Category: Fishing Report (Page 1 of 10)

Last one on the left

As we meandered our way down the Zambezi River through the beauty and splendour that is the Lower Zambezi National Park, I could not help but wonder what this round of adventure had in store for our motley crew of fishing rod and camera-wielding travellers. 


Earlier in the day we met up with Rob Kay, owner and operator of Amanzi Zambezi Lodge. With him he carried two sacks. One filled with buttery soft White river avocados, and the other, the perfect complement to a refreshing gin and tonic, a uniquely patterned citrus called “tiger lemon”.  These were the fruits of Rob’s daytime labour. Leave it to a farmer to cultivate produce that shares its name with his favourite pastime. When Rob isn’t farming “tiger lemons”,  he spends his days fishing for Tigerfish from the comfortably equipped boats at Amanzi.

Lower Zambezi is one of my favourite places on earth to visit, I use the word “visit” here because it’s not always my favourite place to fly fish. 
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more exhilarating than catching Tigerfish under a tequila sky, with elephants grazing in the background, but the truth is, tiger fishing is a tough business. You have to put in the work and build up to those moments, especially if your weapons of choice are feathers and fly line. 

What sets the Lower Zambezi apart from other fishing destinations is the fact that even in “down” periods when fishing is tough, you never feel bored or frustrated. There is always something to enjoy on the lower Zambezi. Whether it is sitting back with a cold Mozi, watching the elephants crossing the river with their young in tow, or the peaceful sounds of an African fish eagle suddenly interrupted by a pack of wild dogs yelping on the river’s edge. There is never a dull moment on this magical stretch of river.


Amanzi Lodge is quite literally the last lodge on the left as you travel downstream of the Lower Zambezi National Park. Tucked away on a narrow channel off the main river, the lodge is a far cry from the usual bustling park accommodations, and gave me a sense of what the area was like before development took place.  The luxury tented camp has everything you would ever need in this beautiful wilderness, and effortlessly blends into its surroundings. To me, this is the closest one can get to a truly authentic African bush experience. 


We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening setting up our tackle and gear, relaxing around the fire and sharing stories of past Zambezi experiences, conquests, and failures alike. Our tales were scored by the sounds of crackling fires, roaring lions, and howling hyenas. Even when she sleeps, the Lower Zambezi still finds a way to entertain her guests.


We were up at first light the following morning, ready to take on the Zambezi and her fanged denizens of the deep, but as we were about to board our boats we were intercepted by Robert, head field guide and arguably the best wildlife spotter this side of the Zambezi. A pack of wild dog were spotted not far from camp, he said. It did not take much to put our fishing plans on hold to catch a glimpse of these amazing and rare wild canines. 


We arrived at the sighting, not a moment too soon as the pack showed interest in a herd of impala a few yards away from them. With some barks and yelps from the mature dogs, the chase was on. African wild dog are some of Africa’s most successful hunters, killing up to 80% of the quarry they pursue, so we knew we were in for a treat. 


The pack’s success comes from working in unison and with pure stamina and endurance, often chasing their prey to the point of exhaustion. A moment later, one of the older dogs returned to where the pups were anxiously waiting, he had some appetizers from a fresh impala kill.

The pups were worked into a frenzy and quickly devoured through the starters to follow Dad to the main course, with us in tow. It was one of the best wildlife sightings I have ever experienced anywhere in the world, and to see the unique social dynamics of these incredible animals was a rare privilege. Eventually, we had to leave the doggos and make our way to the river, we still had a fishing show to film.


The fishing on the Zambezi is unlike anything else I have experienced. The river is vast and the task of catching a Tiger is a daunting one, but exciting at the same time. When hunting Tigers with a fly rod, be prepared to make a lot of casts. And true to form we proceeded to make a lot of casts. It’s not like your casts go unrewarded, young Tigerfish are more than willing to gobble up a red and black clouser even at the worst of times. The true test of patience comes when you target the bigger fish around the drop-offs and channels. 


Now I can attempt to describe a thousand casts, fishing the same area repeatedly and getting the same result, or lack of results rather, but that would be describing the very definition of stupidity, and I’ll leave that for another article. What I can tell you, is that this type of fishing takes mental fortitude and some physical stamina. You must convince yourself that the fish are down there, no matter how many times you have cast in that zone without so much as a nibble. 

There’s a phrase used on the Zambezi by anglers, and you would often hear them speak about “tiger time”. It refers to the hunting and feeding habits of apex predators. When Tigers get to a certain size, they become wiser and more conservative. They cannot afford to waste energy looking for food and chasing down prey all day. They will rather pick the perfect time when conditions are right to hunt and ambush unsuspecting baitfish.


