Why ten pounds is the benchmark for many fresh-water fish in terms of angling accolades is a bit of a mystery. The imperial yardstick and it being double digits would be my best guess. Admittedly this aspiration is what now drives my journey to rivers and lakes with a fly rod in hand.

We start off just wanting to catch a single fish (the label of ‘Billy Blank’ from your best fishing mates being a major motivator) which soon develops into a desire to land many, evolving into a quest for a trophy, until we only want to catch big fish.

This is the cycle of every fishing excursion and the urge to prove whose is the biggest would not be lost on any budding shrink.

Of the many great target species in the rivers of Africa, Tigers would have to rank as my firm favorite, not just because of all their sport-fishing attributes, but the environment in which you find yourself hunting these prize fighters is generally home to the wildlife that justifiably puts any fishing in perspective.

This turbulent year allowed me to visit three great destinations in pursuit of a Tiger worthy of bragging rights and I could be forgiven in each bout for throwing in the towel in.

My first excursion was to join Robin Pieterson and Danie Pienaar in the Kruger Park to film the pioneering research program with Dr. Gordon O’Brien, where we were tasked with catching tigers for acoustic tagging to monitor their migratory behavior.

Needless to say it requires very little angling skill to catch a Tiger in the Sabie River, considering the zero rod pressure and abundance of fish.

But to catch a 10-pound specimen is another story! Population dynamics ensure that only a few fish reach such maturity and every ravenous Tiglet in the vicinity were beating the larger females to the punch, much to my conflicted enjoyment and frustration.

Cast for cast is no exaggeration, the action was incredible, but days later and numerous fish in that 5-7lbs category, I had yet to crack double digits.

I had to keep reminding myself of why we had been invited, which certainly wasn’t for any personal gratification, but even the phenomenal wildlife around every corner couldn’t dislodge the nagging irritation at being thwarted.

Eventually you just have to acknowledge that fish get to trophy size for a reason, which as despondent as I was, the wilderness area in which I was fishing was the real privilege. And in accepting the circumstance with deserved humility, as we were walking back from our hike, I saw a fish break the surface, which provoked an automatic cast that demanded attention.

You’re never calm and collected when a big fish smashes your fly as it hits the water and my reaction told all in attendance of my panic-stricken state of mind. In a confined channel it challenged every ounce of my patience, until the nerve-wracking ordeal ended with the beast in my net. Relief gave way to hollering celebrations and eventual thanks to our hosts for truly my finest Tiger experience of a lifetime.

My first last cast of the year!

A few months later we were fortunate to be invited to Matoya lodge in Barotseland, where you are always guaranteed double digits, to the extent that 20lb has now become the new benchmark.

‘My Visserman Vriend’, Rhuan Human proved this by opening his account with a 12lb Tiger in his first session.

Fishing with my partner in grime, Jeremy Rochester, I was to see evidence firsthand of the wee beasties that were lurking, witnessing him snap a fly line on a big fish, then have his 20lb trace wire sliced through on another.

My contribution however would barely be fit for a dinner plate and after an exhausting 5 days on the water, I wasn’t in danger of showering myself in any glory. Jerry typically got an 11lb fish during this time, but it was clear that the time of year was not conducive to the fly, as we were both struggling to deliver any decent-sized fish.

Even lures, thrown with precision by Craig Thomasson didn’t deliver the renowned Barotse Express, with Tommo resorting to live bait for the result.

Squeezing in a last two-hour session in the morning had my resigned last cast at a tree stump surprisingly and resoundingly answered. The fight wasn’t a fair contest, as I didn’t give an inch of line, my overweighted tippet ensuring that what stuck was going to be landed.

Another 10 pound Tiger on my very last cast of the trip….….. I was starting to believe in Karma being just deserts.

That was until we landed in the Lower Zambezi a few months later to unprecedented water levels, drowning the sandbanks that ordinarily typify this region, with dirty water adding insult to injury. Only the magnificent base of Baine’s River Camp with such specular wildlife could give the needed perspective.

Scotty Brown, the man behind Baine’s proved that both bait and jig’s soon uncovered the size of fish on offer, with multiple Tigers eclipsing that all-encompassing 10-pound mark each day.

But the watercolor only had me praying for that proverbial blind squirrel to stumble upon my nut. I spent an irritating amount of time watching my line racing down-stream with the fly imitating a teaser shunting through the current.

I’ve never been a patient man, but my last two Tiger outings had drummed in some degree of stoicism, which gave me a glimmer of hope for the last session.

But eight hours later I decided to call it a day and resorted to washing away the disappointment with a few cold Mosi’s. Line in the water, no retrieve, talking shit, which now I can’t even remember the topic.

Nothing sharpens your focus more than fly line searing through your hand! Momentary chaos, which autopilot, fortunately, rectified through an instinctive line strike.

The ensuing colorful exclamation from the skipper following the jump solidified my initial judgment of a good fish on. That’s when my rod tip decided to follow the fish……relentless casting can always loosen a ferule. I’ve been here before, so was quite nonchalant about the rod section.

No quarter given, so only a few minutes of nervous silence as I worked the Tiger to the boat, a final jump, in which she almost landed directly in the net.

When you fluke a double-digit Tiger, in so far as by some miracle, it found my fly, you simply have to put down your stick and raise a glass. To my third ten-pound Tigerfish on the last cast of the trip and for that matter the only three trophy Tigers hooked and landed this year!

I can’t confess to being a man of faith, but I do believe in persistence paying off and now finally trust that every cast counts, especially your last one!

No quarter given, so only a few minutes of nervous silence as I worked the Tiger to the boat, a final jump, in which she almost landed directly in the net.