Whether he’s fishing for trout in elephant territory on his home waters or documenting a survival challenge by living on a desert island for a week with no food, water or shelter, Kenyan Blaede Russell seemed destined to become a fly fishing guide. We caught up with him between African Waters’ Cameroon and Gabon seasons.
5 best things about where you are a fly fishing guide?
- Tanzania – the people. Aside from the insane fishery which needs no introduction nor further comment, it’s the people for me. We are so lucky to have a bulletproof team. These guys will literally give you the shirts off their backs and, if it wasn’t for them, the season simply would not be possible.
- Campfire stories. It sounds clichéd, but the after-session conversations around the fire are what guiding is about. Talks of the big fish lost, big fish landed, dodgy hook sets, burnt fingers, and awards for the most logs caught are a common thread.
- Gabon – it’s one of the last Edens. Ask yourself how many times, as an angler, you have thought or said, “I wonder what this was like a hundred years ago.” In Gabon you don’t, and that is special!
- Cameroon – the night. You’re casting a whole chicken to a fish that could be 150lb in a river no wider than a full line away. There’s an audience of 50 or more hippos creating a cacophony of sounds in total darkness. It’s immersive!
- Kenya – trout fishing among some of the Big Five. A lot of the trout fishing in Kenya is in national parks. This means you could literally be fishing dry flies in intricate little streams to hungry brown trout and be interrupted by a herd of elephants. Where else can you do that?
5 fishing-connected items you don’t leave home without before making a mission?
- Loon UV Knot Sense. This stuff is liquid gold. From fixing eyes on rods to applying the finishing touches to nail knots and fixing glasses, it does it all.
- Panasonic Lumix S5. I love videography and photography. This camera is a great hybrid and, at this price, in my opinion, unbeatable.
- Braid Scissors. They last for years, can cut any braid, line or wire, and double up nicely for when the lid needs a trim during the season.
- Short shorts. Comfortable, good for movement and great ventilation for the family jewels when you’re sitting down. You do have to settle for less real estate in the pocket, however.
- Lucky hat. It’s a cliché in that it never gets washed (it could be used for biological warfare), but it catches fish and it tells a story.
Bands to listen to while on a road trip?
- Pink Floyd
- Dire Straits
- The Stones
- Zach Brown Band
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
5 favourite fly fishing destinations across Africa?
- Mount Kenya/Aberdare National Park. It’s near and dear to me and the trout fishing is my bread and butter. There are little intricate streams that are difficult to access and immense forests, old trees and, because it is a national park, an abundance of wild animals.
- The Kenyan coast. Malindi, Lamu and Watamu offer some great offshore fishing for billfish species and other pelagic species like tuna, dorado etc.
- Tanzania. The Tanzanian tigers are something else. We’re super-fortunate to have access to arguably the healthiest populations of these endemic species, and XL sizes too.
- Sette Cama, Gabon. There are jacks, big tarpon, big snapper, big threadfin, big sharks from shore. Need I say more?
- Gassa Camp, Cameroon.
5 essential ingredients for an incredible mission?
- Bata Bullets (or trainers). From squeaking tekkie and doing burnouts on the dancefloor to scrambling up canyons, these are essential to a proper fishing mission.
- The good juju juice. Described as “the golden edge of an autumn afternoon”, a bottle of 18-year-old Glenmorangie is of paramount importance. It is a good way of sorting the boys from the men; it starts the trip full and ends the trip empty and it’s always there to warm you up from a day of hanging flies in trees.
- Well-vetted company to help with answer 2.
- Good coffee. You can’t trust those that don’t take their coffee drinking seriously.
- A generic selection of flies in a fly box for when your mates raid your box (won’t name any names).
Read the rest of Blaede’s high fives in Issue 39. It’s free!