The Feathers Award is an annual award given to the most remarkable catch in a calendar year. The award is judged by Feathers & Fluoro and hosted by The Mission.
For the 2024 competition, if you or someone you know caught an amazing fish between the 1st of January 2024 and 15 December 2024 (when entries close), that catch is eligible.
We are looking for fish caught on the African continent (that excludes Indian Ocean island nations). Yes, visitors to Africa can win if they came out here and caught amazing fish.
It is important to note that it is not just about size. Yes, if you catch an amazing big fish, that will definitely be a contender, but size alone does not mean a win. Other things we look at include:
Rarity. Did you venture to Lake Malawi and catch the fabled lake salmon? Did you discover a new species of tigerfish and catch it on fly? Manage to cast DMAs to coelacanths? We want to know about it.
Difficulty. Did your catch involve abseiling into a cave and fishing micro bat-guano flies for blind cave fish? Did you chew quat with local militia to negotiate access to the coast (something Fred Davis did in Djibouti)? Extra points for you.
Location. Did you venture into Somalia and avoid pirates and terrorists to fish hidden mangrove swamps? You’re a mad man. Did you chart the length of the Okavango and catch a record-size African pike? We respect your effort.
Judges – who decides?
That would be the extended Feathers & Fluoro brains trust, aka the idjits you find right here. If a member of Feathers enters the awards, then they recuse themselves from judging that year.
One winner – one prize
The prize itself is not gear from a fly fishing brand, but instead the glory of having your name engraved on the Feathers bronze trophy by Conrad Botes, emblazoned there for all to see for years to come. We may throw in a case of beer and a cap as added extras, and you can brag that you won The Feathers Award.
How do you enter?
Send us photos of notable catches and add in the back story to the catch. If your mates are shy or humble, please note that you can enter someone other than yourself. Email entries to email@example.com.
Entries close on 14 December 2023. The winner will be announced in The Mission Issue 43 (Jan/Feb 2024). May the best fish win!
Ed Ghaui with a Niger barb in Gashaka Gumti, Nigeria. Photo Barnaby Ghaui
Those Niger barbs in Gashaka, Nigeria, take the cake because of the mission that they had to go on, the exploratory element of it to find a fish that has most likely not been caught on fly.Ewan Naude, judge
Leonard Flemming’s clannie took gold in 2021.
On the day this fish was caught, I had not seen any fish cruising but I believed they were there because the area had all the right features. The pools were what we call resilient pools in that they hold water throughout summer. I went to sit on a rock to have a sandwich and then I saw a fish come along. I wasn’t ready for it so I put the sandwich down, got ready and sure enough a fish came along again. I was fishing 4x fluoro, indicator nymphing, so I flicked the nymph out about three metres ahead of the fish. The fish disappeared under the rock I was sitting on. I gave the nymph a twitch, saw the head come out, watched it eat, struck and was happy that I had hooked it properly. Then it just started running unbelievably hard up the pool. I was in trouble. I could not go anywhere, I was stuck on a rock against a fairly steep cliff face, so I just stood there, as it peeled off-line and ran me very deep into my backing. Luckily the fish did not find any structure to cut the tippet off on, so I managed to get it back at my feet, then we slogged it out until eventually I got it in the net. I was stoked! After that I packed up and left, my weekend was made.Leonard Flemming, winner 2021
David Falcke and his nocturnal musselcracker
This is the fish that money cannot buy. Some might say it’s a fluke, but I reject that. Was there luck involved? Yes, but you make your own luck. David has been fishing this spot for several decades. He grew up fishing there and has caught a 10kg leerie on fly and big elf there amongst other fish. He’s also caught a lot of big fish there on conventional tackle too. Sure, it wasn’t a kob, the fish he was expecting to catch, but he didn’t just pitch, he had a plan.Conrad Botes, judge
Franna van Zyl – Dorado/Mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) from the shore
Viv Dames says, “It was a bit of a batshit crazy morning. The water was super flat and once we spotted it me, my friend James and Franna were throwing everything we could at this fish swimming in the shallows. Bucktails, shiver sticks, you name it but no interest.”
Then Franna said, “Holy shit, I brought my fly rod!” He took one little cast and it was the only thing that made that bull turn around and get excited. Boom! He landed it about an hour later after fighting it like a legend on his 8-weight fly rod with a 20lb leader and a size 4 fly. He’s is freaking chuffed. Day made, season made, year made. He’s never seen a Dorado before so he is super stoked. As tempted as we were to eat the chicken off the sea, we tagged it and released it. It was totally a right place, right time kind of thing, but Franna fought it so well.”
Read the rest of the entries below: