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!
Any 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!
The 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!
Come 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!
As 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!
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.
One 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!
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!
The 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!