Strong tigers in Africa
Skrevet 12-12-2016 af Jan Steffensen
Read this longer report from the trip in October.
Tiger fish is probably the strongest fish pound for pound I have ever fished for with my fly rod. 9 days of fishing for them early October in the Okavango delta in northern Botswana was the culmination of nearly two years of researching and planning. In Okavango the fishing reaches its peak in September and October when the water levels in the delta drops, and the baitfish are chased by cat fish on the edges of the vegetation. This phenomenon is called “the cat fish run” or “the barbel run”. Tigers on the hunt for the same baitfish are attracted by the commotion, and they can be targeted along the same edges.

I fished with Hagen Klein, a Namibian national, and I have never met anyone talking that much. He was a nice enough guy, and I have certainly encountered my share of fly fishing “personalities”, but sometimes you needed to stop listening and concentrate on the fishing. Head guide Lionel Song and Johann du Preez took turns guiding us and they did a perfect and professional job. They are both South Africans employed by Tourette fishing, who had organized the trip for me from Maun in Botswana to the camp and back. I stayed in a comfortable cabin on the Xaro lodge located on the banks of the Okavango River.

Especially the first days we found a lot of interesting runs, and the first fish in the boat were cat fish, more precisely sharp-toothed cat fish from a couple of pounds to 12-15 pounds. They are strong fish testing the 9-weight rod to the limit, especially because you cannot allow them to run into the vegetation. Then they will take your line in, and you will probably not get it back. So grab your fly line and hold on. It is the most intense fighting I have ever done without ever seeing any of my backing.

After the first catfish the first tigers hit the fly. The game is to set the hook strongly and do not let go. A loose set, a trout strike or letting the tiger run will nearly every time end up with a lost fish. Tension on the line is what it takes, and it took a few practice runs before I got the hang of it. The tigers fight strongly for a few minutes, tired out pretty quickly after short runs and spectacular jumps. When landing them you need to be very careful since given the chance they will bite through your fingers.

After one landed tiger fish the first day – out of more than 10 strikes – the next days more tigers were located and landed, and during my stay I managed to get two 10-pound tigers in the net. They are considered trophy fish in the Okavango delta. Our guides Lionel and Johann were onto the fish for the first 4-5 days, then most of the runs died out, and we had to go many kilometers by boat to find small and not very productive runs. A few tigers were still landed – catfish too – but the fishing became difficult.

The trip ended up on a high after all. Heavy flies and 350 grains sinking lines was the remedy the first 8 days, but on the last day towards the end of the day, Johann managed to find some surface action for us on a day when everybody struggled to find fish. The learning curve took off from square one again, and a few fish were missed before the first one was landed. Small fish but they kept hammering the Gurgler every cast. I had a big smile on my face when the boat pulled into the lodge for the last time, and only the tedious trip back home to chilly Denmark was left. And back in Denmark the urge to go back emerged after a few days.

There is also a longer report in Danish. Also you can read the blog from Tourette Fishing with other details from the trip.

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© / Jan Steffensen