My trophy catch decided to “sleep in” till the very last minute. It was in the final hours of our last day on the river. I had made well over a thousand cast by that time. With aching shoulders and blistered hands, I summoned the last bit of energy I had left to make the final casts count. I pitched my fly into an area I had fished several times during our trip, a steep drop-off on a sand bank occupied by a pod of Hippos. An abrupt jerk on the end of my line woke me from my focused trance.

At first, I thought I had accidentally hooked a one-and-a-half-ton herbivore, but I soon realized that whatever was on the end of my line was moving too fast to be in that weight category. The Tigerfish leapt out of the water, giving myself and my cameraman a glimpse, if it’s not ten pounds it’s very close, I mumbled a bit. 


Eventually, the beast was subdued, and the scale confirmed that it was a  ten-pounder, with not a gram to spare. Our decision to push to the last minute paid off in more ways than one. We were left with what photography types call “golden hour”, the last bit of daylight, perfect for camera lenses. We captured the moment in the best conditions we could ask for, and sent the perfect specimen of a Tigerfish on her way to live and fight another day. 


With another exciting episode wrapped up, our crew celebrated the moment with a beautiful Zambezi sunset. As for my Zambezi experience at Amanzi River Lodge, I would rank it top two all the time, and I’m sure my colleagues and travel partners would share the sentiment. If Tiger fishing the Zambezi is on your bucket list, you won’t regret making the trip to Amanzi River Lodge, the last one on the left.

Inaugural NCTA Augrabies Falls Fly Invitational

In August this year, twenty-two excited anglers made their way by road and air (on Airlink) from all corners of South Africa to the quaint town of Augrabies in the Northern Cape.

The recently revamped Augrabies Falls Lodge was to be the setting of the 4-day inaugural NCTA Augrabies Falls Fly Invitational.

NCTA Event
Augrabies Falls Lodge

The largest river in South Africa, the Orange, winds its way past the town where it plunges 56 meters down the spectacular waterfall situated within the SANParks reserve.

Augrabies Falls

An unseasonal cold front arrived as predicted, but this didn’t dampen spirits in any way, in fact, other spirits were adequately imbibed, for medicinal purposes of course, and to keep warm in the chilly weather.

Four stunningly beautiful beats (sections of the river) had been identified by Craig Eksteen, owner of Kalahari Outventures, the premier fishing and rafting operators in this region, and co-organizers of the event. Each team of 2 anglers would get to fish all the beats over the 3 days of competition.

Deep slow-moving water, a spectacular unfished gorge within the Park, along with freestone riffles and rapids were all in play, with both SANParks and local farmers generously allowing us access through their private properties for the event.

Orange River Beats

With air and water temperatures plummeting, these hardy fly-fishers were tested to the extreme. Large Mouth Yellowfish are the apex predator in these waters and the scoring system allocated the highest points for landing and releasing one of these prized specimens. Their cousins, the Small Mouth Yellow, Catfish, Carp and Tilapia amongst others, all counting for points on a sliding scale.

Each evening around the fire pits at the Lodge, seemingly endless tales of success and failure were told and retold in the time-honoured tradition of fishermen everywhere.

On day 3, the final day of the comp, it was still anyone’s event to win, but with the weather starting to settle, the cream was coming to the top. Overall, 115 fish were safely caught and released, with the young but experienced team of Eddie Rall and Des Fourie finally taking top honours by some margin, earning them an all-expenses paid guided fishing trip and 2 return Airlink flights anywhere in SA. Eddie also won the best angler award, along with a complete Large Mouth rig kindly sponsored by Xplorer Fly Fishing.

Eddie Rall & Des Fourie – Overall Winners

Amidst much hilarity, booby prizes were presented for those who had not fared quite as well as others, along with some really great travel and tackle prizes for the runners-up.

Wine flowed thereafter, complimenting a fantastic meal served al-fresco on the veranda of the venerable old Lodge, followed by an evening to remember, as new and old friendships alike were cemented in the festive pub.

As the contestants set off for home on the final morning, a group of excited young school children from 3 of the local schools in the area were hosted at the river by SANParks and Kalahari Outventures. Squeals of delight as, in teams of four, they learned to paddle on the water, cast fly lines and understand the link between entomology and flies. Conservation of this wonderful but threatened waterway is of prime importance and the local kids who live in the area need to be part of any solutions going forward.

Local School kids included in the event

All in all, the inaugural NCTA event was great success, with most competitors promising to be back for the 2022 edition, and our thanks must go out to Northern Cape Tourism and the many other wonderful sponsors without whom it would simply not have happened.

Next year’s event (24 to 29 August) will be expanded to include 32 anglers (16 teams of 2) so if you’re a keen fly-angler with a sense of adventure, and a sense of humour, we look forward to seeing you there…

Lazy Boyz

To tube or not to tube is a shouldn’t be a dilemma.

