It’s rare for fly anglers to focus on something else at the expense of three species of tigerfish and 8lb yellowfish, but on recent exploratories to Tourette Fishing’s new fishery in Cameroon, the focus was 98% on the mammoth riverine Nile perch they found. That doesn’t mean the 2% “bycatch” was not of interest. In an outtake from his issue 10 story ‘Capitaine’, Ed Truter weighs in on what else you can target with a fly rod in Cameroon.
“The Niger barbs have been somewhat of a frustration as we’ve seen them just about everywhere there’s any deeper rocky habitat and watched them feeding seemingly omnivorously, yet they’ve proved a top-shelf challenge to get them to eat a fly. I always have a quiet chuckle to myself when I think of the assumption that many anglers make when they imagine how easy it must be fishing not-fished waters, dreaming about how everything that gets chucked at the fish will get chomped. I can promise everyone who has ever thought that, that it couldn’t be further from the truth. Tropical, ’virgin’ waters fishes can be just as picky and fussy as the senior brown trout in the most hammered, public stream. Even seemingly catholic feeders that rush-in to gobble every insect that falls on the water, will often apply last-minute brakes when the same dry would easily fool any wild trout. The technical difficulty of new species in unfamiliar waters can be mind-blowingly frustrating, but it’s fun to tick through testing this and that until a picture begins to emerge. The results can be surprising, like when the Niger barbs are willing to mouth a hot-orange Mop or a Green Weenie, but do a 180 tail-turn at #16 PTN. In the end though, it was the Balbyter (a foam, dry ant imitation) that was their undoing in the shallows and in the deep they seemed to have a thing for wrapped copper bling like that on Brassies and Copper Johns and also for very skinny stoneflies with long rubber legs. Niger barbs are powerful fighters, the biggest I hooked (it took on 5X, which seemed what I needed to get the eat), made me chase after it for 80 meters on a pothole sidestepping sprint. Then, when I ran out of land, the fish bolted out the full fly line and 20 meters of backing. If you’d told me that a 4kg yellowfish was going to give me a 130m run around like that, I’d have told you to go gooi nog ’n dop (have another drink). There are bigger Niger barbs out there than any I caught and building on what we know so far, for some of them at least, their kak is geboek (their number is up).
The tigerfishes, of which there are three species in the river (Hydrocynus brevis, Hydrocynus vittatus and Hydrocynus forskahlii), have often left us a little stumped too. We know there’s numbers of them because we see them swimming by, ganging up on baitfish and also chasing down our hardware surface lures like it it’s their last chance ever at a feed, yet we’ve not got them to consistently jump on our flies. The good news however is that the dominant species, the Sahelian tigerfish (Hydrocynus brevis), has, compared to other tigerfishes and at any time of the day, a special exuberance for some topwater lures. We just need to work on our surface flies though to mirror the attention that our walk-the-dog lures got. The other thing about brevis is, once hooked, they do a lot more air-time than is typical of any of the other tigerfishes.