We recently had to go to Barkly East to pick up a canopy for our vehicle. As we do not have lots of time off during the fishing season, we thought of combining the trip there with a spot of fishing. After chatting to young Robbie Millar and local guru Andrew Clarke, the wheels were set in motion.
On our way there we were met with torrential downpours for the last 200km. The rain is a blessing for the local farmers but we knew that it would not be great for our fishing. Never the less we still kept our spirits up!
First stop was visiting Andrew to hear what’s been happening. He just pointed at the sky and shook his head! He suggested we try an area called the weir that afternoon. We rushed off to get our canopy (poor farmer thought we are weird, we refused coffee and rusks and I working like a crazy person to fit the canopy!) Got it half on and rushed back to town. After checking in at our stunning accommodation, we dumped our stuff, grabbed our waterproofs and headed down to the weir. Our worst fears were true – fast flowing, chocolate water fit for catching ragged tooth sharks. We still had a ball throwing a few flies and got put off mushrooms after seeing them grow out of cow poop!
Andrew called again saying that he managed to pull a few strings for us to go fish a dam that has been closed due to the drought and subsequently low levels – a hard concept to grasp when its bucketing down around you. That night we braaied in the rain, like all normal people do. Early the next morning we set off, not used to 8deg temperature, not really boardshort weather. After a very slippery ride we got to the dam. It was very low and full of weed. We walked and looked for any sort of opening in the weeds without luck. As a last attempt we walked out on a shallow point and it looked doable. Unfortunately, for Chenelle, the clearing was just out of reach. I managed a few fish only on a full fly line cast and then only had 10 strips to get a bite.
We really had to manhandle the fish to get them over the weeds, which was not ideal. If it was not for the finest quality hooks, that Robbie ties his flies with, it would all have been a tragic story. What an amazing, world class fishery right on our doorstep. The really is no excuse not to travel locally.
The town is relatively small and has a few basic shops to get odds and ends. If you plan on visiting the area, especially for a longer period of time, we would suggest taking along majority of your groceries etc.
One of our favourite parts of any trip is the driving – we actually really love taking in the scenery and appreciating as many of the local views as we can. As a rule of thumb, we always try to travel there and back via different routes. We made our way from PE early on Friday morning, travelled towards Barkly East passing through Cradock, Hofmeyr, Steynsburg and Aliwal north. Sunday morning we decided to return via Elliot, Queenstown, Whittlesea (a quick stop at Oxkraal dam to have a look-see), Grahamstown and then back home.
We stayed at the lovely Stonehouse B&B. Situated on a Merino Ram farm at the foot of scenic green mountains, approximately 15km out of town. We were hosted by Dassie and her wonderful family, who go out of their way to ensure that you are able to make the most of your stay! Just a warning that signal is non-existant (a great way to force a detox from technology) and the B&B is a typical farm house – rustic and simple but absolutely beautiful and perfect!
If it isn’t already – we would highly recommend adding Barkly East onto your list of local spots to visit! The people are all super friendly and helpful, the scenery stunning and the quality of the fish, even in terrible conditions, was amazing. We cannot wait to get back to see what all those lovely streams have to offer. A special THANK YOU to all that made our trip awesome!