Year: 2018 (page 1 of 2)

Nottingham Estate

We were recently invited to go and fish on a private game and citrus farm in Southern Zimbabwe, not far from the town of Beit Bridge, called Nottingham estate. The farm covers 20 000 hectares of mostly wild bush, with plenty of wildlife, including elephants, hyena and leopard. The dam that we went to fish in is called Mashilichokwe, and is around 7km long.

The fishing retreat is a peaceful lodge, built amongst some big trees on the water’s edge. They have a sheltered jetty area, and a number of boats for use on the dam. The dam has plenty of structure in the form of rock outcrops and sunken timber. Some world class large mouth bass have been caught in the dam, including the current farm record of a fish weighing 7.8kg’s.

We were there during the post spawn period, which made it a bit difficult to locate big fish, but had quality fishing anyway, with a number of good size fish being landed.

The fish were in excellent condition, and fought very hard. We also had some good fun targeting Niloticus bream on small spinners and light tackle, and managed to catch a few quality specimens.

In the evenings we were treated to dinners at the lodge, or at the fly camp, where low grade oranges from the citrus farm are dumped to feed the elephants. There were plenty of herds of these huge beasts, as well as eland, warthog and baboons which all came to feast on the fruit. The view from the escarpment looked like a scene from “The Lion King”, with electric lights lighting the area up at night.

This trip was something really different for us, with some amazing bird watching, great game viewing and excellent bass fishing. Nottingham Estate is one of those special destinations which should be on any keen bass fisherman and outdoorsman’s agenda to visit.

Catsonova Cruises

The Bazaruto archipelago must be one of the most spectacular pieces of marine shoreline along the east African coast. It consists of four main islands; Margaruque, Benguerra, Bazaruto and Paradise islands, strung out in a pretty chain just offshore of the Mozambican mainland town of Vilanculos.

I have fished the archipelago many times over the years, and count it amongst my favourite fishing destinations. It covers a large area and recently I got the opportunity to explore the entire archipelago in a single trip, which I have never done before. Making this possible was the new Catsonova live aboard operation, which is based out of Vilanculos.

Catsonova is a forty-four foot motor yacht, which has been recently refurbished and is used as a houseboat type setup in the area. She is crewed by a helpful and friendly staff; Jose’, her skipper, Zef, the cook, Roberto another skipper and deck hand and Dean Taylor, a young Zimbabwean, who is the operations manager, host and fishing guide.

This enthusiastic team put all of their efforts into making each trip aboard Catsonova as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Dean is a qualified chef, so the meals on board are top class, he is also a keen and passionate fisherman. He has had a few years experience in the area, working out of Benguerra lodge as a fishing guide in the past, so is perfectly placed to put his guests onto good fish.

The Bazaruto archipelago is within a marine national park, so there is plenty of marine wildlife to enjoy in the area, and the fishing is world class.

Catsonova was our base, and she moved around to different moorings each day, allowing us to fish different areas. We fished from a ski boat that accompanied Catsonova, and met up with her each afternoon at her new anchorage. This allowed us an opportunity to fish the entire archipelago over the course of a week, something not normally possible when land based.

We had two amazing sightings of dugong, as well as manta rays, sharks, turtles, dolphins and of course some fantastic sunsets and sunrises. We also managed to get in some snorkeling on beautiful reefs, and of course we fished until our arms were ready to drop off.

The Bazaruto archipelago is home to a diverse range of fish species, including a wide variety of predators and game fish. We caught nine species of kingfish, along with many other species of predators. We fished everything from light tackle to the heaviest of popping gear, and all that is in between. Poppers, bucktail jigs, stickbaits and soft plastics all did a lot of duty and all produced fish. We chased down shoals of busting fish on the surface, with birds diving overhead, and got into tuna and king mackerel. We threw poppers and stickbaits at good looking water and landed GTs, and we drifted over reefs, working small jigs and spoons to catch a variety of predators and colourful bottom species.

The Catsonova experience is something quite different to staying in a land based lodge, and offers great opportunities to explore further afield within the archipelago. It gave us a whole new perspective on the islands and allowed us to fish areas that have previously been unavailable to us for fishing the prime times.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week, which was made even more special by the really dedicated efforts of Dean and his team. They could not do enough to make our trip great, and were always ready and willing to do whatever it took to make us happy. The Catsonova experience is one that I would recommend to anybody who wants to get a full, tropical blue water fishing experience in waters that are easy to access and full of fish. The Airlink flight from Johannesburg to Vilanculos takes less than an hour and a half, making it a quick and painless trip, and you can be fishing within a few hours of leaving home.

