Of all the giant fish species that can be targeted on fly, there are few that are quite as mysterious and coveted as the Goliath tigerfish. They are found in the Congo River basin, in remote areas that are incredibly difficult to access. For the last few years the team at Camp Chinko has been working, with African Parks, in the Chinko Reserve area of the Central African Republic (CAR) to create a viable fishery for those with the bucks (and the balls) to get there. In this snippet from our issue 28 interview with him, guide Greg Ghaui details how the hell you go about catching the biggest tigerfish species on the planet.
What does your tackle look like for Goliaths? What sort of tactics do you employ?
A Goliath tigerfish setup is exactly what you would expect for targeting the biggest tigerfish you would hope to catch – 10-weight rod, robust reel, definitely a tropical fast sink tip line, but also an intermediate line. The leader material would be in the 40-60lb range, with a long trace section of coated multi strand knot-able wire. Anything less than huge flies are comprehensively consumed, so biting over a short trace is a risk. Large, but not outrageously big, baitfish patterns are a good starting point, although there have been indications that there is plenty of room for exceptions on both the large and small ends of the fly size spectrum. Big eyes really seem to be a trigger, and seeing many of the baitfish and what they have to avoid, it adds up pretty quickly.
Proven patterns from other big predators are a great starting point, although I have been fascinated having to rule out some of the best tiger flies I know from Tanzania as non-starters for these Central African specimens. I am determined to find something they will eat with the same conviction that they refuse these trusted patterns. I would want to cast at water attached to a significantly deep pool (6-20m deep) – whether fishing the deep pool itself or some of the features such as rocks, a sand shelf or tail-out nearby that might concentrate baitfish and could be buzzed by a patrolling Goliath. I prefer to sink the fly down and fish from deep just to cover the column, although a take often comes most of the way through a retrieve. A surprisingly benign and steady strip will do a job for you, making for really taut and suspenseful fishing rather than a rabid frenzy of casting and ripping! There are some very different and dynamic sections of rapids and pools, or gorges that throw things wide open. These can be fished on foot off the rocks and fish can be found deviating far from ‘predictable’ behaviour. If you have found the right water to fish, you will often be rewarded with a visual of a Goliath slowly and deliberately rolling on the surface, usually just unmistakably enough to short circuit some hard wired synapses. This, for me, is their most distinctive and signature behaviour and emphasises how unique and enigmatic they really are.
Tell us about a few specific special fish that were caught this season.
In a low intensity fishing season, with all the other projects happening, there were not huge numbers of fish caught and, being the first season, all of them were an event and pretty special. We did hit a genuine article purple patch that turned up some gold. Deep into an unchartered section while on the Ranger training mission, we made a strategic campsite on an island at the base of a ridiculously tight and narrow gorge channel that we immediately went to work fishing. It was stacked up with fish against the edges of the pumping channel, and we were raiding the Vittatus hard. Ed was dangling his fly directly below him trying to get a small fish to ditch caution, when suddenly the decks cleared and a Goliath appeared and picked his fly off the surface! I was metres away when I heard his shout and watched him hold onto the biggest fish I saw all season. It performed three full body breaches before it fell over the leader on the last one and broke off. What it was, where it came from and the way it went back there were all just awesome and, seeing Ed have to sit down on the rock right behind him and gather himself, summed it all up perfectly!
Get stuck in to the full story in issue 28 of The Mission. As always, it’s free to read.