfish pattern was the focus for the session.

As ten o’ clock struck so did Ivan into a very impressive fish.  Working a deep hole around a big boulder, Ivan was rewarded with 18 lbs of pure predator. Screams of joy and excitement echoed into the gorge as pictures were taken and the fish was revived and released. A true fish of a lifetime.

18lb of Kalahari Largie goodness. And it could not have happened to a more dedicated angler. What a fish this was!
Feisty smallies that cant resist a streamer. A welcome by catch when fishing for largies.

With Ivan well satisfied it was now Tavis’s turn to wrestle with the Northen Capes finest. We worked hard. Sub surface eats were happening everywhere except on the fly. After one last paddle to the top of the section, Tavis was finally rewarded with a double figure fish.  A special trophy at the end of a wonderful Kalahari day. Two incredible fish that will be remembered for a lifetime!

Ivan and James celebrating a great fish the two of them worked hard for.
Ivan enjoying a rare tail wind as we cover shallow water between the prime largie lies.

Our last drift towards the take out point was something special.  Having a tailwind as our motor and the Orange River as our backdrop, beers were enjoyed as we tried to savour that last moment for as long as we could.

Great people, good food, incredible scenery and amazing fishing was the outcome of our five nights deep into the Kalahari. We can’t wait to get back for more.

Until the next one, James

If you would like to join future guided Largie Expeditions to this remote stretch of river, please give us a shout. Planned dates are as follows:

4th – 10th Nov 2018: 4 rods


·        24th – 30th August2019: 4 rods

·        31 August – 6 Sept 2019: Fully Booked

·        22 – 28 Sept 2019: 4 rods

·        29 Sept – 5th Oct 2019: 4 rods

·        21 – 27 Oct 2019: 4 rods

·        28 Oct – 3 Nov 2019: 4 rods

Fishing the last tail out before the takeout, under blue bird skies.