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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Fly fishing in Africa

I came across a South African gem in the school library today, "Mafeking Road",by Herman Charles Bosman. Bosman an Afrikaner, who wrote short stories, in English, about a part of South Africa known as "Groot Marico" and people we call "Back Velders" sort of South Africa's equivalent of the American "Hillibilly", but is was also a dig at Afrikaans racial attitudes and other prejudice's, most times though it's just a good story. This book of short stories was first published in 1947. Here's an excerpt.

(Fly fishing follows)

"We trekked on again, and from where I walked beside my oxen I could see Koos Fichardt and Minnie. They sat at the back of Adriaan Brand's wagon, hatless, with their legs hanging down and the morning breeze blowing through their hair, and it was evident that Minnie was fascinated by the stranger. Also he seemed to be very much interested in her.

You do get like that, when there is suddenly a bright morning after long rains, and a low wind stirs the wet grass, and you feel, for a little while, that you know the same thing that the veld knows, and in your heart are whisperings,

"Most of the time they sat holding hands, Fichardt talking a great deal and Minnie nodding her pretty head at intervals and encouraging him to continue. And they were all lies he told her, I suppose, as only a young man really in love can tell lies". From the short story, "Ox-wagon Trek".

Someone described Bosman's writing as colloquial Afrikaans, written in English. If you like it I might just post a few more excerpts.

In my previous post I said I would say something about Berg streams, but on Wednesday I bought my monthly fix of fly fishing magazines at one of the local supermarkets. We have two magazines dedicated to fly fishing in South Africa, one is published every month and one, once every two months. Flipping through these magazines I was struck by the wealth of fly fishing opportunities there are In Southern Africa and Africa as a whole. Not only the plethora of fly fishing opportunities but the number of species available, both fresh and salt water.

The species mentioned in the two magazines numbered sixteen, this is only a small fraction of the fish that are found in Africa and around its coasts. "The FOSAF guide to fly-fishing destinations in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean", mentions 71 species that can be caught on fly.

Fly fishing for tigerfish in the upper Zambezi river was the first article I flipped through. These predatory fish will give you a good run for your money when hooked. I personally have not caught one of these fish but I've been told it's an experience of a lifetime. Light tackle won't work for these fish, 7 weight rods and up, with reels that can hold a lot of backing and have a reliable drag. Most fly fishers use a steel trace at the end of their leader. Tigerfish have teeth that must be seen to be believed. Nembwe is another species of fish found in the Zambezi, Okavango Delta and other parts of Africa. This is a bream species and can be caught on much lighter tackle than tigerfish. It is reputed to be a good eating fish. The other fish mention in this article was the Zambezi yellow fish. South Africa has nine species of yellow fish, all sought after fly fishing fish. How many other species there are in the rest of Africa I don't know, but it a seems that almost every river has some sort of yellow fish. I will write more about yellow fish in a later post.

The next article that caught my eye was fly fishing for Nile perch. Now we are talking big fish, the sort of size fish you would think could only be found in the sea! This article was about  fly fishing for Nile perch in the Nile river below the Murchison falls in Uganda. Murchison falls lies upstream of Lake Albert. The falls are only 40 meters high but this huge volume of water pours through a gap that is only 6 meters wide, about 20 feet. This must be a truly impressive sight. Here we are tacking Heavy tackle 10 to 12 weight rods, 60lb to 80lb leader, and big flies, big reels with lots of backing and a powerful drag. How big these fish get I don't know, but 100lb and heavier fish are not unknown. This is the kind of fly fishing trip I can only dream of. I don't know how many zeros you'll have to add after the $ sign.

Another famous spot for Nile perch is Lake Nasser, the massive lake behind the High Aswan dam in Egypt. Here fly fishers sight fish to these leviathans in the crystal clear water of the lake. Nile perch, as the name suggests, are native to the Nile river system. These fish have been placed in some of the lakes, at least one that I know of, in the Rift valley, with devastating effect on the indigenous fish.

So far I've only covered four species and not in depth. Next blog I'll write about a few more.

Source: "THE COMPLETE FLY FISHER MAN. Africa's fresh and salt water fly fishing magazine". April, 2011 issue


Shoreman said...

Hey Phillip. I saw this guy on the Discovery Channel (I think) that fished for Tigerfish. Big fish, big teeth. I can understand 7 wt or bigger. He used a big spinning rod. It took him days to find one, but when he did, wow.


Gaelyn said...

"You do get like that, when there is suddenly a bright morning after long rains, and a low wind stirs the wet grass, and you feel, for a little while, that you know the same thing that the veld knows, and in your heart are whisperings"

This took me on wings back to my morning in the Bergs. I hope you'll post more of Bosman.

I think I'd rather eat than catch.