The legendary Tigerfish is well known for being one of the most thrilling challenges for any fly fisher. Renowned for their speed and strength, these ferocious predators never fail to put up a spectacular fight. But what exactly does it take to catch these powerful prey? We spoke to Jonathan Boulton from Mavungana Flyfishing, who shared some of the expert insights he’s learned over 25 years of fishing the waters of the great Chobe River region.
When is the best season for a Tigerfishing safari?
While it’s true that Tigerfish can be caught throughout the year, I’ve found that late May through September have the best conditions. The water is clear and starts to warm up just after winter. As water recedes back off the floodplains it causes baitfish to be drawn back into the main channel, providing the perfect hunting ground for Tigerfish.
Is there a preferred time of day to go Tigerfishing?
Absolutely. We call it the Golden Hour, just before and after sunset and sunrise. Tigerfish are opportunists and hunt using the element of surprise in low light. Tigerfish can hunt their prey far more effectively in the low light.
What else do you take into consideration before planning a trip?
At Mavungana Flyfishing, we only book trips during a new moon. Tigerfish struggle to hunt in complete darkness, so when there’s no light from the moon they’re less likely to catch any prey. In the morning when the sun starts to rise, they’re ravenous and readily attack anything that looks like prey.
Where are some of the best places to go Tigerfishing in the Chobe River region?
It depends on the season, but there are a few hot spots I’ve discovered over the years. In May and June, when the water levels are high, the main Zambezi is a very active area for Tigerfish. I often head upstream for Golden Pond and Jojo’s Village. Alternatively, in August, the water levels in the Kasai Channel get very low, and the mini Barbel run begins. Barbel hunt in packs and prey on baitfish hiding beneath the papyrus reeds. The Tigerfish take the opportunity to follow the run and feast on all the leftovers in the Barbels’ wake. At the same time, water levels just south of Impalila Island can be very low, and Tigerfish can concentrate around rapids south of Ichingo Chobe River Lodge where the Kasai and Chobe Rivers meet.
What equipment do you recommend for the best catch? Any particular tips?
I feel that fly fishing is far more effective than conventional heavy fishing gear. A fly is much lighter and moves more naturally in the water. In fact, I’ve found that fishing with a fly is three times more successful than a conventional line.
- 8 or 9 quality fast-action rods with matching reels
- Tropically rated DI7 or shooting head fly line
- 20lb to 25lb straight mono leader
- Thin piano wire trace material
- An assortment of Mavungana custom-tied Tiger clousers and bait fish flies
What kind of boats do you use?
You want a lot of deck space to move around freely when you hook the Tigerfish. Ichingo Chobe River Lodge‘s boats have space for two anglers on each boat, and plenty of storage room to keep your gear and other belongings out of the way.
Is there anything special that guests should bring?
It can get quite cold on the boat, especially in the morning and after sunset. Wear a warm fleece, long pants and a woollen hat with lighter clothes underneath for when the day gets hotter. Don’t forget sunscreen, a sunhat and comfortable shoes. Most importantly, you’ll need a good pair of polarised sunglasses. They don’t just protect your eyes from the sun, but also from any sharp hooks that might swing your way. We also recommend clear safety glasses for after dark, and a finger minder/lappie to keep the line from the vicious pull of the tigerfish.
Lastly, what’s one of the most amazing things you’ve seen on your Tigerfishing expeditions?
What always impresses me is just how savage these fish are. I once landed a Tigerfish that was cut clean in half by one of its own kind driven into a feeding frenzy. They’re not known as the most voracious freshwater fish for nothing.
Ichingo Chobe River Lodge is located on secluded Impalila Island, making it the perfect base to launch your unforgettable Tigerfishing adventure. All rods, flies, lures, lines, leaders, reels and other fishing equipment are included with every fishing safari package. Stay in one of eight air-conditioned Meru safari tents, dine on world-class African-inspired cuisine, and spot a myriad wildlife and birds on the river banks from your private deck.
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Book your Chobe River fishing safari today and save 5% on fishing groups of 6 or more for travel between May and September 2018.
As an added bonus, Mavungana Flyfishing are offering readers 5 of their favourite tiger flies for free valued at R280 when purchasing their recommended Tigerfish line – the Airflo 300grain depth finder. Simply email Mavungana Flyfishing on [email protected] and mention this article to qualify for the promotion.