Despite man’s appetites, the Kilombero valley in Tanzania remains one of the last great frontiers to explore. The Kilombero is the largest tributary of the Rufuji river, which from it's source in the Livingston Mountains to the Indian Ocean is more than 600 km long. When flooded, at it’s peak in April / May, the Kilombero valley forms a massive freshwater wetland, providing a prolific breeding ground for the 38 species of fish that thrive in this system, but there can be no argument about which of these fish rule with impunity.
We were fortunate to be fishing on one of the Kilombero's renowned tributary’s, the Mnyera, where base camp for this hands on fishing operation is situated.The battle hardened duo of Cartwright and Tommo were on 'Inside Angling' duty, whilst myself and Jeremy were taking the 'WildFly' fight to the Tanzanian Tiger.
Visiting well prior to their breeding season, which takes place in November / December, the plan was to entice a few aggressive females who we hoped might be feeding voraciously before embarking on their annual spawn.
a. The river is littered with structure, the annual floods depositing cover all around the banks, creating the ideal habitat for this killer to ambush. When casting at this structure, the emphasis on Accuracy and you only have a few seconds with each drift to get your fly into the strike zone, so assessing flow rate / depth and retrieval pace is critical…….thank goodness for great guides.
b. Channels change each season, as the river erodes and deposits sediment. When fishing these deeper sections, casting upstream, you will mend your line to get into the seam and sink your fly down to where the big fish are, in all likelihood holding. Be aware, fish will take you on the drop and always use your double hand retrieve to keep in contact with your line at all times
Popping hooks with their hard bone palate happens, especially fishing barbless, so don’t sweat those that throw your fly, it’s all part of the tiger scuffle. But this is a fish that you need to stick like the proverbial pig, a hard line strike and constant pressure is your only option, so you had better bring your no nonsense game, because this is a fish that you can give no quarter to.
The Kilombero North Safari concession is truly one of the great wilderness areas on our planet. It’s unique habitat and incredible array of fauna and flora is worth the visit alone. Couple this with the fact that you have the opportunity to take on a legendary beast that surpasses your every game fishing expectation and I personally can’t wait to get back on the water.
As a definitive point of note, in what was admittedly very trying climatic conditions, each angler got his personal best on this trip!