Feb 04

Makhangoa Community Camp : 28th Jan – 2 Feb 2016

The times they are changing. And so is the weather, luckily for the better! After what has been the worst drought in the last 100 years, El-nino finally started losing its grip on the Lesotho highlands, and with the rolling thunder came the first big rains in all their glory. With a well restored Bokong river, thousands of yellow fish started their, delayed, but epic, migration up river for their summer residence.

Makhangoa Community CampThe group of FlyCastaway guests from Jo’burg consisting of Pat, Tom, Andrew, Riaan, Brent and Jean, timed it to perfection, and rolled into the hills just as the Bokong reached optimal conditions. Shortly after their arrival everybody had stuck some hard fighting yellows, with Pat landing a solid six pounder. To end off a good first day on the water we had a braai of epic proportions.

Makhangoa Community CampOn day two we worked the top end of beat one and beat two, where many fish came up to the dry fly without hesitation in the golden morning light. It wasn’t long before the weather turned and Tom resorted to fishing nymphs in the head of Ed’s pool where he proceeded to land a small truck load of fish. If it wasn’t for the lighting he would probably still be fishing there. Luckily the weather broke, and allowed us to squeeze in an afternoon session before retiring to camp for some home-made gourmet beef burgers.

Makhangoa Community CampOn the third day it was time for us explore the spectacular and equally challenging third beat. Brent was quick to pick a few good yellows from some fast flowing pocket water. While we headed up stream onto the very skinny and challenging Skate-park section, Stu and the other chaps worked their magic on the crystal clear runs at the end of beat two. Skate-park was challenging, but Pat accepted that challenge with open arms and fooled some fish into eating his ‘firetruck ant’. Heavy weather pushed us back to camp, but it was not long before we braved the cold and wet to go bash more Yellows. Between Tom, Pat and Jean almost every fish in Diepgat was caught, measured and released to fight another day.

IMG_2457copyWe woke up to a chocolate river on day four, but this didn’t stop this ever optimistic group from trying. We nearly hiked off the map to find clearer water but in the end Mother Nature won this round, and who can complain about too much rain after such a prolonged drought! After a burning hike back to camp, the guys had a beer or two, recharged their batteries, and headed back onto the water for the afternoon session. Fishing until the lure of dinner had everyone back in camp. Three roasted chickens later, and the struggle of the long day out battling the elements was long forgotten. It was a great end to wonderful trip.

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They came, they saw and they conquered the mighty Bokong River and its wild Yellow fish. Well done to a great group of guys who fished like champs and who were rewarded with champion fish! Hope to see you again soon

All the best from the Makhangoa Community Camp

Johann and Stu

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Jan 06

Makhangoa Community Camp Grp 5: 16 – 21 Dec 2015

Makhangoa Community Camp, Lesotho

With the lack of rain persisting and the Bokong River getting gradually harder to fish, Stu and I decided to give the Malibamatsu River a bash. Due to government regulation the Katse dam has to let out a specific quota of water to sustain the river level. This means that the Malibamatsu always has proper flow and although the fishing can be very technical it became a very promising and feasible option for our incoming clients.

IMG_1534copyThe first gents to arrive were David and Luke Baker who made their way up from the Cape for some father and son time. On their first afternoon we fished on ‘Diepgat’ below the camp to some hungry Yellows feeding deep in the water column. With minor adaptation to Luke’s normal competition setup, some spotting from the cliff-side and loud shouting from my side he managed to lift into a bunch of decent fish.

IMG_1747copyAs the first light hit the water the following day we set out to fish the Malibamatsu below the dam wall in search of some trout. All the riffles and shallow runs were filled with foolish young trout that ate as if there was no tomorrow. To get to the bigger trout however, Luke and David changed to deep sinking nymphs and minnow imitations and fished them tight against the bank. This proved too much for the Rainbows to resist as both David and Luke got stuck into some decent fish. After negotiations with the LHDA we got permission to fish the pool below the Katse dam wall, a place that is basically untouched by fly fishermen and just to sweeten the deal our guests ended up taking a couple of Rainbow trout that tipped the scales at 2pounds.

IMG_1678copyOn day three our new guests who came in during the previous day, Andrew and Dave, got the chance to pull some Malibamatsu Trout. After hearing the great reports from Luke and David they were fired up for the day on the water. The deep searching proved deadly once again as many fish in the two pound range came to the net. Dave was on form with the best fish of the session going over three pounds. As with all good fishing stories; the best fish of the day (rainbow estimated at 6pounds) shook himself loose from the hook just before the net.

IMG_1738copyThree more gents arrived on our doorstep the third day, Gerry, Ralph and Chris. Luckily these fellas were as keen to just enjoy the stunning Lesotho landscape as they were to catch some fish, as the weather conditions deteriorated. The fourth day we went out to search for Yellows, but soon returned to camp for some cold beers and good food as a sudden drop in the barometric pressure put the fish down. This drop in the pressure was not all bad as the following day a proper weather system moved in and offered some brief respite from the crippling drought with a short lived downpour.

IMG_1600copyDespite some testing conditions on the Bokong River its large cousin the Malibamatsu River came through for us in spectacular fashion. More than two dozen good fish were landed by these fine fishermen. The harsh climatic conditions served as a reminder that we cannot control what nature is up to, but that we can choose how to react to difficult conditions. It was a cracker of a start to the season and we hope to tell many more fishy stories after the holiday break.

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Best wishes, Johann and Stu

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Dec 17

Makhangoa Community Camp Grp 4: 11 – 15 Dec 2015

On Friday the 11th of December a hopeful and jolly group of Jo’burgers arrived on the doorstep of the Makhangoa Community Camp. Cousins, Chesney and Trevor were joined by their uncle Peter and two mates Eugene and Paul. They were well prepared for the increasingly tough conditions and came with positive attitudes and willing to put in the hard yards to catch some fish in very tough and low water conditions.

