5 things we’ve learned about early-season tigerfish
We’re now just about two weeks into our 2021 Pongola tigerfish season and it has been firing!
Here are a handful of things we’ve learned so far:
Big water is great for big fish
Previously called Pongolapoort, at approximately 30km long and 5km wide, it is a serious piece of water. Completed in 1973 in the gorge separating the Lebombo and Ubombo mountain ranges it was constructed in an area that formed part of the first proclaimed wildlife reserve in South Africa. Its water level remained low until it was filled, almost overnight, by cyclone Domoina on 31 January 1984.
It’s seen various cycles of flood and drought since, with the past rainy season being a big boom! The water right now is high and highly fertile. The vegetation which grows on the exposed banks during the dry season is beautifully flooded, offering structure for small fish to hide and creating homes for all manner of other creatures. It means the big fish are hunting up in the margins… Now, imagine dropping your fly next to apocalyptic golden orb spiders around flooded acacia trees with the chance of a double-figure tiger lurking below.
Tigers chase dragon flies…
We’re working them out. We’ve been fishing for them on crease flies, NYAPs and flippers for years, but this year we’ve noticed distinct dragon-fly predation. Early glassy mornings seem to be the go, when there is just enough chop on the water to make the surface feeders gun ho.
Darker-coloured deceivers have been the go-to
The unseasonably warm, nutrient rich water has made us rethink and adjust some fly-pattern choices and strategies of before. Bigger flies that push a lot of water have been working well for us. We’ve also been working a balance between deeper water and the shallow, flooded margins. In the first week a take on a 300-grain ended in tears when the line was parted by the toothy behemoth. The lesson, don’t arrive with aged lines.
New technology has changed the game
The new Fusion 19 in our fleet is equipped with a Humminbird fish finder which provides the clearest sonar imaging on the sharpest multi-function display we’ve ever seen. It is beautifully integrated with the latest in Minn Kota trolling motor technology allowing us to target spots even more accurately. That being said, all our boats are equipped with trolling motors and our guides are highly experienced in the fishing the holding spots under various conditions.
You can pin a 9lb tiger on your first afternoon
The average tigerfish caught on Lake Jozini is around 40cm long and goes to about 2lbs. When conditions are right and your casting is pin-point, you can easily jump 10 fish in the 2-3 pound range from out of the margins in a session.
The majority of those are feisty males, and, while they might be built like the scrum-halves of the team, they tackle like centres and brawl like front-rankers. Anything over five pounds is a good fish. Almost, dare we say it, the equivalent of a double-figure fish in the Zambezi. The difference here, is that targeting those smaller fish on lighter rods, on the surface, and in technical situations is helluva lot of fun. Even if you’ve never having fished for tigers before you can come to Lake Jozini and boat 10 tigers in your first session. And even get close to a double-figure fish. The 9-pounder above was taken on our first guides’ day on the water.