Had to do some major editing on this chapter. That is why it has taken a little longer. However it looks a little rough to me. I think you will enjoy it in the way it is. Will give the feeling of how it felt at the time.
Cohora Basa Dam
Just a little back ground on Cohora Basa dam. This is a hydroelectric dam that was build back in the 1970’s on the Zambezi River. It was build in collaboration with South Africa. During Apartheid time and in the Mozambique civil war it was a high security area as the wall could have got blown up. This would have caused major flooding downstream. It was also a supplier of electricity to Mozambique and South Africa. There was repeated sabotage to the power lines running to South Africa. Now with the relative peace, power is again been supplied to South Africa. The people at the Ugezi Tiger fishing Lodge say that you can hear landmines going off from time to time. Especially in the rainy season when rain water flushes out land mines. However it is safe as long as you stay to the lodge grounds and do not start climbing around the mountains.
I arrived at Ugezi Tiger fishing lodge on Cohora basa dam around noon and booked in to camp. The heat had burned me out. I ordered one and half litre cold water at the bar that had a little ice floating in it. After starting to drink it. I started sweating so that the sweat dripped off me. This showed how dehydrated I had become. Where ever I put my arm down on the counter there formed a big puddle of sweat. All the papers I had to sign to camp got wet.
My tent was the only tent on the camp site. That left all the ablution facilities to myself. I was so worn out from the heat and days on the road that I rested, did washing and hung out things to dry. Late in the afternoon I took my telescope fishing road and went down to the water’s edge (Cohora basa dam). Tried my first fishing attempt at Tiger fishing. I did not know anything about tiger fishing, so tried out the spinners that I had brought with. No luck. If you plan on doing this trip remember fishing rods can be hired at the lodge.
I had supper at the lodge. Ordered myself some pap and a half chicken for supper. What a welcomed stomach full it was. This gave me a real boost to recover from the long trip and all those one minute noodles. A person can only live off noodles for so long. Word of advice, do not carry so much food with you as you should be able to buy the basic food items in Africa to keep you alive. That means that you can ride with less weight making the trip more enjoyable. However be prepared for the unexpected and have a few food items to carry you a day or two.
Next day I decided to try fishing from the rocks again. I was down at the water by six am. Some of the fishing guides were doing some fishing before work. You can hire a boat for the day and then you must pay for the petrol and the guide to go with. This can be quite expensive if you are one person. If you are a group of four it is affordable. So for me alone it was way out of my budget. The fishing guides said my hook was a little big on my lure. Typical fisherman’s story I had one good bite but it got away.
It started raining a little so spend some time at the tables in front of the lodge. I struck up a conversation with some people at the tables. There was a man who was a good friend of the owner of the lodge. He comes from time to time and brings things with for the lodge from South Africa. He also helps with odds and ends at the lodge. We chatted about some of the lodge needs.
We also chatted about politics of Africa and where things have come and where they are going. I told him what I had learned about the people on my way. We spoke of our hopes for the future for this wonderful part of Africa we live in. So he said he is going fishing in the morning with his boat and does not want to go alone. He said he would like it if I would join him. That it would be good for him to have some good company out on the water. He would give me some tips on fishing tigers.
Late afternoon the rain cleared a little and so I tried my hand at fishing from the rocks again, no luck again. For supper I could not help ordering myself a half chicken and sadsa (pap) again. Must remember chickens are not big like those at home in South Africa. Even those are getting smaller and smaller on the shop shelves in South Africa.
Rained again in the night. Thank goodness I had put my tent up where I did as there was a nice river of rain water running past my tent about three meters away. Tent is very good. It does not leak and can take a good storm. However when it is very hot I have to pull the fly sheet back half way over the tent to let the heat get out of the top.
Woke up early at about five in the morning to rain on the tent. Thought the fishing trip was going to be cancelled. However Voter my boat captain was not worried. He just looks at the waves and wind. When it rains here in the summer it is just a pleasure to get wet. So off we went to the boat. All the guides were very helpful to set the boat up and help him with petrol and to pack the boat. Then one hopped into the boat to go with. So Voter said no, don’t they have guests to take. Turns out it is very quiet and no guests. So he let him come with. Good thing as he knows all the fishing spots and how to work the dam in the gorges. Was not long and he said pull up to one of the fishermen in their dugouts. He did some bartering and got a small Tiger fish, in exchange for some fish hooks.
