Zimbabwe Part 3 - With Zambezi Safaris

Fishing the Mighty Zambezi

I have seen many David Attenborough wildlife documentaries over the years and one thing I always remember him saying was, “Africa… the world’s greatest wilderness … the only place on earth to the see the full majesty of nature”. Having travelled across a few continents, I made the decision to add Africa to the list and cross it off my bucket list. Work and time constraints meant that I had to limit my travelling to a very small area of Africa, the east coast, specifically Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, so I was going to make the most of that valuable time.

Being able to be amongst the amazing wildlife was a definite priority, but the chance to fish on another continent was certainly up there. In making plans to visit the mighty Zambezi, it was not difficult to find a likely target, the Tigerfish, (Hydrocynus Vittatus) known for their distinctive razor sharp teeth and excellent sport fish qualities. “Hunting Tigers on the Zambezi River”, has a special ring to it - it was an easy decision. Planning the two weeks holiday was also not difficult. Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World promised new experiences from the Falls themselves to a microlight flight, wild white water rafting, a flying fox experience and the ultimate safari adventure.

After a week in the Victoria Falls area, I chose a tour package with Imvelo Safari Lodges, which comprised two nights in luxury five-star woodlands accommodation in the Hwange National Park which was a true safari experience, three nights Tigerfishing at Sidinda Lodge 80km downstream of Victoria Falls and two nights at Gorges Lodge, stunningly situated on the edge of the Batoka Gorge, 220 metres above the Zambezi River. The Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa stretching over 2500 kilometres starting 1500 metres above sea level and gathering speed as it undulates through winding gorges over the Victoria Falls and out to the ocean. I had no doubt from perusing their website that this was going to give me the best chance of seeing Wild Africa and doing it in style and comfort. But back to the Tigerfish.

I was then at the important part, how do you fish for them, what do I take, what are the requirements and what time of year is my best chance for success? I was informed that late September/October was the best time and I needed light tackle, anything between 6 and 20lb with there being equal debate as to mono or braid among the local web forums. The one non-debatable was steel trace. Again, the lighter the better, but it also depended on whether you planned to use lures or live bait. The choice of rod and reel is completely up to the angler, but I enjoyed a fast action 6-10kg rod on a 4000 size reel. Driving into Sidinda Lodge, our fishing destination, we saw snippets of the real Zimbabwe, undulating roads through sparse hilly countryside littered with small communal huts, roaming animals and rarely another vehicle to be seen. It reminded me of the remote outback Pilbara many, many years ago in the middle of summer, and it did provide me the occasional reminder of how lucky we are to be living in Australia. The final hill into the lodge marked a significant change in scenery with lush green trees, shrubs and palms lining the banks of the river. The anticipation was well and truly building with the sight of fastflowing water pushing through the gorges and several bass-styled boats waiting on the nearby shore.

After making ourselves comfortable, we began to set up the rods for the first eagerly anticipated afternoon session. Our brilliant Imvelo Safari fishing guide, Brian, had his helpers pack the boat with our gear and an esky full of refreshments as the Zimbabwean sun definitely packed some punch. Brian informed us that the stretch of water we were fishing was 16 kilometres long, Zambia was on the right side of the river and Zimbabwe on the left, and had two impassable rapids during the dry season which meant we were the only ones that were going to be fishing it. We zoomed up to the first rapid and Brian told us that the river often drops from 6 feet to 140 feet within a few metres and there were a couple of successful techniques he used for fishing for Tigers. Fly fishing, casting a variety of lures with a fast retrieve either on the surface or with divers, casting bait strips with a fast retrieve, dead baits in the current, or trolling lures. His preference was for casting lures or using strips of bait, but commented it was best to change up depending on what the fish were hitting. We began to prepare the weapons for battle and my lure of choice was the 1 oz peacock blue coloured blade whilst Brian prepared a weightless strip of bait to be cast and retrieved. The river varies in its speed as it runs through the narrow corridors and has etched itself into the landscape as the water level varies approximately 10 metres between the wet and dry seasons. This has caused the river to have lots of nooks, crannies, eddies and deep spots that just scream fish, each requiring a cast just to check what may be lurking in the shadows. It didn’t take long to find the action and on the fourth cast I was on. T

