with a 13.5 lb Tiger caught during the catfish run in August in the Kasai
Rod: 8wt Stealth
Magnum plus Reel:
Stealth Bluewater 7/8/9 Fly line: Airflo depth finder
300g on int r-line
Fly Fishing for Upper Zambezi Tigerfish
Upper Zambezi is a Mecca for fly fishermen over the months
of May, June and July when fishing for these beasts is at its best using
lure and feather. Why these months you ask? Well its all in the water
level of the river at this time. May is the time of year when the river
has reached its highest level over the floodplains and turns to start
emptying its bounty into its main channel. A variety of species ranging
from robbers and barbs to bulldogs and bream have been up on the
floodplains from January breeding and feeding and are now forced to make
their way into the main channel before dropping water levels may cause
them to be landlocked and eventually stranded on dry ground.
tigerfish and other predatory fish such as the Nembwe bream and sharp
tooth catfish feed on these “baitfish” which find themselves concentrated
in feed off channels and bays. In June there is a mass exodus of this baitfish
moving down stream to areas of more cover and structure. This movement
causes “bait balls” to be formed and separate from the safety of the clay
bank edges and move out into deeper waters where the bait balls are
rounded up and attacked by tigerfish and grey headed gulls (incidentally
very similar to that of Bonito or albacore feeding in frenzies out at
sea.) This makes for extremely exciting sight fishing with varying sizes
of tigerfish being caught from 4 to 10lbs readily and on occasion fish between
12 and 16lbs can be landed.
As the water level drops over the rocks
of the Mambova and chobe rapids from August to November so targeting
shallow water tigers becomes more of a reality from the confines of
wooden dugout mokorro. This is truly the most natural ways of fishing for
the tigerfish and lends itself to great bird watching and the feeling of
really being one with the river.
the end of November the rainy season starts and water levels start to
steadily rise again bringing with it dirty water and an end to fly
fishing the upper Zambezi.
Parker - The “Guru” of the Upper Zambezi with a 10lb tiger
Rod: 8wt Stealth
magnum plus Reel: Stealth
LA1 Line: Airflo depth
finder 300grain on fused int running line
to 10 weight fast action rods are required.
less than an 8 weight rod should be used as heavy fast sinking lines need
to be thrown maximum distances.
reel you choose must correspond to the weight of your rod and must have a
descent disc drag system as tigerfish are notorious for burning out reels
in there first 50 meters of their run. Your reel must also be able to
hold about 200meters of Dacron backing.
again the fly-line you choose must correspond with the weight of your rod
and must preferably be a fast sinking shooting head for May, June, July
recommend anything from at least a 250 grain to 300 grain fast sink
shooting head with fused running line similar to that of the airflow
depth finder shooting head system. Alternatively a DI6 or DI7 weight
forward but the reason I prefer shooting heads is that presentation isn’t
that important with tigerfish but rather being able to achieve maximum
August to December an intermediate fly line should be packed for fishing
the shallower Mambova and chobe rapids.
are in no way leader shy so you can use 3 - 4ft 20 – 25lb breaking strain
monofilament, I personally prefer Maxima ultra green 12.5kg (25lb). Wire
leaders are a must as no monofilament line is a match for a tigers teeth,
a 40lb piano wire will suffice. I prefer piano wire as apposed to a
braided wire as braid tends to spiral after a heavy take.
recommend an assortment of saltwater flies, my personal favorites are
deceivers and clousers tied on a 1/0 or 2/0 gamagatzu B10S stinger thin
gauge hook – I find the thicker the hook the harder it is to set into the
tigerfish’s boney jaw.
change according to the time of the year and water clarity but I always
have red/yellow/white; blue/white; green/white; chartreuse/white and
plain black deceivers, polar fibre minnows and clousers in my box. But
bring as many different types of flies as you can with you as I am not
scared to try anything new and neither are the tigers it seems.
generally set-up my leader as follows:
3ft to 4ft 20 - 25lb mono leader line attached to fly line using nail knot
or an Albright knot, (I don’t, as a rule use braided loops. The change in
texture and colour sometimes invites an excited tiger fish to part off
your mono leader leaving you wondering what exactly just happened –
guides knots have too been known to take the uncalled for abuse and blame
for such stealthy tigerfish handiwork!)
next comes the 15 - 20cm 30 – 40lb piano wire tippet tied to the 20 -25lb
leader line using an Albright knot (in my mind it is the only knot that
if tied correctly should be used for this join as the wire tend to cut
any other sought of loop or single knot attachment, the Albright knot is
also extremely neat.)
lastly comes the fly joined by 3 long wraps and 4 tight turns.