It was warm and calm at the crack of dawn. I sat up on my bed from about 4:45 till 5:30 just watching the world wake up. Everyone in the group is plenty tired from a week of tough walking and casting big rods. Not a single angler stirred at this time like they did the first few sunrises. I normally would jump from bed to go cast for tigerfish around camp, but I too was content just relaxing.
There’s plenty of wildlife here on the lake to watch. On occasion you will see wild camels or antelope at lakes edge getting a drink. There are plenty of foxes and occasional wild dogs and ferrule cats. There are numerous reptiles. The crafty crocodiles are always watching you. When shore fishing, jumping over lizards is standard and if you’re lucky you might see a giant monitor lizard up close. We know there are plenty of snakes too, but you rarely see them. The bird life is the most abundant and obvious. There are numerous species that call Lake Nasser home and there are many birds migrating through the area in April from their winter holdouts in central and southern Africa on their way to Europe and Siberia. My highlight this morning was watching a flock of bee eaters pass through camp while dodging attacking swallows that live in the cliffs above. They are the prettiest birds on the lake and I usually see a group on their migration each time I visit Lake Nasser. (Fox, Monitor Lizard and Egyptian Goose Photos Courtesy of Tim Baily)
It’s hard to believe it is our last full day. Man time goes fast when you’re doing these types of trips. Fortunately, you could just tell fishing would be good today. It was strange heading to the first fishing spot without getting tossed around and splashed by huge swells. The lake was literally like glass as far as the eye could see. Our first stop was not on an island, but rather mainland. There were numerous tiny coves and points. It was ideal for the three of us to spread out. There were lots of weeds so our flies got hooked on them almost every cast. You could easily thrust aside such a spot, however, there were tilapia and baby tigerfish cruising everywhere so you knew the perch were near. Mikey and I walked and hunted for cruising perch. I spotted a suspicious swirl in a weed bed. Let’s put it this way, it was no tilapia. I sat on a high rock and watched the area for twenty minutes or so, but never saw the fish. There was one slot I could scour a fly through without hooking weeds. If the fish was there I couldn’t prove it. I made many casts with several different flies and various retrieve speeds, but nothing.
Mikey was experiencing the same. He spotted about a 10lber wallowing in the weeds. The perch was out of casting range without wading. He watched hoping the Nile would get closer, but instead it vanished. I was heading over to hang with Mikey and took my first good fall of the trip. A rock just rolled under my feet and down I went. I slammed my rod and reel into the rocks so hard that I was sure in my next cast the rod would shatter. Miraculously it seems to be fine. The only visible damage is a nice chunk from my Ross Momentum LT’s housing. It will be a nice memory, a chunk missing from my reel that kept a chunk from getting ripped out of me!
We caught a few baby Niles and filmed a puffer that wouldn’t blow up for camera. Suka tossed out the idea of hitting a special tigerfish location before lunch. With slow perch fishing we thought it was great idea. We’d been on the east side of the lake for several days, now we made the hour long crossing to the west side where we started a week ago. Soon after, Suka pointed out what he called, Tiger Island.
It didn’t really look like much, just a small island all by itself in the middle of a monster size lake. We pulled up on the weedy side. I grabbed my tiger rig and headed up the right side. Warpath went up the left. Mikey grabbed his camera and climbed to the islands highest point in hopes to film a hook up. I knew that the front of the island would be best, but I’m all about covering water. I started just past our beached boat and methodically made a cast then took ten steps and cast again. At about half way to the front of the island I landed a toddler tiger. That’s where I got serious. Instead of moving ten steps for my next cast I only took about two steps. I made a cast up the bank where I hadn’t walked yet and then one about 20 feet out. Last, I launched a bomb as far as I could cast straight out to the deep. It was this cast that I got my first good rip. Like many times before, I got hit five times during my retrieve before the fish was on. It was good one. I wasn’t ready to holler for Mikey or anything but I felt that big ones were around. Boy was I right!
As my leaping tiger came close to hand, I noticed he had an identical sized partner. Then this tigerfish took off and two larger tigers attacked my hooked fish. There was no more time to fight my tiger; in three huge sweeping strips I yanked the tiger to my hands. I had to hook up with one of the larger fish while they were hot. Just then the two big tigers bolted and were replaced by a tiger the size of small tarpon! It was unbelievable! That’s when I shouted for Mikey. Mikey came over only to see me unhooking a 25” tiger and politely asked if I wanted a picture. “No!” I firmly replied. “There’s a giant tiger out there. Get ready!” Just then Warpath howled in the distance demanding Mikey’s presence. I released the respectable tigerfish, put down my rod and we both scampered over the rocks to Warpath in hopes he had the beast. But he didn’t. He had beautiful tiger, but nothing like the one I saw. Funny though, he wasn’t calling us for his fish either, but he too saw the beast!
Suka, who speaks fair English but doesn’t understand anything when you’re freaking out came running from bathing by the boat probably thinking someone got eaten by a croc. It had to be relief when he counted three of us. By now my fly was back in the water and Mikey had the camera on. I made five casts but nothing. I felt I wasn’t deep enough for the enormous tigerfish. I dropped my 7-weight rig on the rocks with loose line everywhere and sprinted for the boat where my 10-weight and 400 grain sinking line for Niles was resting. In minutes I was back and ripping line off the reel. I launched a cast and as my fly sank I got my strike. I missed him but began a furious strip. Wham! The tiger was on. The tiger was airborne immediately and it wasn’t the beast. However, it was one of the first two nice size tigers. I forgot how hard a quality tigerfish fights. Here I was with my 10-weight and the fish was kicking my butt. Might I add this was the rod I fell on earlier today.
