Historically related to the Zambezi River and waterways past, catching tigerfish on a fly rod with out stamping a passport has by no means been extra accessible for South African fishers. KZN’s Lake Jozini boasts the southernmost ‘striped water canine’.
Phrases Jazz Kuschke | Images Gareth Reid
We’re tucked up tight into an inlet on the japanese shore of Lake Jozini in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This a part of the primary dam is characterised by bays lined with sunken timber, dramatic drop-offs and shallow weed beds. To focus on tigerfish right here on fly-fishing sort out, you want a stable boat outfitted with a stealthy trolling motor to get into the prime positions. Behind us, the Lebombo Mountains appear to rise proper out of the lake. The identify of the vary is derived from the Zulu phrase ubombo that means ‘huge nostril’ – maybe in reference to how the Jurassic age volcanic rock juts throughout the panorama because it types the border with Swaziland. It’s not a excessive vary, however spectacular and moody. Within the morning mist it feels form of mysterious.
And fishy. It feels correctly fishy. Every solid with my 7-weight fly-rod is one among intent, an inkling that at any second I might get a reduce burned into my stripping finger, courtesy of a Zambezi double-figure fish.
We’ve already had a reasonably productive morning by way of some upside-down climate: what began out as a heat, misty and windless morning morphed by way of rain squalls and gusty gales, punctuated by some far-off rolling thunder. Our tally of caught-and- launched fish was pushing double figures.
The common tigerfish caught on Lake Jozini is round 40cm lengthy and goes to about 2lbs (900g). When circumstances are proper and your casting is pin-point, you’ll be able to simply bounce 10 fish within the two- to three-pound vary from out of the dam margins in a session.
Nearly all of these are feisty males and, whereas they is perhaps constructed just like the scrumhalves of the staff, they sort out like centres and brawl like frontrankers. Something over 5 kilos (2.3kg) is an effective fish. Nearly, dare I say it, the equal of a double-figure (in kilos as these are historically weighed) fish within the Zambezi. The distinction right here is that concentrating on these smaller fish on lighter rods, on the floor, and in technical conditions is a helluva lot of enjoyable.
Up on the bow of Mavungana Flyfishing’s custom-outfitted skiff my fishing accomplice, Jonno Owens, is making casts into the tight pockets proper up on the shoreline, whereas I work the drop-off within the mouth of the bay with a sinking line. I put out a longish solid, throwing one mend to assist with the sink charge, at all times preserving contact.
On the opposite finish of the 15lb tippet, by way of a #2 piano wire hint, is a burple (black and purple) brush fly. Not like the river programs tigers frequent – the place there’s inevitably a little bit of color – on Pongola one might be fishing tigers in nearly gin-clear water. The dearth of present additionally means the fish will get a a lot better have a look at the fly because it stays of their kill zone for for much longer, aiding the concept that imitative baitfish patterns in the fitting sizes and hues are best.
As the road straightens I start the retrieve. I’ve obtained the road gripped between index and center finger on the rod deal with, with a gradual deliberate strip on the opposite. On the third strip the road stops stable. The take is all energy and grit. Annoyance even, however not velocity. There is no such thing as a blistering first run, no straight-to-air. Simply brute downward power – an eat in contrast to I’d skilled from a tiger earlier than.
Two extra stable strips and the hook is ready. I raise the rod right into a stable bend. The fish continues to energy down and barely throughout. For treasured seconds I’m connected, 30 maybe. Then nothing. The chief had parted as if it didn’t exist. A double determine fish – little doubt in my thoughts.
It’s a shocked, inconsolable loss on the margin of Swaziland, however then, that’s fly-fishing for tigers.
‘Sorry dude,’ says skilled information Jonathan Boulton from the helm of the boat. He is aware of how a lot shedding a trophy fish like that stings. No different phrases are wanted.
Native is (very) lekker
‘Stalking cruising tigerfish within the shallows, among the many weed beds, hippos and crocs of the flooded margins of Lake Jozini, for me is about as exhilarating because it will get,’ Jonathan will inform you when quizzed about his favorite fly-fishing goal.
Jonathan based Mavungana Flyfishing in Dullstroom in 1997 and has since run guided journeys to focus on unique fish species – from Atlantic salmon in Russia to peacock bass within the Amazon and large trevally within the distant atolls of the Indian Ocean, amongst others. So, for him to say the southernmost distribution of the African tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) as his dearest, is an announcement to carry on to.
‘I prefer it as a result of the fishing is extra imitative and hunting-like… the water is normally gin-clear and the tigers typically feed on very particular species (and measurement) of baitfish,’ he says.
‘You’re continually altering flies, trimming and eradicating flash (from these flies) and tying all the way down to lighter leaders.’
