Kieran Avery writes:
In issue 18 of the Mission Fly Mag I wrote about our missions deep in to the highland forests of Mt Kenya, searching for a trout from a river which tips the 5lb mark, and our on-going debate about whether they actually exist… Well, in February this year that dream came true!
Fishing one of the larger rivers we decided to try a new stretch to us lower down in the forest than normal – an area still in the forest but closer to the “shambas” (local farms). These lower stretches are inevitably “poached” by local fisherman using worms so the fishing is never guaranteed; however if one is to find a big trout in Kenya then these “poached” areas are the most likely of spots – we find that poaching results in far fewer fish but that leaves more food for those that remain. Often the fish that remain are old and wise too – tricky to catch but when one does manage they are normally worth the time being bigger than most.
The walk in was, as usual, tricky to say the least. But that nervous, excited anticipation kept us going and thankfully a herd of elephants had been through recently opening up a vague path for us. On reaching the river we were disappointed to see that it was fast flowing with very few pools likely to hold a fish, and that manoeuvring up the river was going to be hard work – but we persisted and set off upstream. Three hours in, as we rounded a bend, we saw what we had been hoping for – a beautiful, long and very deep pool… If we were to catch a fish today this was the most likely spot. My mate Dale fished it while I watched on and within a few casts he was in – a really strong fish which ran up and down the pool refusing to show itself. After a 5-minute fight the fish came to the shallows and we were excited to see a nice 2.5 to 3lb rainbow – after a slightly dodgy landing we managed to get hold of it (we had no net with us – typical!!)! This got us really excited as that fish was definitely larger than normal. We fished that pool hard for another 30 minutes but not another bite…
A few hours later of slogging it up the rocky, slippery, fast flowing valley we decided to call it a day – the few pools that we had fished were completely unproductive, which surprised us… There should have been fish there and we were pretty frustrated.
Walking back down the river – as trekking out of the valley where we finished would have been impossible – we approached that same pool again and we agreed that we had to give it another go. I approached the pool through the thick bush and flicked a very heavy nymph in to the eddy. As it drifted past me the indicator stopped and I struck – a solid lump was felt and initially I thought I was snagged until the line started moving down in to the depths – I was in! This fish fought completely differently to the rainbow we had caught earlier; it held deep and shook aggressively rather than running – it reminded me of a catfish. After two minutes we still had no sight of it – as it was holding deep and moving around within the current. Finally, it decided to run downstream and as it did it came to the surface; what we saw brought the shakes and nerves on instantly – a brute brown trout unlike any of us had seen before. It’s amazing how a laid back fight can turn so serious – not just for the one fighting it but also for the guy who was to land it. The pressure was on! Five minutes later the beast started to tire and it drifted downstream in the current towards the rapids at the end of the pool. A light leader meant I couldn’t just haul it in, so after some anxious moments when we thought it might hit the rapids, we managed to guide the fish in to the shallows and we got a grip of it – to many, many shouts of joy. Typical that we had forgotten to bring a net with us on the day when we landed two of the best we’ve seen!
As I held the fish the fly just fell out of its mouth – luck was on our side that day but I think we deserved it. A beautiful brown trout in perfect condition – she could be close to 10 years old. We had some scales with us so we quickly weighed her… 5lbs on the dot and safely released to fight another day.
The dream had come true and for all of us who were there it was a day we will never forget – a trout of that size out of a Kenyan river is a once in a lifetime experience and I feel so privileged. Our persistence really did pay off.
One thing that’s for sure – that fish has spurred us on more than ever to keep testing new waters… Who knows what else could be hiding in those forests?