Like any good love affair, fly fishing for tarpon in the estuarine jungle forests of Gabon is meant to leave you at least a little broken; racked with boatloads of longing, lashings of self-doubt and maybe even a smidgen of regret. Chewed up and spat out by the Silver King, veteran saltie MC Coetzer reveals how at least he found succour and good company on a recent trip with African Waters.
I love most African cities. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola or in Gabon, all African cities have that bustling, loud and often dirty vibe about them. But the people are always friendly and they seem genuinely happy as they go about their daily chores while dodging a million half-broken taxis. This day was different…
It was dawn in Libreville. One of those typical picture perfect African sunrises with a fresh smell in the air after an overnight thunderstorm. The last dawn that greeted me on the very same balcony was a time of serious anticipation. Today the scenery and chirping birds irritated the hell out of me. The rest of the guys were still asleep while I had that first cigarette of the day. It tasted good with a cup of strong condensed milk-sweetened coffee, but it did nothing to relieve the fishing equivalent of post-coital depression I was suffering from. The opening line from the movie, Apocalypse Now, came to mind –
Okay, it doesn’t go quite like that, but looking out over Libreville after spending 10 days fishing in a remote jungle paradise I was depressed and generally not in a happy space. Wikipedia defines post-coital depression as “Post-coital tristesse (PCT) or post-coital dysphoria (PCD) as the feeling of sadness, anxiety, agitation or aggression after sexual intercourse. Its name comes from New Latin postcoitalis and French tristesse, literally ‘sadness’. The phenomenon is traced to the Greek doctor Galen (circa 130 to 210 AD), who wrote, “Every animal is sad after coitus except the human female and the rooster.”
The former I get, but how the hell he worked out rooster sexual satisfaction I don’t know. Regardless, I was experiencing the opposite; a massive come down from a torrid love affair that began ten days earlier.
It’s impossible to convey to somebody what the jungles of Gabon are like, much less jungle fly fishing. I can tell you that they are endless and totally overpowering with almost no sign of human habitation. No matter how many hyperboles I use, most people will never know what it feels like to take a boat trip down a forest-fringed river in Gabon until you do it. It’s simply insane. It’s beautiful and intimidating at the same time. Even more importantly it’s like a long and winding watery rainbow with a pot of fishing gold at the end where the river meets the sea.
Jannie Visser and I were headed down this black flowing rainbow and our destination was Sette Cama. We were to meet up with Conrad Botes and John Travis for ten days of pretty extreme fly fishing. The overriding theme when fishing Gabon, especially land based fishing, is that it’s a whole lot of hard work. And you can never compare it to fishing a venue like Seychelles or St Brandon’s. In Gabon the numbers of fish are low. You will spend a huge amount of energy for every bite that you get. This style of fishing appeals to me because it’s pretty much what we do back home in the estuaries of the Western Cape. The difference being that the jungle setting in Gabon is unique. You also have a very realistic chance of hooking and landing a giant of a fish.
Here, in issue 11 are some random thoughts on what we experienced…