Month: February 2019

My Silver King

I simply love fishing, not sure why, but there it is.

I’m happy to sit on a rock and watch the water. Whip a popper till my arms are sore, or try my hardest to land a delicate little fly on the spot.

For me it’s a primal instinct, not a race.

Every time I go out I learn something about the fish, the world, even myself.

I’m happy to watch the boffins casually discuss tactics and techniques whilst fighting massive fish, without a hair out of place, then nonchalantly toss in the Latin name and distinguishing characteristics, but I just fish for the fun of it.

The last time I went to the Kwanza River in Angola, we fished for Tarpon on fly. Man it was a blast. I didn’t land a thing. Without proper teeth these fish suck their prey in rather than biting and I kept pulling the bloody fly out of their mouths before it had a chance to stick.

Anyway, I recently decided to go back and give it another go. I’ve been having recurring nightmares about those Silver Kings outfoxing me, along with the odd dream of actually landing one and swimming with it, before sending it back into the big blue.

I heard Craig Thomassen had been invited back up there and decided to crash his party, because if there’s fish around he’ll find them….he might even give me a chance to redeem myself.

The Kwanza River is just short of 1000km long….navigable for about 240km from the mouth…it holds over 50 species of fish and is remarkably beautiful and pristine, given that it’s only 70km from the bustling city of Luanda and its 7 million inhabitants.

The “Poons”, as Tarpon are fondly referred to the world over, were not nearly as active in the river as on our previous trip and although we did throw lures and soft plastics there, it was without much success, other than a good Cubera Snapper of around 7kgs that Tommo managed to entice to the hook.

Basically, our best chance was to fish the color line where the river flows into the sea using small live baits with large circle hooks “gently” inserted through their eyes and swum literally within meters of the boat. Tommo was kind enough to offer me the strike, having already landed his fair share of these prehistoric beauties.

I will never forget the rush I got when a giant slab of silver, estimated at 80kgs, burst out of the water meters into the air within what seemed like touching distance. It’s hard to imagine a more magnificent sight. Around 20 sweaty minutes later the fish was at the side of the boat, leadered. As I was about to realize my dream of swimming with this magnificent beast she gave one last head shake and a crimp on the terminal tackle gave, sending her on her way…Gutted is the word that comes to mind, but it was more than that. Would I ever get another chance?

Tommo, seeing my desperation, magnanimously offered me another shot on our last day of the trip. I GOT IT. With only moments to spare a fish of around 60kgs cleared the water, landing with a mighty splash and ripping line off the reel in a dash for freedom. For another heart-stopping 20 minutes we tussled, until finally the fish was alongside the boat.

The 5 minutes or so I spent in the water with this behemoth of the deep, it’s huge eye seeming to be looking deep into my soul before it slipped back into the depths, will be etched in my memory for the rest of my days.

In the end, that’s why I really love fishing.

Where to stay: Kwanza River Lodge.
When to fish: Tarpon in summer, but good general fishing year round.
Method: Bait and lure….fly fishing possible when smaller Tarpon are around

Tiger Blues and Jackpots

Tigerfish are fairly easy to catch, aren’t they…? Television programs and viral videos always paint the picture of Tigerfish feeding constantly, aggressive and hungry all the time and eating anything and everything that dares cross their path. This is what I used to think until I got my first taste of the “Tiger Blues”

So the truth is, tigers don’t feed constantly and they don’t eat anything and everything that crosses their path, in fact, most of the time they are fickle little bastards who would rather just chill in their little hole than eat any of your synthetic manmade offerings.

Tigerfish have a habit of “switching on” and “switching off”. Like most predatory fish they won’t constantly feed and hunt but rather conserve their energy and wait for the most opportune moment where the conditions are right and they can get the most out of the feeding period. This is not to say that a Tigerfish will not react to an easy meal swimming past at any given time of the day, but trust me when I say, you will know the difference between an active feeding period and a lazy period.

Kasinga Rapids on the Mnyera River

Sometimes the smallest change in weather or river conditions can be the trigger for Tigers to start eating, the trick is, it’s hard to be in the right place at the exact right time to capitalize on the frenzy. The best advice I have ever been given on Tigerfish is to just keep casting even when you aren’t getting as much as a nibble, just keep hitting your targets, at some point something will eat.

On a recent filming trip for the WildFly Fishing Series to Tanzania with Kilombero North Safaris, I came down with one of the worst cases of “Tiger Blues”. Guys who have fished for Tigers when it’s really tough will know what I’m talking about here. I had spent the whole day casting on the Mnyera river not having landed a single fish. Bites were few and far between and the ones that did eat the fly I managed to screw-up with a perfectly executed trout strike. I was a broken man, drained both physically and mentally.

Coming down with a bad case of Tiger Blues

Craig Thomassen who was with me on this particular trip could see the agony on my face and quickly intervened with a well-timed “Tommo talk”. He told me to think of it as a slot machine at a casino and I’m playing with an endless amount of coins. Every cast is a coin into the machine and the only time I don’t have a chance of winning is when I stop inserting coins, and at some point, you are going to hit a jackpot.

The African sun was calling last rounds on the Mnyera and still, I was fishless. My guide Johan Du Preez from Tourette Fishing was trying his best to keep me motivated literally squeezing out the last couple of casts I had in me. He set me up to fish towards a large piece of timber in a deep channel, it was nothing special in terms of structure, in fact, the Mnyera is littered with identical targets all over the place, but I placed my bets and made the cast as tight as possible into the structure. The result of that one cast late in the day yielded the biggest Tigerfish I have ever landed in my life, weighing in at a whopping 22 pounds, I had undoubtedly hit the jackpot.

The Jackpot, a 22lb Tanzanian Tigerfish

The rest of the trip we managed to get a few good double figure tigers, the ones the Mnyera is renowned for, but nothing came close to the one that I caught on that day, one fish for the whole day on the very last cast and she will be the one I remember for the rest of my life.

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