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.
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.
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.
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.