Expert advice from our experienced team of guides on how to make the most of your tigerfish trip this year.

Put your best foot forward
Don’t waste your first day familiarizing yourself with your gear and casting. Practice throwing your 9wt rig with sinking line and a big, wind resistant piece of fluff as a fly. Even better get some casting lessons to brush up on your technique and skills like double hauling and back casting. Make sure your lines are on the appropriate reels and you have a strong loop built on the business end.

Keep the fly in the zone
Far too often people expect this gnarly big predatory fish to chase down your fly at terminal velocity which couldn’t be further from the truth. A general rule of thumb is the faster the strip the smaller the fish. Keep your retrieve at a modest pace. Almost trout like with a deliberate strip and a deliberate pause keeping the fly in the zone for as long as possible.

A close up of the mouth of a fly caught Zambezi Tigerfish

Lift ‘em and lose ‘em
Without doubt the most common cause of dropping or losing fish is from the knee-jerk reaction of ‘trout striking’. In order to set the hook firmly you need to strip-set without using the rod in any way

Stay connected
Learn the various knots necessary for attaching leaders and flies. Namely the perfection loop, the Albright knot, braided rapala knot and the haywire twist.

Stay sharp
A tigerfishe’s mouth is like armor plating. Just as important as the strip-set, a sharp hook is non-negotiable. If you clip the boat while false casting, hook mother earth on a retrieve or klap your fishing buddy in the back of the head. Check your hook and keep it sharp!

Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen
Tigers are aggressive by nature resulting in short but hard runs darting in all different directions, often showing some impressive acrobatic displays. During the fight its important  to control their head as best as possible and keep the pressure scale in your favour. Keep the rod horizontal or as flat as possible keeping the tip of the rod in or close to the water. Try and avoid a constant pressure from one angle. To do this try and move the rod from one side of you to the other. This often disorientates the fish and keeps him where you want him.

Have fun but be kind
There are some downsides to being an aggressive predator with a never-say-die-attitude. Often these fish fight with everything they have. Once you have them in the net its important that you rest them in the water for a bit. This is when things become a team effort. While someone keeps the fish upright and in the water, you can grab your camera, pliers and Boga Grip. Ensure you are ready so that this becomes a quick and seamless operation. Once the fish is boated while still in the net on a flat cool deck, use the Boga to open the mouth and the pliers to quickly remove the fly. Remove the Boga completely and have the photographer ready. Lift the fish for a quick snap or two and then get it back in the water ASAP. This can be done by either holding them in the water facing into some sort of current if crocs are not an issue. Alternatively stand high and simply drop the fish head first into the water which will push water over the gills giving it boost of energy to get going again. As much as we like to think we are impacting on these fish very little studies have shown otherwise. Mortality rates in tigers are actually very high due to the immense lactic acid build up they endure during the fight and also the environment they get released back into. So keep them out of the water as little as possible, don’t drop them on the deck and never hang them from a Boga in any way, shape or form.


Terminal tackle for tigers
Everything you need to know about catching Jozini/Pongola tigerfish