I couldn’t fall asleep last night to save my life. I couldn’t wait to get on the water this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of catching a tiger even bigger than 12lbs. Then, when I finally got to sleep at about 1 am, I was awoken by the distant roar of a lion. It was a spectacular sound that really put our whereabouts in perspective. I was thrilled to be this deep into Africa but definitely aware that I could be on the dinner plate. It took another hour to get back to sleep and then I was awoken again. This time it was to the sound of snapping trees outside my tent. At first the snaps blended into a dream but then I realized the noise had nothing to do with my dreams. My heart dropped because it was so close to me. I opened my eyes and reached for my headlamp. I took a deep breath and when I turned it on there was an elephant less than ten feet from my tent. As enormous as the elephant was, somehow I wasn’t scared. The elephant was simply foraging on the trees and shrubs outside my tent. I watched him for about ten minutes and then fell into a deep sleep for the last hour before I was awaken by the camp staff for fresh brewed African coffee.
No matter how bad you slept it doesn’t take much to bounce from bed when you are going tigerfishing. We all met for coffee and breakfast at 5:30 am and then went promptly to the water. This morning Rob jumped into the camera boat and Leonard came over to fish with me and Keith. While Chris, Klug and Harris set up their cameras our boat made few drifts through the camp pool. I hooked up and landed a 5lb tiger immediately. Even though I got the massive 12lb tiger last night, in my mind this 5lber was nothing to laugh at. But without even a look, Keith corralled my leader and shook the fish off and called it a rat. It’s going to take me a few days to except that tigerfish under 10lbs are simply “rats”.
Shortly after Leonard landed a 5lber as well but then that was it. We fished like rock stars for the next six hours and got nothing but an occasional strike. Let’s talk about the strike real quick. Tigerfish have small mouths in proportion to their size and as you already know from my postings, teeth like a hyena. There aren’t a whole lot of places for your hook too connect to inside their bony mouths. Toothless places inside the tiger’s mouth are as hard as a rock. You must use absolutely the sharpest of hooks and when you get a strike set the hook beyond the norm. By far the best way to set the hook is to strip set about five times until the fish takes off in the opposite direction. Then hit him with some side swipes with the rod and hope that your hook is finally secure. Once hooked be prepared to put the heat on him. Tigers make some amazing runs and on the Mnyera River there are sunken trees and jagged rock crops everywhere. Even though you think you might break a leader, fly line or even your rod, do not let him run far. Be prepared for all the chaos and expect to watch some of the most incredible aerial displays of all freshwater species. Tigers are no different than a salmon, sometimes leaping five feet in the air ten times during one fight. They are really incredible.
By lunch time Leonard and I only brought two fish each to the boat. Our fishing was beyond slow; it was unheard of to the South Africans. During lunch in the shade they announced that today was the slowest day they had all season. They blamed it on the weather. Because of my poor weather history I grimaced when I heard that, but the weather didn’t seem too bad to me other than it was windy. However, evidently wind is a rarity here and the tigerfish don’t like it. On top of that, it was colder than normal. Even though it was hot, probably close to 90° it should be hotter.
We took about a two hour break. Then Rob came back to my boat and Leonard went back to the camera boat. Rob and I fished like mad men while Keith worked his butt off poling us down the river. Every spot they knew held fish in the past produced nothing. Then out of the blue Rob hooked up and landed a gorgeous 14lber.
That was it. We didn’t touch another fish all afternoon. The South Africans couldn’t believe it but we landed only five tigerfish all day – a new worst day record for camp since it opened in 2009 – shocking. It wasn’t us, the fishing just plain sucked. There were no hippos, elephants or pukus either. And the African fish eagles looked hungry. All the creatures that were so active through the night were gone. That’s fishing. We’ll hope for the wind to die and for the temps to climb for tomorrow.
Special Note – Because I am in the Confluence Film I will be very limited on taking my own pictures. A special thanks to Jim Klug, Jim Harris and Chris Patterson for providing most of what you see on the blog for this Africa trip.