IMG_1408copyThe first afternoon was spent getting settled into camp and a good rest after the exhausting drive into the backcountry. In the late afternoon we had a bit of a target practice session with a ‘kettie’ that soon turned into a full-blown Lesotho-slingshot-stone throwing-competition. The evening was spent fishing Home pool and it wasn’t before Chesney landed a pretty brown trout in the 20inch range.

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Day two was a productive one for Eugene who managed to get plenty of action just above camp and on Ed’s pool. Peter a.k.a. Uncle, also got so action on a team of nymphs. Paul and Chesney worked Diepgat just below camp with Stu and were rewarded with some good Yellows.

IMG_1429copyOn the third day the gang voted for a full day out in search of Yellows on beat two and three. After some serious stalking Paul hooked into a decent Rainbow Trout in some skinny water that managed to spit the hook at net-side. That was the last decent action for the day as the upper reaches of the river has become vacant due to the harsh conditions. Luckily the lower section was forgiving and Trevor managed three decent Yellows and Chesney one.

DSCF1742copyOn day four the guys had a well-deserved rest from the long hike and the festivities the night before. In the late afternoon as the wind died down the Jo’burg boys showed the fish who’s boss and managed to catch a bunch of finned critters from Home pool. The trip ended of a proper high note as all the guys got stuck into some proper Bokong Yellowfish, with a couple of Brown Trout and Rainbows just to sweeten the deal.

IMG_1426copyWith some well-deserved fish, great laughs, plenty of whiskey and some tired bones we sent this fine group gents back to the concrete jungle, with the hope to see them again at the MCC when water conditions are back to normal. Cheers boys

Johann and Stu

Dec 14

Sette Cama, Gabon – 1-9 December 2015

December 1st saw the start of our 2015/2016 season.

We were joined this week by Willie Brink, Shaun White, and Laurence van Eyssen (all from RSA), Tim Earnshaw from the UK, and two French guests, Patrick and Erick.

The group arrived nice and early in camp, so after a quick briefing and getting everyone acquainted with their rooms, we sorted out everyones tackle and headed out for the evening session. Due to a lack of rain, there was very little colour in the water and as expected, only a handful of jacks decided to come and play. The guys capitalised on these fish however and quickly we had a couple fish on the beach. Nothing crazy but not a bad start to the week.

As quickly as it started, it slowed down to an almost complete halt. The fish were just nowhere to be found. Only the odd jack here and there with a small african-threadfin thrown into the mix. The guys worked very hard to raise bites and Laurence in particular, got rewarded handsomely for his effort on the morning of Day 3. Working a 2oz SeaIron Spoon slowly along the bottom, he hooked into a monster sized jack crevalle that gave him the fight of a lifetime. After a solid 20-30min of tug-o-war, he brought the fish into the shallow water and landed this brute of a fish, estimated to be in the region of 22-23kg. Not your average sized jack but then again, you don’t come to Gabon to catch small fish. This fish injected some much needed enthusiasm back into the lads and soon we had a couple more fish on the beach.

Laurrence with his beast Jack

Laurrence with his beast Jack

Over the second half of the week the rains finally arrived. Not in large amounts but a little rain is always better than no rain at all. The colour of the water around the mouth area turned back to the normal black-tea stained colour, and instantly the fishing improved. Some Giant African Threadfin made an appearance along with some very big tarpon. The latter only revealing themselves during first light in the morning and last light in the evening. They were feeding quite far out but in spectacular fashion.

Willie Brink managed to hook into one on the second last morning on a Orion Plug in the surf. This fish was estimated to be in the region of 80-90kg and after its first jumped, gave Willie the hiding of his life. His Shimano Twinpower 1400 reel loaded with 80lbs braid was no match for this giant and the strong current. Left to lick his wounds and regroup, Willie bounced back that same evening by landing 4 cuberra snapper off the boat, anchored in the mouth area. All ranging between 15-25kg.

Needless to say, on the last morning everyone was back in the surf hoping for a repeat of the previous morning. Working the mouth area on the dropping tide before first light, the guys got stuck into the otolithe and giant african threadfin. They were all in the region of 3-6kg and could not leave the Contact Britt 75g sinking stickbait alone. Also fished very slowly with small twitches, they found this lure irresistible and were nailing it cast for cast. Shaun posted a score of 3 cast 3 fish at one stage.

Another beautiful Jack Crevalle taken during a very dramatic sunset

Another beautiful Jack Crevalle taken during a very dramatic sunset

In between this feeding frenzy, Erick managed to hook into a big tarpon right behind the shore dump. This fish went absolutely crazy, jumping all over the place! But Erick brought his A-game to the beach(along with some luck) and after quite a short but very intense fight, had this brute on the beach. We estimated this fish to be around 50-60kg and released it again after a quick photo session. Once the sun came up the fishing slowed down again and also brought our trip to an end.

The fishing was quite tough this week but in the end, we got shown that no matter what the conditions, the guys who persist and work hard, always gets rewarded.

Have a look at our photo gallery from the week right here:

(Facebook Gallery)

Till next time

The Tourette Fishing Gabon Guides Team.

