When we announced the Feathers Award in December 2020, we knew it would attract some very special entries. This was not only because for this inaugural competition we allowed for entries from any time in the past 24 months, but also because in our experience fly anglers in Africa are, for the most part, hard-charging lunatics driven to push the boundaries.

Ed Ghaui with a Goliath tigerfish

An example of a hard-charging madman. Ed Ghaui with a Goliath tigerfish

The criteria were simple enough. We were looking for remarkable fish caught on the African continent (excluding Indian Ocean island nations). While big fish will always get extra points, it was not just about size. Other things we looked at included, the rarity of species, the challenge involved in catching it and the location you had to go to to pull it off.

Jack Lotter with a 104cm GT caught off the beach in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Jack Lotter with a 104cm GT caught off the beach in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Niel Malan's big spotted grunter caught in the Western Cape of South Africa

Niel Malan’s big spotted grunter caught in the Western Cape of South Africa

 

Arno Matthee, happy clients and a mammoth tarpon caught in Gabon

Arno Matthee, happy clients and a mammoth tarpon caught in Gabon

Our judges are the Feathers & Fluoro brains trust, plus those of us who work on The Mission. We are a very mixed bunch, ranging from anglers who obsess over big fish in far out destinations to others just as happy catching rare indigenous species, trout and other aliens of any size, as long as the challenge is satisfying. Collectively, this omnivorous motley crew has fished just about everywhere from the width and breadth of South Africa, across Southern Africa, East, West and Central Africa, the Indian Ocean islands and atolls, to more far flung places like South America, New Zealand, the USA, Socotra, Iran, Christmas Island, the Mediterranean, across Europe, Mongolia and beyond. So, when it came to picking a winner, there was nothing homogenous or one-dimensional about our Supreme Court.

The entries did not disappoint.

David Reverdito with a 16lb largemouth yellowfish, caught 45 minutes after he landed and 18lber

David Reverdito with a 16lb largemouth yellowfish, caught 45 minutes after he landed an 18lber

 

Thomas Camp with a beast of a Cubera snapper caught at Sette Cama, Gabon

Thomas Camp with a beast of a Cubera snapper caught at Sette Cama, Gabon

 

Leonard Flemming with an amazing specimen of a witvis

Leonard Flemming with an amazing specimen of a witvis.

 

And again, Leonard Flemming with another incredibly rare cyprinid, a large Sandfish

And again, Leonard Flemming with another incredibly rare cyprinid, a large Sandfish.

 

Jeremy Block with a broadbill swordfish, doing what he does best, breaking records off the Kenyan coastline

Jeremy Block with a broadbill swordfish, doing what he does best, breaking records off the Kenyan coastline

 

Arno Matthee, a happy client and the colossal tarpon he targets in Gabon

Arno Matthee, a happy client and the colossal tarpon he targets in Gabon

From massive tarpon, snapper, GT, largemouth yellows and grunter to rare indigenous freshwater species and a couple of saltwater targets that may have never been caught on fly before, the inaugural Feathers Award attracted some amazing entries. Some of the fish entered, we knew about and had already admired on social media. Others were new to us. There were big fish and rare fish, fish that are relatively common but are seldom caught on fly and others (the fish, the angler and the setting) that were so batshit crazy we could scarcely believe that someone managed to pull it off.

Find out who the winner of the Feathers Award is in issue 25 below.