Top Surface: Large Bottlenose:
One has to put a single circle holding hook through the top lip then one or two singles in the dorsal and tail .Be careful not to puncture any vital organs when pinning the fish .Tie a partially blown up condom onto the top swivel adjoining at least one and half meters of min 40lbs nylon coated wire and then platted No 6 piano wire as the hook trace….let it swim free about 30m from the boat ,wait for the swirl as the feeding tiger lines up the bait ,let her run as she takes off ,count to at least 5 then tighten up.. Enjoy
Bottom : Small Bulldogs and Bottlenose:
One has to simply put a single circle holding hook through the top lip. Tie a half a meter 40lbs nylon coated wire trace as a hook trace and depending on the wind a small running sinker can be place above the swivel to “get” the bait down to the bottom meter of the river bed, wait until the feeding tiger takes off at speed the tighten up…try not to strike as you are using the circle hook.
- Rods: 7ft -8ft bait casters and spinning rods (beastmaster/Tiger Special)
- Reels: Shimano Baitrunner or Shimano Calcutta/DC multiplyer
- Line: 40-50Lbs braid (suffix836 or power pro)
- Hooks: 6 -8 O Eagle claw circle hook
- Swivel: Breaking strength 80 lbs (small as possible).
- Sinker: 1 ounce running sinker
Tigerfish Fly Fishing Tackle:
The best rod for Barotse tigerfishing is an 8 or 9 wt with a fast action. This allows you to cast the larger flies that are sometimes needed for trophy tigers and provide enough backbone to subdue big fish quickly in order to affect a successful release. Match the rod with a high quality large arbor reel holding at least 150 meters of backing. Tigers make long fast runs and this is when you need a dependable reel with a reliable drag system. A large arbor reel has an advantage with its ability to pick up line more quickly if the fish turns and run towards you (which they often do). The reel should be loaded with fast sinking full line or sinking shooting head, depending on personal preference. At times when tiger fish are feeding on or close to the surface you may want to use an intermediate or floating line. Standard leaders for this type of fishing are constructed as follows: 9 foot of 20-25lbs monofilament or fluorocarbon, joined by an Albright Knot to about 4- 6 inches of No. 1 No. 3 piano wire trace. The fly is attached to the piano wire through a Haywire Twist (remember that the loop of the haywire twist should be wide enough to allow the fly to move freely). Check this after fighting fish or being hooked up, and be sure to open the loop up with pliers if necessary. Tigerfish will strike a variety of patterns, and most salt water patterns work well for them. At times they can show a preference for a certain colour combination, so continue to experiment if you fail to pick up strikes. Deceiver patterns work well, and don’t be afraid to throw the biggest fly your gear can handle; big fish love big flies. Clouser minnows in grey, black and olive with touches of red, yellow or orange are also very effective. The important thing is to tie the fly with a short shank straight thin point hook which is razor sharp as used by Gamakatsu stinger and Grip hooks sizes 1/0 3/0.
We use and recommend the following set up:
- Fly rod: Stealth 9wt, Sage 9 wt, G-Loomis 9 wt
- Reel: Able, Shilton, Stealth GT, Tibor
- Line: Airflow depth finder (250gram), Airflow Di7, Cortland 444 tropical intermediate and floating, scc angler sonar
- Wire: No 1 No3 piano wire.
- Leaders and tippet: 20-25lbs maxima monofilament / 20-30lbs fluorocarbon
- Hook: Gamakastu or Grip size 1/0 3/0, no 2 B 10 s
- Flies: Clousers tied in black, red, grey, olive and fire tigerBlack and olive whistlersZambezi deceiversFlies tied with a deep profile with synthetic fibers
- Stripping Basket: is recommended for fishing from boats and helps to avoid the frustration of line catching into parts of the boat or blowing overboard during windy conditions.
- Longnosed pliers: are required to remove hooks from the toothy mouths of tigers.
- A Bogagrip is also useful for landing and weighing your catch without damaging the tiger.
