JULY 5th, 2013: ZAMBIA REPORT
My rod tip vibrated and thrummed rhythmically as the lure worked deep below the surface. With a braid mainline you feel everything because there’s no stretch or dampening effect. I was slowly cranking the reel handle, just as I had done for the past two hours, hoping, nay praying for a hit and then, out of the blue, all hell lets loose. The rod is almost wrenched from my grip, the drag which had been screwed down so tight I couldn’t budge it was screeching and yielding line. Barely a split second later a silver missile leaps four feet clear of the water and spits the hooks to leave me slack-jawed, my pulse racing and hands trembling as adrenaline courses through my veins. Welcome to tiger fishing on the magnificent Zambezi River.
It’s not without good reason that the South Africans call it the striped water dog. Surely there cannot be a faster, more aggressive fish in fresh water. And just look at those teeth. They can cut a fish clean in half and speed at which they hit a lure or bait is incredible yet they are so difficult to hook. It is their capacity to shed hooks that make them such a formidable quarry and a sporting delight. Frustration makes tiger fishing special and when the experts consider 3 fish landed for every ten hits as pretty good going you will suffer plenty of it. So what chance does an amateur like me stand?
I have just returned from a week’s fishing on the Upper Zambezi River in the Western Province of Zambia in the luxurious Matoya Lodge where Stu Walker and I led a party of 9 anglers on a great adventure. Matoya is sensational. There is no direct road access; the nearest tarmac road is hundreds of kilometres away, yet there’s a power shower in each bungalow, a swimming pool and well-stocked bar. Your laundry is returned washed and ironed within 24 hours and the food is superb. This is the kind of place that leaves you scratching your head in disbelief.
The Zambezi is Africa’s fourth longest river and even though we’re a thousand miles from the sea it’s already over 400 yards wide and flows at a relentless pace. In the wet season it swells to ten miles wide on the Barotse flood plain. This is a waterway that your average English angler will struggle to comprehend. It is vast compared with our piddly rivers and it is also home to some of the biggest tiger fish you will ever encounter. A ten pound fish is regarded as a trophy tiger anywhere in Africa. We caught them running to the upper teens. This is why anglers are prepared to make a pilgrimage to what is effectively the back of beyond.
The fishing is fairly simple and will appeal to any pike angler. Purists tend to stick with lures but suspending a livebait beneath a float or allowing it to roam free and bump along the bottom is normally a sure fire way to trigger an attack from these voracious predators. Obtaining livebaits is easy enough. You simply ask your guide to sort it and he’ll barter with the local fisherman for a day’s supply in return for a few Zambian Kwatchas or even make a trade-off with swivels and hooks.
The natives are super friendly and the children a delight. Everyone smiles and waves while the children cry out, ‘How are you?’ and ‘What is your name?’ as you pass by. Unfortunately that appears to be just about their total grasp of English! Step off your boat at one of the many villages and an excited group kids will soon surround you. They have no real fear, probably because they haven’t been bombarded with the kind of horror stories that make western parents afraid to let their children venture outside these days. These kids are more concerned about snakes, crocodiles and hippos than humans.
We took pens and pads with us to give away. Even in these remote villages the kids go to school but the basic essential are pretty thin on the ground. Seeing their reactions can be pretty humbling but they do seem a lot happier than a lot of the spoiled brats back home. Life seems a lot more fun to them without the latest iPhone and game console.
Flying in from Johannesburg by Cessna Caravan we made our obligatory touchdown at Livingstone Airport to pass through customs. On the way home it seemed rude not to grab a cab and take a close-up look at Victoria Falls. The locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘the smoke that thunders’ and you hear it long before you see it. Wow. We’d seen it from the air but from the ground it is truly an awesome spectacle. It made a fitting end to a sensational trip.
If you fancy embarking on the fishing experience of a lifetime you can contact Matoya Lodge through their website: www.matoyalodge.com or visit their Facebook page
I had barely touched down at Heathrow when I heard the sad news that Kevin Green, editor of Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine and presenter of TV programmes like Carp Crew and Predators had died. We first fished together nearly 20 years ago, in Canada, and he was instrumental in me writing a monthly diary for his magazine. Always a source of inspiration. Kev was just 40 years old and leaves behind a wife, Jo, and two young children.
Fishery Of The Week
Woodland Waters, Willoughby Road, Ancaster, near Grantham, Lincolnshire is an ideal spot for anyone who fancies a family fishing break. Woodland offers lakeside lodges, a lively bar and a restaurant with themed nights and entertainment. There are five lakes to target including a match lake and a specimen lake. The latter hold some impressive carp and pike
Contact the owners on 01400 230888 or visit the web site for more details: www.woodlandwaters.co.uk/