A whenwe is a former British settler or expatriate who talks nostalgically about their former homes in colonial Africa, i.e.: “when we lived in…” (the origin of the term).
In my case “When we were in Rhodesia…”.
But I’m Zimbabwean and do sometimes harp on about the fishing in Zimbabwe and would love to go back to some old haunts with my fly fishing gear and knowledge.
I also feel like I missed out on a lot of opportunities growing up there. My father was a very keen fisherman, had a boat, and would go on exciting trips away camping and fishing through the night to big lakes like Ngezi and Mazvikadei. I was too young to join them and often hung around the family get-togethers listening to my father and uncle’s stories of fishing and hunting adventures. I remember the excitement of when they came home and peering into the fishing basket to see exotic fish like bottlenose and the occasional tigerfish. When I was finally old enough, the Zimbabwe bush war started and the trips away ended, the boat was sold and the camping gear collected dust. We did still go fishing but very close to home, armed, just in case.
Even after independence in 1980, it was still unsafe to venture too deep into the bush. What we were lead to believe was only guerillas not coming home and resorting to banditry (dissidents). But also the genocide of Ndebele people in the south, the Gukurahundi, carried out by the North Korean trained 5th Brigade stationed in my home town.
It wasn’t all bad and things got better, I got older and Zimbabwe was magic in the late 80’s. Here’s a bit of a pic dump from those times. We didn’t take many photos as film and printing cost a fortune because of sanctions imposed on the country. The quality and bad prints of photos the size of a pack of Madison cigarettes was the norm.
Early beginnings – bream (tilapia) fishing with bait was the most popular form of fishing. My father was obsessed and went every weekend in the summer with a few uncles and their kids in tow.
And in winter they went bird hunting. My father enjoying a beer after long treks through the bush flushing out franklin and guinea fowl with the pack of GSPs he used to breed.
Series 2 Short wheelbase Landrover – The mode of transport for day trips fishing for bream and hunting at local farm and municipal dams. The car I learned to drive in.
Then a taxidermist opened up in town. I’ll spare you the others. Eastern Bottlenose.
We called him the ol’man, the most impatient man, but most patient fisherman. A bream fisherman who could sit for hours waiting for the fish to come on. Very occasionally he came bass fishing with Luke and I and could never grasp the idea of catch and release. He somehow always caught the biggest bass and chirped on about the ol’man giving some lessons today.
Boarding school in the bush had some advantages. On weekends when we weren’t playing sport we were allowed to go on Bush Exeat. It was fishing for me, and it turns out the surrounding farm belonged to my good mate and part of Feathers and Fluoro crew, Andre Van Wyk’s aunt, and his cousins were at school with me. It was also a good chance to smoke without having to worry too much and if you caught a bass or tilapia, McNosh, the school chef would cook it for you.
Bass fishing exploded in the 80’s with florida strain bass being introduced on many farm and municipal dams. Big fish in heavy structure and explosive top water action.
Big bass, big brother.
Big Brother’s Bass boat.
Early days of bass fishing on fly for me. Poppers and sliders on the surface, sunken trees and lilly pads.
A special bass dam just outside Harare called Xanadu or Garamapodze. It was full of huge largemouth bass with a preference for smashing surface lures and where I learned that bass could be caught on fly.
After lunch playing backgammon under the trees over a few beers waiting for the afternoon session at Garamapodze.
One of two cottages at Garamapodze and you had the whole dam all to yourselves. With late 80’s pants worn too high and the pride of Zimbabwe at the time showing in cousin Harry’s Zimbabwe dollar note towel.
NYANGA – EASTERN HIGHLANDS
The eastern highlands of Zimbabwe has cold flowing rivers and dams holding trout. It’s a mysterious magical place. This is where I learned to fly fish.
Losing a net on the Nyangome river.
Happiness on the Gairezi River. Having a swim was always obligatory in the icy water.
Georgia – The luckiest fisherwomen in the world on one of the high altitude trout dams of Nyanga.
HOUSE BOATING ON LAKE KARIBA
Quintin was dragged all over the place with a solid fight from a good Chessa. When a school of these came past reels screamed.
Typical sunken tree forests of Lake Kariba. Perfect for hitching the boat onto between two trees.
Home base houseboat – Sunset and the mosquito nets are up. It was too hot to sleep indoors so everybody slept on deck under a net.
Bream fishing when the sun was high and tigerfish early and late in the day. Pink Labeos pop up every now and then, super strong and fast. Cousin Harry notching up species.
Red Breast Tilapia. In my experience, this is the hardest fighting of the bream species in this part of the world and they readily take flies. This one really gave me a tussle.
Tigerfish – a pretty small one for the lake.
MILIBIZI – LAKE KARIBA
Bream fishing on Lake Kariba at Milibizi. End of the days haul and fresh bream for dinner. Tigerfish were all catch and release though.
Some local signage with an important message at Milibizi boat dock on the upper reaches of Lake Kariba. They grow big there and are not shy.
Float fishing for bream, with beers and lots of banter and action from big, hard fighting three spot and niloticus tilapia. I always had a live bait out hoping for a tigerfish but usually ending up with a huge Barbel or Vundu that would just rip through everyones lines.
Luke getting revved by another bream.
ZAMBEZI RIVER JUST ABOVE VICTORIA FALLS
Swinging spoons from the bank for tigerfish in the Zambezi National Park just above the Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side. With plenty of wild animals in the park, crocs in the river, one needed to be alert and have a brown patch stitched into your jeans just in case. I think I may have screamed when a huge monitor lizard dropped out of a tree next to me.
Tigerfish from the rapids on a deeply swung silver spoon just below our rondavel. They’re terrible eating with loads of bones.
A big Nembwe that my girlfriend Cecilia caught and thought she had snagged a stump that this guy called home. When I took over the rod it moved and the Nembwe came out fighting. Myrtle stepped into the shot to make sure I never claimed it for my own. Who would have thought?