Over 80 species of fish occur in the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls as well as in the Lower Zambezi Valley in the region of Mana Pools. There is a huge range in size between these species however and many display specialised habitat requirements. Of those fish species occurring in the Zambezi the overwhelming majority by number are comprised of only a handful of species – perhaps four or five common species. Of these the most commonly sought after and caught are the Tigerfish Hydrocyncus vittatus and Nembwe Serranchromis robustus. Various bream Tilapia species as well as African Pike Hepsetus odoe are also caught. Fishing on the Zambezi from Wilderness Safaris camps can be conducted from either the River Club (on the Zambian side upstream of the Victoria Falls) or Ruckomechi (on the Zimbabwean side adjacent to Mana Pools) amongst other lodges. Fish distribution and activity is of course seasonal and during the summer months (September through to March), fishing reaches its peak with the best months for fishing being October and November when the waters are warmer.
Catch and release is practised at all Wilderness Safaris camps with some camps providing limited fishing equipment. Keen fishermen are encouraged to bring their own equipment. De-barbed hooks and nets are encouraged to make catch and release easier and more effective - the net allowing the fish to be landed without exhausting it. The following methods are employed.
- 1.Fishing with artificial lures such as spoons and Rapalas (preferably with de-barbed hooks for easier catch and release).
Tigerfish are ready takers of flies and will attack anything if in the mood being particularly good in the early morning or late afternoon. Preferably caught on streamer patterns and clousers (favourite colours are red, yellow, black, orange and purple on very strongly constructed flies on a copper wire body ) on rods from 7# - 10# using either floating, or sinking lines (fast sinking lines work best). You will need either piano wire or trace, as their teeth are sharp. The best way to fish is from a boat in the fast moving water on the edges of the river / channel just behind any structure in the water with a fast strip retrieve followed by a hard strike to set the hook if you have a bite. For bream, rods from 3# - 5# are good using floating or intermediate line with fine tippets and trout flies. Beaded nymphs, woolly buggers, San Juan worms and Pheasant tails all work well in varying colours and fishing is done in flat calm water. On artificial lures spinners like the Mepps black fury are good for Bream and Rapalas or cooper and silver spoons are very good for Tigerfish.
A couple of things to consider about Tigerfish flies:
- The fly should sink fast – design your rig (line and leader) around this.
- Hook up - the hook must be needle sharp. Smaller hooks will penetrate the boney mouth better.
- Hook size range from 2-6. Remember that the strike will be ‘soft’ because of the dynamic of the fly rod.
- The better the fly the more it will survive the fight. Important as you want to get the fly back in the water in good condition.
- The best way to ensure the quality of your fly is to tie it yourself.