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It’s fairly common knowledge that a dam was built on Egypt’s Nile River back in the 1960s, flooding 307 miles of the Nile valley and creating one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. What’s not well known is, the resident fish population of the original river exploded in number and size as the water rose, especially the tilapia and their predators, Nile perch and tigerfish. The lake’s potential as a sport fishery remained hidden because the government of Egypt views the entire area as a military zone, and declared it off limits to all foreigners until four years ago. At that time, an Englishman by the name of Tim Baily was given the green light to offer boat safaris on Lake Nasser. It was through his company, The African Angler (*), that I was able to fish this vast lake recently.

I will tell you about the fishing in moment. First, though, it is worth noting that Lake Nasser is a lovely place to visit. It’s a magical wilderness of stunning desert scenery bordered by the clean water of the lake, which is dotted with myriad rocky islands. There is an atmosphere of tranquillity, vastness and adventure. It’s a place where travelling anglers can still have literally hundreds of square miles to themselves.

The lake has an impressive variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded on the lake. Wild ducks of various species, Egyptian geese, pelicans, herons and various species of hawks, falcons and eagles are among the birds one will see on a visit. In most areas there are crocodiles and monitor lizards as well, plus gazelle, desert fox, jackals and various smaller desert animals. The shoreline of the lake presents a variety of desert landscapes, hilly and rugged, or flat and sandy with clean freshwater beaches. The weather in this part of Egypt is nearly always sunny and bright, with rain falling only once or twice every two or three years.

The two most popular sport fish in the lake are Nile perch, the largest freshwater fish in the world, and tigerfish. Two species of tilapia also inhabit the lake and give a good account of themselves when caught on a fly rod. All told there are some 32 species of fish in the lake.

The Nile perch, of course, is the principal drawing card of Lake Nasser. The lake currently boasts the IGFA all-tackle record of 213 pounds, but the outfitter says fish considerably larger than that have been taken but not officially weighed. The largest fish to date from Lake Nasser was a 378-pounder, which was found dead of natural causes.

As for tigerfish, they abound in Lake Nasser. Noteworthy for their awesome teeth, they are among the most exciting fish in the world on light tackle. A tigerfish on light tackle typically leaps clear of the water time after time and is a master at throwing hooks, breaking wire leaders and generally wreaking havoc on tackle.

A trip to Lake Nasser begins and ends with an overnight stay at the Basma Hotel in the town of Aswan. The Basma is a good four star hotel located on a hill overlooking the Nile and affording stunning views of the surrounding area. On my own trip, I met with Tim Baily the day I arrived and he proceeded to answer all my questions and regale me with stories of the success his previous anglers had.

The next morning at 3 a.m. the assembled anglers were divided into two groups and sent out to explore completely different parts of the lake for the next six days. The group I was assigned to was quite international, consisting of two Englishmen, two South Africans and a Belgian, plus me (an Italian). Our exploration of Lake Nasser began with a bus trip to the town of Garf Hussein, a town about midway down the lake. The trip plan called for us to make our way back up the lake over the next six days and conclude our journey near the famed Aswan Dam.

Four boats were waiting for us in Garf Hussein, three to be used for fishing and one to be used for transporting provisions from one spike camp to the next along the shore. Each morning, two anglers accompanied by two guides simply climbed aboard each fishing boat and fished independently for the day. The only common requirement was that all the boats come back to a pre-arranged camping spot each night.

My first day of fishing began with an hour run out to a small island where my companion for the day and I began to spincast from a rocky shoreline. On my second cast I had the momentary sensation of having gotten hooked on the bottom. Moments later, the rod was very nearly pulled from my hands and the reel begin to give line in an impressive way. I wasn’t hung on the bottom after all but was fast into a Nile perch of about 10 pounds.

It took about 10 minutes of jumps and powerful runs for the fish to surrender. Releasing it back into the water, I cast again out into the lake, which by then had become quite choppy due to a persistent wind. In all, my companion and I caught nearly a dozen fish that morning ranging from six to 10 pounds. As we headed back to camp for lunch, our Egyptian guides Nagrashi and Karim proposed that we stop for half an hour on their favorite hotspot island. We immediately accepted their proposal and wound up catching six more Nile perch of good size, one of which tipped the scale at 25 pounds. Not bad for the first half day of fishing!