Although targeting Trout from the bank and stalking a fish is the way to go on arrival at any dam (as long as you get their at the proverbial crack of), to not jump in your float tube when fishing any decent sized dam is just limiting your options.

The design of any established still water means that accessibility is limited from the bank, very often the dam wall and one side of the still water being your only vantage point from which to cast. And even if you have 360 degree access and can throw a line like the late Lefty Kreh, you’re still only prospecting the fringes around the bank.

So when that sun starts to raise it’s bright head and you’ve exhausted the sight casting opportunities should you jump into their domain and enjoy your floating Lazy Boy.

And to catch any fish, you have to find them first.

No matter how great your cast, how perfect your presentation….even if you’ve got that sure thing fly pattern……if you’re fishing in the wrong area, then you might as well be on dry land, so you should always take a moment to survey the water and plan your attack…..and I revolve my approach around the structure.

Any structure affords fish cover or protection and this refuge is often also a habitat for aquatic life on which they feed. So look for rocky outcrops, overhanging trees or any variation in the dam floor. Not all structure is visible, so if you can, get a height vantage point, aside from helping you to spot moving fish in clean water, you’ll get to see what lies below.

A lot of anglers moan about weed, but a dam without weed can’t support an adequate population of insects or Trout food. Weed is a fly fisher’s friend, (in more ways than one). Find the weed beds and you will find the fish under, alongside or within striking distance thereof. You need to find the spaces in between, so if you’re in float tube, anchor yourself in the middle of the weed and cast into the channels or holes.

You want to put your fly on the edge,  so the advantage of a tube, is that you can cast into the weed bed…..you can also cast onto the bed and bring it over the edge, or you can cast along the wall of the weed, fishing the length of the channel .

Don’t overthink it, just work the spaces in-between.

Every dam has an inlet, this might be just catchment run off or fed by a natural spring, either way Trout naturally gravitate towards running water, which brings with it fresh nutrients and above all else oxygenates the water, so this is always a good bet on looking for moving fish.

It’s easy to find, but often not easy to access, it will inevitably be shallow, hence approach slowly, because in thin water you’ll only get a cast or two….so make it count.

Conversely is the outlet or spillway.  If there is a running outflow then this moving water will be an attraction to fish, but even the inert spillway of the dam represents a structural change in which you’ll find moving fish. Here the fish will have a drop off, just off the shallow spillway in which to lurk, so a cast just into this change in depth can sometimes be very rewarding.

Both the inlet and outlet of a dam are the shallow areas and in low light, both at dusk and dawn, you will often find fish brave enough to be milling in these areas

Use the technology at your fingertips, all of this can be done with a simple Google map search, well before you arrive at your venue, so you’re not wasting time on guesswork….you go in with a plan….doing the groundwork for your next fishing adventure is half the fun anyway, so enjoy this preparation.

What depth the fish are at depends largely on time of day and water temperature.  Figuring this out, if not evident by rising / feeding fish, then simply work the water column. I usually start at the top and work my way down, but when you figure out where the Trout are in the water column you’ll know what line and fly weight to use.

In low light they’re near the surface and in bright sunny conditions you’ll find them a lot deeper

When you’re in the right zone, accuracy and presentation trumps distance, you’ll be surprised how many fish are within 10 meters of the edge of where you’re positioned. Now I love casting, but no angler has caught a fish with his fly in the air, so don’t spend more time trying to make longer casts….the basic maths tells you that the more your fly is in the water the more fish you will catch.

Focus on putting the fly in the right spot as gently as possible….to much casting simply scares fish in the vicinity.

Retrievals depends on fly and line selection and there’s no definitive right or wrong way, my fast and your slow can be worlds apart and how short or long you strip is very subjective, let alone the pause in-between.

Remember to hang your fly. By simply lifting your rod slowly with about 8 meters of line still in the water (most fly lines have a hang marker), changes the angle of the fly through the water column, which often induces the strike, if a fish is following……and you’d be amazed how many fish follow without you knowing!

What fly works has fuelled more debates on bar stools than I care to remember and there’s a library of books to prove it. Colour and how the fly swims are my main criteria when it comes to streamer selection. Obviously only when you enjoy some success with a particular pattern do you gain the required confidence, which is key to stop you changing flies too frequently.

My simple rule of thumb is try keep your fly in the water longer, again logic dictating that you can’t catch a fish with your fly out of it.

So, Let the fish find your fly…..this is a pearl that only after chasing too many trout have I begun to truly appreciate.

Eden Bleu

The Seychelles has become the go to place for fishermen who want to experience wild, untouched fishing in a pristine environment. The island nation consists of a hundred and fifteen islands, scattered over a large area of the Indian ocean. The capital city, Victoria, is on the main island of Mahe’, as is the country’s international airport.

