Fly fishing – genteel sport for limp-wristed, tweed-clad, upper-class twits. Right? Try again. As Jazz Kuschke writes in his issue 30 ‘NO Time To Die’ feature, fly-fishing can result in severe injury or death, from breaking bones in distant valleys, to being attacked by two-ton pachyderms, stung, bitten or washed out to sea. User discretion is advised.
First up – Ryan Wienand’s two close calls with hippos in Tanzania.
“Late one afternoon we were drifting down a section of the Mnyera River in Tanzania where we’d seen a few hippos earlier in the day. We have a section we call Oxbow Lake and it’s very good for tigers. I had just rinsed my hands and grabbed my rod and started casting when we were hit. There was zero warning. We had no clue the hippo was there. It felt as if an airbag had gone off in my face. It was just this unbelievable force.
The hippo launched the boat vertically and threw me into the air and outward over the railing. Somehow, as this was happening, I managed to claw my way back into the boat but, for a moment, the boat was vertical in the air and I was looking down into the hippo’s mouth. I landed with my chest on the railing as the boat came down. I don’t know how, but I managed to get my knees back in on the boat and get my weight backwards, all the while watching this hippo’s mouth, wondering if I was going to land on top of it. It was going to hurt. I winded myself badly on the railing and stayed on my knees for a good five minutes afterwards. Thankfully, we were on quite a big, heavy boat with a 60 Yamaha on the back. If it had been smaller, there would have been no way we would have stayed upright.
That was crazy enough but then, a year later, it happened again on a small tributary of the Rufiji River. We went up there early one morning – the Rance brothers and I – and headed back in the late afternoon on the small tinny with a 15 horsepower engine on. You know hippos – they’re in the reeds during the morning, but, in the afternoon, they are getting ready to go out and graze. So, when we headed back that afternoon, there were hippos everywhere. I told the boys to sit down on the bottom of the boat, not even on the bench. I used to be a PH (Professional Hunter) so I had my rifle with me and I was on the front.
The next thing, I thought we’d rammed into a rock, it hit us so hard. It was a female that had hit us from the back, on the side. Craig Rance was full of slime and water, because it hit about six inches behind his hand which was holding the back railing. Fortunately, our driver, Saidi, was super-reactive. He locked the engine away from the cow and accelerated so that the back of the boat was now spinning around. The force of the impact knocked me down and I couldn’t get to my rifle. As I looked down the side of the boat, all I saw was the hippo trying to get into the boat, porpoising out of the water. Every time she would just miss the boat because it was accelerating away from her in an arc. She would just touch it and push it away, splashing water over the boat. The third time she did this, we hit the bank and then Saidi managed to accelerate and get us away from her. That was a much closer shave than the first incident. This cow was attacking us. She wanted to get in the boat and eat us.”
Read the other stories from this feature and more in issue 30 of The Mission below. As always, it’s free.