Today began the long anticipated part of our trip, try to film a huge Tanzanian tigerfish caught on a fly. After a great breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean, Jim Klug, Jim Harris, Chris Patterson and I went to the lobby of the Sea Cliff Hotel and met Keith Clover, one of the owners of Tourette Fishing and drove to the local airport to catch our charter flight to camp. Before we knew it we were in the air on our caravan. The flight lasted 2 hours and took us southeast deep into the heart of Tanzania. Our landing was spectacular not only because it was one of the most pastoral airstrips I’ve ever landed on but elephants, hippopotamus and pukus were to be seen out every window of the plane. One puku buck barely got off the runway in time to avoid being smeared.
Keith Clover will be with us all week. Keith is the South African that I spoke about in blogs last week. It was he and his friend Rob Scott that discovered this Tanzanian tiger fishery in 2008. Rob is the other owner of Tourette and he too will be with us on this adventure. In fact, Rob runs this fishing camp. He’s also a guide and was there waiting for us to arrive. Rob was once head ranger of Mala Mala National park in South Africa and his knowledge should be an asset to the film. The right hand man for Keith and Rob and also a best friend is Leonard Flemming. Leonard is 29 and reminds me of myself at 29. He lives to fish and not just for tigerfish. Leonard wants to catch every species on the planet. Leonard has been guiding tigerfish here for the last four months.
This is the end of 19 weeks of guiding in the bush for Rob and Leonard. They are absolutely exhausted from the intense season. The cool thing about this week for Keith, Rob and Leonard is that they will be a major part of our film. Sure, they need to guide us and run the show, but they too will be fishing in the film. If it wasn’t for their explorations the last two years we’d never be here. And there’s no doubt that they will forget more about tigerfishing than we’ll ever know.
You can’t explain how hot Africa really is. It’s absolutely scorching. If you’ve never experienced it before it can be shocking the first time. But it’s the climate that tigerfish thrive in. Under the African heat, Chris began filming the start of our adventure while the rest of us went about our business. For me and the South Africans our business entailed climbing on top of a classic African safari vehicle for a bouncy ride to camp amongst elephants and puku.
Once at camp we downed cold welcome beers then tossed our stuff in our tents and set up for fishing. I pulled out my 8-weight Ross and strung it with a Rio 250 grain tropical sinking line and strung my 10-weight with a 350 grain. I had everything prepared right down to my leader including the 40lb Rio Knottable Wire that I tied on at home a few days ago. All I had to do was ask the South Africans to recommend me a fly for each rig. After a quick lunch, another refreshing beer and a briefing about the weeks plan we were on the water.
We will fish on two different rivers this week. Today’s camp puts us on the Mnyera River. This river is much smaller than I expected and as you admire it you’ll see leaping baitfish fleeing from feeding tigerfish. We had two boats. Keith, Rob and I were fishing in one boat. The other boat had the rest of the gang including Leonard. They simply stayed back and filmed us.
We didn’t venture more than 100 feet from camp to start because like any guides, Keith and Rob wanted to see me cast. They heard I can fish but wisely wanted to make sure. Although this is my fifth time fishing for tigers I’m by no means an expert. The first thing at hand was to get my casting stroke in order. Even though this is about the tenth time this year I’ve broke out the big sticks it still takes a few minutes to smooth out casts with heavy lines and flies. To make it even more difficult, both Keith and Rob are 6’ 3”s. I only met these guys this morning so the last thing I wanted to do was hook them.
I must say I struggled the first hour. I was messing up my pick up on my casts and the fly Rob picked was the heaviest fly in my box. I was sure I was going to hook one of them and just wasn’t casting like I can. Rob was fishing while Keith poled us along with the current. He was doing fine and nailed two tigers before I got my first. One of his was easily 7lbs! I was ready to get out my camera and Keith called it a rat and unhooked and released it as fast as he could. I was really surprised because on all my previous tigerfish trips a 7lber is nice fish. This week should be very interesting I thought to myself.
My casting improved throughout the afternoon as I too caught some fish. In fact we must have caught 20 beautiful tigers and several were over 10lbs! My last fish of the night shocked me. He topped out the boga at an amazing 12lbs! I absolutely can’t believe it because we only fished for about 4 hours. To top it off we saw more elephants and hippos from the boat. The birds are incredible. Perhaps I have died and gone to heaven.
One more amazing tidbit about today is that when we got off the plane another group was boarding after their week at Tourette’s camp. Would you believe I knew someone there? Garreth Coombes, an avid tigerfisher from South Africa was leaving after a great week. I met Garreth in Zambia in 2005 while hitching across Africa. We shared a ride – unreal! We have five more full days of fishing ahead. I can only imagine how big a tiger we may catch. Chris, Klug, Harris and I are so excited we can hardly believe it. In our minds we already have a film segment of giant tigerfish. Can we really catch one bigger than 12lbs? We’ll see 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 will see on the blog for this Africa Trip.