Just off Mahe’ is a fifty-six-hectare man-made island and marina with accommodation in the form of penthouses, townhouses and apartments. Also on Eden island is the magnificent four-star Eden Bleu hotel. The hotel rooms either have garden views or views over the island’s beautiful marina.

The Eden Bleu hotel is the perfect jumping off point for trips to the Seychelles outer islands, when one needs to overnight on Mahe’ prior to or after a visit to one of the remote destinations. Day fishing trips can be undertaken from Eden Bleu, where one can be taken out to the drop off of Mahe’s plateau. This involves a boat ride of around thirty-five miles each way.

Fishing some of the outer coral atolls is spectacular and is generally reserved for fly fishing. Most of this is done on the flats around the islands and species such as bonefish, permit, triggerfish, milkfish, GTs and many others can be caught. Most of the fishing is sight fishing and is some of the most exciting fishing experiences that one could possibly experience are to be had. 

The fishing around the drop off is excellent. This normally takes the form of trolling, jigging or popping with strong gamefishing tackle. Big gamefish such as marlin and sailfish, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, dorado, wahoo and giant trevally are commonly caught in this remote and isolated area.

The drop off, as the name implies, is a massive underwater wall, coming up from the depths of the ocean, to around 30m from the surface. There is excellent fish holding structure along the drop off and plenty of current upwelling to bring nutrients up from the depths, which results in plenty of filter feeding baitfish being present in the area.

Charters out of Mahe’ offer either a day trip, or one can undertake to spend a night on board a bigger vessel out on the dropoff. Apart from the excellent fishing, the area also has world class scuba diving and snorkeling, which can be arranged with charter operators.

Eden Bleu hotel is luxurious and comfortable, with free WiFi, flat screen TV’s, spacious rooms and spectacular views. Meals can be taken in the hotel’s Marlin Bleu restaurant, which offers meals all day. Meals are typically prepared from fresh produce sourced on and around the island. Bountiful seafood is one of the hallmarks of this establishment and the delicate flavours of Seychelles cuisine can be explored here.

Eden Bleu is very conveniently located, only a five minute drive from the international airport and 5 kilometres from the capital, Victoria. It has conference facilities and can be used as a wedding venue for those wishing to tie the knot in paradise.

Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island

Luxury in Paradise

Every once in a while we do a fishing trip where we stay somewhere so ridiculously luxurious, that I feel guilty walking into my room all salty and sweaty after a day’s fishing. The upside, of course, is that I get a super comfortable night’s rest and wake up refreshed and strong.

One of these destinations is the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island. In keeping with the Four Seasons standards, the hotel is a luxurious five star resort. It is situated on the beautiful Desroches private island, with 14 kilometres of exclusive, white coral sand beaches and surrounded by the stunning blue Indian Ocean.

Transport around the island is on bicycles and golf carts, which one can use to access remote and isolated beaches, the giant tortoise sanctuary and numerous other points of interest. Rooms are privately appointed, and fitted out with king sized beds, huge bathrooms, private balconies and a mini bar.

Exploring the fishing around the island on foot, or by bicycle is a real Robinson Crusoe experience, with walks down stunning white beaches. Fish that can be caught in the shallow, clear water, include a variety of trevally species, bonefish, threadfin and a whole lot of tropical reef associated species.

Offshore fishing on the sport fishing boats is exceptional, as the atoll is surrounded by deep water. Species such as sailfish, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, wahoo, giant trevally and dorado are common in the waters around the island. Boats are fully equipped with trolling equipment and also have some spinning gear on board.

A day trip to the nearby St Joseph’s atoll is a must for fly fishermen. Walking the flats on St Joe’s is a marine wilderness experience. Between casting the fly at species such as bonefish, triggerfish and permit, one can enjoy sights of turtles, rays and sharks literally swimming around your feet.

Snorkelling and scuba diving on the reefs around Desroches is world class. The only visitor to these reefs are guests of the hotel, so coral is pristine and untouched and the fish are undisturbed. With warm water one can spend hours exploring the reefs and swimming with all manner of beautiful sea creatures.

A climb up the lighthouse for an elevated view of the island and its surrounds is well worth while. In fact I would recommend taking a few beverages up there to enjoy a sunset in breathtaking surroundings.

Meals at the resort are a gastronomic experience unparalleled in my experience. With a huge variety offering anything from cheeseburgers and Pizza, to the most decadent and delicious seafood treats one can imagine or something as exotic as veal and truffles.

A trip to Desroches is definitely one that you would want to do with your significant other. The resort and its facilities are too luxurious and romantic to be wasted on a single fisherman. I know that if I go there again I will definitely be taking my wife with me.

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