I have always enjoyed travelling as well as angling, and in recent years have tried to combine the two. I have fished in Northern Australia three or four times mainly for Barramundi, Giant Trevally, Mangrove Jack and Queenfish with some success, also in the Tasmanian High-lands for Trout with less success!. A couple of year's ago I visited Southern Africa for the first time, fishing & game viewing in Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe. Here I managed to catch Tiger-fish, several spices of Bream (nothing like ours) and Catfish, but nothing very large, a 25-30lb Bronze Shark from Australia being my best effort. But all that was about to change!
I had been looking at trying my hand at Nile Perch, after a guide at a lodge in Namibia showed me an article about a place called Merchison Falls in Uganda. The article told of how an angler fishing at the bottom of the Falls had hooked something so big that it spooled him of 400 meters of 40lb line!! So I thought I would give it a try! I managed to get in contact with a tour operator in Entebbe, and was looking to travel in September/October of this year, hoping to tie-up with another group of angler's. But about five weeks ago the agents in Entebbe e-mailed me to say that a travel company in the UK (Tailor Made Holidays) where looking at The Sesse Island's in Lake Victoria & Murchison Falls on the White Nile as a new venue, they said they needed a couple of angler's to make up the party, and that it would be headed by "Go Fishing's" John Wilson. So I jumped at the chance!
We meet up at Terminal One at Heathrow on the evening of March 9th for our over night flight too Entebbe. The anglers were John Wilson (TV presenter & author), Christine Slater (Head of Tailor Made), Bob Norman, (A well travelled angler), Dave Huckle (Writer & angler) and Myself. After an 8 hour flight we were met at the airport by Paul & Jane Goldrin owners of G & C Tours who were our hosts while we were in Uganda, after a quick get to know you session and some tea & coffee at a local hotel we set off on the 35 mile boat trip across the lake to The Sesse Islands.
The journey took around an hour and a half as the lake was rather rough after an early morning thunder storm. After a light lunch we set off on our first session on the lake, John & Christine fished together, I fished with Bob, and Dave, who had fished the lake before set off in a canoe by himself. The method used is trolling large lures between 50 to 70 meters behind the boat at a depth of 5 to 6 meters, we used "up-tide" style rods and multiplier reels loaded with 30lb reel line to a 100lb trace. My first Perch was around 12lbs, I was very pleased, Paul who was steering the boat said that it was a minnow, an hour an a half later he was to be proved right! Bob was the next to hook-up, he got into very large fish, which after around ten minutes managed to free itself from the three set's of trebles, when he reeled in Bob's lure only had two sets left, as the rear hooks had been ripped clean out of the back, and one of the front set had been straightened out! I then caught a fish of around 4lb, okay that is a minnow! Then it was Bob's turn again, he struck into another huge Perch, unfortunately with the same result, after ten minutes or so the hooks gave way. We were fishing with three rods, Bob and I holding a rod each, and the other rod in a holder, this rod got the next hit, and it was my turn to strike it. The fish had taken around 5 to 6 meters of line off the reel when I struck, it just kept on going 50 meters, 100 meters heading for 150 meters, this is when Paul decided to manoeuvre the boat closer to the fish, so we slowly closed the distance between boat and fish to around 80 meters, while I kept as tight a line to the Perch as I could. Twenty minutes into the fight we got our first sight of the fish, it got it's head and shoulders out of the water about 70 meters from the boat, it was then that we realised how big this Perch was. After another 15 minutes of pumping and winding I got the fish to the boat, but it still had a lot of fight in it, another 10 minutes of the fish circling the boat, and of me trying to keep the line away from the twin props, as the Perch constantly tried to dive under the boat. But at last the fish came up and lay on its side, I gasped when I saw it, the fish was over five and half feet long! It took both Paul & I to lift it into the boat, while Bob took some photos. We decided to go to a near by island to weight it and take some more photos, luckily there were some local fishermen on the island who gave us a hand with the Perch. We weighed it using a sling, the gaff poll and three locals to lift it!, the poll bent as the Perch was lifted clear of the water and the scales settled on 143lb!! I had never seen a fish that big, let alone thought I would be able to catch one! After an attempt at some photos (we could not lift the fish clear of the water) we then revived the Perch and released it.
Over the next few days I managed I catch another 20 or so Perch, one between 50lb-60lb another just on 50lb,five or six fish between 30lb-40lb another four or five to 20lb-30lb and the rest from 4lb-20lb, not a bad total for three days fishing, as you can see from these photos.! John, Christine, Bob and Dave also caught Perch between 20lb-80lb.
We then left Lake Victoria to go to Murchison Falls on the White Nile, this had been the part of the trip I had been most looking forward to, but unfortunately I caught a stomach bug on the day we arrived, which put me out of action for a couple of days. I did manage to fish for a day and a half, but only caught some small fish, which was a shame as the location is truly awesome.
John Wilson is doing a piece on this trip in his column in The Daily Express on Friday 7th April, and he should have a centre page feature in The Angling Times sometime soon.
If you are interested in doing something similar to this trip, Tailor Made Holidays have a wide range of Safari/Angling trips available many of which are escorted by John Wilson. I would highly recommend them as John Wilson was great fun, both angling and in the evenings with travel and fishing stories.
Bryan Garnett - February, 2002