First evening success on a spoon.
The trip that
Steve and yours truly had to Namibia can be split into two parts really-
the freshwater Tigerfishing of the Caprivi Strip, and the saltwater Shark
fishing of the Skeleton Coast, and two more contrasting styles and
environments it would be hard to imagine from a single country.
As our tiny
prop-plane buzzed its way in to land on the dark strip of earth below us,
for miles around the dominant feature was water- lots and lots of it.
"I bet there's a few Tigerfish down there", commented Steve. The
Caprivi Strip, nestled at the north eastern corner of Namibia, sits at the
confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers, where the borders of Zambia,
Botswana & Namibia itself all converge. It is an immensely beautiful
area, with expanses of lush marsh and reedbeds, bush and plains, with a
corresponding amount of wildlife to keep you entertained in the brief
lulls in fishing activity as hippo, crocodile, elephant and hundreds of
bird species all frequent the edge of the water in huge quantities. The
rivers themselves also give a wide variety of environments in which to
pursue our adversary, from the immense, wide powerful and smooth gliding
Zambezi, to the chattering rapids, fast narrow runs and wide deep pools of
the Chobe. This is without even mention of the canal-like Kasai Channel
which also bisects the area.
Some beautiful Chobe rapids- and full of fish.
it was late afternoon when we arrived, we had soon dumped our kit in the
tent at the lovely Ichingo Lodge on Impalila Island, scrambled together
some tackle, and set off in a pirogue for a few hours wading and casting
on some of the rapids directly below the camp. It was great to be fishing
in shorts and a T-shirt again, having come from the dull, damp miserable
weather of November England to the dry, hot climate of November Namibia.
In fact, is it just me, but how nice would it be if Britain generally had
a bit less weather and bit more climate...?
During our couple of hours
slipping about on the rapids, we caught several small Tigers on our
selection of spoons and spinners, and it was a lovely way to get an early
bend in the rods and blend ourselves into our new surroundings. However,
the next day we were to take a 14ft aluminium craft equipped with an
outboard and cool box full of goodies a lot further downstream and drift
our way through miles of pristine river- something that the both of us
were waiting to do with great anticipation, since we had made plans to
make acquaintance with as many tooth-ridden fish as possible over the
forthcoming week or so!
Steve Tigerfishes and the ferry from Botswana
to Zambia (I think that's correct?) traverses the Zambezi.
The end of another lovely day drifting down the
of our plans was to use loads of those rubber shads with lead-heads, and
it was with one of these that Steve and I launched our offensive shortly
after first light the next morning. First cast, and a nice sized Tiger
hung itself immediately, giving a ferocious account of itself on a
relatively light spinning rod and 12lb test line. And this set the
pattern, with the fish seemingly unable to get enough of the latex, and by
the end of the day what we assumed would be a plentiful supply was already
beginning to look a little threadbare... after all it was rare to get more
than one hit per shad! On one occasion, I was even twitching my shad in
and I felt the merest of bumps on the rod tip. I continued the retrieve
without further interruption, only to find the tail inch and a half
missing from the shad. Hmmm. One alteration we did make eventually was to
change from lead-heads to traces similar to those we use in the UK for
deadbaits, incorporating a 1/0 forged hook set a couple of inches up the
wire trace from one of the double hooks I make at home by whipping size 4
forged hook back to back with a size 6, and then casing the whipping in
epoxy resin. Casting/sinking weight was afforded by a couple of shot
pinched above the nose of the shad. This rig up gave us a greater ratio of
hook-ups, although, true to form, this didn't mean that the Tigers would
always stay on the hook as long as they should do!
Chobe Tigerfish taken on a Rubber Shad.
You only get one per Shad!
A Tiger tries to bite his way out of the weigh
up- while you've still got them! A nice sized Tiger from the confluence of the
Zambezi and the Chobe Rivers.
our supply of latex had been well and truly decimated, we then moved onto
plan B and C. Nothing particularly revolutionary, but we had decided to
secure a supply of small Bream for livebaits, which had been netted and
caught on light tackle from the rapids near the camp. We had read or heard
of very little in terms of bait fishing for Tigers, but during our
discussions preceding the trip, we could see no reason why methods similar
to those used at home for Pike & Zander should fail.
And they didn't! As we drifted downstream that week, we tried everything
from free-roaming livebaits under a float, to wobbled deadbaits, to static
legered deadbaits to suspended deadbaits, and every method scored with
numerous Tigers. Again though, guaranteeing that they stayed on the hook
was a completely different matter! In fact, on one particularly
exasperating day saw yours truly hook into 21 of them... and land only a
miserable 3. I swear by the end of the day I had tried every hook
variation except a circle, and the critters had perfected a way of
throwing the hook and giving a 'V' sign with their tail as they re-entered
one little aside to all this was the use of deadbaits. We finished one day
tied up to some reeds in a particularly wide, deep, slack pool at the end
of a set of fast runs. Our bait supply for the day was looking a little
sparse by then, and a several dead Bream were sloshing around in the
bucket, including some which had clearly past the 'best before' date and
actually turned white and started to stink as only a rotten fish in the
tropical sunshine can. With options limited, I gingerly slipped a piece of
the stinking sashimi (sashiti?) on the hooks and flicked it out on a leger
into the deep hole not a million miles behind the boat. It took only
seconds before I was into a Tiger! 'Ok', I thought, 'lets try that
again...' This time it took only a few seconds longer! We also then tried
one of the freshly dead Bream, and guess what, the sashiti out-fished it
every time by about 2 to 1! Needless to say, Steve and I sat there and
worked our way through the bucket of rotten fish in the best possible
fashion that evening.
At this point we'd have to
thank the guys at the lodge, because each day while we were out fishing
downriver, they would be at the rapids securing a fresh supply of bait for
the following day and placing them in a tank in the shade. Without them we
would have spent most of our day securing bait rather than fishing- and
every fisherman knows how frustrating that can be!
in the week, we also spent some time investigating different areas such as
the actual confluence area between the Chobe and the Zambezi (where Steve
was unlucky to lose a very, very large Tiger on a trolled Rapala), the
wide, deep Zambezi itself several miles upstream of the island, and
finally the Kasai Channel. All of them provided us with some action and
some Tigers in the boat, but it really was the Chobe that took the
biscuit. Good times.
Of course, although our
departure from Impalila Island was tinged with a little sadness, we still
had only completed half our trip, for it was time to move on and try to do
battle with the
Bronze Whaler Sharks of the
village nestled in the banks of the Zambezi.
The livebaits we got collected soon started to
outfish the lures. The Tigers just wouldn't leave 'em alone.
the snails were the size of a rugby ball.
moth flew in the room and sounded like a Fruit Bat was on the loose.
river goes flat as the heat relents in the evening.
Bait? Sorry- dinner. Our boatman and a Bream.
He was a master at nobbling these and soon had a heap of them in the bottom of the
smiles with another good Tiger. Not not sure who's showing the most teeth.
big Chobe Tiger that grabbed a livebait