Erick exhausted after a very intense fight

Erick exhausted after a very intense fight

Not only are the fish big in Gabon, but also the elephants. Check the size of the ivory on these guys

Not only are the fish big in Gabon, but also the elephants. Check the size of the ivory on these guys

Willie Brink with a nice Jack taken in the surf

Willie Brink with a nice Jack taken in the surf

Dec 09

Tanzania Tigerfish Grp 9: 7th – 14th Nov 2015

The last few weeks of any busy season can really seem to drag on for a jaded guide, and days and even sessions can have an infinite quality that takes some serious inner strength to endure. Given this possibility, it was really amazing how fast the second last week flew by in a blur of big fish and intense fishing, and altogether too soon we said farewell to Pat, Pete, Paul and Matt and suddenly the last group was upon us. With the water still high and dirty, the rains still building and threatening, and a full house group of eight anglers to deal with, this was going to be a big task to make sure it would be a success for all involved. Luckily we were hosting some familiar faces in South African medics Petrus, Tinus, Harold and Jan, who had all been to Lesotho and/or Sudan with Tourette in recent times. They were joined by fellow doctors Charl, Neil, Willem and Henk, whose medical expertise was immediately called upon to help stitch up Rob’s Tiger bite, incurred landing one of the many of last week’s fish!

IMG_1134Any time the water levels rise and colour, although the fishing switches off, as long as there is no more rain upstream, there is always the enticing possibility of wild fishing as the water resumes its original condition. This is what we were banking on rescuing the week, and the early indications were positive as the levels continued to drop over the first two days. Going against history, it was the Mnyera that seemed to be recovering faster, and the fishing began to follow suit. Starting slowly and progressively improving over the following days, it seemed that it was the larger fish that were the most active. This seemed to mean that extended quiet spells were routinely shattered by a series of violent takes before suddenly going quiet again, making for riveting fishing! By the end of their allotted 3 days fishing on the Mnyera, it was fair to say that the guys had made the most of their time, with Petrus boasting 2x 16lb, Henk a 17lb, Jan a 14lb and Willem helping himself to a 19lb late on the Tuesday afternoon in Kasingo rapids. Not bad going at all!

IMG_1102The Ruhudji was proving a tougher challenge as the waters continued to drop, but remained cool and dirty, and the flood had also moved a lot of riverbed material around, completely changing the face of many of the established spots and forcing us to really re evaluate every spot from scratch. There was a healthy number of mid-smaller size fish that kept us busy with some areas really stacked up with plenty of lively specimens. Charl did break the mould in a big way early on the first full morning, in the midst of a couple of really good hits at a busy spot on the lower Ruhudji, finally converting a faultless 18lb and setting himself up very nicely for bragging rights! Tinus had some great shots at some big fish in a hot drift through a shallow straight on the middle Ruhudji, connecting with three 15lb+ fish that all somehow came unstuck! He did manage to convert a sweet 12lb the next day which went down very well!

IMG_0725Come change over time, it seemed that Charl, Neil, Harold and Tinus were in the pound seats with the Mnyera showing slightly more promise than the still clearing Ruhudji, although they would do really well to top Petrus, Willem, Jan and Henks exploits!

FU9A3536As it unfolded, it did indeed prove to be the case, as really big fish were prowling aggressively, and time and time again, one of the guys found themselves plugged into a real handful of a fish. It reached a point where it became genuinely difficult to judge the size of the fish eating, as the hits were consistently aggressive, and all seemed to point to huge fish! Many of them proved to be too hot to handle, a couple more snapped off, and a some managed to make it to the boat, with Charl again in the mix with another 18lber, Neil with a 19lb and 13lb on popper during a purple patch in the rapids, and Tinus and Harold clocking in with 17lb and 14lb respectively. A high class roster of fish, no doubt, but these three days were definitely about the ones that got away, with everyone experiencing the true wrath of big aggressive tigers on multiple occasions, which is what it really is all about!

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On the Ruhudji, the fishing remained tough, but the laughs came easily as the guys made light work of fishing the unfavourable conditions. Henk managed to maintain his golden touch, and seemed to be right on the Tigers’ wavelength, knowing when to fish hard and when to sit back, relax, and enjoy some time out on the river. He managed a 14lb and 11lb plus a handful of smaller fish on a morning where the other boat did not register a take for the whole morning session! Willem also lured a 16lb out of a tricky spot to add some quality to a tough day on the upper beat.

FU9A3435One of the great things about these trips is the quality time we get to spend with some great individuals, and the entertainment value of this trip was top-drawer, making the tough fishing a breeze as the jokes and impromptu musicals kept a constant upbeat vibe! Petrus capped off a superb week by spending his last two hours pursuing a Black Velvet, and I personally couldn’t have asked for a better way to cap of the 2015 season than landing a beautiful specimen at the death! The enjoyment and appreciation for this stunning fish will be remembered for a long time!

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In so many ways it was the perfect ending to a fantastic season, great fishing with a group of guys who were out to enjoy themselves whatever came their way, and who really took pleasure in the many small things that make tiger fishing on in the Kilombero Valley the life experience it is. The rains held off, the rivers cleared up, the big fish came out to play, and when the fishing was tough, and the guys took enjoyment from the mind blowing natural wonders around us. This was a blessing for us as season weary guides because it forced us to see it all again like the first week of a season, and reminded us how lucky we are to be able to work here and how much we would miss it until the next season!

FU9A3645The staggering number of huge fish encountered in this last week is also a great comfort for us as it reassures us that the strict fishing management system is working, and that fishing pressure is not an issue throughout a busy season, and it means we can look forward to more of the same rip roaring action next year! Until then.

Greg, Mark, Stu, Rob, Keith and the KNS team!

Dec 08

Makhangoa Community Camp Grps 1, 2 and 3: 12th Nov – 6th Dec 2015

Group 1 MMC

The first group the season saw a very low Bokong River with conditions that drove us to dig ever deeper into out fly boxes and vests to find ways to outsmart these thin water fish. We were joined by six mates from Jo’burg: Magnus, Bart, Chris (RPH), Harry, Zim and Jaco Schalkwyk. They were well prepared for some tough conditions and came prepared for any situation, with or without fish.

DSCF6180 copyThe first day we probed home pool in search of some salmonid specimens and Bart kicked off proceedings with two Rainbow trout in the 12inch range. The wind had the last say as we were forced to retire and enjoy a cold one in the mancave.

