Largemouth yellowfish, Orange River, South Africa

Fishing the edge of the Kalahari for largemouth yellowfish

Largemouth yellowfish are South Africa’s most sought after game fish. An indigenous predator, the largemouth is a hard fighting fish and a true apex predator. Sitting deep and amid structure, they are a worthy adversary. Fishing for them on the edge of the Kalahari is a true wilderness experience. The rocks echo back the cry of soaring eagles, baboons call from their rocky perches and birds dip and dive around you. And in the depths, largemouth yellowfish and smallmouth yellowfish await.

Trophy largemouth yellowfish on the edge of the Kalahari

The Kalahari Largemouth Yellowfish Conservancy is the first of its kind on the Orange River. With small groups enjoying fully guided catch and release fly fishing, the aim of the project is to create and protect a sustainable fishery. Hand in hand with Caleo Capital Environmental Investment and with the support of local land owners and conservation bodies, this 70km stretch of the Orange River offers a truly world class fly fishing experience.

The  hard fighting largemouth yellowfish are South Africa’s most sought after game fish. Although the average size is five to eight pounds, this river does grow monsters with fish over 30lb waiting to be landed. Largemouth yellowfish in double digits are not uncommon and a lifetime fish in excess of 18lb is a very realistic possibility.

Smallmouth yellowfish are present in good numbers, and good size in this stretch of the river. Trophy smallmouth in excess of eight pounds are landed regularly on streamers when fishing for largemouth. If you want a break from fishing streamers, it is possible to target the smallmouth in the faster, shallower water on dry flies and nymphs.

As you fish from a raft, the guides work the boats using anchors and oars to hold the best position enabling you to target drop offs, deep undercut banks and bedrock shelves. Both largemouth and the larger of the smallmouth yellowfish sit in deeper water, close to the bottom and tight to the structure. A quiet rolling motor moves you silently through quiet spots and on to the next section. A strict beat rotation is adhered to and as trips are run bi-weekly, the pools are well rested between trips.

Sleep under the stars

A mix of accommodation gives you a true taste of both the African wilderness and the luxury of the African safari lodge. You spend two nights in a semi permanent camp and four nights wilderness camping. 

The real jewels of the trip are the nights camping on the banks of the Orange River. Each day, camp will be set and ready for you when you come off the river, a hot drink or sundowner ready for you as you arrive. With no light pollution save the flickering embers of your campfire, Africa’s canopy of stars is a stunning background every evening and a magical ceiling to sleep under.

Remote and wild, on the edge of the great Kalahari

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa with the river basin extending into Namibia and Botswana. Rising on the western slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho, it flows west over 2,250km through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. For most of this distance, it flows through semi arid desert landscapes and for its last 450km, forms the border between South Africa and Namibia. The river was named after the Dutch Royal House although you could be forgiven for thinking that the red sandstone reflections on the water influenced its naming.

Within that length, a 70km section of the Orange River forms the Kalahari Largemouth Yellowfish Conservancy.

A worthwhile visit post fishing is Augrabies Falls, the eighth largest waterfall in the world. Rising 184 feet, this cascade rivals Niagara Falls in spate volume and with a gorge depth of 240m and 18km in length, it is an impressive example of granite erosion.

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