he one thing I learnt very quickly about Tigerfish is their speed and ability to jump and throw a lure. Brian estimated the first fish to be well over 10lb and a solid ‘river dog’, being a resident fish that hasn’t migrated up or down stream. Over the session we hooked fifteen fish with only three coming to the boat. Brian told us that a strike rate of 30 % or lower was pretty common and we would need to work hard to stay connected and get the fish to the boat. The following morning we decided to change tactics, using strips of very lightly weighted Tigerfish on a single 5/0 hook to cast and retrieve quickly from the edges of the river.

We found that early morning was the best time to fish as the mayflies, one of the Tigers’ favourite foods, were often on the surface hatching as the sun rose. It was essential to be ready to fish as the Tigers’ bite would start to slow as they filled on the mayflies during the morning. For the next two days we used a combination of lures and strip baits, with the bigger fish coming on 1 oz switch blades worked feverishly through the water column against the water flow. The most successful spots we found were little eddies where the water pooled and small amounts of debris and insects would give the perfect ambush opportunity. There was one spot called Chaos Corner which lived up to its name, producing small but lively fish every session until the last day when a small fluoro pink spinner took the fish of the season, a solid 17 pound river dog. The fish came up from the depths with an extremely visual take and proceeded to jump and strip line from one side of the river to the other trying to throw the hook.

The fight of the Tigerfish is in my opinion a cross between a Barramundi and Giant Threadfin - extremely speedy bursts combined with lively aerobatics against the most stunning backdrop. Whilst the fishing was exceptional, the highlight had to be the location. Crocodiles, hippos, bush bucks, cliff springers and a variety of eagles and birdlife often made it difficult to focus on the fishing. Sidinda Lodge is nestled into the banks of the Zambezi, so another option when not fishing was to relax while sipping on an icy cold beverage, watching the Zambezi make its way through the gorge and listening to the bellowing of the hippos.

Don’t think twice about adding Zimbabwe to your bucket list. The sheer magnificence of the Zambezi, and for me the adrenalin rush of boating the season’s biggest Tigerfish - with the expert help of our provided fishing guide - plus the absolute comfort and convenience of Sidinda Lodge made for an unforgettable experience. I highly recommend it!!  For bookings and further information visit www.zambezisafaris.net

Stay tuned for more

 

 

 

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Posts: 4273

Date Joined: 17/06/10

Just want 6 good numbers sat night

Wed, 2015-08-05 16:43

Please god just bless me with having 6 good numbers for the lotto sat night and then I can be off OS on a VG fishing wild life safari.

Hutch's picture

Posts: 2013

Date Joined: 21/04/13

 Awesome Didn't get to go

Wed, 2015-08-05 16:52

 Awesome 

Didn't get to go tigerfishing when we went back but wish I did, they sure go hard

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Posts: 2280

Date Joined: 03/05/06

AWESOME

Fri, 2015-08-14 21:41

Just awesome.

Posts: 9

Date Joined: 03/01/07

Great report

Fri, 2015-08-21 13:41

Thanks for sharing a great report. Those tigers are mighty fish.

crasny1's picture

Posts: 6592

Date Joined: 16/10/08

Wizz Adds

Fri, 2015-08-21 13:51

That last tiger is a dog. A special place Africa hey. Love waking to the sounds of the Hadida's ( Im sure you know what I mean) and other birds.

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Adam Gallash's picture

Posts: 14802

Date Joined: 29/11/05

Yup

Fri, 2015-08-21 14:09

Can't wait to go back one day, I've travelled most of the world but Africa (Zim and surrounds) blew it all out of the water.  One trip I won't ever forget.

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