Tag: tigerfish

Over Covid

I recently went fishing at Baines River Lodge in Zambia and if you ask anyone in that country about Covid 19, the answer in every instance will be, “there is no Covid here”.

This may simply be a case of complete denial, the old ostrich with its head in the sand trick, or, it could be a remarkable case of the power of positive thought.

None of this made any difference to the fact that in order to leave Zambia, one is still required to pay a substantial sum to have a very long ear-bud type contraption inserted through the nose to ascertain whether the dreaded virus has somehow made a nest in the lower region of your brain. The same test in South Africa involves a similar probe being shoved down your oesophagus and gently rotated just below the adams apple, until one is retching uncontrollably and tears are running down your face. And after all that, there is still doubt as to whether the bloody test even works at all!

Anyway, if that’s what it takes to get back onto the glorious Lower Zambezi after 8 months of lockdown induced withdrawal symptoms, they can shove their little probes wherever they like.

Being November, as expected, the weather was hot and steamy, the kind of conditions Tigers seem to love. Unfortunately, fairly high winds were also prevalent, which has the opposite effect on these toothy critters.

I was sharing the boat with my old fishing buddy, Scott Brown, who is a director of Baines Camp and knows this section of the river like the back of his hand. We left camp daily at around 5.30 am and made our way down to the Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP) for the day, returning only at dusk when the Park closes for the night. Fortunately, the Baines team pack a mean cold box filled to the brim with plenty of ice to last the day, along with enough food to feed a small village if required.

After an 8 month hiatus, the first day on the water was a bit like learning from scratch. Wayward casts found overhanging trees and visible stumps in the river with unerring accuracy, leading to much foul language, repetitive re-rigging of bent wire, snapped leaders and lost lures. But as the day progressed, we started to find our feet, along with our confidence and some hope. None of which helped us land any decent fish.

The next day, however, saw an immediate change. Stick baits landed near the river bank and underwater structure were smashed within seconds. As usual with topwater lures, hook up rates were limited, but within minutes we had 2 double-digit Tigers weighed and safely released, along with a few smaller fish. Game on.

Drifting down the broad expanse of water sandwiched between Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the LZNP is a special privilege. Herds of elephant splash through shallows, the largest concentration of hippos on the planet inhabit the drop-offs, huge crocodiles bask on the sandbanks, buffalo roam the islands, lions amble down to the water’s edge for a drink and laze in the shade. Birds of every shape and colour add a cacophony of sound. In short, a natural wonderland in which to fish.

In all we landed 6 fish over 10 pounds, along with a few more nearing that magical mark. Not a blinding outing, but certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Gorgeous sunsets, nursing large cold G&T’s on a sandy island, followed by fine dining and beds with crispy white sheets in air-conditioned comfort are what Baines is all about.

But don’t take my word for it, try and get up there yourself, it’s well worth it.

Prepare to be violated through a few orifices first though.

Tigers have always been my preferred fresh water species to catch on fly and my meagre pen just isn’t capable of adequately describing that adrenalin inducing experience. But on a whim late last year I decided to do something completely different.

So I told my wife I loved her.

The immediate look of suspicion had me wondering if I’d gone too far. And then the moment passed.

When I say passed, I mean in terms of the age old male practice of accruing fishing credits, the actual payment moment had passed. Of course it would have been remiss of me to not to use such a valuable and well- earned credit…..so, what to do?

After much soul searching with my old friend Glen Livet, it dawned on me. I needed a new species!

Why a new species? Firstly, that’s what we do. We go out with a sliver of graphite and a roll of string, to which we attach a bunch of feathers and a hook and see how many different species we can fool into eating it. Simple. But in this case it was more about being able to inveigle the missus into thinking I had a really important mission to accomplish.

Accordingly, at what seemed opportune moments, I began to punctuate long sighs with dreamy whispers of all the things I still had left to do in the fast fading years of my life.

A card that can only be played once. With all my guile and cunning, I implored and begged like a blind sunglass salesman knocking on your car window, until finally one day with a magnanimous huff, the old girl gave in.

I had the legendary Vundu in mind!

More people have climbed Everest than have hooked and landed a Vundu on fly. Was this not a worthy quest indeed?

Incredulously from my life long fishing buddies, the suggestion was met with a kind off sniggering disbelief, if not downright rudeness. So, when in doubt, go to plan T…….For Tiger. It wasn’t difficult to get the boys excited about an end of year excursion back to their favourite Tiger hunting ground on the lower Zambezi.

Deception was the preferred strategy for this adventure.

Our motley crew landed at Old Mondoro. Greeted by intense heat. We couldn’t get the ice into our g&t’s fast enough.

Early mornings and late afternoons were the only times a human could withstand the fierce sun. So these were the hours we fished. But, like any long con, I did not immediately sally forth in search of the main prize, rather tested my tackle on token Tigers, biding my time.

Spending long hours on siesta and at the dining table, always staying close to the cold box, I slowly built up my inner reserves and hydrated my parched body in readiness for the arduous task ahead. Enduring the taunting jibes of my buddies as their tally’s rose and weights increased, until it was time

I checked my trusty 9 weight and stole a big black brush fly from Jerry’s box. Made sure my knots were secure and the hook sharp. Cleaned my sunnies, checked the cold box again and sauntered nonchalantly down to the boat.

On the second drift of the day I saw the spot………serendipity.

Overhanging branches and submerged trees meant taking a chance. So I did. The false cast was tight and precise. The large fly gracefully whistled through the air and threaded through the structure like a well- aimed missile, landing just inches from the bank.

On the first confident retrieve the water exploded where the fly had been so judiciously presented. With pounding heart I set the hook and watched in awe as the massive fish moved away from the shallows peeling line as it swam for deeper water. Tension. On the line and washing over me.

This monster was too big to muscle and the 9 weight didn’t have the backbone to lift it easily to the surface. Wait and hope. Two mind numbing km downstream the great fish finally tired and we managed to bring it on board. 50 pounds of quivering Vundu.

Mission complete, my Prize Vundu

I had climbed my Everest. Alone and unsupported.

Not one to gloat, I sheathed my wand, opened a beer and let others tell the story. When they got some details wrong I magnanimously assisted in jogging memories.

My mates continued to pound the water in a desperate effort to save some face, but in truth the fight had gone out of them. Even then they knew the biggest fresh water fish of the season on fly was now beyond their frantic efforts.

I offered sage advice of course, who wouldn’t in my position, understanding that the wisdom so hard earned could assist others on their long road to fishing enlightenment? Grudging acknowledgment of my achievement was all they would give in return. And that was only after studying the photos for a long time.

No matter, I am home now and can rest content that my mates will never again snigger at any outlandish suggestion I make

So in some small way my quest has made a difference, all my sacrifices seem worthwhile….

I’m of to tell that to the missus…….and to mention that I love her.

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