Drawn back there by the tigerfish, the yellowfish and the idea of closure, 17 years after he left Tudor Caradoc-Davies returned to Tanzania as a different man, one with a score to settle.

Have you ever had one of those Sliding Doors moments? It’s a bit weird to mention the one shining light in Gwyneth Paltrow’s movie oeuvre in a fishing story, I know, but bear with me. I swear I’m not trying to flog second-hand Goop yoni eggs.

The film’s premise is about what happens when you make a critical, life decision. In the case of Paltrow’s character, it centres on what happens if she boards a London Underground train. The story splits in two: one version where she boards the train, and the other where she doesn’t … and what happens thereafter.

The one Sliding Doors moment I have always had when it comes to fly fishing, comes from when I lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2005. That was a great year. I went straight from studying journalism at Rhodes University to working as a re-write sub on The Citizen newspaper in Dar, polishing Swanglish (Swahili-English) articles into something resembling the Queen’s English. Career-wise, it was deep end, bomb drop stuff. Upon arrival I was given three columns straight off the bat, including being Tanzania’s first restaurant reviewer under the pseudonym, Shadrack Malimbo (the first name and surname chosen randomly from the phone book). Shadrack aside, at the newspaper I was known as ‘Mr Turdo’, because the security guards struggled with ‘Mr Tudor’. On the social front it was a heady time too. I lived with my professional hunter buddy Ryan Wienand and his wife Lise and embraced the rum-soaked haze of ex-pat life in Dar, punctuated by weekends in Zanzibar and occasional trips to the Serengeti or other national parks like Lake Tarangire and Mikumi. After a brilliant year, I left to pursue jobs in the glossy magazine industry back in Cape Town, South Africa.

That was my Sliding Doors moment.

An hour or two later Alisdair popped up near me to tell me that Kevin lost a great fish near the main pod of hippos. As I bombed a full cast out right into the white water of one of the Kilombero’s mini-waterfalls, I began to lament to Alisdair that I have not had a nudge all morning when my fly got slammed on the first strip and a fish appeared to jump 15m away from where the fly landed. It was a decent size fish, but the line started to go limp as it turned to swim towards me. I ran backwards across the shallow water trying not to get stuck in the sinking sand coming in from the Luwego, which caused Francis the askari to wake up from a heat-induced snooze. Jambo Rafiki! Once I got tension back on the line, after a short, furious fight, I beached the fish in the shallows. Unlike the juveniles I’d already caught, this fish was mature enough to have that blue adipose fin unique to Tanzanian tigerfish. It wouldn’t break any records nor make the cover of a mag, but caught on foot in this Eden-like setting amid waterfalls and hippos, it gave me the release I’d waited 17 years for.

The rest of the day was similarly satisfying. While Dave and Terry pillaged the tigerfish nursery and also caught a solid yellow on a Clouser, Kevin got a good tiger with the final cast of the day.  I managed to catch two Bagrid catfish and two more tigers similar in size to the first – one sighted, stalked and caught between a sandbank and a waterfall. I also got stuck into something much bigger in the bottom or a rocky pool, either a large Bagrid or a vundu, which just sat there shaking its head till the fly pulled when I applied pressure.

Read the rest of the story in issue 37It’s mahala, for FREE!

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