In my humble opinion location is the most important factor for a successful fishing trip. Not talking about weather or water levels, as we don’t have any control over that. You can have the best and most expensive gear in the world but if there are no fish under the boat you are not going to catch a thing. So, when a friend calls you up and asks if you are interested in fishing in an unspoiled, remote section of the Lower Zambezi, you don’t think, you just answer YES.
After arriving in Tete, where Shaun and Ian collected us, we picked up the last of the supplies and hit the road. The camp is really off the beaten track, with the last 38kms to camp taking more than 2 hours on a bumpy, never-ending 4×4 track. We arrived just before dusk to take in the magnificence of this great setting. After settling into the comfortable, fully furnished tents, we started setting up our tackle for an early start the next morning. Ian gave us each a dozen or so of his handmade Thingamajigz jigs to try out over the next 6 days. They turned out to be magical and accounted for about half the tigers caught on the trip.
After getting on the water a little bit later than planned, we started like a house on fire. The second drift through Bone Zone resulted in the first tiger of the trip. Ross landing a beautiful fish of just over 5kg after his lure got smashed in the middle of the river. After a few quick pictures and plenty of exciting talk of all the big fish that was about to follow, we released the fish and continued on another drift. Matthew got on the scoreboard with a dink not long after and then the fishing died off completely. After a delicious lunch at camp (every meal the whole week was exceptional) we decided to do a drift near camp which resulted in a few fish on Ian’s jigs. Like earlier in the day, the fish just went off the bite.
The next 2 days followed basically the same pattern. Some action early morning and then in the afternoon again. The tigers were really not in the mood to come out and play except for a stunning fish that Matthew managed to fool on fly. Matthew and Ross also landed a vundu each while Shaun managed to hook the Zambezi Express on his spinning set up drifting for tigers. It was one way traffic that resulted in an empty spool and a burnt hand.
Day 4 we decided to drift from camp as far as we could go. Not long after dropping a solid fish Ian managed to land his biggest tiger of the trip on one of his handmade jigs. A solid 5.50kg which was followed by a decent vundu not long after. After an enjoyable but fishless day on the boat for myself, I managed to get back in the action with a large giant mottled eel. What makes this species really interesting is that they stay in rivers and then go kilometers out to sea to spawn.
The second last day started with the same high expectations that, ‘Today is going to be THE DAY’. After a good few hours we realized it was just going to be another slow day on the water. With the last rays of light fading behind the mountains and camp almost in sight, someone turned the switch on. After getting a few hard hits in quick succession, I pitch my lure right in between two rocks and got smoked by something big. Pandemonium broke out before I managed to get the fish out into the clear. After the first jump the fish came towards the boat and launched itself out of the water again. The next moment the lure came flying past us, the line went slack and my head dropped in disbelief. Tiger fishing in all its glory.
Desperation really set in on the last morning when Ian and I braved the ‘last rapid’. Up till that point, we always turned around at the ‘last rapid’ (Later renamed as Ross’s Rapid for reasons we won’t mention publicly), but decided desperate times calls for desperate measures. The upper part of this stretch was breathtakingly beautiful and the banks much lusher than around camp. But still the river dogs didn’t feel like entertaining us.
After lunch Matthew decided to join us as we decided to go to the same spot up top. Unlike earlier in the day, the hits started coming immediately and we picked up a few fish including a decent 4kg by Matthew after making a long cast to the bank.
With the sun setting fast on the last day, Ian set us up for one last drift. After the previous day’s action in the late afternoon, we were hopeful that we might get some action again. As Ian announced that dreaded “Last few casts” from the back of the boat, I got hit hard, set the hook and the fight was on. A few very anxious moments followed, before Ian netted the biggest tiger of the trip with high fives all round. It couldn’t have been scripted better.
We expected the fishing to be tough as the warmer months are the more productive months to fish here, but I think it was a lot more difficult than we thought it would be. Fortunately, fishing trips are more than just catching fish. The remote setting, incredible scenery and awesome company made this one of the most enjoyable and memorable trips I’ve been on.
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