- Polarised sunglasses
- Stripping glove: is a good idea as the thin, fast sinking lines dry very quickly in the dry air, and if a good fish hits you, you can get burnt fingers and sometimes nasty line cuts in your finger joints without it.
- Hook Sharpner: Hook points must be kept razor sharp as tigers have hard, bony mouths and getting the hook to penetrate properly can be a problem when using incorrect or dull hooks. Check hook points after hit or hookup, and make sure that the point is still good.
- Suitable headwear:
- Additional braided loops (30-50lbs)
- Camera and Binoculars
- Sun Screen
- Mosquito protection
Tigerfish effectionally known as striped river dogs grow to about 30lbs but this is very rare, with fish over 8lbs considered to be a good fish and fish over 10lbs as trophies. Tigers are one of the fastest and ferocious freshwater fish which can be targeted on fly.
Tigers are found throughout the Zambezi river systems and its larger tributaries and the Chobe, Okavango and Limpopo rivers.
During the summer rains the Zambezi swells, flooding the extensive low lying floodplains. When this happens, the fish move into the shallow waters of the flooded grasslands and reed beds to breed all sorts of species from catfish, various barbus and tilapia species and many other baitfish such as minnows, robbers, churchills and bulldogs. The water slowly recedes after the rains. From May July the last water is drying up or being forced back into the main channel by the dropping of the water level. With the receding water come the fry and small fish which are forced into the channels. The tiger know of this phenomenon and take advantage of it. Trophy tigers are plentiful and feeding frenzies abound. For the angler this is known as tiger fever time…
Many articles have been published on the tackle and methods used to catch the formidable Tiger Fish. Whilst these methods will work for most fish in most destinations, a different approach is needed when targeting the larger Trophy’s of ten pounds and up. In this article Barotse Tiger Camp guide Nick Clewlow will go through the different strategies, methods and tackle needed to regularly and successfully land the bigger Tigers. These methods will help you to keep up a better conversion rate when fishing for our ever evading African Tigers.
Methods and Strategies:
Larger fish prefer to roam the middle of the river ambushing their prey on and around the drop offs. To target these fish we drift the middle of the river and search for these drop offs and areas where current changes such as eddies and structure are found. We have found that a depth of between 3m and 4.5m with a drop of half a meter or more yields the best results. Here you would cast your line upstream at a 45 degree angle and allow it to sink down to the bottom as its going over the drop off. Getting your fly down as quick as possible is the key to success! A traditional single handed strip will not work with the Trophy Tiger! You will need to put the rod under your arm and use a double handed strip. This will ensure that you have contact with your line at all times. We have found that this technique allows you to better retrieve line and to be able to set the hook better on strikes. Once a fish is hooked leave the rod under your arm and keep stripping the line at a faster rate as this will help to drive the hook through the Tigers boney mouth. Keeping a direct line to your fly and maintaining pressure will result in more fish being landed! The rod is then kept under your arm during the fight as often the fish will turn and run towards you causing slack line allowing it to expel the fly. By doing this you will be able to retrieve line at a faster rate. Very few of these fish will take you onto the reel however if this does happen feel free to grab your rod and to try and get it back on the reel but beware of the fish turning and running back towards you as this will cause the same slack line scenario. During the fight the fish will probably want to jump and try throw the hook, to stop this try and keep the rod pointed down. If it does jump keep pressure on the line and if possible twist your body to pull the fish off its jump(not the easiest task)! Only grab the rod once you feel the fight is nearing its end and you are sure you have control of your fish. You can then easily steer it around the boat as it tires. Carefully net your fish and be careful with it as Tigers stress easily once landed. Take a couple of quick pics and get the fish back in the water as soon as possible. Do take a little time to revive your fish before letting it swim off.
The Trophy Tiger:
Where to find them:
Whilst targeting these large tigers you also have the added benefit of landing several species of Bream and Yellow Fish. Tiger fish are found in remote and wild places so be aware of your surroundings. When targeting these fish you will be spending many hours on the water so be patient, relax and take your time. Fish hard but fish smart! Listen carefully to your guide and keep your ears and eyes open. Leave the environment as you found it and of course take care of and release these beautiful fish that we pursue! Finally at the end of the day don’t forget the “Gerry Can” experience and to update the record book!
