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Despite widespread environmental problems, Africa offers quite a bit of good freshwater fly fishing. Much of it has not been developed, however, or even explored. Who can even guess, for example, what kind of fishing is on tap in the eastern reaches of the Mbomou River that separates Zaire from Central African Republic?
I can still remember vividly hopping out on some rocks in that river two years ago to look more closely at some large fish finning quietly in the current. Periodically, the fish rose slowly to the surface, sipped something I couldn’t identify and settled back down. Some of those fish must have weighed 20 pounds or more, and their rhythmic rise and fall was mesmerizing. My enjoyment of the experience was shattered abruptly, however, by the terrifying rush of a frightened hippo on the opposite bank.
Obviously panicked, the great River Horse (as Teddy Roosevelt called these animals) was not attacking me as such, but merely racing for the safety of the river. Still, the first fisherman who wades the Mbomou is going to need more in the way of protection than a leather glove to shield his hand against strange finny creatures he coaxes to his hook!
Consider also the Arrussi mountains of Ethiopia that rise upwards of 14,000 feet north of Addis Ababa; and Lake Tanganyika on the borders of Tanzania, Zambia and Zaire. On a trip three years ago to the former, I saw countless, cold mountain streams tumbling down hillsides. I am not aware than anyone even knows what is in those streams. As for Lake Tanganyika, I had several powerful strikes there on a fly two years ago and even caught a smallish Nile Perch along the shore on light spinning tackle. The brute of a fish almost wrapped my line around the front legs of a curious hippo that blew and snorted and bluff-charged at the noise my guide and I made. Almost certainly there are tactics to be developed in Lake Tanganyika that will make the splendid fishing there sporty and attractive. Ditto the angling potential of Lake Nyasa in Malawi.
As for more developed fishing, we’ve reported at length on the trout fishing in South Africa which is almost certainly the best in Africa, and briefly at least on the tigerfishing available in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Recently, in reply to a subscriber’s question, I sent out some faxes to major agents to see what kind of trout and tigerfish angling is being professionally packaged in Zimbabwe. Here is what my faxes turned up.
Gametrails Limited (*): "The angler who is looking for trout and tigefish in combination should consider Zimbabwe. For over 50 years, Zimbabwe has provided trout angling in its Eastern Highlands, where mountains rise to 6,000 feet and embrace rivers and small lakes, almost all with rainbow or brown trout, or both.
"Many of the trout waters flow through Nyanga National Park, which has a resident fisheries biologist and where the fishing is restricted to fly only. One of Africa’s finest trout rivers flows out of this park, and I have arranged for Gametrails clients to enjoy several miles of this mostly private stream. Comfortable lodging is available on a large estate, as well as guides and transport to surrounding rivers. The Eastern Highlands are just over 150 miles from the capital city, Harare.
"As for tigerfish, we arrange for our rods to fish famed Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River from which it is formed. Parties stay at comfortable lodges, houseboats or tented camps. Guiding is professional throughout.
"The best months for combination fishing are March, April, September and October. Depending on services and arrangements required, and the number in your party, costs range between $300 and $450/day."
Frontiers (*): "We do not have a tigerfish program as such in Africa, but we can point clients in the right direction and even make arrangements for them, especially if they are incorporating their fishing into a full African itinerary.
"In Zimbabwe we work with a big game hunter named John Rosenfels, who can arrange trips for tigerfish. We also work with a naturalist named John Stevens who can provide the same services. We have even better tigerfish contacts over in Botswana, in the Okavango."
Another good source of information on fishing in Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association (*). The association has a newsletter that goes out periodically listing, among other things, all overseas inquiries about hunting and fishing trips. A listing there is sure to get you some feedback on some interesting trip options. One Zambezi float trip operator I remember chatting with a while back liked to recall the night he and his clients slept along the river in sleeping bags only to discover in the morning that elephants had walked right over them, gingerly placing their big feet down between each bag. No one had even woken up – fortunately. Still another source of information is a book I have mentioned before: Flyfishing Around the World by Tony Pawson (*). – Don Causey.