On the fly at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway
Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Words by: Gero Lilleike

Photographs by: Gero Lilleike and Steve Erwin

I look at Steve and he smiles, his face is brimming with excitement, I know that look, we’re on the fly. The dirt road leading to Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway is narrow and high with the Holsloot River sparkling in the bright morning sun below. We smile some more, for this very river bears our joy, the elusive Rainbow Trout that lured us here.

A little over an hour and a half passed since leaving Cape Town and after a brief supply visit in the small wining town of Rawsonville, we found ourselves here, in what would make every fly fisherman drool with envy, the Stettynskloof Valley, the perfect setting to test your fly fishing mettle.

Leatherfoot on the fly in the Holsloot River
Leatherfoot on the fly in the Holsloot River

Not only is Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway a superb and well recommended dry-fly fishing venue in South Africa, it’s also an equally superb wedding venue, a place where knots are tied, with the river, mountains and sky bearing witness to the deed. Steve and I however had Improved Clinch knots to tie, and after a friendly welcome we descended on Campsite 6, our trout haven on the banks of the Holsloot River.

We soon discovered that we weren’t alone. On the opposite bank, a male baboon was rustling in the bush and vanished upon sighting us. His bark of disapproval at disturbing his morning tea party followed shortly after. Peace then returned to the Stettynskloof Valley with only the gentle sound of water trickling over rocks to be heard.

Steve strikes the first catch of the day
Steve strikes the first catch of the day

We agreed to fish first and set up camp later considering that the trout would in all likelihood be off the bite in the heat of the day. I came armed with numerous fly patterns suitable for various conditions but opted to start with the Rough And Buoyant (RAB) fly, which is also funnily known as the Red Arsed Bastard. The RAB fly was specifically developed by Tony Biggs, a well-known South African angler, for use in the clear streams that are common in the region and is a must-have fly to carry in your fly-box if you plan on fly fishing in the Western Cape.

Steve's first catch of the day
Steve’s first catch of the day

Unsurprisingly, after only five minutes on the water, with my first cast barely out, I heard Steve shout with enthusiasm as his first trout rose to the occasion and gobbled his fly. Steve’s take set the precedent and he went on to catch three more trout during the day. The hunt was on and we decided to explore and fish the pools further downstream. The trout were breaking water and I neatly presented my RAB on the surface. Two seconds later my first rainbow of the day came to greet me, perfect timing indeed.

The earthy and vibrantly colored Holsloot River was clear and refreshingly cold, offering pleasant respite from the mid-afternoon heat and with the river beside us we had lunch and relaxed under the cool shade of the trees with a semi-cold beer in-hand, discussing our assault tactics for the upcoming ‘evening rise’. The evening shift soon came and we were on the water once more, but this time we weren’t so lucky. The trout weren’t on the bite and activity was scarce, making the situation increasingly difficult to read and somewhat frustrating.

By sunset, we hadn’t caught anything, even after trying various tactics such as changing flies and adapting and refining our casts, our attempts were futile, the trout had the upper hand, for now. A warm fire and well-deserved meal was our reward for the day and with the full Moon overhead and bellies full, we retired to the comfort of our tent for some sleep.

Life is good on the banks of the Holsloot River
Life is good on the banks of the Holsloot River

The trout in the region were introduced in the 1890’s and are wild with no stocking taking place here. The specimens are small, averaging between 10 and 16 inches and light tackle is therefore preferable which will give you the impression of a much larger fish at the end of your line, but only when you manage to hook one. The Holsloot River is somewhat unique in that it’s born from a dam at the head of the valley and the water temperature is a couple of degrees cooler than other streams in the area, making it more fishing-friendly in the hot summer months when other streams are too warm.

Fly fishing paradise
Fly fishing paradise

The sound of the river guided me out of my slumber and I was soon sipping on hot cup coffee and eagerly watching the river for any sign of activity, all was calm, the trout were nowhere to be seen but Steve’s snoring could be heard for miles. It wasn’t long before the sun kissed the mountain peaks and I decided to get my line in the water. After my third cast, I felt a light tug and a nibble, I had landed my second and last trout of the day.

Steve on the morning shift
Steve on the morning shift

We fished for the rest of the morning with no success and pulled all sorts of tricks out the bag, but nothing worked. The trout had enough of us and weren’t going to be gulled again. Our time at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway had come to an end but at least we would return to Cape Town pleased and satisfied that we experienced the Holsloot River and managed to land some of the Rainbow Trout that call it home.