Rivendell Trout Estate-Mpumalanga

When it comes to fresh water fly fishing in South Africa, towns like Belfast, Dullstroom, Machadadorp and Lydenburg, all in Mpumalanga province, are the busiest locations in the country. This is of course largely due to their proximity to Gauteng and the growing population there looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of the “big smoke” and enjoy some leisure time in the country.

Trout were introduced to this area early in the 20th century and have played a vital role in tourism and attendant job creation ever since. A drive along the Mpumalanga Highlands Meander and the myriad accommodation options bear testament to this.
 
As trout are unable breed in still water, stocking of fish into dams (and rivers) from nearby hatcheries is common practice and thus an important economic contributor in its own right.


 
There are however streams and rivers in the higher catchment areas where Trout can breed and proliferate, although even they are generally stocked as well. One of these is the Spekboom River with its source in the Mount Anderson Water Catchment Reserve near Lydenburg, an important initiative given that this source water ultimately feeds the Kruger National Park. Within the reserve are a number of upmarket properties, all of which offer fly fishing to their guests. Included among these is Rivendell Trout Estate, where acclaimed angler Jeremy Rochester and I recently spent a few happy days exploring what they have to offer.


 
After buying the property in a fairly run -down state 3 years ago, the owners Angus and Jenny Brown, have clearly been working tirelessly to re-establish Rivendell as a premiere holiday and trout fishing destination. The serviced self -catering accommodation there is superb, consisting of 2 four bedroom villas all en-suite with large kitchens and living areas, log fires and elevated decks overlooking the river and onto the adjacent mountains.


 
The Spekboom River at this time of year (July) is gin clear and cold, a perfect habitat for Trout, but this does mean that the fish are able to see you coming and can therefore be skittish, so stealth is required to get results. Jerry managed to catch fish on nymphs, streamers and dry fly all in one day, while I found my dries going unhindered and only really had success on larger streamer patterns, a white beaded zonker being the most successful. As always, sight fishing to your quarry remains the most exciting form of fly fishing and conditions meant this was the case in almost all instances. The fish were not big, up to around 1 kg, but once hooked were remarkably frisky and loath to come to the net. Between us we caught and released around 18 fish in 2 days.

As a family holiday destination Rivendell would take some beating. Besides the fantastic accommodation, there are lovely walks or mountain bike trails, with a number of antelope and other species in attendance, as well as great birding.

Add this to the solitude, clear mountain air and sight fishing for plump Trout which can be spotted off your viewing deck, and you really need look no further….

 

Fishing Report – Sardine Run 2018

The Sardine run has started with a bang!

Normally the Sardine Run begins with lots of gannet activity, then tons of dolphins and whale, sightings before the arrival of the silver fish. This year has been the opposite way around. The sardines arrived before the birds, dolphins and whales. Perhaps that is because this year’s run is shaping up to be a bumper one, and while the birds, dolphins and whales accompany the bulk of the sardines, still holding off the wild coast, the pilot shoals have stolen the limelight on the South coast.

Sharks have accompanied some of the shoals, with plenty of large fins being seen right in the shore break at times. Shark anglers have had a ball tossing baits to these monsters, and then buckling up for the fight of their lives. While some beauties have been landed, there are also many tales of broken tackle and wrecked egos.

While the shad have been their usual elusive selves, appearing at times, then disappearing again, they have been around enough to head up the menu in many households already this season. Game fish such as Garrick, kingfish and queen mackerel have also been caught along with the sardines, by those faithful who work the water with spoons and plugs from the beaches and rocks.

The offshore game fish have been predictably difficult to catch, with so much natural food on offer. Ski boat anglers at this time of year make amends by enjoying the arrival of geelbek and Dagga Salmon.

 

 

With such a bumper run in the offing, the Inside Angling crew has been racing up and down the coast, along with the beach sein netters, and the rest of the population, trying to experience the full impact of the frenzy that the annual run brings.

Return To Zambezi

The Zambezi River… known for its natural beauty breathtaking sunsets and a certain piscatory canine that inhabits its darkest corners. Anglers with rods of varying kinds annually flock to these waters all in search of one fish, a trophy Tigerfish.