Day two was one to remember, Bart, Harry, Magnus and I headed upriver to fish the top part of beat 1 and lower section of beat 2. The wind made it nearly impossible to fish with dries and so we decided to switch to wet fly tactics. Bart strapped on a grey Zonker minnow and after some intense shouting from my side he ended up hooking and landing a beautiful Brown trout of 22inches. After a quick photoshoot we sent the old boy back into his home to fight another day. From there we battled out the wind on Ed’s pool just below the Makhangoa village where Magnus got stuck into a pretty yellow that could not resist him humble offering.

Beautiful wild river brown trout from Nagaapie bend above camp

The following day we headed out to the estuary to sight fish to some yellows. Unfortunately the wind caused a total blow-out and mudding the water as cloud upon cloud of dust blew onto the water. Defeated but not depressed we decided to call it a day. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the comforts of the Makhangoa Community Camp and there was no shortage of entertainment around the campfire that night as stories were swapped, beers were sipped and stacks of wood was burned until late into the night.

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The last full day of fishing was hard work, but luckily the wind allowed us to present flies at some willing Yellows and some rather difficult trout.. Plenty fish were hooked and lost due to the downsizing of terminal tackle, but some made it to the net, and in the end these Jo’burgers could walk away with heads held high.

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Against all odds these guys gave the mountain Kingdom their best shot and were rewarded with some memorable catches, spectacular scenery, good food, friendly people and friendships that will outlast any drought.

Cheers

Johann and Stu

Group 2, MCC Lesotho

This week we welcomed: Andy and Ilyus, two friends from Jo burg, another Andy and his wife Kirsty from Cape Town, Antony from PE and Brian Gees from fly water travel, to a desperately low but ever beautiful Boking river.

IMG_1184 copyUnfortunately due to almost no rain yet this season the river is flowing at a level that one would expect for the middle of winter, and due to Jo burg’s demand for water the dam is also at an all-time low. But against all odds we were able to worked together and get a few good fish out of the deeper pools.

IMG_0996 copyOn day 1 we split the teams and headed up onto the upper reaches of beat 4 hoping to find some resident fish while the other team stayed closer to home targeting the fish in home pool. Unfortunately the fish that were on beat 4 the week prior had made a move, after discovering this we dropped back onto some of the bigger pools on beat three and managed to get everyone into one or two yellows each on dry which made for very rewarding fishing. Meanwhile on home pool, Anthony, Kirsty and Andy had also found success with a few yellows and some very good sized trout.

IMG_1021 copyThe next morning we opted for a go in the estuary to give the pools a rest. Right out the gates Kirsty landed a nice Yellow on a balbyter , unfortunately at about 9am the wind picked up and chased us back to camp.

Over the next couple days we all took a very relaxed approach to the fishing and just focused on good pools over the right times of the day. This tactic paid off with everyone landed decent fish. Andy and Johann work on a large brown for what felt like an age and eventually it paid off with Andy landing a beautiful 22” brown. Kirst the ever consistent managed at least one good sized rainbow each day.

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Ilyus managed to squeeze in a bit of riding and an all new form of donkey polocross. But overall the slow fishing gave everyone a chance to unwind, catch up on some sleep and eat some good food amongst good company.

Cheers

Johann and Stu

Group 3 MCC 2015

The ongoing drought all over the Kingdom of Lesotho, and the heavy rain predicted for this week disappearing, made for tough conditions in a week which is traditionally one of the best in the season.

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Added to the tough conditions, MMCC head guide was floored by a fierce boat of Malaria from his Tanzania season, leaving Keith Clover in charge of a full group while I had to depart camp to tie up my academics UFS.

The first day and a half saw Keith take Terry and David to the bigger pools of beat 2, where some great fish were landed and some bigger fish managed to part the fine tippets fished. Tony, Kev, Neil and Rob also managed a bit of action in the estuary fishing dry and dropper rigs and suspended nymphs. Some good fish landed, and a few that took with such ferocity that tippets were once again parted.

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Luck changed on the third day of the trip. After a slow morning on the water the guys returned to the camp to kick up their feet and enjoy a brew. It wasn’t long before the entire sky turned black with thick clouds and the first drops fell soon after lunch. The rest of the day was spent in front of a blazing fire in the man-cave, listening to the deafening rumble of rain crashing down on the zinc roof. We tied some Balbyters and got the boxes stocked in anticipation of some good fishing the following day. The long awaited rain continued into the night and after a warm meal we turned in for the night with the promise of a restored river.

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At first light we were up and ready for action and although the river level hardly changed, the fish’s mood had certainly improved. I headed down to diepgat, a great pool, just below camp with Tony and Kevin. It wasn’t long before we were blessed with an ant-fall of note and the entire pool came alive with hungry Yellows thrashing at the surface. The Balbyters that we tied the night before matched the hatch perfectly and soon both Kevin and Tony were into good fish. Fish after fish came to the net and soon they started to feel the deep burn of fighting these tenacious Lesotho Yellows. This continued until hunger pains forced us off the water.

IMG_1379copyNeil and Rod joined me for the afternoon session in the head of home pool where a large pack of yellows were cruising in search of some more ants. Neil soon got into two very decent fish back-to-back that both proceeded to teach him a lesson snapping tippet. A second ant-fall brought the water to a boil and Rob landed a pretty Yellow on the ‘gevaarlike Balbyter’. It was a splendid way to end a trip to the highlands and we hope to see these fine gentlemen at the waterside again soon in normal conditions.

