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Onto Namibia Sharks

First evening success on a spoon.

The trip that Steve and yours truly had to Namibia can be split into two parts really- the freshwater Tigerfishing of the Caprivi Strip, and the saltwater Shark fishing of the Skeleton Coast, and two more contrasting styles and environments it would be hard to imagine from a single country.

As our tiny prop-plane buzzed its way in to land on the dark strip of earth below us, for miles around the dominant feature was water- lots and lots of it. "I bet there's a few Tigerfish down there", commented Steve. The Caprivi Strip, nestled at the north eastern corner of Namibia, sits at the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers, where the borders of Zambia, Botswana & Namibia itself all converge. It is an immensely beautiful area, with expanses of lush marsh and reedbeds, bush and plains, with a corresponding amount of wildlife to keep you entertained in the brief lulls in fishing activity as hippo, crocodile, elephant and hundreds of bird species all frequent the edge of the water in huge quantities. The rivers themselves also give a wide variety of environments in which to pursue our adversary, from the immense, wide powerful and smooth gliding Zambezi, to the chattering rapids, fast narrow runs and wide deep pools of the Chobe. This is without even mention of the canal-like Kasai Channel which also bisects the area.

Some beautiful Chobe rapids- and full of fish.

As it was late afternoon when we arrived, we had soon dumped our kit in the tent at the lovely Ichingo Lodge on Impalila Island, scrambled together some tackle, and set off in a pirogue for a few hours wading and casting on some of the rapids directly below the camp. It was great to be fishing in shorts and a T-shirt again, having come from the dull, damp miserable weather of November England to the dry, hot climate of November Namibia. In fact, is it just me, but how nice would it be if Britain generally had a bit less weather and bit more climate...? 

During our couple of hours slipping about on the rapids, we caught several small Tigers on our selection of spoons and spinners, and it was a lovely way to get an early bend in the rods and blend ourselves into our new surroundings. However, the next day we were to take a 14ft aluminium craft equipped with an outboard and cool box full of goodies a lot further downstream and drift our way through miles of pristine river- something that the both of us were waiting to do with great anticipation, since we had made plans to make acquaintance with as many tooth-ridden fish as possible over the forthcoming week or so!

Steve Tigerfishes and the ferry from Botswana to Zambia (I think that's correct?) traverses the Zambezi.

The end of another lovely day drifting down the Chobe.


One of our plans was to use loads of those rubber shads with lead-heads, and it was with one of these that Steve and I launched our offensive shortly after first light the next morning. First cast, and a nice sized Tiger hung itself immediately, giving a ferocious account of itself on a relatively light spinning rod and 12lb test line. And this set the pattern, with the fish seemingly unable to get enough of the latex, and by the end of the day what we assumed would be a plentiful supply was already beginning to look a little threadbare... after all it was rare to get more than one hit per shad! On one occasion, I was even twitching my shad in and I felt the merest of bumps on the rod tip. I continued the retrieve without further interruption, only to find the tail inch and a half missing from the shad. Hmmm. One alteration we did make eventually was to change from lead-heads to traces similar to those we use in the UK for deadbaits, incorporating a 1/0 forged hook set a couple of inches up the wire trace from one of the double hooks I make at home by whipping size 4 forged hook back to back with a size 6, and then casing the whipping in epoxy resin. Casting/sinking weight was afforded by a couple of shot pinched above the nose of the shad. This rig up gave us a greater ratio of hook-ups, although, true to form, this didn't mean that the Tigers would always stay on the hook as long as they should do!

Chobe Tigerfish taken on a Rubber Shad. You only get one per Shad!


A Tiger tries to bite his way out of the weigh sling.


Thumbs up- while you've still got them! A nice sized Tiger from the confluence of the Zambezi and the Chobe Rivers.

Once our supply of latex had been well and truly decimated, we then moved onto plan B and C. Nothing particularly revolutionary, but we had decided to secure a supply of small Bream for livebaits, which had been netted and caught on light tackle from the rapids near the camp. We had read or heard of very little in terms of bait fishing for Tigers, but during our discussions preceding the trip, we could see no reason why methods similar to those used at home for Pike & Zander should fail. 

And they didn't! As we drifted downstream that week, we tried everything from free-roaming livebaits under a float, to wobbled deadbaits, to static legered deadbaits to suspended deadbaits, and every method scored with numerous Tigers. Again though, guaranteeing that they stayed on the hook was a completely different matter! In fact, on one particularly exasperating day saw yours truly hook into 21 of them... and land only a miserable 3. I swear by the end of the day I had tried every hook variation except a circle, and the critters had perfected a way of throwing the hook and giving a 'V' sign with their tail as they re-entered the water!

Still, one little aside to all this was the use of deadbaits. We finished one day tied up to some reeds in a particularly wide, deep, slack pool at the end of a set of fast runs. Our bait supply for the day was looking a little sparse by then, and a several dead Bream were sloshing around in the bucket, including some which had clearly past the 'best before' date and actually turned white and started to stink as only a rotten fish in the tropical sunshine can. With options limited, I gingerly slipped a piece of the stinking sashimi (sashiti?) on the hooks and flicked it out on a leger into the deep hole not a million miles behind the boat. It took only seconds before I was into a Tiger! 'Ok', I thought, 'lets try that again...' This time it took only a few seconds longer! We also then tried one of the freshly dead Bream, and guess what, the sashiti out-fished it every time by about 2 to 1! Needless to say, Steve and I sat there and worked our way through the bucket of rotten fish in the best possible fashion that evening.

At this point we'd have to thank the guys at the lodge, because each day while we were out fishing downriver, they would be at the rapids securing a fresh supply of bait for the following day and placing them in a tank in the shade. Without them we would have spent most of our day securing bait rather than fishing- and every fisherman knows how frustrating that can be!

Later in the week, we also spent some time investigating different areas such as the actual confluence area between the Chobe and the Zambezi (where Steve was unlucky to lose a very, very large Tiger on a trolled Rapala), the wide, deep Zambezi itself several miles upstream of the island, and finally the Kasai Channel. All of them provided us with some action and some Tigers in the boat, but it really was the Chobe that took the biscuit. Good times.

Of course, although our departure from Impalila Island was tinged with a little sadness, we still had only completed half our trip, for it was time to move on and try to do battle with the Bronze Whaler Sharks of the Skeleton Coast...

Namibian village nestled in the banks of the Zambezi. 

The livebaits we got collected soon started to outfish the lures. The Tigers just wouldn't leave 'em alone.

Even the snails were the size of a rugby ball.

This moth flew in the room and sounded like a Fruit Bat was on the loose.

The river goes flat as the heat relents in the evening.

Bait? Sorry- dinner. Our boatman and a Bream. He was a master at nobbling these and soon had a heap of them in the bottom of the pirogue.

All smiles with another good Tiger. Not not sure who's showing the most teeth.

Nice big Chobe Tiger that grabbed a livebait



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