Tigerfish conventional angling techniques:
As with every facet of angling and their associated destinations, the Barotse has her seasons, and with the seasons come change… Our guides are constantly monitoring these changes and are adapting old and new techniques to suit. In a summary I can put these seasons into three distinct categories:
Mid April – Early June: Receding floodplain
Mid June – August: Mid water
Late August – November: Low water
In each of these seasons we fish with certain constants, the tackle and technique remained the same it is just how we use these techniques to tackle the conditions that are ever changing.
Before I go into tackle required to effectively challenge these apex predators I would like to give our visiting guests an idea of the area that they are going to fish… this can be somewhat difficult however as the beauty and diversity of this magnificent area can only be seen with your eye alone to truly digest this angling garden of Eden.
As Barotse Tiger camp is perfectly positioned to effectively fish an area of almost 80kilometers of river and I will categorise this water into two areas: the floodplain, and everything above that.
The Barotse floodplain is extremely vast… covering an area of almost 15 000 square km at high water. Our area of operation starts approximately 18kms down from the camp where the upper reaches of the plains begin.
In early May this vast amount of water begins to drain from its summer resting place into the main channel of the Zambezi, and coinciding with this phenomenon comes another marvel of this wonderland… the feeding frenzy! To best describe this eternal happening one has to try to picture a myriad of newly spawned bait fish of every description slowly making their way back into the river as the water recedes only to be ambushed by shoals of marauding tiger fish. It is not an exaggeration to say that one can view a bait ball being smashed by tigers as virtually the same as the ocean erupting as a huge shoal of Bonito or Tuna take part in demolishing the smorgasbord on offer. It is then, by casting your lure into and on the fringes of this chaos that “fish fever” can set in as the hungry tiger take the artificial offering with gutsy relish.
Double ups and multiple strikes are commonplace. On board the level of excitement soon escalates into a kind of controlled chaos itself, until as quickly as it appeared the frenzy is over and all that remains is a self satiated ,expectant hunger for the next chapter to begin…!
Once the plains and pools have emptied their bountiful foodsourse into the main river the packs of tiger begin to move, although not entirely en mass… to the deeper waters and drop offs that make up a section of the river somewhat closer to our base. It is in mid June that we move our efforts to parts of the river closer to camp leaving behind the floodplain and her islands and backwaters until the next year.
As the main river begins to recede, structure begins to play an important part in the strategy for the days angling. Unlike the mid and lower Zambezi where most efforts are concentrated on the reed structure and backwater channels closer to the side… here we begin to target the drop offs and submerged structure in the centre of the river, and aiding us in this task we have on board a very essential piece of equipment… the trusty Lowrance Gps and fishfinder which allows the guides to have a clear and concise view of the riverbed below.With this aid we can effectively place the angler on productive areas far more quickly than by thumb sucking or looking at the surface.
Once late August has arrived our days are spent almost entirely close to the camp as the river has almost reached its lowest point and new tactics have to be employed in order to effectively fish the clearly defined channels and associated sandbars. Up to now we have been using certain special lures and other artificials… and to very good effect, but now comes the time for live baiting and in the following chapter on tackle and techniques I will go into that in more detail.
The Barotse area of the Zambezi is without doubt the finest destination to successfully target TROPHY tiger fish virtually every day. Fish of 10-12 lbs are commonplace, however it is that fish of 14 lbs and upwards that are known as the Barotse Express and trust me, they are going to test your tackle to the limit… there is no fish that is more difficult to hook… and to keep hooked than this fish. We have refined techniques and use tackle that comes from five years of constant experimentation and thousands of hours of angling… just so we can offer you our guest expert and tested opinion that works best in these particular waters. The tackle that we use does not favour any particular supplier; it is just tackle those suites and works very well for this particular game fish.
The rods we use and recommend for our conventional fishing can be grouped into two categories – namely bait casters and spinning rods.
