With the exception of some wild pigs foraging through the leaves on the forest floor outside my tent it was a quiet night. But somehow I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t fearing the arrival of African wildlife and should have been tired from long day of casting, but instead I just laid there. I heard Michael the Masai warrior that patrols camp all night approach my tent to wake me up at 4:45 am. I surprised him when I was already up gathering my fishing stuff. I felt like crap but we had a long day ahead of us. We were switching to a different river.
The Rhudji River flows 40 kilometers adjacent to the Mnyera River. 40km doesn’t sound far to travel and isn’t, but when you have nothing more than a dirt track to take you there in fully loaded safari trucks it takes about two hours. That also includes taking both trucks across the Mnyera River via a homemade ferry system. Oh, and one flat tire. Normally a ride across the African plains at sunrise would be a joy but we got absolutely annihilated by blood thirsty tsetse flies. Tsetse flies would eat you whole if they could but instead they pick you apart piece by piece. When we got to our new camp I was so tired and chewed up I could hardly set up my gear. The South Africans motivated me by assuring me there were enormous tigerfish waiting and fed me some strong coffee. In no time we were fishing and filming again.
The Rhudji River is slightly smaller than the Mnyera and very clear. You can easily see your fly coming through the water column as you retrieve it. Sure enough, I watched a 7lb tiger inhale my black whistler minutes into our first drift. Despite his insane leaps I proudly stripped him in with authority and smiled as he threw water all over us before announcing him a rat. We hammered numerous rats up to 10lbs and then like yesterday the fishing completely died. The temperature definitely rose but the wind continued to crank. We pulled under some overhanging trees to get out of the broiling sun and ate lunch, sipped beers and rested for the late afternoon session.
Before returning to fishing we took a rare African swim. There was a shallow flat near our lunch spot. If you sit in the middle you are at least 30 feet from the drop-off to deep water. I promise you, if you get within ten feet of such a drop you will get eaten by a crocodile. The crocs of Africa frequently surpass the length of 18 feet! They are sneaky, can mimic a floating log and often lie completely submerged just below the surface by these drop-offs just waiting for an easy meal. We’ve all seen them eat zebras, wildebeests and etc on TV. Crocs are the real deal and you don’t mess around.
Fishing turned on in the afternoon. We changed the boats around so that Leonard and I fished while Rob poled. We floated down to one of their favorite places, the Casino. The Casino is infested with protruding logs and sunken trees mixed with strong current. We rigged our leaders with straight 30lb Rio Saltwater Tippet and attached the 40lb Rio Wire. When you hook a tiger here you can not let him run an inch or you will lose him to structure. On nearly every cast Leonard and I put a tiger in the air. And on each hook up I clenched the line with all my might. Sometimes I’d win and get the tiger to the boat while most times the line would slip loose from my grip and the fish would put lines scars I thought only possible from saltwater fish. It was amazing!
We drifted the Casino several times and then drove 30 minutes back to camp and drifted the camp water until we couldn’t see anymore. Leonard and I must have landed 20 tigerfish up to 10lbs. I was thrilled with these gorgeous fish but somehow the South Africans seemed disappointed and even stressed. There are obviously some much larger tigers in these rivers and they simply aren’t eating right now. That’s what the South Africans want us to film.
We sat around the campfire tonight and drank Kilimanjaro beer and shared stories while listening to the distant grunts of hippos and trumpeting of elephants. All the time the orange glowing eyes of crocodiles watched secretly waiting for us to have one too many. Fat chance crocodiles!
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.