Tigers of Chobe 2015
With talk at the beginning of the year of poor conditions on the Zambezi, Kasai and Chobe rivers. Things weren’t looking great. Anglers returning from their week-long trips with little to show for their efforts confirmed our suspicions and we knew we were up against the wall for this one. After chatting to Jono who has fished this stretch of water more than most of us combined, we decided under the circumstances that this trip required some careful thought and meticulous planning. So a week before my flight I found myself sitting at the airport with Jono between one of his connecting flights going over satellite images and making notes furiously.
We had a plan!
Then just days before departure, we had a group of 4 of our guests cancel last minute as something came up with work. This left us in a very unique scenario, I had just 1 client with me. Upon arriving at OR Tambo I met my guest from Canada. We set off for customs and while waiting in the queue, I notice an old mate of mine from Cape Town. After shouting to get his attention, he turns around only for me to discover it was not my long lost buddy, but rather our Proteas premier bowler, Dale Steyn with Quinton De Kock and their two girlfriends Sasha and Dunty. The plot thickens even further when Dale (who must have been very confused at the time) sees my rod tubes in hand and says “where you fishing?” It just so happens that we were all going tiger fishing to the same place. I must admit, it was a series of very random and coincidental events and quite overwhelming. Of course, my Canadian friend had absolutely no clue when it came to cricket and thought nothing of it.
Flying into the dust-ridden town of Kasane, Botswana we all landed full of enthusiasm to a typical hot African day. After a quick cross over the river border into Namibia, we were minutes away from docking at our base for the next 5 days – Ichingo River Lodge.
Wasting no time at all, we dropped off the bags, set up the rods and headed off to take a closer look at conditions and get stuck into the hard-hitting tiger fish. The level and flow of the Chobe were decent and clarity wasn’t bad either. By the end of the first shortened afternoon session we had boated 5 fish between 7lbs and 9lbs and Stephen had landed his first double-figure African tiger fish, a respectable 10.5lbs. I had also identified a micro plain on the Namibian side that was busy draining. No bigger than a football field but it looked good and was definitely going to get some close attention the following day.
The next morning saw an early rise and we were on the water in position to drift the now draining plain as the light had started to turn – Perfect, 3 double figure fish before the sun was even over the horizon. Biggest – 15lbs and we hadn’t even gotten further than 500 meters from the lodge.
Over the next couple days we couldn’t go wrong. We had a pattern and it worked like clockwork. We fished hard for 3 hours each session hitting the water at first light, returning mid-morning to eat, relax and chat fishing and cricket while avoiding the dog hours of the day. With cooler boxes packed, every afternoon we would make a run into Chobe National Park to enjoy the world-class game viewing from the comfort of our boats, followed by an afternoon session till last light. All in all a very comfortable daily routine finished off with plenty stories shared around the dinner table of the days experiences.
Day 3 saw an early rise after a very… very late night and a couple too many tequilas where only 3 out of the 6 of us made it out of bed. We set off, red-eyed and barely awake to the head of the Chobe Rapids. What we saw next I will never forget. The massive deep pool was full of the unmistakable red fins of Tigers ‘head and tailing’ in their 100’s and they were EVERYWHERE. We couldn’t make out what it was that they were feeding on as it was still too dark to see but we weren’t bothered as we knew that if they were feeding it was game on! We calmed the nerves and proceeded to drift quietly through the pool sight fishing to individual fish that we had hand picked by means of choosing the fish with the biggest gap between dorsal and tail. Fast sinking lines were all we had rigged so it was fast-paced fishing. Pick your fish, throw at her, strip on the drop and within no time – bang! The best freshwater fishing I have ever done in Africa! Truly exhilarating.
That afternoon we identified what was bringing these fish onto the surface and behaving like trout. Huge towers as far as the eye can see were millions of midge. They blanketed the water each evening and the tigers ate on mass the next morning due to the New Moon restricting them from eating at night. Each morning this phenomenon continued and was truly an amazing experience
On the last evening around dinner Dale, who till that point had not had great luck (losing most of his fish on topwater lures), asked if he could join our boat to do some fly for the final session before we all departed back to SA. So the next morning, armed with a fly rod in hand we went through the basics, low and behold he could cover water and learnt super quickly.
As it goes with Murphy up to his usual tricks the last morning of the trip happened to be the slowest. Never-the-less we pushed on, fished different spots, tried different techniques with only a couple bumps to show for our efforts. By 9am we were at the bottom of our last drift when I was about to call lines up and – BANG! Dale was into a fish. A couple tense minutes went by as we went through the paces and up came the tiger. By this time I was at his side with the net in hand going over handling the fish near the boat…. The tiger turned on the surface right in front of us and at that very moment, the hook just popped out. I must point out that by this time I was in no way going to just let this fish ruin the whole morning’s work. I lunged forward and as this very rude fish was getting into 2nd gear, I managed to net and boat a free-swimming tiger fish. Something that on any other day would never have happened. After a couple shouts, cheers and some inappropriate hugs we got a picture of a true cricketing legend and now a friend with a respectable 11th hour Tiger. A great way to end the trip.
There are so many good fishing trips that we all get to go on and experience… every now and then, you stumble upon a great one!