Cheers

Johann and Stu

 

Nov 26

Tanzania Tigerfish Grp 8 : 31 Oct – 07 Nov 2015

After meeting the departing Volker at the airstrip, and receiving a brief break down of his two weeks fishing, our incoming guests on the 31st October arrived in camp with a sense of awe, expectation and sky high excitement levels. We were really pleased to be able to welcome back American Paul Lavins, who was making his fourth Tanzania Tiger trip, having been unable to come last year, and is considered an old friend at Tourette HQ. Pete Tandy and Pat Butler, from the UK and Australia respectively, have travelled and fished extensively for salmon, tropical flats species, and a brief Tigerfish spell on the Zambezi some years back, and had come to see if they could better their previous results. Making up the group was well known fly fishing journeyman and photographic journalist Matt Harris from the UK, who was fresh of a 4 week stint in the Amazon targeting big Peacock Bass. After the traditional lunch together at Dhala camp, Matt went over to the Ruhudji with guides Mark and Stu, while the Mnyera contingent set about rigging up the rods for the next day.

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With just a single client on the Ruhudj it was again a prime opportunity for a fly camping expedition, and Matt was always game for something different, so the guys packed up the boats and headed back up river to the majestic Ruhudji Rapids. The plan was to only spend one night up top, so the arrival afternoon was a combination of a quick circuit around the rapids, and then working some of the top stretch and bends off the boat. Although these rapids are small, and hold more fish than you could shake a stick at, some of the spots are pretty technical to fish with very deep fast water, and unless you are consistently getting your fly into the right areas, chances are that you could come away empty handed. This was not the case with Matt, whose first ever Tiger fish was a glorious 17lb fish that came right out of the guts of the raging funnel section! While Matt and Mark covered the rapids, and headed down on the boat, Stu headed off on foot to explore the higher rapids. The fishing was pretty quiet for Matt and Mark but Stu found more than he could have hoped when he bumped a leopard that was drinking from one of the top pools before tearing off up the hill!

The next day the guys headed off downriver with the happy conundrum of having to cover lots of water and countless fishy spots with only one day to do so. Fishing a combination of surface flies, mainly a big Pole Dancer popper, and sinking streamers, the team fished furiously hard but found the going pretty slow. This was probably due to the increasingly unstable weather we had been experiencing as the imminent first rains continued to build. A few fish were raised on the popper, and Matt did pick up a 10lb to go with a couple of smaller ones, but the most memorable moment came while Stu was fighting an 8lb, as a massive fish came and attempted to maul it! Stu was the guide present when the 28lb monster was landed last year, and he maintains that this fish was comfortably larger..! More evidence that the big fish were around, but just not out and about as the weather continued to play havoc.

DSCF1463A light drizzle on Monday evening seemed to have relieved some of the meteorological tension that had been building, and Tuesday was a completely different story. Matt and the guides were into fish from the get go on the Middle beat, with Riffles once again firing hard. Stu was again in the mix, as he boxed and landed a hard-nosed 18lb, while Matt continued to put the heat on numerous 8lb-12lb fish that made for really good hard action. Fish were coming out hot from all corners, and with a very healthy average weight of 8lb, exceptional fishing was had right up until time for departure for the Mnyera.

Only one catchment over on the Mnyera, things had played out slightly differently over the first three days.  Heading upriver to the top beat on Sunday, we had a relatively circumspect morning with the best pulls coming early doors while Pete and Pat were still feeling their way around. However, every time things threatened to go quiet, we would get a press, and both gentlemen managed to convert a couple of 5-6lb fish. A gradual improvement in quality of fish strikes and conversions throughout the afternoon meant that the first full day ended with a very respectable number of fish caught, and of course a couple of rippers that couldn’t quite be tamed! Paul in particular was unlucky with a well hooked big fish that popped the leader deep into the fight.

Monday was spent in the ample confines of the versatile Middle beat, and amidst some heavily building weather. The fish proved to be really aggressive early on and into the mid morning period, with a lot of surface movement and activity, and a myriad of strong strikes from nearly every likely looking piece of water. With Paul, we frantically went through a number of fly pattern combinations trying to tap into the frenzy, including a popper, and although we had a number of strikes from mid size fish, we always felt we were just on the sidelines of the main activity. A very exhilarating but frustrating place to be! Pat and Peter were experiencing the same voracity, but Peter in particular was right in the big fish mix. He managed to latch onto a 14lb, and eventually a magnificent 23lb fish to blow the session right out of the water! It was again a reminder of how having just a few things go your way can really reward a session, and hats off to Peter who was really riding a great wave of form!  The afternoon slowed down quite significantly, although Peter again rose to the fore and weighed in with a 19lb fish just above camp late in the day to wrap up a vintage day of tiger fishing!

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If Monday was a game of T20 cricket with hard and fast action, then Tuesday was definitely a five day test match in one. Pat in particular must be commended on paying a lot of school fees and fishing really well for limited action, while even Peter with his golden arm had to work harder than usual for his fish! He still managed some superb catches, with an 11lb, 10lb and some 5-6lbers, quite a few of which seemed to have come from the exact place that Pat had previously just put a fly! Late in the day, with strong gusting winds and deep dark clouds building, Peter again plugged into a huge fish from deep down, and after another loose and lively fight had another spectacular 19lb fish on board! Paul too had had a long hard day, but managed to stick some nice mid size fish in the afternoon before making a wise choice to avoid an inbound thunderstorm by taking refuge in camp! Supper this night was a lively affair with plenty to report from both parties from the fishing front, and the returning Ruhudji crew had also had a really special encounter with a lioness and cubs on the drive back over, adding further excitement to the mix!

