As anglers we often debate our favourite species, but for me its more than just the fish, its the where and the how, the environment in which you pursue them and the technique used to fool them. One of my favourites is Tigerfish, more so the home-grown version, right here on Pongola dam with Rhino grazing the banks and sight fished on floating lines and light tackle.
Can you catch stouter tigers in the fierce current of the Zambezi River? Well sure you can, but stalking cruising tigerfish in the shallows, amongst weed beds hips and crocs of the flooded margins of Pongalpoort dam, for me is about as exhilarating as it gets.
It’s close to home with no international flights, an easy six-hour drive from Joburg the last hour through the picturesque bushveld of Northern KZN.
Being the Southern-most distribution of tigers they ain’t huge but numbers are prolific and the action is often non-stop and huge fun on lighter 7 weights with floating and clear intermediate lines.
I like it because the fishing is more imitative and hunting like. The water is usually very clear and the tigers often feeding on very specific species and size of tilapia. One is often constantly changing flies, trimming and removing flash and changing down to lighter leaders.
Accurate casting to intercept cruising/tailing fish is crucial or if no fish are seen, reading the water. Seeing a long closed off Hydrilla weed bed against the shore line and with a single opening knowing tigers will be there to ambush bait fish and then landing a small polar fibre baitfish through the corridor and stripping it back guarantees a take and an extraordinary level of satisfaction.
The best time to go is Spring and Autumn, water still warm but clear and undisturbed by heavy summer rain. You need a boat period, no wet wading here unless you want to enter the food chain fast! You need to know the lake, it is a massive body of water running parallel to the Lebombo mountains, it creates its own weather patterns and its gnarly, I have personally seen three boats go down on Pongola.
Can you tow your rubberduck down and have some fun? Of course, but the game-changer is a light fast boat being able to move from spot to spot quickly. A shallow draft and a powerful trolling motor is an absolute necessity to creep into the shallow bays and around the back of weedbeds to stalk these fish.
The dam level fluctuates hugely, knowing not only how to navigate around safely but which areas are producing is priceless we have fished Pongola since the 90’s.