Rudolph's Reel Adventures

Chasing Gold in the Desert – Part 2

Venue: Richtersveld (Lower Orange River)
Date: 1-4 January 2019

Photo credits to Jacques van Wyk

After a brilliant start to our trip, we were amped to start our journey down the river. We enjoyed a wholesome breakfast the following morning, packed our kayaks and headed down the river.

Downstream of the camp, we made a few casts at a weir. This weir looked very promising, but only produced two small fish. We decided to move on.

The plan was to camp at a rapid named “Deadman’s” and fish by foot in this area. It was quite a push to paddle all the way to this rapid in one session, but we pushed through until we reached the spot.

Deadman’s sure looked like promising waters, plenty of deep rapids with pools between them. All of these pools had a relatively strong flow. Some of the rapids run through rock formations while others were split up by islands running past reeds. We also found a few smaller streams joining up with the main channel – these spots proved to be extremely productive. Little did we know that our first stop was to be our most successful spot!

Everyone had a turn to take a swim in an effort to save some lures – this time it was my turn.
All wet after swimming after a lure.

Armand decided to head upstream and take on some pretty rugged terrain. Here he caught several yellows which included a few 3 kg+ Smallmouth and a few small Largies. He had a very close call with a big Largie that came up to take his 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornet, but it was beaten to the chase by an agro Smallmouth that appeared out of nowhere.

Jacques also smashed a few solid golden slabs further downstream. Koos and I stuck close together. Koos went tight first and after one epic fight, he landed a trophy Smallmouth Yellowfish of 4 kg by drifting his 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet down past a few boulders in the fast flowing current.

The fish put up a superb fight! After a few quick snaps, the fish was revived and released. Koos also followed this catch up with a solid Largie.

Thick rubber lips are a common occurrence on Smallies caught in the Richtersveld

One funny moment I recall of this session, was when I snapped off one of my 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornets and saw Koos suddenly jumping into the river a few minutes later and swimming after something. I watched the whole affair wondering what he was after. Soaking wet he walk towards me and showed me the lure I just lost. Apparently the lure came lose and floated past him while he was fishing downstream from me. When he saw the lure, he put down his rod and decided to swim after the lure. I owed him a solid one.

Yellowfish spinning rig:

  • 7 ft. Medium Action spinning rod
  • 2000 spinning reel
  • 15 lbs. Nanofil braided line
  • 10 lbs. Fluoro leader line
  • 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet (Yellow Holo Perch)

On this specific lure I hooked up with a rubber-lipped golden Smallie and a decent Largie. It was cool to see how a bigger size Largemouth was chasing after the one on my line, must have been intrigued by the other one’s strange behaviour caused by the fight.

As we were fishing in the area, it was very cool to see pairs of breeding Vlei kurper all over. We also saw a few small schools of pan size Blue kurper swimming about and between the grasses in the stiller water; we noticed a few big Blue kurper in beautiful breeding dress protecting their nests. Shoals of River Sardine were also swimming all over. Taking all of this in, one can’t help but appreciate the state of this healthy ecosystem.

Below the rapids we were fishing, we found an area with several boulders hidden below the surface with a depth of 1.5 to 3 m. This area had a pretty strong flow which made it difficult to stand and fish the spot while wading. I liked the look of the spot and decided to commit to it.

Even though I got stuck on almost every cast, the spot just screamed “Largemouth Yellowfish” to me. It just looked like the perfect hunting grounds for them. My faith was not misplaced as I went tight on a drift after a few casts. From the take, I knew this was a good sized fish. I gave a great initial run and then went on to swim circles around me. I could feel it had some weight on it as I couldn’t bully it – had to fight it until it tired.

Eventually, a 4 kg Largemouth Yellowfish was netted by Jacques. Not bad at all. Though, I was still looking for that monster. This one also fell for the 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet.

Before this trip, I had the gut-feeling that the 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet would be a great choice for the Richtersveld. This lure is just a better size for the average hungry Largemouth looking for prey, so they will see it a bit easier as well as gives off more vibration. Plus, it also runs a bit deeper, which is a nice bonus. On previous trips, such as the Assegaai River, we saw that one sometimes needs a lure that dives down a bit deeper when fishing deeper pools.

The 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet dives down to 2.5 m, where the 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornet only gets down to 1.8 m via casting. So, when fishing this river, I will have either a 3 cm Hornet or 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornet when fishing shallow rapids and on my other rod, a 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet will be rigged for the deeper pools.

In my experience, the bigger fish often hang out on 2 m + water. On this trip I was hunting trophies, so I decided to spend more time fishing deeper pools/rapids and mostly fished with the 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet. I didn’t necessarily catch as many fish as they guys who used the smaller version, but all my catches were decent size. 

We enjoyed a lekker lunch before hitting the water again. It’s nice that one doesn’t need to worry about lunch when doing these trips. Also, the short break in fishing gives you new strength to give your full when heading out again. The sun was unforgiving as we experienced heat up to 47 degrees, so it helps take a break in the shade between sessions. Remember to cover up when fishing these waters, I forgot to take gloves with and my hand burned to a crisp. Proper sunscreen and the right clothing are essential to survive these harsh conditions.

Our final session took place behind an island where a small stream joined up with the main channel. We found that casting towards this inflow and drifting our lures produced several bites. Jacques was on fire at this spot, catching Smallies and Largies every few casts. Koos also got a few. They fished with the 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornet in Hot Perch and Sexy Shad colour.

I also got a few decent Smallies to commit off close to 3 kg. Eventually I got stuck and lost my 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet in Yellow Holo Perch – the lure that has been producing all my catches up to now. I decided to try a new colour – Red Crawdad. I haven’t fished with this colour before and was keen to see how it performs. Supposedly, it imitates a crab with its red colouring. I know that Tigerfish react very well; time to see how yellows react to it.

A few casts later, I went tight….and it was a big one! The fish gave one insane run, probably running about 80 m before giving me a chance. The fish was extremely feisty, giving heavy head-shakes and several short runs. There was some vegetation on the edge of the channel we were fishing and with my luck; the fish ran straight into these weeds.

I could feel the weeds pilling up on my braid. Time to swim! I swam towards the vegetation while keeping tension on my line and went on to remove the weeds from my line. Quite a mission as the fish was still swimming around.

Eventually I managed to free my line from the weeds. The fish was tired yet and I continued keeping contact with the line and guiding the fish away from structure as well as I could. After a magnificent fight (one of the best I have experienced to date), the fish tired and Jacques managed to net the big boy. I was convinced that it was a big Largemouth on the other end of my line, so I was very surprised to see a slab of a Smallmouth in the net.

We weighted the fish in the net and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was my new personal best for this species, pulling the scale to 4.4 kg after deducting the weight of our landing net. Jacques helped out with a few superb photos after which I took some time to revive the old lady; she swam away strongly.

It was getting dark and all of us were tired, so we headed back to camp for dinner. Another great day behind our backs, what would the next day entail?

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