When we think about a tiger fishing trip with wildlife, birds and a lodge experience thrown in, we usually think of the Zambezi river or a lake Kariba expedition.
Last week I visited Shayamoya Lodge in northern Zululand and had a superb taste of all of the above.
Shayamoya is a game farm and lodge on a ridge overlooking the Jozini dam and catching the cool breeze that drifts up the slope. Eagles often hover in that breeze, scanning the slopes below for potential prey.
Rooms are appointed in secluded spots along the ridge and consist of wood and thatch. There is a resident spotted eagle owl called Nandi, who was brought up on the property and chooses to stay, she has been there for the last twelve years and is renowned for bringing gifts of geckos and mice and proudly presenting them to guests who are sleeping with their room doors open to catch the cool breeze.
The drive in the early morning down to the launch site in the back of the lodge’s game viewer vehicle was a treat, with plenty of Nyala, Kudu, Impala and giraffe on hand to keep us entertained.
Once we got onto the water our focus was firmly on hunting those elusive, toothy tigers. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of action that we had. The tigers were very active in the early mornings and we had a lot of fun drifting along weed lines and casting lures along them.
The lure that was most productive for us on this trip was a white 5 inch Berkley Powerbait Jerk Shad, rigged weedless on a weighted 4/0 Owner Twistlock swimbait hook. These could be cast into the weeds, grass or any other structure and be twitched out into the open water. They were also perfect for working along the weed lines, and the tigers couldn’t leave them alone.
The soft plastics got worked over properly by the tigers and we went through a pack a day (there are ten in a packet). It was well worth it though, as it was thoroughly entertaining fishing. Sadly we didn’t land any big tigers, but we caught plenty of smaller ones, and my highlight was a fish of around 2kgs caught on the soft plastic.
Once the sun brightened and the day warmed up somewhat the bite would typically slow down on the lures. Our skipper and fishing guide, Maxwell, would then take us to a spot to drop anchor and we would spend a couple of hours fishing with live bait or sardine fillets. This proved to be a lively and productive method of fishing and we caught a number of tigers and catfish during the hotter hours of the mornings.
While we didn’t catch any trophy tigers, they swim in those waters. A friend of mine got a ten-pounder on fly during December on Jozini and his wife caught a twelve-pounder on fly some time ago. Judging by the numbers of small fish, there must be quite a few of the big ones around.
We were entertained by fish eagles and ospreys hunting fish in the dam, and some amazing views of herds of elephant coming down to the water’s edge to drink and bathe. We saw Rhinos every day as well, not something that I normally associate with tiger fishing.
I was very happy to spot a pallid harrier hunting over some swampy grass nearby, a great sighting and a lifer for me. It was brought to my attention by the alarm calls of a pair of wattled plovers, which must have had a nest nearby.
Coming back to the lodge for a delicious lunch and a relaxing beverage on the main deck, with the eagle’s view over the dam, was always a pleasure, as it got very hot during the midday hours.
A swim in the lodge pool, or a quick nap and then we would be back to the dam to enjoy an afternoon session of fishing and game viewing.
I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to have the opportunity to have this experience right here in South Africa. With the costs of flights and international travel these days it is great to be able to drive yourself to a lodge that offers the experience in our backyard. It is the ideal destination for a father and son trip or a family trip with some bush and fishing on the cards.
The lodge and game farm was developed by Brian Blevin and his family and like many owner-run operations, it is plain to see the effort and love that has been put into the lodge and the grounds and gardens surrounding it. The farm was successfully claimed by the Ntshangase community, and the Blevins were paid out by the South African government. They now have an agreement with the community whereby the Blevins continues to run the Lodge, leasing it from the community. It is a win-win situation and it is really good to see a project of this nature working successfully.