Fortunately the rod held up during the great battle and I tailed a spectacular 7lb tigerfish. It wasn’t the tigerfish of my dreams but a dandy nonetheless and Mikey got the whole thing on film. That turn of events was pretty cool. I wasn’t done casting for Godzilla but I knew he was on to us out by now. Sure enough, the three of us combed the area for an hour and never had another follow from even a dink tigerfish. Lake Nasser tigerfish have survived because they are smart!
Everyone seemed pretty content after lunch. Usually everyone starts looking for their guide following the last bite but today everyone relaxed in their boats. It was hot, an easy 105 degrees Fahrenheit, normal for Egypt. This definitely slows you down. We were all tied up to the back of the houseboat so we could talk and have a good time. We must have been on our second of third beers when it was the guides who came to find us. Lunch camp was ready to move guides were ready to fish.
Kick back or not, when the guides were ready so were we. With the lake being calm, Mikey asked Suka if we could try something different. He wanted to use the fish finder to locate a deep fish and stop and cast to the area. Being that no one has yet to catch a 100 pound perch from the bank, logically this might be the way to do it. Usually I’m all about getting dropped off on shore and avoid fishing blind from the boat, but at this point in the trip I was happy to kick back and watch. I’d played with this method on my first trip in 2006 with Chris Bailey while filming a TV show called “Reel Outdoors”. Chris and I caught some great fish on our first attempt at this method. We truly thought we had the lake figured out. However, we caught only one more fish by this method the rest of our trip! With that experience in mind, I was more eager to watch Mikey then fish.
It didn’t take long to locate a few fish at about 20ft deep. Warpath watched with me while Mikey grabbed his 12-weight and began to feed out his very fast sinking line. There was a light breeze that was absolutely perfect to help Mikey slowly tow his fly down deep through the fishy area. I kid you not, in less than three minutes Mikey was hooked up. There wasn’t a one of us on the boat that wasn’t shocked at the speed in which the bite happened. I grabbed Mikey’s camera and started running the video and taking pics immediately. At this point, we thought the fish just might be a 100lber by the way it was taking line and bending the 12-weight. It was unreal!
Mikey had a look of pure panic in his eyes as he held on for dear life. Suka, with his hand firmly on the start key asked if we needed to fire up the motor and start chasing. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember what happened. I was so engrossed in the excitement of a true giant on the end of Mikey’s line that the rest of the world was at a standstill. Two minutes, three minutes, five minutes went by and although the fish stopped pulling line, it had not shown itself. We were certain this was a monster. Then Mikey’s line surged to the left and his fish completely cleared the water in cartwheel fashion, an unusual jump for a Nile Perch. It was a hell of a fish, but by no means a giant. At that point I handed Warpath the camera and got into position to Boga the fish when ready. The guides here love to use the old fashion gaff hook once upon a time used for tarpon and I always beat them to the fish with my Boga. I’m sure some anglers don’t believe in Boga Grips, but I can assure you they are a heck of a lot better for a fish than a gaff hook through the lower jaw.
It wasn’t easy getting Mikey’s burly perch on the Boga. As usual the perch had serious lock jaw and gunnels of the boat are just high enough off the water to make it even more difficult. Finally, using my left hand to pry the mouth open I slipped in the Boga. This was a fantastic Nile Perch! The flopping fish bounced the Boga Grip all over until finally settling on 27lb. It was a truly incredible catch on the fly and Mikey made it look as though there was nothing to it!
Naturally we set up to do the drift again. This time Warpath joined in while I remained skeptical. While they both fed out their lines, I rigged my 10-weight with a big jig fly that Warpath gave me. Before I tied my fly on, Warpath thought he was hooked on bottom. I think Mikey was first to disagree, but Warpath would have none of it. “Mikey, it’s bottom,” he said frantically. I stopped everything and stared at his rod tip. Warpath was using a 14-weight and I could swear it was jumping a little bit. Then Warpaths snag took off. “It’s a fish! It’s a fish! He clamored. Mikey reeled in fast.
Sure enough it was a fish. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Ten minutes or less of fishing and two magnificent perch were hooked. Less than ten minutes later, I clamped the Boga on to the twin perch to Mikey’s. This one reacted a little differently. I was in a cumbersome position as I hoisted the perch from the water for photos he went nuts. When he went nuts he literally dropped me to my knees and I caught my right side on the boat gunnels. Little did I know in the excitement, but I’d be feeling this for the next month. Suka gave me a helping hand and we handed Warpath the fish of his life. Mikey filmed and I took photos. What a turn of events.
I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next but I will. We drifted that spot twenty more times till nearly dark and although a few fish showed on the fish finder we never hooked another. Regardless, it was a remarkable day from the incredible Tiger Island to what I will always refer to as Mikey’s bar. Although we will get a morning on the water, tonight was the last night of camping. As you can imagine after the day of fishing we had – we partied down!