It’s hard to fathom a river system as vast as the great Zambezi. Traversing six countries, it’s epic 2500km journey ends by giving the Indian Ocean it’s largest injection of fresh water from any river in Africa. There are several hundred species of fish throughout the Zambezi system and it’s tributaries, some endemic, most indigenous, but they all pay homage to the Striped Water Dog.
Only the Nile crocodile or flat dog ranks higher in the underwater food chain.
It is a fish built for the kill,with a smile advertising it’s intentions. Their huge tail fin and prominent pectorals tell you that they are designed for powerful, lightening quick lunges with camouflage that ensures it’s prey doesn’t see it coming until it’s too late!
It’s slash and grab, so the interlocking razor sharp teeth, equipped with an anticoagulant ensures that every attack can be fatal. And if that wasn’t enough, their bottom jaw is hinged horizontally, allowing them to double the gape of each bite. Oh, and did I mention that their lateral line is acutely in tune with a middle ear that can pick up the slightest vibration in the water, just incase their keen eyesight is clouded by murky water.
And if that isn’t enough incentive to dust off your 9wt stick then you’ve been spoiled.
You shouldn’t be forced to choose between your fishing and your Mrs and fortunately for Jeremy and myself our better halves would probably elect fly-fishing over our company. So we were practically dragged by the scruff when they learned that is was to Chiawa and Old Mondoro that our Zambezi adventure was taking us.
Brad’s renowned ‘Cartwright Comfort Rating’ was allowing him to wallow in the luxury of this private lodge, while we focused on the task of outwitting this tenacious fish.
The water was clean and flowing steadily, yet the first few hours proved tough on the strike front.
We changed patterns repeatedly, until settling on red and black, being a combination that garnished some interest from juniors. The ladies seemed to favor Jer’s fire tiger Clouser which kept them stripping, albeit just their lines. Typically they registered more fish than us in the first day.
The fascinating aspect about working this river, is that you never ever fish the same piece of water twice. Aside from the volume that changes by the cumic every week, it also sculpts the sides and scours the river bottom, moulding new fishing grounds every day
Jeremy and myself were struggling to get a good fish to stick, until he figured out that the outflowing water into the main channel, around sandbanks provided the ideal ambush point. That coupled with the fact that a huge black streamer was what the big Tigers were looking for.
Of course you can only keep Brad away from the fishing action for so long and he does have that annoying reputation of strolling on to the field in extra time and walking away with the trophy. In this case a 50 pound Vundu on 20lb tippet. You just can’t keep him out of the game.
Surface action is the most entertaining form of fly fishing and although poppers don’t always stick, the view from above never ceases to get that adrenal gland pumping.
And that’s when excitement turned to panic.
With a small tiger somersaulting, a knock on our boat went undetected. The ensuing commotion less than two meters from my rod had the skipper shouting that a Vundu had taken my tiger……….but the reptilian tail out of the corner of my eye soon had us shouting hysterically.
In a split second, I had a 3 meter crocodile barrelling away, tiger in it’s jaws and taking my entire spooled rig with it.
Brazen is an understatement, this cold blooded killer had stalked and savaged my fish right under my nose. Needless to say, I won’t be leaning over a boat and releasing my fish underwater anymore. A wake up call of proportion. Yes, it was only going for the fish, but that rational is rather mute if your arms are in the way.
That said it only added to the incredible wildlife expereince that can only be found in this part of the Zambezi and when it’s time for the sun to depart, no better setting for a celebratory glass can be found on this planet.
Whether you are a fisherman or not is irrelevant, Chiawa and Old Mondoro are destinations that have no equal on the Zambezi Valley.