What a privilege it was to be invited to fish the Kasai Channel and the Chobe river at Ichingo Lodge recently. I was accompanied by Fishtube prize winner, Werner Nell, a keen artlure angler who had never caught a tiger fish before, and was amped to add this iconic African species to his list of fish.
We flew to Kasane International airport in Botswana, where we were collected and transferred to the pick up point on the Chobe river. We checked out of Botswana immigration and jumped onto a boat, which took us on the short ride to the bottom of Impalila island at the confluence of the Chobe and Kasai. This is one of the most beautiful little corners of Africa, with the lodge having been built unobtrusively into the riverine trees, overlooking the rapids and islands in front of it.
The birds of the area use the trees on the islands in front of the lodge as a nesting colony, with hundreds of yellowbilled storks, spoonbills, ibis, cormorants, herons and egrets bringing up their young in shaggy stick nests over the water. Crocodiles sun themselves on the banks below, fat from eating the catfish that lie in wait for scraps below the nesting colony.
We had a quick snack after checking in to the lodge, having been welcomed and entertained by the ever smiling local manager, Kennedy. We then jumped onto a boat and headed out for a sunset fishing session in the rapids nearby.
Werner had made a range of bucktail jigs to use on the trip, and immediately started using one of his homemade creations. A good fish hit his jig and took to the air almost immediately, spitting the jig out in midair. I was casting a surface lure, one of the Rapala Skitter V lures that I had been doing so well with in the estuaries. I had a tiger come up next to it for a look, the top of the big head coming out of the water. Sadly the fish didn’t eat the lure, but it was good to know that she was there.
It got too dark to continue, so we headed back to Ichingo for a couple of cold beers and dinner.
The following day we started in the rapids, fishing some of the deeper channels between the rocks. I dropped my rod overboard, while trying to untangle my line from around the tip. There was no chance of diving in after the rod, due to the plentiful hippo and crocodiles, so we trolled deep diving Rapalas around until we managed to snag the line and recover the rod. We then headed up the Kasai channel, where we fished any areas that looked like they should be holding fish. Water on the floodplains was receding and there were a few places where there was still some runoff into the channel. These spots are great as there are baitfish being forced into the main channel, birds and fish gather to take advantage of the abundant food.
I manage to land a small fish of around 1kg, then a five pounder, followed by a nine pounder on my jigs. The day was looking good, with Werner having a few hookups, but unfortunately not landing his first tiger yet. I could feel his frustration, even though he was quiet. He had hooked some fish, but tigers are masters of escape and they had managed to throw the hook. I knew that his turn would come, and I looked forward to seeing the look on his face when he landed his first tiger.
It came that afternoon. Werner was working one of his homemade jigs deep and slow, bouncing it off the sandy bottom of the channel and he got hit. He fought the fish well, keeping his rod tip low and soon had it in the net. It was a five pounder, not a bad fish to start with, and he was beaming with pleasure. After that he started fishing with a surface lure, a Rapala Skitter Walk, which he was working near the hippo grass. The lure got smashed and he landed his first tiger on surface lure, a three pound fish, which made him very happy.
The following day we fished the morning session, then did a boat ride up the famous Chobe river, to do some game viewing. We had wonderful views of elephant, buffalo, herds of various antelope and some magnificent birds. It is surely one of the most magical places on the planet, and a great way to relax and get in touch with your inner soul. I felt very privileged to have been a part of Werner’s fishing journey, and to have shared that special time with him on the river.