Happy about that one
Happy about that one

The scenery at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway is nothing short of phenomenal, with mountains, farmlands and the river creating appealing scenery for anyone and everyone who appreciates nature. The moment you arrive, Dwarsberg grabs you and absorbs you, it truly is a special place that is well worth a visit if you are exploring the Cape Winelands and surrounds. Do yourself a favor and get there, you may very well find that you never want to leave.

For more information about Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway and it’s accommodation options visit http://www.trouthaven.co.za or email info@trouthaven.co.za.

The scenery speaks for itself
The scenery speaks for itself

The Spirit of Ubuntu

Words by Gero Lilleike
Photos: Ubuntu Backpackers


Ubuntu Backpackers

Like a bright star shining in the night sky, this place lights up for one reason and one reason only, surfing. Once a year, Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape of South Africa becomes the focal point in the surfing world with the Billabong Pro being South Africa’s most anticipated surfing event held at the world famous Supertubes.

Ubuntu Entertainment Lounge

Surprisingly, I’ve never stayed in Jeffrey’s Bay and witnessed it in full swing but I was excited to witness it myself and booked into Ubuntu Backpackers. I decided to put the luxury of a bed aside and pitch a tent instead. The facilities at Ubuntu Backpackers are more than comfortable with everything you could possibly need at your disposal. Apart from camping, Ubuntu Backpackers offers ample accommodation in the form of five double rooms, one four sleeper mini-dorm and a ten sleeper dormitory.

Ubuntu Jazz

Ubuntu Backpackers is a friendly place filled with friendly people and owner Daryn Sinclair, with his cool, relaxed attitude is no exception and the vibe seems to rub off on everyone here. With a spacious, upstairs entertainment area, lounge and deck area, there is always time to socialise and meet new people in a warm atmosphere. The layout and artwork of Ubuntu Backpackers creates a warm homely feel and it certainly lives up to its name meaning ‘humanity to others’.

Ubuntu Artwork

With a world class surf break in sight, it’s easy to climb into the sea. Ubuntu Backpackers is ideally situated near Supertubes and the waves can be seen from the balconies. When the Billabong Pro is running, Jeffrey’s Bay turns into a buzz of activity with people from all walks of life descending on the town to feast their eyes on the great waves and the brave men who ride them. Parties are held throughout the town for the duration of the contest with bands and DJ’s rocking into the early hours of the morning, every night. If you are seeking peace and quite, go surfing, or escape into the surrounding garden, you will be pleasantly surprised to find hammocks and couches to keep you chilling for hours.

Ubuntu Quiver

So if you ever in Jeffrey’s Bay, surfer or not and find yourself in need of accommodation with a sweet vibe, pull into Ubuntu Backpackers, a fun experience is waiting for you here and you might just catch the wave of your life too.

Surf Of Your Life

For more information visit www.jaybay.co.za

Thai Backpacking

Thai Backpacking – It’s a great way to see the whole country

Published in the Saturday Star on 17 March 2007

Written by Gero Lilleike

I stand over a drain in the vicinity of Khao San Rd, with a rotting stench rising to meet my nostrils. I feel bilious. Everything about this place overwhelms my senses. The sidewalks are lined with mobile food stalls, vendors cooking endlessly, coaxing everypasser-by into buying food.

Every tuk-tuk driver offers a ride, I respond with Mai, Khop Krun Krap, meaning “no, thanks”. They smile and drive off, instantly melting into the chaos of the street. When the sun sets over Khao San, roadside markets dominate, luring every character onto the street only to indulge in shopping, eating, drinking and sex. This is Bangkok. As a first time traveller to Thailand, I didn’t know what to expect. I only had R8000 that had to see me through a month.

I had no choice but to surrender to an average budget of R260 a day, which had to pay for basic necessities such as accommodation, food and of course shopping. For most people this would seem impossible, but I was soon to realise that my Rands would get me a whole lot more than I bargained for.

Thailand caters exceptionally well for the large influx of foreigners it receives on a daily basis, so accommodation is easy to find. The area around Khao San Rd is known worldwide by backpackers, offering the lowest accommodation rates in Bangkok and is certainly the place to be in terms of entertainment and nightlife. You can expect to pay R100 for a double bedroom, adjoining bathroom and air conditioning. If you can live with a fan and communal bathroom, expect to pay R80 per night, for two people.

