Fly Fishing

by Tony Sharples

In October 2014 a group of 6 fly fishermen, under the guidance of Jeremy Rochester, carried out an exploratory trip to Kabula Lodge in Western Zambia. The fundamental idea of the trip was to determine whether the 30km section of the Zambezi River, which is accessible from the lodge held any large tiger fish and whether these would readily take fly.

It is a known fact that some good size tiger fish in the 5kg to 9kg range are caught on a regular basis using crank baits and tiger spoons. However to our knowledge fish of this size had never been landed on a fly rod in this area.

Jeremy who is a very experienced fly fisherman and an ambassador for, amongst others, Xplorer Fly Fishing, assured us that Tiger fish will just as readily take fly as lures. With this in mind the group were bubbling over with enthusiasm. The group Jeremy assisted consisted of 5 fly fishermenin the senior age group with varying fly fishing experience so he had his work cut out!

On the first morning Jeremy tackled up for all of us. This was a real eye opener and we were amazed at the amount of care that was taken in tying the correct knots, selecting the correct lines and in the selection of flies. Most of us had 8 wt or 9 wt rods and reels loaded with the appropriate sinking Rio Tiger lines. Jeremy and I had tied up plenty of flies in various colours and a selection of these was tied onto 0.55 mm tippet with steel bite trace to the flies.

Kabula Lodge Report oct 14  2  Page 1

Jeremy then demonstrated the correct double haul casting technique to the ooh’s and aah’s of the group. After attempting to master the double haul technique we set off in 3 separate boats to put our new found knowledge into practise.

Kabula Lodge Report oct 14  2  Page 2a

It was not long before Jeremy landed the first fish on a pink & black whistler fly; a beauty of just over 4kgs. The fish was, according to his boat partner, landed in less than 2 minutes.

Kabula Lodge Report oct 14  2  Page 2b

One thing we quickly learnt was to give the fish no quarter and to fight them using the line rather than the rod. If you give these fish any slack they spit the fly straight back at you. Over the subsequent 5 days we became more adept to these methods and found some good spots on the river. The prime spots were definitely just below and above rapids. Deep drop offs with structure also yielded some good fish.

Kabula Lodge Report oct 14  2  Page 3

The local guides/skippers of the boats know the river well and were able to point out some very good spots to us. They were very sceptical that we would catch any sizeable fish on fly, telling us to rather use crank baits. According to them previous fly fisherman had not had much luck and had only caught small fish on fly! Over the first few days their attitude changed as we landed fish in the 2kg to 4,5kg range. Soon they were as keen as us to see tigers coming out on fly!

Unfortunately I failed to take the moon into account when arranging the trip and we had to contend with a full moon. Two cold fronts also came through during our stay and these factors were detrimental to our success.

We were also rather puzzled that the fish seemed to also have some sort of communication with each other; after hooking one fish in a good spot they would stop biting. The local guides said they must have recently acquired cell phones! Despite this a total of 22 fish were caught with several “Big” ones lost.

The next group after us released 33 fish over 5kgs (using conventional methods), talk about being there at the wrong time!

After experimenting with various fly patterns and colour combinations, flies that gave the best results were heavily weighted whistler, clouser and brush flies in pink/ black, purple/black, red/black and black, tied on 1/0 and 2/0 Gamakatsu hooks. A double-handed fast strip also proved to be more productive than a normal fast one-handed retrieve. Once the group got used to the double-handed strip, our strike rate improved significantly.

The general consensus after the trip was that this stretch of the Zambezi has huge potential for fly fishing.....and we will most certainly be back!


What a great place!



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