Bokspruit, Pastoral Beats
30 - 45 min from Rhodes
The Bokspruit rises at an altitude of 2 800 metres on the Drakensberg escarpment. As it drops down from the escarpment the gradient lessens, the river gains in volume and depth, becomes slower flowing and is not quite as exquisitely clear as the upper and source water. In places the riverbanks are lined with groves of poplar trees, occasional willows and the stream is flanked by pastures. Deep pools alternate with long inviting glides and runs and in many sections there is typical riffle water, ideal for nymphing.
Although there are many small trout in the Bokspruit – some years enough of them to be a complete nuisance – this is quintessential big trout water with rainbows of 20 to 22 inches not uncommon. Dry fly fishing is to sighted rises that invariably start later in the day down here, but nymph fishing is nearly always productive. All the pastoral beats are accessible in a saloon car.
From Bothwell downstream, the river assumes a more pastoral character, with a wider floodplain, cultivated lands and sometimes well-treed banks. The stream has a sand and gravel bed, with occasional riffle and rapid areas and some deep pools all the way down to its confluence with the Sterkspruit on the farm Black Rock.
Parking is at the house near the upstream boundary, or at the long pool next to the road. On the whole, this beat has fairly shallow water. The upper parts have boulder-strewn banks and the majority of the beat has a sandstone bedrock streambed varying from green and white to ochre in colour. There is a fair amount of ouhout growing on the banks. The long pool in the middle of the beat sometimes “boils” with rising fish in the evenings and it can be a great place to end the day’s fishing. Fish respond well to dry flies, while weighted nymphs deliver well, especially when the river is in spate.
Parking is near the farmhouse at the upstream boundary or near the poplar grove downstream. The river starts to assume a more pastoral nature here. There are long boulder-strewn pools connected by fast-flowing stretches with blue/green sandstone bedrock. This is one of the most photogenic beats with its green bedrock and in autumn, when the poplar groves turn yellow, it can be spectacular. Fish respond to both nymphs and the dry but, at times of low flow, the “plop” of a nymph hitting the water will scatter fish almost at every cast. This is the beat to fish when you want to see how shallow you can take fish.
Park near the bridge and walk downstream to fish back up. Here, the river varies between boulder strewn and sandy bottoms, and at times the stream creates an extensive network of braids. There are shallower runs and riffles, as well as deeper pools in the lower reaches. Fish can be taken on dry flies in shallower parts and respond to nymphs in the deeper pools. This used to be a well-treed beat, but since Working for Water’s eradication program, crack willow skeletons line the banks. Although esthetically less pleasing, these tree skeletons create lovely structure and you can bet on finding a decent fish in the submerged branches.
Welgemoed (Fred Steynberg)
The river used to meander through pastures under a leafy canopy, but most of the trees have since been killed. The substrate is a mixture of sandstone bedrock, cobbles and gravel and the banks are well grassed or cobbled. There are small intimate bends, riffles and a few pools. Where they are still to be found, undercuts can be very productive. Fish respond to both dries and nymphs, with a lot of smaller fish to be found in the inflows to pools or below rapids. Yellowfish are often found this far up the Bokspruit during the summer months.
Upper Hillbury (WTA)
Upper Hillbury can be fished either by following the orange markers on a gate near to the farmstead or from the bridge just below the confluence of the Bok and Riflespruits. The sand and boulder-bottomed stream weaves between willow skeletons and is for all intents and purposes a classical “little stream” with runs, rapids, glides and pools. Large yellowfish may be found in the lower, deeper pools during the summer months.
Lower Hillbury (WTA)
You can park in a shady acacia grove by following the green markers on gates when entering above the staff housing. The river generally has a sandy bottom but every kind of water may be encountered on this long beat. There are pools, rapids, undercuts and long rapids of fish-filled knee-deep water. Do not walk past the shallower runs between pools … fish them. You will be amazed at what lurks here. The cliff-side pools, bank-side undercuts and the lower sandy-bottomed pools hold some surprisingly large rainbows and yellowfish.
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Bothwell Parking
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Birnam Parking
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Knockwarren Turn Off to Bridge
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Welgemoed Lodge
Bokspruit Fly Fishing, Upper Hillbury Bridge
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.
Look out for
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.
Mgwali Cultural Village near Stutterheim showcases Xhosa culture, with crafts and traditional food on sale.
Tiffindell Ski and Alpine Resortnear 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.