The original home of tiger fishing is Zimbabwe. Back in the colonial days of Rhodesia, people would go to the Zambezi river or lake Kariba for their holidays. One of the most popular sections of the Zambezi for fishing was the area around Deka. This is the middle Zambezi, below Victoria falls and the Batoka gorge and above the giant, manmade Kariba dam.
That section of river, where the current is fast, the gradient quite steep and the water highly oxygenated by the many rapids, is home to some of the finest tiger fishing in Africa.
It is in this area that Simwenge Lodge is situated. A small and intimate, family owned lodge, Simwenge reminds one of the fishing camps of old. Accommodation is in tents, which are equipped with air conditioners. The lodge has a spacious, open bar and dining area, situated to catch a bit of breeze on hot days. In front of that is an infinity pool with a view over the river.
Fishing is done from bass tyle fishing boats and the lodge also has a larger pontoon boat for bigger groups or for sundowner cruises on the river. There are plenty of fishing options, with excellent and productive water both upstream and downstream of the lodge.
One of the favoured methods used in the area by regulars is spinning with a large inline spinner. A piece of fish fillet is attached to the hook, and it trails behind the lure offering a natural scent to any following tiger fish. This technioque is very effective in the area and accounts for many trophy fish.
Apart from the tiger fishing, the area also offers species such as bream, chessa and nkupe. Tigerfish though, are the main target of sport fishermen visiting the area and they are challenging to catch. The boat drivers at the lodge are very experienced and have an uncanny ability to find fish in all conditions.
I had the privilege of watching a local guy catch a large tiger on some of the most rudimentary fishing tackle imaginable. He was fishing with a tiny hook and earthworms for chessa. His reel was an old tin can and his rod was made from two broken pieces of rod, spliced together. In the process of catching a chessa, his catch was eaten by a tiger, which tested his skill properly. We loaned him our net to land the fish, and we were very impressed that he managed it.
One evening the chef cooked us the most delicious pizzas imaginable and we ate these, seated around the fire. We were entertained by the lodge staff, wearing frightening-looking masks and traditional African attire, dancing around the fire.
Days were very hot, as only the Zambezi valley can be. The wind invariably picked up during the mid-morning, which gave us some respite from the intense heat.
Simwenge is a destination that gives guests the real experience of old, traditional Zimbabwean tiger fishing. From the accommodation to the fishing techniques, it is all authentic and real.