Back at camp, we ate a delicious and substantial lunch worthy of the best Egyptian restaurants. Later, after a nap, all of us in three different boats decided to go back to the hotspot where my companion and I had fished. We spent all afternoon there fishing from shore, catching fish and helping one another release them into the lake. The biggest fish that afternoon was a 30-pounder.

On subsequent days, we alternately trolled and spinfished our way up the lake, arriving each evening satisfied with our luck of the day but very tired and sometimes exhausted. After dinner every evening we all went back to our own boats and slipped into our sleeping bags. Usually, we barely managed to zip our bags closed before our eyelids lowered and "Morpheus," the god of sleep, took us in.

None of us on the trip spent much time specifically fishing for tigerfish, preferring instead to engage ourselves against the spectacular and powerful runs of Nile perch. Nonetheless, we all tangled with tigerfish now and then when schools of them swooped in near the shore. Most of the tigerfish we hooked were able to release themselves by jumping and thrashing on the surface and using their awesome teeth to ruin our tackle. The average tigerfish we managed to land ranged from two to four pounds. The largest anyone caught was a nine-pounder.

Fly fishing on Lake Nasser is still in its infancy, with 99 percent of the fishing to date being done with lures. The outfitter, Tim Baily, told us he is eager to get expert fly fishermen to come to the lake and help him figure out the right tackle and flies. In the meantime, he suggests bringing a nine to 9 1/2-foot 10 or 11-weight rod with a sinking weight-forward fly line for the Nile perch. Bring as many kinds of tarpon and snook streamers as possible and plan on needing a shock tippet of 30 to 50-pound test. A good trout rod with an appropriate reel should be adequate for the tigerfish, with the caveat that wire leader is absolutely essential for these fish. Again, streamers are sure to be the ticket for this fish, but smaller ones than you bring for the Nile perch.

As for spin tackle, be sure you bring equipment that is very strong and resistant. I recommend a minimum of 15-pound test line. The lures that worked best for us were the Rapala countdown (CD9 and CD11) in black/silver/orange, green/yellow/black and the new brown/black and green/black. We found we had to connect the lure to the line with a snap swivel testing at least 100 pounds and use a six-foot leader testing at least 80 pounds. Without these, you will lose all your Nile perch when they rub your line over the rocks.

As for tigerfish, I found the best lures to be small minnow imitators from two to three inches long or small silver spoons. I found the "Minnow Spoon" from Rapala to be particularly good, especially the three to four-inch, single-hook version in silver and gold/green.

What kind of success can you expect on a trip to Lake Nasser? It is difficult to be precise because what you catch varies greatly from place to place and with the time of year. My guide told me that 10 Nile perch a day is a good result. Personally, in 5 1/2 days, I caught 47 Nile perch and three tigerfish. My best fish was a Nile perch that weighed 92 pounds. I caught it trolling in the last 10 minutes of the trip. It was eclipsed by a 97-pounder brought to the boat by one of the South Africans, who also boated a 93-pounder.

All in all, I found the trip exciting and fascinating, though there are some inconveniences that you must adapt to, such as the lack of a bed at night and no shower in the evening when you come in from fishing. Inconveniences aside, you can bet I am going to be back on Lake Nasser again! – Ferrario Roberto.

(Editor Note: A week-long trip to Lake Nasser costs only 880 pounds – about $1,460 US at the current exchange rate. That includes roundtrip airfare from Heathrow Airport in London, two nights at the Basma Hotel (bed and breakfast), all transfers to and from the lake, the services of a professional English-speaking guide, use of fishing boats and all meals. The price assumes there will be three rods per boat. Add about $200 to the cost if you want to fish two rods to the boat. In correspondence, Baily indicated he was indeed interested in catering to fly fishermen and in that connection he was eager to hear from fly anglers who can help him figure out what kind of tackle and techniques will work the best. If you are a fly fisherman and you take this trip, do file an Angler Network Report. We’re dying to know ourselves how well the long rod will work on these fish.)

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