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The news of the big fish prowling the Mnyera had Matt in the grips of some text-book tiger fever, which proved to be extremely infectious, so on Wednesday we decided to poke our heads into a couple of the Kasingo rapids spots to see how they were fishing and to make sure we had some shots there before the imminent rains came down. We had some really good action on surface flies in certain spots (Spag-Bol) while most areas were very quiet. However, our first drift through the rocks back on the boat was really promising, with quite a few positive smashes on Matt’s sinking streamers and also on the guides’ popper rod. With the intensity pushed up even higher, there was a strong feeling of inevitability about someone connecting with a something special, and eventually Matt hooked and delivered a belter of a 22lb out of a slim stream, unleashing some pent up emotions! After going to town on the photographing of this fish, Matt was straight back throwing poppers over anything that looked like it might hold something, and raised quite a few very large Tigers that somehow couldn’t stick! Despite rain falling in the afternoon, we stayed right amongst fish throughout, and found ourselves enjoying a rose tinted spell of pulling really solid 10lb plus fish out of seemingly every spot we worked, a truly remarkable experience!

Over on the Ruhudji, the rains finally came down on Wednesday, putting the afternoon session on the backburner. However by the time of this interference, the unstoppable Pete Tandy had already added an A-grade 18lb on his first day, and backed it up with a 15 and a 14lb on the subsequent days. The going was much tougher than on the Mnyera, with long spells of no positive fish activity, and most of the few takes being short strikes or non committal tugs. The fishermen quickly realised this and instead of being disheartened or conceding to the conditions, they applied themselves with admirable commitment, and maintained a positive outlook and fished with added intensity. It can’t be stressed enough how much of a difference this made to quality of the week, and it was really rewarding to be a part of making the most of their time. Paul Lavins was rewarded with a smoking 14lb Tiger and even added a beautiful Black Velvet yellowfish to his tally before the water conditions deteriorated.

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By Thursday afternoon, the Mnyera had risen about a foot, and undergone temperature and colour changes for the worse, and Tiger fishing became a fruitless enterprise. This was not before the relentless Matt Harris had reined in a few more double digit fish, and raised some really big ones. Having turned his back on the poppers, and now fishing his ‘game changer’ fly (aka the ‘Chinese Dragon!’), Matt suddenly had the attention of some fish that seemed to be in the mid to late 20lb range, with two in particular that really seemed to be pushing the magical 30lb mark! Unfortunately none of them came in for a closer look, but it was a pleasure to be reminded that they are around, and we had a great time trying to work out a way to target them more successfully!

All in all, it was a week drenched in success despite the slightly anti climatic washout finish. The great fish recorded was a testament to the energy and enthusiasm of the clients, which went a long way to energising and motivating the guides! Any week featuring tigerfish of the quality these gents experienced is a successful one, and another cameo from the yellowfish added extra quality. Matt came away with some amazing footage, and the tigerfish’s impressive appearance was definitely done justice! A special mention must be made of Pete Tandy, a quiet and unassuming tiger assassin, who ended up with the joint largest fish on each of the rivers this season!

We are confident that the rivers will recover in no time, and that the tigers will be back to do battle for one more week. I know we’re looking forward to the last week of the season, and here’s hoping for a stellar finish!

 

To view Matt Harris’s full gallery of this week, have a look at the link below:

http://www.mattharrisflyfishing.com/Fly-fishing/TANZANIAMnyeraRuhidjiRivers112/

Nov 10

Tanzania Tigerfish Grp 6 : 17 – 24 Oct 2015

Although time is a relative concept for the Tiger fish at Dhala and Samaki fishing camps, it is amazing what a change a new week and new clients brings. Although in the last week some really good fish were landed, and plenty top notch fish were lost, there were some serious hard yards in between. The inbound clients on the 17th October, namely returning Tiger fish aficionado Volker Schaeffer, and a hunting/fishing group of Americans, must have been riding some collective good Karma to turn it right around!

Although a very keen and experienced fisherman, Roger Mixter had primarily come to do some buffalo hunting, with a bit of fishing in and around the tracking and stalking. However, his wife Zan and sister Pam were more than keen to fill in for him while he was out in the bush, and some really enjoyable sessions of chaos and carnage were had! Both avid trout fisherwomen, the heavy tiger setups took some getting used to, and Pam took to outsourcing the casting and hooking of fish to guide Stu, before taking them on! This was a minor hurdle though, and by the second session of the first day, she had cast, set, fought and landed a couple of her own fish, peaking out at a healthy 6lb. This was followed by an 8lb and 11lb the next day, while Zan chipped in with a couple of fish of her own in a short cameo late in the second afternoon.

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As usual, Volker was very well prepared for his two week stint, with his practical and theory bases fully covered! The first of his two weeks was to be spent entirely on the Mnyera, and his first full day on Sunday took him to the upper reaches. With the first meteorologically stable day in the last week, there was always the feeling that there would be really good opportunities, and Volker came out swinging. Ending up with a 16lb, a 15lb and 2x 14lb, it was fair to say he was off to a flyer!

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This fine effort was immediately backed up on Monday with a stellar day in Kasingo rapids, quelling any doubts about peaking too early! With Stu maneuvering the boat into Sig’s Pool so as to negate a croc threat, the guys were in the pound seats. Landing hooked fish is never easy, but in the Rapids it becomes even more challenging. Shallower water full of rocks and trees mean that the Tigers run far and fast, and can pick and choose which structure to bust one up on! Volker spent most of the morning session some way down this road, losing two huge fish pushing the 20lb barrier, but pulled it back by landing another 14lb. At Double Up he went one better, bringing in a 15lb, and at Lunch Pool he gained total redemption by landing a beautiful 20lb! His second ever fish of 20lb and above, this was a special one for a true Tiger fish purist, and it took the duration of a couple of beers over lunch to fully appreciate! Already an amazing day, it was rounded off with another classic clash with a 19lb fish in Sig’s on the way out, but Volker was now unstoppable, and this one was landed despite wrapping around two trees!

