TIGER, TIGER BURNING BRIGHT (1996)
a poor state of affairs should you mention the word “Tiger” in
flyfishing circles these days and the association “Woods” comes floating
back. One wonders whether the
proper response ought not to be “tiger fish”, which as every fly rodder
should know, is one of Africa’s greatest angling denizens?
the African tiger fish - is indeed in a
freshwater class of its own when it comes to portraying a fearful
symmetry, though why the scientific fraternity changed the genus from a cat
to a 'striped water-dog' is known only to them. The important point is that
the tiger fish accepts a fly - with perhaps the steeliest handshake you may
ever experience. A phantom built for speed and acrobatics, fangs sharpened
for destruction; this is a fish deserving of esteem, before, during and
certainly while the fly is being removed.
and July, traditionally were not
months generally favoured by Hydrocynus pursuers, for they preferred sweltering temperatures, but
never be too surprised by exceptions to the rule, especially when it
concerns the efficacy of a fly. Threespot tilapia have snapped up a Delta
Yellow or a new Zealand's Parson’s Glory with abandon during a bitter
Okavango afternoon - why not the tiger?
was warmer last week as I toiled
away slaving over a hot rod on the Zambezi. The Caprivi winter bream -
nembwe, humpback and thinface largemouths - were conspicuous by their
absence and we turned our attention to the tiger fish that betrayed their
unlikely presence by swirling along the edge of the river’s current. It
was like having a kicker in your rugby
team - the score begins to mount up with each conversion. Over the next few
days the tigers showed interest in the fly. First Simon with a beauty of
6.35 kg and, yours in
perpetuity, in another time and
place, a mere stripling of 6.2 kg. There were others too, strong fish from
2kg upward that took time to subdue and often reversed the outcome.
is nothing quite like an outsize tiger engulfing a size 8 fly. The initial
meeting reverberates through one’s entire being and 50 metres of backing
in the Zambezi current can melt away in less time than it takes to untie the
boat. But if one can subdue panic at the sight of a quivering knot on your
spool, take the time to hand line backing free from backwater weed, and
chase the fish halfway down the Kasai, you may only have to worry about
steadying the camera for one quick frame.
was as leviathan swam back down into the depths, its silver flanks burning
bright, that I brought to mind Blake’s immortal poem. And remembered that
the 'tiger' association never was
“Woods” at all.
It was “forests”.
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