South African tigers are restricted to a couple waterways, most of that are within the Lowveld and move in, by way of, or out of the Kruger Nationwide Park. Lake Jozini then presents arguably probably the most accessible homegrown tigerfish water.
Beforehand referred to as Pongolapoort, at roughly 30km lengthy and 5km vast, it’s a severe piece of water. Accomplished in 1973 within the gorge separating the Lebombo and Ubombo mountain ranges, it was constructed in a part of the Pongola Sport Reserve – the primary proclaimed wildlife space in South Africa. The dam’s water degree remained low till it was crammed, nearly in a single day, by cyclone Domoina on 31 January 1984.
It stays a wild place as we speak, surrounded by reserves the place rhino, buffalo and elephant cruise the banks, and crocs, hippo and tigerfish guard the bays. When the wind will get up (which is pretty typically) it turns into wilder nonetheless and there have been incidents of boats moving into severe hassle and worse, through the years.
The dam has made an excellent restoration after 4 years of dangerous drought, which noticed the extent drop all the best way all the way down to 21% at instances. Whereas not near its unique 100% once more, it’s now settled and steady and the annual cycle appears to be again in movement. This sees the summer season rains from October by way of January fill it up, with round 20% of the water launched throughout October to assist flood the Makatini flats downstream, the place small-scale farmers depend on it to irrigate their subsistence crops.
The early season rains are a fertile time within the dam. This (and the rising water temp) triggers the larger females to run for flowing water – in direction of the river and on upriver to a protected part to spawn. The vegetation which grows on the uncovered banks throughout the dry season will get flooded, providing construction for small fish to cover. The hydrilla weed beds are lush, making the margins of the dam much more alive.
‘Seeing a protracted, closed-off weed mattress towards the shoreline with only a single opening and realizing tigers will probably be there to ambush baitfish, provides a rare degree of satisfaction…’ Jonathan says. ‘Then, touchdown a small polar fibre baitfish by way of the hall and stripping it again ensures a take.’
For the Subsequent Technology
Maybe probably the most satisfying half for accountable fishers is watching that fish swim off after the duel. All fish caught are handled with the utmost respect by the skilled guides and stored out of the water for the shortest attainable time by which to rapidly seize a photograph.
‘The fly fisher of as we speak is aware of the threats of worldwide warming, ruthless overfishing and air pollution of waterways. We champion the reason for clear waters (each salt and recent) and wholesome fish shares as a result of we’d love our children to expertise what we did,’ Jonathan says. ‘We help conservation initiatives, and accomplice with lodges that help and develop native communities to take care of their ecosystems.’
‘We pursue our quarry as if it’s a matter of life-and-death however as soon as all is claimed and carried out, we maintain and admire earlier than rigorously releasing them to swim once more,’ Jonathan concludes.
Swim once more certainly, and develop into the behemoths that lurk within the deeper pockets and snap your 15lb tippet as if it’s a spider net. These fish that make you return. Repeatedly.
From Durban: Take the N2 north previous
Empangeni and Mkuze, persevering with on to Pongola the place you flip left on the Pongola Sport Reserve Leeukop Gate and observe the Mpalane/Nkwazi indicators for 12km.
From Gauteng: Journey to Ermelo, then observe indicators to Piet Retief and Pongola. From Pongola, journey south on the N2 for 30km; 1km after crossing the Pongola River flip proper on the Pongola Sport Reserve Leeukop Gate (gate hours are 6am–6pm) and observe the Mpalane/Nkwazi indicators.
Mavungana Flyfishing runs a four-day, five-night fishing safari at Lake Jozini based mostly out of Nkwazi Lake Lodge in Pongola Sport Reserve. This prices R19 950 pp sharing, which incorporates lodging, all meals, teas and low, boats with limitless gas, and guided fishing. In the event you’re anxious you gained’t do properly on fly, the lodge has spinning and dwell bait gear obtainable, too. However right here’s a tip: in case your casting is as much as scratch and also you take heed to your information, you’ll outfish the traditional gear guys, with a fly rod, each time. flyfishing.co.za/journey/shallow-water-tigers-pongola
Want To Know
One of the best time to go is Might–June and August–October.
You will have:
• 7-, 8- or 9-weight high quality quick motion rods with matching reels.
• Tropically rated DI7 or taking pictures head fly traces with a second rod rigged with an intermediate or floater and a 20–25lb straight mono chief.
• Skinny piano wire hint materials.
• Assortment of Mavungana Flyfishing custom-tied tiger clousers and brush flies.
• As well as, you’ll be able to pack a 5/6 fast-action rod, matching reel and floating line for tilapia, in addition to a choice of dry-flies and nymphs.