The most heavenly places to go tiger fishing

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 14 June 2016

Fishing, I’m told, is all about being in the know – and now I know the best spots for tiger fishing. Coincidentally, these striped water dogs happen to live in heavenly places.
For the full story, get the June 2016 issue of Getaway magazine: on shelves now!

 

This spot is in the heart of tiger territory and you can only get here by boat - an incredible Okavango Delta Island.

This spot is in the heart of tiger territory and you can only get here by boat – an incredible Okavango Delta island.

I dragged my pops on a road trip up to Botswana, along the green stretch of Namibia called the Zambezi Region and back down the spine of the Okavango Panhandle so he could show me what the big deal is about tiger fishing. The route was actually his idea, because he said that to catch a ‘real’ tiger we needed to leave South Africa and head north, where river tigers are leaner and meaner than their dam-adapted cousins down south. In retrospect, this could’ve been a ploy, but I’m happy we hooked up a Bushtracker 4×4 to tick off this bucket-list trip.

 

Meet Pops. Here is spinning in the reed-lined channels of the picturesque Okavango waters.

Meet Pops. Here he is spinning in the reed-lined channels of the picturesque Okavango waters.

The heavens opened when we left the South African border, and the deluge followed us right up into Namibia and the banks of the Zambezi River – my hopes for sunshine-filled days cruising the river with fish flip-flopping into the boat were slim.

 

Sometimes paradise requires a bit of bum-squeezing and prayers.

Sometimes the road to paradise is paved with bum-squeezes and prayers.

 

But then the clouds lift and there are views from the riverbank that make up for it.

But then the clouds lift and there are views from the Zambezi riverbank that make up for it.

Thankfully, my fears proved wrong. That morning I’d asked those in the know whether we’d chosen the worst possible fishing time to visit. The response: ‘You won’t catch a fish without a hook in the water.’ So we set out with spinners, bulldogs and optimism.

 

With signs like this, we must be in the right place.

With signs like this, we must be in the right place. Since the bank was out of the question, we asked for a boat.

 

Tiger Fishing - Melanie van Zyl - Getaway Magazine-7

The boat, as it turned out, had some beers on it. It was always around this time – that glorious patch of golden hour – that Pops would ask quite seriously, ‘What do you think the traffic on William Nicol is like right now?’

 

Tiger Fishing - Melanie van Zyl - Getaway Magazine-8

Tiger fish between five and seven kilograms are not uncommon on this stretch of the Upper Zambezi River – the current lodge record is 8,2kg on fly and 10kg using conventional fishing methods like the bait which hooked this guy.

 

And he was mine. Can you tell I'm pretty proud of my first toothy tiger?

And he was mine. Can you tell I’m pretty proud of my first toothy tiger?

Each tiger fish has eight teeth per jaw and they are seriously sharp, to help these predator fish to snatch up their prey at pace. This also makes for incredibly fun fishing, because they vault out of the water into the air like frantic escapees.

 

All the places we visited practise a stern policy of catch and release - so you can catch some tigers too.

All the places we visited practise a stern policy of catch and release – so you can catch some tigers too.

 

Keep an eye on the river banks for other fishermen.

Keep an eye on the river banks for other fishermen.

 

We retired to magical settings for a night's sleep before heading on the following morning.

We retired to a magical setting for a night’s sleep before heading on to our next fishing destination the following morning – to find out where this perfect place is, be sure to grab the June issue!

 

Waters were incredibly low on the Kwando River and they’ve even cancelled this years fishing competition, which is usually really well attended by Namibian locals. Further down river in the Nkasa Rupara National Park they can’t even get boats onto the water.

Waters were incredibly low on the Kwando River, and they’ve even cancelled this year’s fishing competition, which is usually really well-attended by Namibian locals. Further downriver in the Nkasa Rupara National Park, they can’t even get boats onto the water.

 

Once back in Botswana, our spinning and trawling using Rapala lures proved futile for catching any tigers in the flooded waters, so our guide Adam sourced some bream for bait.

Once back in Botswana, our spinning and trawling using Rapala lures proved futile for catching any tigers in the flooded waters, so our guide Adam sourced some bream for bait.

 

Local knowledge on the Okavango Delta waterways is essential. Guides know the best and most productive fishing spots.

Local knowledge on the Okavango Delta waterways is essential. Guides know the best and most productive fishing spots. And you won’t get eternally lost in the twisting channels.

 

Another plus about water-specific travel is the abundant bird life. Even Squacco Herons and African Darters fly in front of the boat and Pied Kingfisher pairs dot the reeds.

Another plus about water-specific travel is the abundant bird life. Even squacco herons and African darters fly in front of the boat, and pied kingfisher pairs dot the reeds.

 

Covering an area of 15000 square kilometres, the delta is the most beautiful home for tigers, where lilies line the waters.

Covering an area of 15000 square kilometres, the delta is the most beautiful home for tigers, where lilies line the waters.

 

The optimum time for catching tigers in the Okavango is during the barbel runs. As water levels lower in spring, small fish return from the flood plains to the main river where groups of catfish lie in wait.

The optimal time for catching tigers in the Okavango is during the barbel runs. As water levels lower in spring, small fish return from the flood plains to the main river, where groups of catfish lie in wait.

 

On his trip here last year, pops and his friends caught 46 fish after a day and a half on the water (mum did well too catching five in one morning).

On his trip here last year, Pops and his friends caught 46 fish after a day and a half on the water (Mum did well too, catching five in one morning).

 

Even if you have no interest in fishing, you'll be surprised by how fun it is to land a tiger. I can't wait to return and do it all again.

Even if you have no interest in fishing, you’ll be surprised by how fun it is to land a tiger. I can’t wait to return and do it all again.

 

 

Read the full story in the June 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

Our June issue is packed full of great winter holiday ideas. On shelves from 23 May.

 

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