More at home in the bush than he is in the burbs, capable of fixing almost anything and fishier than a tin of expired pilchards, Lionel Song is a character straight out of a Wilbur Smith novel (if the bard of the bush wrote about fly fishing). He’s also our Issue 36 Lifer.

The first fish I caught was a carp at a place called Union Park dam just outside Pietersburg (Polokwane). Ironically it was I that was the hunted, as it was a place frequented by strange Walter White (Breaking Bad) lookalikes with bags of sweets waiting in dodgy hatchbacks under the blue gums…

I finished my national service in the Para battalion and went straight in to the Timbavati. Next step was the Manyeleti, where I was involved in building and running trail camps. Next stop was Savuti, Botswana where I helped run the legendary Lloyds Camp and learnt more about animal behaviour, especially how to interact with lions and how not to get killed by elephants. After that it was a move to the Natal Midlands (base camp is in the Dargle), then all over Botswana, Zambia, Lesotho, Gabon, and now Tanzania is home. I guess my real home is anywhere wild and remote.

A typical day starts with my Kilombero alarm clock going off at 5am – namely hippo, fish eagle and goliath heron chiming in to kickstart my day. If we have clients in camp, it’s kitchen first to make sure that brekkie is on the go and the packed lunches are sorted. I then greet guests and make sure they are good with tea, coffee and rusks. If there are no guests in camp, I task staff and find something broken to fix. If there are guests, I get their fishing gear sorted if they need help and get them on their way to a great day’s fishing. Once guests have left, I find something broken to fix, take time out to admire the view and remind myself how lucky I am to be me and that I could, at that very moment in time, be stuck in traffic on the N3. As I fix the broken stuff, I wait in dire anticipation for my guests to return with great stories of an even greater day spent out in paradise. We have a raucous supper being entertained by hysterical stories that folks tell when they have a chance to relax without the strictures of society (add some good single malt to lubricate the thought patterns). I switch off the generator and crawl into bed exhausted and happy.

My home waters at the moment are the Kilombero River and its surrounds. It’s a fascinating and challenging river to fish as it is rather unknown from a piscatorial perspective. By that I mean there are fish that have been caught, but not yet classified. Yes, we have big Tanzanian tigers, and the most incredible yellowfish, but it is the smaller, less-known species that pique my interest, and it is these fish that I most want to catch. Call me a twitcher with a fly rod.

My entire life has been one big adventure, but being hijacked with my stepson and driven away in the boot of a BMW, and then managing to escape courtesy of my Leatherman, rates right up there as one of the biggest adventures.

Finish the rest in issue 36. (IT’S FREE)

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