EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TARGETING TIGERFISH IN STILLWATERS
Having spent years fishing and guiding on Lake Jozini you learn her intimacies, her moods and of course what makes her tick. Fishing for tigerfish in a stillwater environment brings with it all sorts of challenges and complexities and forces you to approach differently to the norm.
Heavy 9 weight rods with heavily weighted flies and fast sinking lines, luckily go out the window here. A more finessed approach and delicate presentation is where its at. Light 7 weight rods coupled with floating or intermediate fly lines, long leaders and smaller, more imitative patterns is our preferred setup.
We fish from flat and shaved-deck boats kitted with suitable sneaker motors to effectively patrol the margins and various forms of structure found throughout the system. This allows for a stealthy approach and of course keeps the anglers on a controlled drift perfectly distanced from the banks and able to keep in the zone for much longer. We cannot emphasize enough the advantage this gives the angler.
With fish mostly holding and patrolling the various structure it is very important to be able to cast accurately with a delicate presentation rather than bombing out long casts. The difference between a 2 fish day and a 10 fish day is the ability to cast with control. Ensuring you fly and leader turn over and land softly on the surface, while keeping the fly line in your line hand allows you to be ready as the fly hits the water which is often when you get the eat. It also allows you to get the fly moving straight away. You get this right and you’ll be converting fish more often than not.
We adopt the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach. Depending on overhead and water conditions we move between a 15 and 20lb nylon leader. Depending on the depth you want to fish we adjust leader length between 8 and 12ft. A Perfection loop to loop connection on the butt of the leader to the fly line. We then do a very neat Albright for fishing very stealth conditions (better do it properly though) otherwise a knot Jono Boulton came up with many many moons ago – The Braided Rapala Knot. A complex Rapala Knot that has a braided free-swimming loop that doubles the strength and abrasive resistance of the mono when joining it to piano wire. Wire is always a contentious issue with some going with titanium, some like the knottable wire and others brave enough go wire-less. We have tried them all on all tiger fisheries and always go back to piano wire – it’s thin, stealthy (we give it a matt finish with a permanent marker) and you can seat a proper knot – the haywire twist – which gives us the necessary confidence when fishing it.
Fly patterns, as mentioned we fish a lot more imitative patters with a focus on your natural colours, prominent eye and vertical barring. Strong hooks are a none-negotiable.
Poppers and Crease flies can be a lot of fun to fish in the low light and there is nothing quite like a tiger eating off the surface to get the blood pumping. This may be the only exception to the piano wire rule and we like to use a more flexible knottabe wire in this case.
Then lastly just like any fishery, time on the water, knowing the underwater topography and of course where to fish under what kinds of weather ensures a good day turns into a purple patch and a tough day becomes more manageable. Knowing which bays will warm up and attract fish when the prevailing wind starts to blow, where in the estuary the fish will congregate under different water levels and how the baitfish will behave in an ever-changing environment. All of these above-mentioned factors we have learnt from detailed fish data measuring over the seasons, studying of fish finders and spending time fishing low water years maping the contours and studying the now dry banks, and a more recent technology – the ability to see from a birds eye view by flying drones over areas and seeing things you would not notice from a boat or bank.
Throw in a team of guides with an unrelenting desire to learn and improve their craft using different approaches and tricks and you have an exponential learning curve resulting in an ever-growing refinement and plan.