Forget (almost) everything you know about fly-fishing for Zambezi tigers, they said. Pack your trail shoes, they said. On a recent mission to Siona Falls in Western Zambia with Wildman Fishing Co, Ewan Naude and Jazz Kuschke did just that, and burned more than holes in the soles of their feet and grooves into their stripping fingers.

 

“Faaawrk!”

Ewan Naude stood dejected on the rocky point. The first stripping guide on his 9-weight nested in a mess of running line.

“F@rrck. Mann!”

His choice offerings to the vittatus  (tigerfish) that had just gnarled his 25lb fluoro leader were only just audible over the voice of the Zambezi as it gushed down a big rapid.

Ewan in hot pursuit of a tiger in the rapids

Some way out the sink tip, and what remained of his savaged seven-foot leader, dangled in the tail-out. A hundred-odd metres further up the Ngonye Falls, (the second largest in the mighty river and also called Sioma), cascaded down, marking the transition point of the Zambezi’s flow through Kalahari sand floodplain to basalt dyke.

Frustrated, but far from disheartened Ewan painted a picture not unlike that of a fly-half who’d just missed a kick to goal from the corner. A kick which would’ve put the result out of question and added just that extra touch of flair to an already man-of-the-match performance.

“That, that was a monster,” offered Wildman Fishing Co. guide Brett Manton, after a suitable silence and with all the gusto of one who’s seen plenty and spent much of his quarter-century life in the bush.

Jazz catches a nice tiger below Sioma Falls.

Brett sat perched, unmoving like a baboon sentry, higher up on the boulder strewn slope. He’d positioned himself way up on one of the magmatic rocks with his landing net so he could reach either Ewan or me should we hook up.

“Did you see it?” Ewan directed the question as much at the moist upper Zambezi valley universe as at Brett.

“Exploded like a gun shot,” he added, eyeing the fist-sized tangle of running line which had shot out of his line basket and ultimately lead to his leader exploding.

“Saw it turn,” Brett confirmed. “Dorsal-to-tail was at least this big,” he gestured well over a foot between his hands, indicating what would, no doubt, have been a fish weighing double figures (in pounds).

“F#@k,” I added in solidarity. “I heard the line parting before I saw anything.”

Solace, as big-fish losses go, was still some way off.

 

For the rest of Jazz’s story, check out issue 18 of The Mission below. It’s free, like the whale called Willy.