Over the last two years, I have developed a love-hate relationship with big Tigerfish. When they sit on the bottom of a river with a toothy grin, barely moving and ignoring every last one of my flies, flies that took a lot of time and effort to prepare, I hate them. When they decide to have a taste of the hair and feathers pulled past their stuck up faces, only to spit it out a second later in a disrespectful “get that out of here” aerial display, I hate them.

But when stars align and they oblige by attacking those very same flies with vigour and intent and somehow you manage to keep them hooked until safely in the net. Then I love them more than anything else on earth.

On my very first visit to the Zambezi, there wasn’t a lot of love going around. For some reason the fishing was tough, but it wasn’t all the fishes fault, there was a lot of angler error that stemmed from frustration and impatience. When I got an invite to go back to the Zambezi for the second time, preparations started early and a lot of it was mental preparation.

I have been fortunate enough to fish for Tigers in a few different bodies of water, mostly smaller rivers with fast flowing currents and rapids but in the Zambezi, it’s a slightly different ball game. You only get a few chances at a big fish and you have to make those chances count. That means your knots need to be perfect on every tie up, you need to focus and be ready for the take, and whatever you do don’t trout strike!

All this is hard to put into practice when the chaos of Tiger fishing erupts. Possibly the hardest thing on earth is to keep your calm when a big angry dinosaur is jumping around trying to pull your rod from your hands, but if a trophy is what you are after, patience and composure is what you would need to conquer the beast.

So with my new found outlook on the Zambezi and its Tigers, I touched down with Airlink at Kasane airport ready to redeem myself. We were based at the beautiful Kaza Safari Lodge on Impalila island where Brett Macdonald’s team looked after our every need for the next 5 days. Trust me it’s not easy accommodating a film crew but the guys and girls at Kaza did a splendid job of hosting us. As fast as we could unpack and set up our gear we were out on the water and casting flies into the mighty African river. It’s always good to settle the early adrenaline and nerves with a few smaller fish in preparation for the big one and that is exactly what we did on day 1 and 2 of the hunt. We bagged a few fish ranging from two to four pounds and a few feisty six to eight pounders that put a good stretch in the line.

I started to feel a lot more confident and so, on the 3rd day, we decided to make the run up to Golden Pond, an area renowned for double-figure Tigers. We reached the pond after a cold hour and a half run from the lodge. It was “go” time and I immediately settled into a rhythm, a slow and steady retrieve keeping contact so when anything decided to eat I would be ready to tighten up and make sure the fish is hooked properly. Employing this technique yielded fewer bites but I was sure when something should eat, it would be a good fish.

The morning didn’t deliver much action but I maintained my confidence that I would get a good bite if I persevered. My patience soon paid off as we drifted into a strong reverse current created by a small channel draining into the main channel of the river. Birds were flocking to the area and everything about it looked fishy. A slow and steady retrieve, I started working the area and soon figured out the flow and how to get my fly down to where the currents converged. It didn’t take long for a bite and I was on with my first double-figure Zambezi Tiger, a beautiful fish of about 12 pounds. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to start the trip back to the lodge before it got dark.

The next day we headed straight back to the spot and with the same tactics hooked four fish and landed two, all over 10 pounds, the biggest weighing in at 14 pounds. It turned into one of my most memorable trips, not so much for the fish I caught but for implementing a plan and it paying off in the end.

The Zambezi remains one of my favourite fishing destinations, it’s one of the few freshwater destinations on earth where your chances of landing a ten-pound fish on fly are very good, and doing it in some of the most beautiful scenery around is the added bonus. By no means have I cracked the code on those monster Zambezi Tigers, I haven’t even scratched the surface but if there is one piece of advice I can offer to the excited angler stepping on to its shores for the first time… slow things down, be patient, focus, and be deliberate at what you are doing and you will be rewarded handsomely.

The Great Rift

Bureaucrats in possession of a little power are not to be challenged and I really should know better. But in todays digital age, travelling on a valid passport and to be blocked at immigration just because there’s not enough space to rubber stamp defies rationale. This was my first obstacle in getting to fish in Northern Zambia, which by re-routing via Jhb I managed to overcome.

The second was as unbelievable as it was hair raising.

After enjoying our evening meal at Nkamba Bay, perched on the hillside over looking the fishing grounds that lay in wait, I sauntered back to my room. The shrieking of what I thought were Baboon on the roof didn’t alarm me, but the shaking sundeck underfoot and sudden thundering noise confused my slightly dull senses and the sight of giant Warthog baring down on me had my flight mode on autopilot.