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Maybe because word had reached him of the good fishing, Roger upped his game massively and by Monday evening had shot a very nice old buffalo bull, and a warthog to boot, meaning that he was now free to spend some time on the river. On Tuesday, his first fishing day, he was right into the mix on the lower beat, with a couple of mid teens and fighting a fish over 20lb right to the boat before coming unstuck. Volker had slower going after a lively start in the morning, coming into contact with a 10lb fish, and then boating a sturdy 13lb. The afternoon was also relatively quiet until a combination of the right spot (the Bus Stop) at the right time (15:30) and the right fly (black and purple baitfish)put us right back into the action with a massive but empty 14lb, an 8lb, 7lb and 6lb. Roger showed no signs of slowing down, and continued to rack up impressive stats culminating in pulling a 21lb brute right out of a very tricky spot, making a strong statement on his first Tiger fishing outing!

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After such a ripper of a start, we were all wondering how long it could carry on for, especially with the mornings showing signs of gradually building approaching rains. On Wednesday, things did slow down a bit on the lower Mnyera with Volker but he still ended the day with a 17lb and a 15lb, plus some very exciting late action on a surface fly, which has become a real excitement machine with the perfect water conditions. In an extended drift down to camp, Roger also experienced a mixture of rabid feeding and stone dead patches, boating a 12lb and a couple of mid size fish. This day will be remembered for the two occasions that he was put onto the backing by huge fish, one of which he described as totally unstoppable, plus another very nice 16-17lb fish that was jumped close to the boat.

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Thursday saw Volker return to his happy hunting ground, the Kasingo rapids, which to date had yielded a 24lb fish two years ago, his second 20lb fish earlier in the week, and numerous encounters with other monsters. The magic worked again, and by about 8-30am we were ruing not carrying any beers with us for the morning session as we had nothing with which to celebrate an amazing 23lb fish that had been successfully landed, photographed and released! This was a truly special fish that had us in awe as we continued to fish our way up, losing a couple of big hit and runs, but after a fish like that, it was hard to feel too bad about these for a change! Such a fish will always define a day, the whole week, and for many a whole lifetime of Tiger fishing, but this day will also be remembered for the prolific rise to prominence of guide Stu’s popper creation. This fly produced spectacularly aggressive takes throughout the session, most notably after streamers had failed to get any results, and because of the size of the fish it was raising. Again, more on this front I’m sure! Meanwhile Roger continued to have good action on his black brush fly and various Dorado patterns, and never seemed to be far from a healthy mid teen fish.

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After a bumper week, the Americans ended with a day spent in the splendour of Kasingo, relaxing, swimming and of course fishing. This casual approach is definitely the way to get the best out of a special place, and we had a really good time. Highlights included the group hippo pod impersonation, fishing tiny pocket water for small tigers, and plenty of good food and humour. Roger and guides Greg and Stu rounded it off with a hectic popping session on the walk back to the boat, raising and connecting with a number of awesome fish. With everyone fishing, watching and cheering, it was a very festive little period, and once again underlined the effectiveness and excitement of surface fishing in the current conditions. We ended with an 18lb, a 13lb and a couple of mid size fish, plus a couple of other big swirls and splashes. Exciting times!

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Volker dug deep and put in another full shift on the main river, drifting and anchoring along the top beat. With long quiet periods, the guys varied their tactics between an intermediate line and various streamers, and then the popper during quieter patches. This strategy paid off and once again his sheer determination was rewarded with a big 17lb and a 15lb on the popper.

A week packed full of action, with incredible numbers and quality of fish (we recorded at least one of every size from 10lb-21), and a variety of sideshows such as the superb hunting, the safari experience and fantastic company, this was a week that made full use of the incredible riches that the Kilombero Valley has to offer, and once again reminded us what a special place it is and how lucky we are to be able to share it with people such as these.

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Nov 10

Tanzania Tigerfish Grp 7: 24 – 31 Oct 2015 (Far Upper Ruhudji Camp Mission)

With the Americans departing on the 25th October, and no incoming guests arriving, Volker Schaeffner was left in camp in the company of three Tourette Fishing guides for his second full week in the Valley. Having spent his first week based out of Dhala camp fishing the Mnyera, we were scheduled to head over to the Ruhudji for a full week. After the quality of fishing the Mnyera had produced, it was understandable that Volker was a little apprehensive about leaving this happy hunting ground, but we were very excited to be spending time at the legendary Samaki ‘Guantanamo’ Camp, and also for our planned fly camping jaunt to the upper reaches of the Ruhudji River. Having received and rearranged incoming supplies and had a quick lunch, we were on our way to the next catchment.

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It had been a while since any of us had been up to the top of the Ruhudji, and so we were uncertain of how long it would take us to get there, what we would find up there, and importantly if the fishing would still be as good as in the past. Although it is extremely remote, most of this section is out of the protection of the hunting concessions, and therefore potentially susceptible to various exploitations. As it was we made really good time after our early departure and strategic boat packing, and we were in the little visited Ruhudji Rapids for lunch. It is a spectacular journey up the river to reach this point, with the channel becoming narrower, the water cleaner, and the surrounding landscape more dramatic as we edged further back into the escarpment. At some points, such as while the boat navigates it’s way over a crystal clear shallow pebble section plunging into a deep black pool, or while weaving between overhanging vegetation from both banks, you struggle to remind yourself that you will be fishing these same spots for massive tiger fish! After enduring this prospect for the six and half hour journey up, Volker was pretty fired up by the time we docked at the rapids, and had brought in a 4lb fish before we had even unpacked the lunchbox! We spent the rest of the afternoon working our way around this unique, compact Tiger fishing paradise, maneuvering into positions to cast into the pools while guide Stu set up an epic campsite overlooking this gem of a place. Volker ended with a 14lb fish landed, a 16-17lb fish lost right at the death, and a few more hard presses, including one that opened the hook. As we enjoyed some hard earned drinks with the rush of the rapids and a rising full moon as the back drop, it was hard to imagine being more relaxed or content, as it seemed that we could eliminate one major worry, as the big fish seemed to be in residence and in good numbers!

