For many moons Jacques Cooper, Phillip van den Berg and myself had been discussing the possibility of me making a trip to P.E. fondly known as the “Friendly City”. Jacques and Phillip had been peppering me with images of a very special venue known as The Baviaanskloof which is close to P.E. These images contained some football sized smallmouth in a setting that seemed photoshopped at the time in some way or another. So when the Groenvlei Classic grew closer and Adrian Luff asked me to join them at the classic, I decided to coincide the trip with some time spent with Jacques and Phillip as well as an outing to The Baviaanskloof.
I had never personally met Jacques or Phillip, however we have been in contact for well over a year, and Phillip is a ProStaffer for Blue Water Gear. My flight left O.R. Tambo at 3pm and by 5pm I was in P.E. I was greeted with some cold windy weather, but the smiles and cold beer I was greeted with made up for the weather. The evening was spent catching up, swopping fishing stories and getting to know each other better. My mind was blown when Jacques showed me a replica of a Kabeljou he caught on a Bass Setup that weighed in at a mind-blowing 60kg and was 1,7m long. With my mind blown, my stomach full of t-bone, paptert and beer, it was off to bed to sleep, or to try and sleep at least.
It must’ve been around 6am when I awoke to a rustling in the house. I stumbled out of the room to be greeted by smiling faces, a cup of coffee and the car about packaged ready to go. Now being from the big smoke “Gauteng” mornings are not what we classify as happy time, unless it is weekends. However once we were on the road I could see why people in this part of the world are chipper in the mornings. There is nothing but green everywhere, clean air, friendly people, minimal traffic and to top it off no windscreen washers all over the place. As we drove to the Baviaans Nature Reserve Gate I had one of those “what the hell am I doing in JHB” moments.
We arrived at the Komdomo office of Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, by now my stomach was in my throat as the anticipation of finally seeing this venue and potentially catching a smallie had caught up to me. The 40km trek to the Doodsklip gate took us 2 hours and 15min to reach. Yes it took that long! You’ve got to remember, you are driving over and across mountains here on roads that are etched out of the mountain side. You are mere inches away from the edge at most times and a single mistake can potentially be your last. It is highly advised that this trip be made with a high clearance all terrain vehicle, as you will not come out the other side in one piece attempting this with your Citi Golf. Also be sure you are more than 1 vehicle making this trip with multiple anglers. If something goes wrong here it is carrots for you, as you are miles from anything.
On your way through the mountains and the valleys you cross numerous streams, in actual fact I think it was 13 streams, but I stand to be corrected. The water running in these streams is crystal clear and untouched by man, on the way out the next day I sampled some of this water and must admit it was possibly the smoothest and un-chlorinated water I have ever drunk in my life. The rivers were also teaming with baitfish from a recent spawn.
When we finally made it to our camp we quickly got rigged up, boats inflated and within 30min we were all ready to hit the water. We launched in a tributary or cove and slowly made our way out into the main dam. This is about the time my jaw dropped and my rods were set aside, as I could not stop taking pictures of what I was seeing. You are on the water surrounded by monolithic cliffs and massive rocks that dropped and made their way into the dam over the years, providing the ultimate structure. This place was like places you only ever see in Motivational Posters or brochures on far away places. No matter how many photo’s I share or movie clips I publish, nothing will come close to describing this place. I think there is an afrikaans word that comes close and that is “ASEMROWEND”.
We fished close onto 6pm and made our way back to camp to setup for the evening. Jacques and Phillip managed to catch some smallies, but I was left high and dry. Between Jacques and Phillip I was kitted out with a mattress, popup tent, pillow, braai meat and beer. I was really looked after by these two guys during the entire trip, however Jacques promises next time I can at least blow up the boat.
The next day we hit the water early as the sun rose. There were plenty of rises as the smallies were feeding on the surface, however as much as I tried I just could not land one of these things. I lost two small fish and then later on in the day was broken off in structure by a really good smallmouth. As I cast to a rock pile in the water the smallie swirled on the surface like a baby whale, gave me two good heaves and when I struck he was already wrapping me up in the rocks and snapped my line clean off. Jacques and Phillip managed a few more fish each for the trip and I was happy that I got to see one of these smallmouth up close and personal. Their markings are interesting, their eyes are devilishly red, but the acrobatics of these bad boys was something else to behold. Last time I saw something jumping around that much was when I was attacked by a swarm of hornets when I was a kid.
By 10am we got off the water to make our way back to P.E. to start our trip to The Groenvlei Classic that was held in Sedgefield. But that is another blog entry all by itself.
All in all The Baviaanskloof must be one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the privilege of fishing. We have hidden gems like this all over South Africa and all it takes is some good friends and a sense of adventure to seek them out. I will definitely be back to spend some time with good friends and to give The Baviaans another go as well as some other lekker places Jacques and Phillip keep telling me about.
To Jacques and Phillip… Thank you for an absolutely amazing time. It was an honour to spend the time with you and your families and your hospitality was out of this world.