Obviously if backpacking isn’t your style, simply find your way to the hotel district in central Bangkok – at a price of course.

When hunger consumes you, there is no need to go far for a feast. Thai cuisine is considered to be of the best in the world, using a large variety of fresh vegetables, meats, noodles, rice, herbs and spices, leaving no room for disappointment. There are restaurants wherever you go in Thailand with popular mobile food stalls being the cheapest in Bangkok.

Meals can be bought for prices as low as R5 – unbelievable, but true. If you consider yourself brave then feel free to snack on some really tasty local delicacies such as spiders, scorpions, grasshoppers and maggots. You might need some water to wash that down, but remember that tap water in Thailand is not drinkable so bottled drinking water has to be on your daily shopping list.

Bangkok has much to offer the tired, stressed traveller. The full body Thai massage is a must. For only R35, you can receive an hour long rub down that will ease you into the vibe and leave you totally relaxed.

Bangkok is also famous for its shopping, so if your budget is in the green then go wild. Merchandise stalls are permanent features in the streets, selling anything and everything imaginable.  Markets are a way of life, with the biggest being at the weekend and also know as the Chatuchak Market, with more than 15 000 stalls and catering for about 250 000 people a day, this market will simply blow you away. Vendors love bargaining, so don’t feel shy to name your price – you will be amazed at the result.

Bangkok is undoubtedly one of the most exciting cities to visit in the world, but does require a certain level of tolerance. The intense bustle of Bangkok has the ability to bring anyone to their knees, but being sun loving South Africans, we decided to move on and go in search of the much acclaimed islands of Southern Thailand.

If diving is your favourite pastime then the island of Ko Tao is the place you want to be, but getting there is a mission. A 10-hour overnight bus trip took us 800km south of Bangkok, to a town called Chumpon where we boarded a leaking ferry for four hours before arriving on Ko Tao.

The whole journey set us back about R250, which is amazing considering the distance we travelled. Long tail boats or taxi boats offer daily snorkelling trips around Ko Tao, with lunch and fresh fruit served on board.

These particular boat trips are a pleasant way to experience the surrounding reefs, but also to get a good idea of the overall size and beauty of the island., and for only R100, what more can you ask for.

If you are lucky, you can find yourself in the presence of a black tip reef shark. Apparently they don’t bite humans. After the 2004 tsunami, places such as Tonsai Bay were left with long tail boats washed ashore which are now home to new coffee bars and restaurants.

Massive limestone cliffs rise from the sea, creating a world class playground for rock climbers. Located some 40 km west of Tonsai Bay lies the island of Ko Phi Phi which forms part of two islands, namely Ko Phi Phi Leh and Ko Phi Phi Don. Ko Phi Phi Don was one of the islands worst hit by the tsunami, with estimates of more than 10 000 people missing or dead. Effects from the tsunami are visible, with the construction of new buildings still underway.

Despite the tsunami, Ko Phi Phi remains a popular tourist destination, with the warm spirit of the island remaining untouched.

A snorkelling trip around the islands will take you to ancient caves and popular beaches such as Monkey Beach. Ko Phi Phi Leh is uninhabited , with cliffs enveloping deserted beaches. Maya Bay, on the northern end of Ko Phi Phi Leh is home to a beach called Noppharat Thara that became famous with the filming of the movie The Beach taking place there in 1999.

Accommodation on Ko Phi Phi Don was more expensive than we expected, about R160 a night, but considering that Ko Phi Phi Don was overrun by the tsunami – the rates increase is justified.

We covered 3000km and witnessed the awesome scenery the islands had to offer, but just as you commit your soul to Thailand and all the good things that linger there, the realisation of returning home creeps in and slaps you in the face. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and our time in Southern Thailand was wearing thin, so a flight from Phuket got us back to Bangkok – just two days before our flight back home to South Africa.

The creativity and love for life displayed by the Thai people will both surprise an impress you. Thailand is so vastly different from South Africa in all aspects, making it a perfect holiday destination.

No amount of words or photographs can grasp Thailand entirely, but one thing remains, as South Africans we are all well aware of the fact that our money doesn’t buy a hell of a lot.

In Thailand, our seemingly worthless Rands made us feel like kings. So save some money, take a deep breath, and plunge into paradise, it really is heaven on earth.