The common denominator between the two is simple, they must be a fast action, stiff rod capable of casting well with the power required to set the hooks effectively in the tiger fish’s bony mouth.
For this purpose the shimano Crucial and Beastmaster series would be our best recommendation, however as everyone has a personal hoice and we do not want to infringe on this,just try to make sure that you bring along the best quality stiff action 7′ -7′ 6 med heavy to heavy rod that will suit your budget.
The baitcaster and spinning reels required must have the strongest,smoothest drags system possible.They must be capable of sustained heavy drag pressures.For this purpose we use the Shimano 4000 Baitrunners and Stella 4000 for spinning. There should be no compromise in this department… the Barotse tigerfish will destroy any sub-standard reels drag system quickly as you will be fishing for these fish with maximum drag settings.One can not believe how this fish will rip line off a drag set so tight that you can not even pull it off with your hand.
There will always be a debate wether to use braid or monofilament.
This debate must end here – there is simply no plan,or place for the use of mono in catching trophy tigerfish. The reason is quite simply this… the reels suited to this type of angling will not hold enough line of a breaking strain high enough to combat the large tiger,and furthermore there is too much stretch in mono to effect a solid hook up. I personally started using 20lb braid, hen 30lb ,and only after being given a proper hiding have I settled on a quality 40lb braid,namely suffix 836 or power pro.
One can not believe the incredible force with which the tiger hits a casted efzett spoon or trolled rapalla. Lighter breaking strain braid and especially mono snaps like cotton as a result. This is one area that one must not scrimp in the budget… it will be exploited to the maximum.
The Effzett copper spoon:
This lure stands out alone, bar none as THE No1… without peer!.Not the silver and gold, nor the silver and copper… just the plain copper in both 20 and 30 gram.This lure comes in both the double clapper as we call it and the single blade spoon ,both are equally effective. Before you set out however one must change both the splitrings and hooks. For this purpose we use spro. 60 and 80lb splitrings and we change the standard trebles for two singles,the top splitring carries a 2/0 – 4/0 vmc siwash and the bottom splitring is loaded with a 5/0-7/0 vmc. A 15-20cm nylon coated or piano wire trace is recommended tied onto a 80lb power swivel ,then tied directly onto the braid.
The Lucius black and copper spoon:
This is a new spoon on the market and is somewhat lighter than the effzett,however it has a wonderful action and can be fished slow or fast. Again ,this lure has sub standard trebles and splitrings for tigerfish and you must change them,using the same set up as the efzett spoon.
This lure needs no introduction,many have tried to copy them-however they stand alone as probably the most successful trolling lure of all time.At Barotse Tiger Camp we use them under certain conditions.. mainly when the wind is too strong to effect a long drift downstream and you are constantly blown to the side.
There are many to choose from ,however our results show that the CD 11-14 magnum shallow diver and DT6 and DT10 are the most effective. Once again, please check the splitrings,change the back treble to a strong single and hang on! The most effective colors by far are the fire tiger and red head.
The top water lure:
There can be no doubt that casting a top surface skitter pop in the early morning or late afternoon and watching the lure getting smashed by a marauding tiger is one of the most exciting facets of this amgling method.You must achieve the desired walk the dog action for this lure to be effective. Our recommendation is the Zara Spook magnum and Knocker Spook.
There is a place for plastic on this stretch of river… in deep water and on windy days when the fish are holding in the depths. On calmer days you will be outfished virtually shot for shot by the efzett.But this is not to say that you will not get the pulls. Just remember… you must add a stinger hook to the set up and the best rig to use is the Texas rig as used by the bass fishermen.
These are too numerous to put down in this article… I have given a few tested applications in the preceeding paragraphs… please TRUST YOUR GUIDE… he knows what to do and when to do it,and will gladly teach you all the right metods… AND as a bonus HE might learn some new ones from you!
We look foreward to hosting you here at the house of the Barotse Express. In parting please remember ,if you are unsure of any requirement please contact us before you come… we will gladly discuss these with you as to maximise your experience.
Andre AK Kruger