Cut some fillets and hooked up the spinners. Off to a good fishing ground and there the guide pulled in two before Voter. Then I started getting bites, they just laughed at me as I do not strike properly and keep the tension on the line. I keep striking over the head and it makes the fish jump out of the water and come off the hook. When fishing tiger fish you have to strike sideways and down and keep the point of the rod near the water or in the water. This prevents the tiger fish from jumping.
There was about six fish in the boat by the time I boated my first tiger. Only about one kilogram. I was so chuffed, there after followed a grand photo session. I only boated three for the day.
However I cannot count the amount that got away because of my inexperience. We headed home as the sun had gone down but was still dusky. We had spent the whole day on the water. Had been rained on a few times and the sun had also given us a good go. We did not even realize that we had missed lunch. The fish were biting so nice there was not time to stop. However the drinking water we had taken with was just enough to see us through the day.
On landing I asked if they could send one fish to the restaurant for them to prepare for me. We let the guide take the rest for his day’s fun with us. He had a good line of fish, sixteen in total to go home for him. There was no champion size fish, most were between one and two kilograms.
Voter sat down to dinner with me. He was patient with me to finish my fish. Which he enjoyed watching me enjoy. The tiger fish tasted very nice only it has a lot of bones. So it takes time to work your way carefully through the bones.
Voter invited me to join him again for the second day on the water. Only he and I were on the boat this time. Fishing was slow. So swapped some hooks with a local fishermen for a tiger fish for fillets. We stopped at Hippo bay and shared the bay with a hippo. We caught some fish here while keeping an eye on the hippo swimming nearby. It eventually crossed over to the other side and left use in peace to fish. I then hooked my hook on a rock and thought it was a strike and broke my fishing rod. This was the telescope rode I brought with me on my bicycle. Voter borrowed me his rod that he had lent to the fishing guide the previous day because he had broken his rod. The fishing rod had my line and spinner on from the day before when I had lent it the guide.
Remember Tiger fishing is real sport fishing. The tiger fish have a bony jaw so the hook does not stay hooked in easy.
This means you need to strike hard and keep the line tight and low preventing them from jumping and twisting off the hook. They are predators by nature so have speed and are aggressive on the line. The line needs to be set so the tension on the line does not snap the line. The tiger fish must be able to pull a little line out if he pulls hard so that you do not snap the line or loos a hook. Best to play them tired and bring them in slowly to the boat.
We stopped at a big intersection of gorges that had a few rocks sticking out of the water. We had some success at this place the previous day. Here we had some very big bites. Then to my surprise I hooked a big one. It worked me so hard my muscles burned and the rod was singing. I eventually boated it. Champion of the day, it weighed in at five kilograms. That made me one very happy beginner fisherman. This is the biggest fish that I have ever caught. Must admit fishing is normally just a time to rest next to the water and feel at one with nature. If I catch something it is a bonus. Do not come to me for fishing tips you might never catch anything. All fish that were caught for the day we released back into the dam.
We stayed so long fishing in one place and using the stealth motor to keep us in the right place. That the battery went flat and could not start the boat motor. Now we sat forty minutes away from the lodge with no radio, no cell signal and last fishing boats already gone home. Gave battery a little time to rest as it did turn the motor once. No, this did not help. Then stripped the top of the motor off and found there was a pulley on top of the motor but no rope to pull. Then we found the rope glued in the top of the cover. After a few pulls it started. We were too scared to stop the motor and put top back on. So we started for the lodge. Just around the last corner we stopped and put motor back together. Holding our breath and started the motor with the key. Thank goodness it started the first time we turned the key. We landed just as the last light was going. Yet another day with no lunch. Really there is no time to eat when the fish are working you hard.
The lady manager invited me to eat Chicken ale king with her, Voter and the mother and son from the lodge next door (owners of Emel lodge next door). Was very nice to feel welcome among strangers. These are all very nice people that know they have to rely on each other in this remote corner of Africa. They are all South Africans and help each other even though they are competition for fishing lodges.
Lodge manager said she was going into Tete the following day to get some supplies. So I asked for a ride. She said it was no problem. I knew that I was going to run out of time and had hoped I get a ride to Tete as part of my trip plan. In the night it started to rain. So packed up camp in the morning in the rain. The lodge staff was not too sure how I was going to fit the bicycle in the combe (mini bus). The lodge staff was amazed that there was no need for a spanner to get bicycle wheels off, and in the bicycle went.