I’m very excited about the prospect of joining the African Waters boys an their first ever fly fishing only trip to Gabon next year. African Waters has been hosting trips to this astonishing destination, Sette Cama, for quite some time, but the fishing in the surf and estuary mouths are mostly done with light spinning gear.

Preparing for a fly fishing trip

Preparing for a fly fishing trip presents its own set of challenges regarding gear. One of the first challenges I embraced was coming up with suitable fly patterns. Basically all we have to go on was what worked for the spinning guys. For this reason I have started tying flies that does not necessarily match the hatch (baitfish), but the lures instead.

Rob Scott recons that lure sizes and colours that have been exceptionally good in the past are up to 20cm in length and in the colours of Perch (olives), dark to black, as well as hot orange.

Rob recons: “A lot of the fishing is done very slowly, so a fly with more movement is going to be preferable to one that is lifeless unless stripped really fast. We will be fishing these large patterns in the dark, so movement will count even more.”

Sponge Bob in orange
Spongebob in orange.

Spongebob to the rescue

The first pattern I tied for this trip had to be a Spongebob Slider. This pattern has proven successful for kob, in the surf and estuaries of the Western Cape. I tied this pattern to mimic the reverse action of a bucktail jig when fished on a fast sinking shooting head set-up. It will dive towards the bottom with a short short retrieve. It will dart upwards when paused and can be fished very slowly. In short, it has one of the best actions on a slowly retrieved fly that I know of. That makes it such a favourite for kob, a species that often feeds in darkness and are drawn to movement.

I’ll be tying these in black, olive and orange. If you can find good quality schlappen hackle, you’ll be able to tie a pattern averaging at about 16cm in lenght. I recon the orange one will be deadly in the stained waters that is typically encountered in the Gabonese surf.

I use Rainy’s Bass Pops (medium) to match a 4/0 hook. If you struggle to get hold of these in South Africe, don’t despair. Craig Thom of Stream X in Cape Town recently received a large shipment of these. He has five different colours (black, yellow, orange, olive, chartreuse).

The tackle busting brutes to be encountered in gabon; Rob Scott with a giant African threadfin
The tackle busting brutes to be encountered in Gabon; Rob Scott with a giant African threadfin.


  1. Guys, the five flies that I caught with most when I lived there were:

    1. Dahlberg Diver – long, heavy zonker strip tail and beefed-up diving head 4/0s to 8/0s. Fished on a sink-tip or up to Di5 line off the beach. Very good on the cubera. Clipped deerhair has a lot more fish-catching magic than foam.

    2. Whistler/Pink Think style tie, good in the lagoon mouths but also in the mangroves. Stick to natural materials, snapper especially cannot resisit a slowly sinking fly cast into the mangroves, the fly breathing and living all the while it is sinking.

    3. Bucktail Clousers (flouro yellow over white), #2 for the lagoons when the jacks are busting small bait on the surface. Fished deep on a fast sinker will catch grunter, small threadfin etc. in the surf and lagoon. Some smaller Clousers in case there’s even smaller bait.

    4. Foam-head popper with Cockroach style hackles for tossing in the mangroves. White, white and yellow, white and red/orange. Of course Dahlbergs fished in the ‘groves is also tops.

    5. Cockroach style Deceivers, 2/0 and up.

    Notes: you’ll see a preponderance of natural materials tied in ways to maximise their movement and noise ability (i.e. Cockroach style). Natural materials work better at slow speeds and on ambush predators that have time to oggle a fly and in my experience fish ‘like’ them more. Apart from the Clousers, tie flies that will catch fish without you having to move them.

    Colours that work best in the stained waters are: white, yellows to oranges, flouro yellows (e.g. chartreuse yellow) to oranges, flouro orange-red), not all the warm colours and this all for bright conditions, bright days. In dull light, night, and/or deep go dark as in as close to black as you can get. For flash, gold flash works best in the tea-staned water.

    The fish up there are great fly takers as long as you can get the fly in front of them.

    Tighten your jock straps!

  2. Sorry, I made a few mistakes above. It should be Whistler/Pink Thing style ties. And ‘note’ all the warm colours, that is because in warm light (long wavelength due to absorption of short wavelength in the tannin-stained water), warm colours are the most vibrant.

    Also, check out the tying style knows as Hollow Fleyes on the Interweb. This is a tying style developed initially for big stripers in the US I think, but I believe it has great application to a lot of what we do in Africa.


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