Variety is often referred to as the spice of life. If the same holds true for angling, which I am of the firm belief it does, southern Africa has definitely been blessed with a fare sprinkling of Robertson’s! 

There are many, world class, informative books on the market dealing, in depth, with all aspects of African sport fishing.  That is not the aim of this article.  I would like to take a moment of your time to pay homage to the Quality-Street-like assortment of sport fishing locations, the quarries they hold, the wild life they attract, and in many cases the people they are home to, in southern Africa. 

We are all guilty of staring at glossy ads, yearning to fish far off destinations where the fish are invariably bigger and always on the bite.  It’s time like these that we must make a conscious effort to sit back, take a couple of deep breaths, and appreciate the myriad of angling opportunities on our very own door step. The diversity of climate and topography in the sub Sahara region have provided the tools and building blocks which, over millions of years, have created countless unique aquatic habitats supporting an incredibly rich array of life.

11 lb Tiger – upper Zambezi

From yellow tail in the Cape to dog tooth tuna on St. Lazarus Banks, our oceans, both Indian and Atlantic provide more than enough sport to keep even the most avid salt water fisherman occupied. Angola is fast becoming recognised as an angling destination extraordinaire. The tarpon and cuberra snapper these waters hold are amongst the finest in the world. Not much needs to be said about Mozambique, but home to locations such as the Bazaruto Archipelago and St. Lazarus Banks how much further do you really need to travel to experience world class salt water fishing, be it in the conventional or fly fishing form.  Mention must also be made of the sweet rewards awaiting the adventurous angler willing to head off the beaten track and explore the Mozambique coast line –  over 2700km’s in length (a large amount of it undeveloped), warm azure waters, pristine estuaries, and countless off shore reefs the possibilities are endless.

Dogtooth tuna on fly – St. Lazarus Banks, Mozambique.

For the fishing ski anglers, the warm Indian Ocean, from the Eastern Cape through to Mozambique is a lucky packet begging to be opened.  Couta, dorado, various king fish species, tunny, snoek, and even sailfish are regularly landed off fishing skis.  The sport of fishing off fishing skis is rapidly gaining an extremely passionate following.  Not only is this form of fishing extremely productive, it promotes a healthy lifestyle, and is far more eco friendly than conventional off shore angling.  One of the major advantages available to the fishing ski angler is the ability to explore and fish remote destinations inaccessible to large sea going crafts.

King Mackerel off fishing skis, Mozambique

Fishing off fishing skis – Mozambique

Our fresh waters hold an eclectic collection of worthy sport fishing adversaries.  Tiger fish, arguably the strongest fresh water fighter around, can be targeted in our river systems from Mukuze in the south to the Zambezi in the North (for the sake of this article I will not take into account their full distribution which reaches as far north as the Nile). The beauty of targeting tiger fish in Southern Africa is that in most cases, they will not be the only toothy critters around.  The lower and upper Zambezi River, Lake Kariba, Chobe and Okavango Rivers are all, in some part bordering on or surrounded by pristine wilderness areas and National Parks.  This definitely adds the spice when fishing in Africa!  Nothing quite beats drifting past a herd of elephants, listening to the music of the African bush, whilst watching an enraged tiger sends shards of an African sunset of its aerial body.  Who are we to deny our rods at least one chance to duel with these magnificent creatures? In addition, African pike, numerous bream species including nembwe, chessa, cornish jack, vundu, bottle nose and nkupe can be targeted in these river systems. All provide a unique angling experience in their own right.

Flyfishing for tiger fish – upper Zambezi

Lion in the Zambezi Valley

Over the past couple of decades the yellow fish family have definitely risen to a ‘Proudly South African’ status.  The almost cult like following they have attracted in the fly fishing fraternity pays tribute to this.  Not only are these fish widely distributed throughout southern Africa, they take fly readily and are extremely feisty once hooked.  The Vaal River, Umgeni and Tugela Rivers in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Sterkfontein Dam are just a few prime yellow fish destinations that spring to mind.

12lb Tiger

A couple of years ago whilst fishing for yellows in the Sabie River, close to Hazyview, I was treated to a series of events that for me highlight the endless wonders awaiting the southern African sport fisherman. It was late afternoon; the warm summer sun was casting dappled shadows through the water berry and white stinkwoods of the riverine forest.  Two small mouth yellows had fallen to my caddis larvae imitation.  Watching my strike indicator float lazily towards me I was startled as two Cape Clawless otters swam nonchalantly past me, passing directly under my strike indicator.  Not sure how this would affect the fishing, I decided to play it safe and head upstream to another productive run.  On negotiating my way through the thick bush and into a suitable casting position, a disturbing sound emanated form the entangled vegetation just upstream from my position.  To my amazement two male red duikers burst out the bush and landed, somewhat sheepishly, in the river a few metres ahead of me!  I can only assume they were involved in some territorial dispute. Unfortunately (from a fishing perspective) I was caught up in their struggle for supremacy, as they most definitely put an end to any further angling aspirations I may have had that day.

An added bonus when fishing southern African waters (that’s if superb angling, unparalleled fauna and flora and pristine wilderness are not enough) is the cultural feast you will treated to along they way. Our river systems, estuaries, lakes and oceans are the lively hood of many local rural communities; this is especially true for the more remote destinations. The gratification one receives when fishing many southern African locations is most definitely a function of your ability to embrace new cultures. Time taken to meet the locals, getting to understand their culture, and, if fortunate enough, finding out where the best fishing spots are is definitely worthwhile.

Local fisherman making their way across the Zambezi River

On a more sombre note, the blatant disregard shown to many of our southern African fisheries, combined with the lack of law enforcing and legislative bodies is resulting in irreparable damage.  We, as members of the southern African sport fishing community, have a supremely important role to play in the conservation of these areas. It is through responsible angling, educating those unaware, and embracing an angling philosophy based on sustainable utilisation that we can protect the sport fishing diversity that our colourful continent has to offer.

Keith Clover – Tourette Fishing

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Keith Clover

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