Under giant Sycamore fig trees on Ruhudji river, guide Johann du Preez loses his mind and completes an angling decathlon worthy of the Olympics while attempting to unlock ndungu, the fat, pacu-like fruitarian fig eaters of Tanzania.

“It started with a slurp and a sloppy tail splash as the fish rolled to the surface to engulf the godsent morsels drifting past. The birds were going crazy, squabbling and jousting for the sweetest and ripest figs. Every now and again a fig would hit the water below with a loud plop and another grey shadow would lazily roll up to inspect the latest offering. It was like a conveyor belt of figs bobbing happily down river with a bunch of picky quality inspectors scrutinizing each and every fig for imperfections. If it wasn’t up to scratch it would simply be rejected. It seemed like nothing, but only the best was good enough for them and that tickled my curiosity in a big way. I kept watching them as they gorged like they were gods of the Ruhudji River. They feasted as if the fruit was never going to end. Off course, there was actually a limited supply of decadent treats from above. Before long the feast would be over. I had to do something. I had to catch one of these mystery fish before it was too late.

The problem was I could only feed my fishy perversion between clients and I was going to need more time than that to figure them out. My obsession was growing. In the night I would hear them slurping and, in the morning, when I rushed out of my tent to get to breakfast on time, I would see them roll. It was agonizing, I was allowed to look but not to touch. But then the stars aligned; there was a gap in the roster. Greg, my fellow guide, and I had only two clients in camp as opposed to the usual group of four. This meant that we could split guiding time and while the one was out on the water the other could devote time and effort to figuring out these fish.

Coming to Tanzania for the tigerfish, most clients do not give a shit about these fish, but I became obsessed with these fuckers eating figs in front of my tent every day.  The Ruhudji River is filled to the brim with ravenous monster tigerfish. Why would anybody ‘waste’ time trying to catch Ndungu (Distichodus petersii) a rare, fig-eating fish? Well, because nobody has done it successfully before, that’s why! In years gone by only Leonard Flemming had tried to catch them, with limited success. He eventually got one on a sausage tree flower, but I wanted to sight-fish to one on the fly.”


For the rest of Johann’s story, check out issue 15 of The Mission for free, below.