Bokspruit, Upper Beats
1 hour from Rhodes
The Bokspruit rises on the summit of the southern Drakensberg at 2800 m above sea level in open grassland country where it flows a twisting, low gradient course for upwards of 14 kilometres before tumbling down a series of waterfalls to eventually reach the more pastoral, slower flowing stretches most typical of this prime river. At the source the river is crystalline with a resinous, agate-like look to the riverbed and its brightly coloured rainbow trout are plentiful and will rise to flies opportunistically all day. This is perfect dry fly water for fish up to 12 to 14 inches.
Much of the upper section of the river is still just above the tree line, the only vegetation to speak of being the ubiquitous Ouhout bush , Leucosidea sericea, a plant that in South Africa invariably suggests the presence of trout. The gradient is still high so the flow is swift, the stream running over sheets of bedrock in many places. The holding lies are in deep fissures that have split the bedrock, or against the rock face of long glides where the water can be more than a metre deep. This section of the river is set in the most spectacular mountain scenery and the water has a slightly turquoise tint to it. The river is still incredibly clear, and again this is a perfect dry fly section, with somewhat larger trout. Fish of 15 and 16 inches are not uncommon.
The road up the Bokspruit ends at the cottage, which sleeps eight and is sometimes known as the “honeymoon house”. Presumably because there is no electricity and hot water comes from a traditional “donkey”, leaving one with little else to do, but… fish. Upstream from the cottage, you enter a gorge. At times, the streambed is the easiest route to follow. Horse and stock trails are to be found higher on the slopes above cliffs. This is rugged territory and one should not fish here alone. Gradient has formed the stream; pools are interspersed with runs, riffles, cascades and some fine pocket water. The stream here is characterised as basalt, bedrock-strewn with boulders. Being situated above agricultural activity, the water is usually crystal clear and offers great sight fishing. This is optimum breeding territory and at times can have many smaller fish. The shallow and pocket water offer the best light-tackle dry-fly fishing in the area. At times, depth may necessitate a weighted nymph.
Park at either the downstream or upstream causeway. The downstream causeway is the limit for saloon cars. The stream continues tumbling down from Gateshead and the upper part of this beat is relatively flat, with long basalt pools. The generally shallower water offers great dry-fly fishing. The owner’s holiday accommodation overlooks a huge waterfall. Below the waterfall, fast-flowing rapids and glides link pools of varying size. The banks are fairly well bushed with ouhout. This beat is interesting for the floral biodiversity. When one nears the downstream causeway, the bedrock changes to Clarens mountain sandstone complex. The whole property offers fine dry-fly fishing, although one may need to use a weighted nymph to get down to bigger specimens in the deeper pools.
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Gateshead
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Brucedell Downstream Causeway
The Friendly N6 route runs between Bloemfontein and East London, connecting the provinces of the Free State and the Eastern Cape. Aliwal North is at the border of the 2 provinces. South Africa is famous for horizons that stretch for kilometres, so wide open spaces and endless skies are a traveller’s constant companions on the N6. The route takes one through about 600km of peaceful, diverse and beautiful land, giving one a sense of just how vast the country really is.
The N6’s attractions include everything from sea to snow, interspersed with charming towns. These are only slightly off the beaten highway, and are intriguing and pleasant places to explore. In the Free State, Bethulie and Zastron are within easy travelling distance of the N6, while Reddersburg, Smithfield and Rouxville are main stops along the route.
In the Eastern Cape the towns of Dordrecht, Molteno, Elliot, Rhodes, Burgersdorp, Barkly East and Lady Grey are all worthwhile diversions for curious travellers with time on their hands. For those sticking to the highway, Aliwal North, Jamestown, Queenstown, Cathcart and Stutterheim are along the route. These provide a sufficient diversity of interests and activities for guests. The highway is also relatively close to the Gariep Dam, Oviston and Hogsback Nature Reserves.
Sprawling sheep farms are probably the most obvious and frequent feature of the landscape, but the area is rich in cultural significance and interest. Apart from San (or Bushman) history and rock art, there are also interesting museums and art galleries, and fine local arts and crafts. The route’s proximity to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho means that Basotho culture is an important and unique influence on the culture of the area. Xhosa culture is proudly and strongly entrenched in the Eastern Cape.
The hills and towns of this area were witness to the Great Trek. This was the migration of the ‘Trekboers’ from the Eastern Cape across the Gariep River, (previously the Orange River) further into the central interior. It is often mentioned as an example of Afrikaner rebellion, perseverance and endurance. This same Afrikaner resilience cost Britain an unanticipated £190 million in the South African (or Anglo-Boer) War, which is commemorated at many sites and towns along the N6 route.
Travelling south to East London from Aliwal North, tourists are afforded a majestic view of the Maluti mountains of Lesotho, as well as a sample of the Great Karoo in Stutterheim and Queenstown. East London itself is a lovely city which really lives up to the ‘friendly’ N6 brand. It has some interesting tangible links to prehistory: the East London Museum displays the last remaining dodo egg, as well as the body of a coelacanth, one of the oldest species on the planet. This fish was thought to be extinct until one was found alive on a fishing boat in the East London harbour in 1938.
When to go
Relax and rejuvenate in Aliwal North’s hot springs and appreciate its beautiful old buildings.
The Kologha Forest and the Kubisi Indigenous State Forests are less than 10km from Stutterheim. Large swathes of ancient indigenous forest are home to yellowwoods, ironwoods, white stinkwoods, Cape holly and Cape chestnuts with montane grassland cresting the slopes. Six well-marked forest trails, from 3-17km long, start and end at the Kologha Picnic site. They lead to waterfalls and good trout fishing and birdwatching spots. Rare birds found here include the endangered Cape parrot, grey-crowned crane and white-starred robin. Mountain biking and horse riding are allowed on certain trails. Maps are available at the forest kiosk.
The Thomas River Historical Village is in the Amathole mountain region on the 31 000ha Thomas River Conservancy between Stutterheim and Cathcart on the N6 highway. The area was named after Thomas Bentley, a deserter from the Van Der Kemps Missionary who was shot dead with an arrow while crossing the river. The conservancy offers a variety of outdoor activities including hunting, hiking, rock art talks and trails, fishing, birding, and paintball. The village dates back to the 1870s, has a popular restaurant and houses museums themed on wagons, rock art, pubs and vintage motor cars. Tel: +27 45 843 1504.
Mgwali Cultural Village near Stutterheim showcases Xhosa culture, with crafts and traditional food on sale.
Tiffindell Ski and Alpine Resort near the picturesque village of Rhodes is South Africa’s only ski resort. It offers snow adventures on the slopes of Ben McDhui, the tallest mountain in the Eastern Cape.
Lady Grey and Cathcart are quaint, peaceful towns to visit. There is a Cape vulture sanctuary 12km from Lady Grey at the Karringmelkspruit gorge. Cathcart is known for its wildflowers, San rock art, excellent hang-gliding launch sites, fishing, birdwatching and adventure activities.
Malaria-free game viewing is possible at the Lawrence De Lange Nature and the Longhill Nature Reserve near Queenstown, as well as at Tsolwana Game Reserve near Tarkastad. Big 5 game viewing is possible at the Mpongo and Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserves, both within 35km of East London.
At the N6 route’s end, East London, visit the Python Park and Lion Park, the Queen’s Park Zoo, the East London museum and the aquarium. Enjoy the shopping, restaurants and, of course, surf the waves. The Calgary Transport Museum (5km north of East London on the N6) has a quaint collection of carts, wagons and buggies. It is open daily from 09h00 to 16h30.