So I asked my pops for advice. He said he’d only dish out tips if he could come along. Smart man. So we started planning. 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.
Kalizo Lodge was a family-run piece of paradise overlooking the wide Zambezi River. Tiger fish between five and seven kilograms are not uncommon on this stretch of the upper Zambezi, with the current lodge record at 8,2 kilograms on fly and 10 kilograms using more conventional fishing methods. Joseph was to be our fishing guide the next morning and knew all the spots where tigers like to hang out. (Since travelling, Kalizo Lodge has been taken over by the delightful Gondwana Collection, which is a group of affordable lodges spread across Namibia. It's now called Zambezi Mubala Lodge and I'm dying to go back to see what's changed)
And then all of a sudden, one of those powerful jaws was wrapped around my bait, the tiger vaulted into the air and I started reeling my damn heart out. My pops... well, you’ve already read what he had to say.
The whole time I couldn’t stop smiling – tigers make for incredibly fun fishing. After a fight, Joseph helped to net the beauty. We weighed it: 4,7kilograms. A family record! On my first catch! Thank goodness dad caught one after that (even though it was smaller) otherwise the rest of the trip would have been tense...
I wanted to push on to Rundu, where the Kavango River makes a turn south into the delta (our next destination), but my dad wanted to check out the Kwando waters, and we made the most of it visiting the nearby Bwabwata National Park and watching ellies at Horseshoe, a perennial oxbow lake on the Kwando River. Rundu could wait for another day.
The exact time of this natural phenomenon varies from year to year depending on rainfall and water levels, but can take place any time from September to December. nXamaseri Island Lodge’s manager, Tiaan Schoeman, recommends booking between 15 September and 15 October for a chance of catching them, but calling the lodge in early September to double-check.
On his trip to Guma Lagoon one June, 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). All the places we fished practise catch and release, so even the big boys are released back into the river.