Where do I begin? An incredible country of colourful markets, genuinely happy people and shit roads. Our expedition up the Rwenzoris was successful. We’d summited Africa’s third highest peak, spent some time cruising Queen Elizabeth National Park in our Toyota Hi-Ace, now nicknamed The Green Jacuzzi – I’m still not sure how it came to be, but I think had something to do with the poor combination of rough roads and beer causing lots of foam!
On a side note, I managed to find the rumoured Rwenzori browns. After fashioning a bamboo Tenkara style rod, I hooked a little brown high up in the mountains. But very little time was available and my curiosity was sated, so it was back to the Trek.
Regardless, we had arrived at Murchison falls national park via a trip on some of the worst roads I’ve driven in years. Because of a radiator leak (and the African bush mechanic repair by yours truly) and two flats, we were late for the park gates and had to take a detour to get to our camp at Nile Safari Lodge. Our campsite, aptly named the Shoebill Campsite, was eventually found at the end of a long night’s drive over broken up tar on which we even lost the Jacuzzi’s bull bar.
It was beer and straight to bed that night – Rich had arrived early from Kampala and had set up our tents for us. No one will ever understand the relief of that cold Nile Lager and my trusty Mountain Hardware tent that night. The next morning revealed the stunning views of the broad Victoria Nile as it sedately makes to way from the turmoil of Murchison Falls to wide expanse of Lake Albert.
Rich had organised us, by the kind loan of Malcolm Odendaal, a tinny and was keen to get some fly fishing exploration in below the Murch gorge. So it was a big fireside breakfast, gear pack and GO…
The river below gorge, while still flowing quite quickly, is wide and trimmed with deep bush and has no end of elephant, hippos, crocodiles and other game on its banks. Our goal for the day was to prospect it’s swirling eddies, holes and bays. It’s a big expanse of water and I got that slightly silly feeling I’m prone to when standing next to new big water with a fly rod in hand!
Gregg, my brother, was throwing spinners and catching Waka on corn for live-bait (no fly fishing for the lazy bugger). I also like having a conventional fisherman on board while learning about an area – it gives an added dimension and helps with understanding an area. And we were several limited with time so all info was critical.
Rich, very quickly found some feeding Tigerfish that kept us busy and smiling for quite a while. Fun was had they blasted baitfish against the bank. Spinners and flies where hit, bitten and eventually several fish where landed. The Tigerfish of the Nile – Hydrocynus Forskahlii – are a smallest of the Tigerfish species. Also known as the Elongated Tigerfish (I was first told that it they are called hydrocynus elongatus), it’s long slender body and smaller mouth also make it the prettiest of the hydrocynus species.
During the riotous feeding along the bank, I had noticed fish swirling out in the main current. On the third cast I came tight and immediately new it wasn’t a Tiger. After a short dogged run across our bow, it erupted from the water and we saw our first Perch. It wasn’t at all big. But it was step in the right direction! Rich was particularly stoked as they hadn’t got one on fly this far below the gorge.
We then decided, as the Tigers were moving off, to simply drift the main current while casting and swinging/retrieving a fly. We weren’t 10 mins in when Rich got slammed by a big fish that took off on a blistering run that bent his #9 double and had him sweating in the hot African afternoon. Our hope that it was a big Perch soon faded as we realised that the fight was far more in the nature of a whiskered variety. Eventually Rich got the fish to the boat, but not without 10 min of tug-of-war right for the last couple of meters of line, and we all sighed as a big Silver Catfish (I think!) came to hand.
After measuring, it was estimated just over 10kg. It’s a proper fish by anyone’s standards.
We were losing time quickly now and headed down to a hole below a washed out feeder stream that we had identified earlier. I was swinging flies in the shallow water hoping for a Yellowfish while Rich plumbed the depths below the shallow run. Gregg lazily dropped a live-bait in the deep hole and settled back. Rich managed a small Perch in the hole while I got nought. Gregg on the other hand missed a bus that picked up his Waka. Shaking knees and hands where all that the big fish left him. Pity.
It was then a rush to jetty to get through the Park gates before closing. We were off to the falls the next day and had much to discuss and plan over cold beers and braai of goat chops. This river has massive fly fishing potential but the fish will not come easily – it’ll be hard work!