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.