 

You don’t expect to find two Tons of charging Hippo, 50ft up on a sundeck overlooking a lake, so understandably I was running before I had processed the information. The screams from everyone at the dinner table fueled my panic stricken stride and I very nearly soiled the trail I was blazing. My salvation lay in a flimsy bush behind which was a light-post. Not wanting my final inglorious moments to be the surprise of carving incisors from behind, I pirouetted around the pole in what the audience later agreed could have me gracing the stage of any sleazy strip club on the continent.

10 meters away two bull Hippos were engaged in a bloody battle for mating rights…totally ignoring my Flashdance impersonation. Had I left the table 30 seconds earlier, my epitaph would been an amusing anecdote. Seeing up far too close and personal the damage that this beast can inflict and the breathtaking speed at which it all happened had my senses on full alert for the rest of our adventure.
Exploring a lake that is millions of years old, forged by tectonic upheaval is challenging, especially when this particular fissure drops to a depth of nearly a mile.You could be forgiven for thinking you were on a tropical island as the sun presents the colour of the water. The clarity is staggering and the sheer depth of vision skews perception.

It happens to be the world’s longest lake and with just under 33 thousand square kilometers of water to fathom, how on earth do you find the fish? But at an average water temperature of 25 celcius, life thrives in kaleidoscope and Lake Tanganyika is home to an incredible 400 species of fish.

It’s as a confusing fishery as you’re likely to find on our planet with it’s inhabitants largely unknown except to ichthyologists…..so we stopped guessing at the identity of the juveniles and stripped deeper water, to tempt the bigger predators.

Jeremy hadn’t even got into rhythm, when the grandaddy of the Lates family decided to test his resolve.

You’re sight fishing at a depth of 6 meters, and wind permitting, seeing every nook and cranny of the underwater shelves…it is guaranteed to ignite idle fly fishing minds. I readily took up the gauntlet and put my ridiculed patterns to the test, which didn’t have to wait too long for some attention from one of the most prolific species in these ancient waters.

The Nkupi is the King of all Chiclids, growing larger than it’s cousin the Peacock Bass and it displays all of the worthy fighting characteristics that it’s renowned for.
Targeting any fish on the surface is trumps, which is usually reserved for low light conditions and Jer’s popping action soon had patrolling fish hopping.The Nkupi or Emporer Chiclid is not a shy specimen and similar to kingfish will go out of it’s way to chase down the action

This lake is the proverbial lucky packet, you’re  never really sure what you’ve got tugging on your line until it comes into view. Not knowing what you’ve got rivals the expectation on a blind date…but it can also mirror the disappointment, as the chiclids will snack on flies half their body size

Fishing without trace wire, in system that houses the Goliath Tiger fish is a little like practicing unsafe sex……no matter how slim the chances are, it’s can all end in tears. As Jeremy found out, courtesy of the African Tiger fish that also inhabits this water

Once bitten………so, we strapped up and started to strip like our next meal depended on it. You expect to lose tigers due to their hard palette, not that it was any easier to swallow when the next 3 sorted us out. Being such an elusive fish in the depths of this fresh sea of water, I felt very lucky to eventually have one stick.

Over the next couple of days, we were torn between enjoying the frequent smaller Nkupi action in the shallow water versus trying to dredge for a big Perch. Storm clouds continually brewed and it blew in from every direction, making for difficult drifts. Despite the tumultuous weather, everyday enjoyed some sun and we managed to notch up a few fish, but we certainly worked for them.
The Last day of any fishing trip is as predictable as it is surprising. The shock of the last few fishing hours left is overcome by fierce resolution, bolstering your conviction that the big one awaits.

Jeremy was by this stage in the zone, slowly drawing his line up over the sandy substrate when the words I had been waiting to hear were tersely uttered….’Good Fish!’

There’s something about seeing a good fish landed that puts a little spark in your application and injects some venom into your cast.

Reigning in my impatience I was to follow suit, albeit in a smaller weight category.

Having such diverse fishing in a single lake is remarkable and in this fresh water sanctuary of Nkamba Bay and the Nsumbu National Park, you rarely see another single soul when exploring this beautiful wilderness area. It’s not for the feint hearted on fly but it’s an absolute jewel and a fishing resource that needs to be protected by all recreational anglers.

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