Day 4 The Distant Edge of Civilization

November 5, 2010

We had a little excitement last night. Fortunately it wasn’t in my tent. The South Africans had a baboon spider sharing their residence and were nice enough to show us before they carefully released him back to the wilds. Evidently there are many species of baboon spider but no matter how harmless they are this truly massive spider would of scared the living ***** out of me had he been in my tent.

We got another early start. We were up by 4:45 am and motoring up the Rhudji River with coffees in hand. Today was a true expedition run. We drove upstream for 4 hours. We went to where the South Africans have been only three times since they discovered this tigerfish filled river. The ride was scenic to say the least because we started in near darkness and watched the sunrise. Surprisingly we only saw two hippos as far as mammals. Sadly, this particular area gets poached. However, what we didn’t get to see in mammals was easily made up for with amazing bird species.

Three hours into the ride we came to the first local village we’ve seen all week. We were quite a sight for these folks and I think every single one of them came down to check us out. They seemed very friendly and nearly all of them waved to us from the minute we popped in their sight until we went around the next corner. It was what fishing and travel are all about.

We began fishing on the upstream end of the village. Local kids lined up to watch the mysterious visitors. In my boat were Rob, Keith and Chris. Chris has been filming from the other boat these first three days so today he climbed in with us for some new camera angles. The pool we started fishing had a lot of current and Rob and I sort of swung our flies through its tail-out. Each time Rob and I got jolted by quick striking tigerfish but could not connect. Just as we were getting frustrated I tagged into a 9lber. The kids of the village watched curiously as I battled the leaping tiger to the boat. Then I revived the tiger and let him swim away. In the distance I heard a mom yelling something to the kids. I could only guess she was telling them to ask for the next fish, but they ignored her because they weren’t up for the language barrier challenge with their strange guests.

Our plan was to drift and fish our way all the way back to camp. A four hour drive upstream against the current would likely only be about a two hour boat ride back. By drifting down all day we could hit so much good looking water we’d be bound to catch the giant tiger we are dreaming of filming. Pool after pool we pounded the banks and dredged the depths. We caught some fish but it was surprising just how slow the fishing was. At last we hung our first good fish. Rob had gotten strikes three casts in a row with his Rio deep 300 grain shooting head. Then on his fourth run through the pool he came tight and shouted big fish. I reeled in to make sure my line wouldn’t be in the way and got ready to see a giant.

The strike was bigger than the fish. Although it was no tiger to baulk at, Rob was disappointed as we tailed the 12lber. Nonetheless, Chris went into action and filmed the entire catch as if it would be our biggest. Realistically it could be as we will be half way through our trip at noon today. And if 12lbs is our biggest only the South Africans will be disappointed – a 12lb tigerfish looks like a beast to we Americans!

We drifted downstream and fished through some gorgeous African scenery today. I too landed a 12lb tigerfish and like Robs, we worked him with the cameras. All these tigers have the most incredible looking blue adipose fins. This segment of the Confluence Film #3 will be about 12 minutes long and already they have enough to make a great one. At this point a tigerfish larger than 12lbs would simply be a bonus.

Fishing became red hot at sunset. Rob and I were fishing as Keith poled us into some fast water. We both cast to the bank and on our first strip we were doubled up. We’ve doubled up a few times this week but never got both fish to the boat. This would be our first as we each hoisted hefty tigers for the cameras.

It is absolutely essential to be back at camp by dark so even though the tigerfish were on a tear we had to reel in after we released the two fish. On the short ride home we saw two hippos. One was especially cool because he was trapped in shallow water. He charged downstream ahead of the boat in a desperate search for a deep hole to hide in. I was just starting to wonder when he’d turn around and fight when he found his hiding spot. In he went. Of course, we had to drive the boats through the deep hole to get by him. It’s not uncommon for hippos to attack a boat but luckily we slid on by without confrontation. We made it home just in time and after a great dinner out on our beach we were in our tents resting for a trip back to the Mnyera early in the morning. Another great day in Africa!

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.

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