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The next morning after a quick but quiet visit to some of yesterday’s more productive sites, Volker and guide Mark set off on a marathon drift, while Greg and Stu packed up camp and followed behind. Nearly every bend on this upper stretch provides some sort of promising looking structure as the river carves its way through hard rock and clay valleys, and time is the only constraint to fishing them all. Even with a whole day of solid drifting and fishing, we couldn’t do all of them justice, but there is always the consolation that leaving one means more time to fish another! The trailing guide’s boat had some good action on some of these deep spots with Stu dropping a plus minus 18lb close in, while Volker preferred to work the structure filled shallower straights between them, and by lunch time had a voracious 19lb to his name out of such a place. We continued making our leisurely way down throughout the afternoon, with the guide boat motoring ahead to set up camp just outside the concession, and by the time a tired but happy Volker clocked in, he had added a 14lb, 11lb and 10lb to the roster. Another evening in a superb sandbank campsite gave us the chance to reflect on an unblemished day’s fishing on an unbelievably beautiful stretch of river.

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Our campsite just outside the concession boundary afforded us a rare and exciting prospect of fishing our top beat early in the morning without the usual 2-2 ½ hour boat ride up, and Volker and guide Mark were into fish at Top Riffles before 8am, having already had a leisurely wake up and camp breakfast! The fishing was up and down throughout the morning, with the guide’s boat experiencing some absolutely wild action during a two hour golden period between a couple of the deeper bends, where it seemed 12-15lb fish were on tap, to go with a stunning 17lb fish landed by Stu after a real battle of wills. Fishing mainly an intermediate line with smaller flies, Volker may have missed some of this action but did convert yet another 19lb’er during a brief foray with the sinking line at the notorious Grimey’s seam. The afternoon was also lively but we were very noticeably into fish that were spawning as we started picking up lots of smaller fish concentrated in certain areas, most notably the tail-out of deep channels and seams. Taking care not to pillage these areas, we enjoyed some really good action with the smaller but very feisty males, and managed to pick up a 10lb female as well.

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After enjoying a night of relative luxury back in the rustic Samaki Camp, Wednesday saw Volker heading down river where he had some scores to settle from his last visit to the bottom beat. It was again a day filled with action from mostly smaller fish, with a really impressive total of 20 fish being landed! There were 3 notable big pulls, but they were quite few and far between, and none managed to stick, although a big post spawn 10lb did make it to the boat.

Tanzania 2015-16Back upriver on Thursday, it was a slightly different story. Without the relentless action of the smaller fish, the going was slower and quieter, but some really good fish made it onto Volker’s increasingly impressive score board. A 16lb turbo submarine at Riffles late in the evening was a fine way to end a day that also produced a 14lb, 11lb and 10lb!

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Two weeks of Tiger fishing is no walk in the park, and the guides had frequently asked themselves how Volker was able to maintain such a level of intensity throughout, and Friday was no different. Despite the obvious fatigue from throwing endless casts in pretty extreme heat, the casting and hooking aspect were now muscle memory reflexes for Volker, and it was really showing in his creating and converting of opportunities. Fishing the Middle beat, it was again slow going as the weather took it’s time to settle down. However, a big take on the drift through some pushing structure water, and Volker landed a 17lb fish to turn a slow session into a ripper! Meanwhile back at camp, guides Greg and Stu continued the pursuit for yellowfish feeding on shallow sand banks, and managed to entice a few eats, and to land two beautiful specimens of around 3lb each. After a quick but fruitless session on the river after lunch, Volker called time on his stint on the Ruhudji, and on his epic two week trip as a whole, as we prepared ourselves for the trek back to Dhala camp.

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If you were to spend two weeks tiger fishing this year, I doubt you could hope to do much better than Volker did in terms of timing and execution. Sure, the rivers seem to be fishing better and better as the season progresses, but he certainly made the most of it, and his tireless enthusiasm and appreciation for good fishing made the whole time a really memorable and worthwhile experience for us guides. The fly camping trip on the upper Ruhudji was a massive highlight for all of us, and we were glad to be able to share it with someone like our old friend Volker.

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Here’s hoping the building rain clouds can hold off for another two weeks, and we can continue this great run of form into a strong finish to the season!

Nov 09

Makhangoa School River Education and Stationary Donation

 

IMG_0858Each year the Tourette Fishing and the Makhangoa Community get together for a river education day at the Makhangoa Primary School. A huge part of this day is the stationary donation, made possible with the generous support of National Stationary. This remote school in the Lesotho mountains, is a major beneficiary of the Makhangoa Community Camp, with current beneficiation projects including the clearing of a sports field, and the building of a foot bridge to help children cross the river during high water periods and get to school.

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Our relationship with the Makhangoa Community is based on a zero hand out policy, rather introducing means and policy to empower the community to affect change. This is no different with the school stationary donation. With the help of the headmaster and teachers, the morning is set aside to educate the younger children on the importance of protecting the environment, river, and fish which attract fly fishing tourists from around the world to their village. We then set off on a river clean up walk, from the school to the camp, where the children are responsible for clearing any litter they find. After a quick snack it is time for the much anticipated stationary donation. Here, we put together a small pack of stationary for each pupil, with the bulk of the stationary being left with the teachers to use throughout the year. This ensures all the children walk away with a great present on the day (the joy on their faces when receiving brand new stationary is wonderful to see), but more importantly, the school is not short of vital items such as pens, pencils and notebooks for the year ahead.

A big thanks to National Stationary for making this yearly project a possibility.

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