We traveled to Barberton so Martin could take part in the famous (infamous?) Barberton XCM mountain bike race. We heard about a dam called Shiyalongubo up in the mountains which is one of the only places in this region where you could catch smallmouth bass. We decided to add it to the trip.
The first night we stayed in Barberton at a place called The Gold Nugget. It’s run by Whitey who has to be one the friendliest hosts we’ve ever encountered. I even got breakfast in bed while Martin was halfway up the mountain during his silly race. We won’t book anywhere else in future, we’re lifelong customers of his. The Gold Nugget is the perfect place to stay before the race too, near to the starting point and complete with pool to cool off after the race.
As is customary we went looking for the local pub and unbelievably it was situated right behind The Gold Nugget on Sheba road. It’s called 18 On Sheba and while Martin was only having Coke (something about a race), I enjoyed some whiskey while enjoying the cozy atmosphere. But enough about that, on to the fishing.
After the race we drove up the mountain to Shiyalongubo to a place called Moonlight Cabins situated right next to the dam. We had booked a small boat to use and after hurriedly unpacking we were escorted to our boat by Karl the owner. He gave us some tips and off we went.
We started using small jerkbaits with limited success, I did catch a few but not as many as we would have liked and they were all very small. I did however officially catch my first smallmouth and I also caught my first bluegill. Two new species in one afternoon, I wasn’t complaining.
Later the afternoon Karl joined us. He was flyfishing using his homemade topwater flies and quickly landed a few. He then advised us to try our poppers and we also started getting hits on topwater. We only caught one since our lures were too big but we had a lot of fun.
The next day we switched to small texas-rigged flukes and paddletails (also on Karl’s advice) and immediately we started getting bites everywhere. The fish where still mostly small so it was difficult to get hook sets sometimes but bigger ones also started biting. We caught a few nice ones and thoroughly enjoyed our day.
In terms of accommodation Moonlight Cabins really catered to our needs. Our self-catering chalet \ cabin was cozy with a small fridge inside. The kitchen area was well-stocked with a gas stove and the bathroom outside was great. Living like that in the middle of a forest was an awesome experience.
Karl was a great host, he even supplied us with some of his homemade flies before we left for our last session and escorted us when we left to make sure we don’t have any issues on the road.
Truly beautiful remote setting, crystal clear water, and lots of smallmouth bass. Moonlight Cabins was great and Karl a very attentive host. We’re hoping to go back in the near future, with or without the mountain bike.