Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tune in Tomorrow Night

From the heat of Africa to a backyard blizzard. It's been snowing and blowing like crazy today. I think I'll keep the tigerfish slime on me and save a trip to the South Fork for later in the week. I wanted to let you know, tomorrow night at 7 PM MT I am being interviewed on Ask About Fly Fishing Internet Radio. I'll be talking about my Africa trip and how you too can go catch a tigerfish. It should be great fun. Just tune in relax!

Today's photo is my backyard full of sharptail grouse. They show up during the first winter storm every year and demolish all my crab apples. Fun to watch but they better be careful, I like a little upland bird hunting now and then!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All Great Trips Come to an End

November 8-9, 2010

It’s hard to believe it’s over. According to the KLM map on the seat in front of me we are over the heart of Sudan and will be landing in Amsterdam in about 5 hours. Yup, it truly is over but this adventure will definitely go down as one of my favorites. And there’s no doubt I’ll return again.

I give a special thanks to Jim Klug and Chris Patterson of Confluence films for bringing me along on this epic trip. There was a tremendous amount of planning that went into this expedition and we are all thrilled that it went so well. This movie, which has not yet been named, will be released around November 1, 2011. The segment we just filmed is just one of several incredible shoots from around the world. The movie will launch on the big screen in Bozeman, Montana and will tour nationwide at many favorite fly fishing destinations and fly fishing shows. It will also be purchasable as a DVD.

We could not have made this incredible segment without Keith Clover, Rob Allen and Leonard Flemming of Tourette Fishing – Fight it in Africa. These guys have the exclusive on what may be the best fly fishing in Africa. They were the most incredible hosts we could have asked for!

I can’t forget Jim Klug’s Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures. They organized our entire itinerary from start to finish and all was smooth. Smooth is a rare thing with such exotic travel. I can’t recommend them enough for any fly fishing travel you can think up. Also a special thanks to Simms who not only sponsors the Confluence Film projects but provided us much of the gear. Not only did I have the perfect attire for the heat of Africa but everything from my wading shoes to dry packs to tackle bag, it all kept me organized and prepared for Tanzanian tigerfishing.

This is a MUST trip for every adventure fly fisher. Don’t put this one on the back burner. I’ve fished a bunch of places and this one ranks at the top as do tigerfish. Feel free to contact me to help you plan your own trip for the biggest tigerfish of your life!

If you’re free Wednesday night I will be talking tigerfish live on Ask About Fly Fishing Internet Radio at 7 PM MT. It should be a fun and entertaining show. If you miss it, you can catch it at a later time. Ask About Fly Fishing Internet Radio archives all interviews.

That’s about it. I guess it’s about time for me to get my presentations ready for the Fly Fishing Shows, catch up on my artwork and oh yea; it’s my favorite time to fish the South Fork! Stay tuned for some much tamer reports in weeks to come. . . .

Last but not least, here’s a few more photos from the trip – enjoy!

Special Note – Because I was busy fishing for the Confluence Film project I didn’t have time to take many of my own pictures. A special thanks to Jim Klug, Jim Harris and Chris Patterson for providing most of what you see on the blog for this Africa trip.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Unknown Specie & a Monster

November 7, 2010

Its hard to believe today was our last day. It’s possible we might get out on the water for a couple hours in the morning but it’s doubtful because we need to catch up on interviews for the film. Today was likely it. And knowing that, the South Africans put on their best show yet. Of course, we were up at 4:45 am. Then after a quick breakfast and coffee we were in our safari vehicles crossing the Mnyera on the ferry before entering the blood thirsty tsetse fly forest. Tied on top of one of the vehicles was a small inflatable raft. The South Africans had big plans for us. The whole travel time was about an hour to what is simply referred to as the rapids.

These beautiful rapids are home to numerous tigerfish of the Mnyera River. Most don’t think of tigerfish as a fish of rapids but they can be. I’ve fished them before in the Chobe River rapids in Namibia and the Zambezi River Rapids in Zambia. Both places provided superb fishing but the tigers are much smaller than here. Yellowfish, a group of fishes made up of many species, also thrive in the rapids and before we began tigerfishing Chris
filmed Leonard and I sneaking around the rocks and river channels trying to catch one of these popular African game fish.

The yellowfish fly of choice is a nymph. Leonard recommended a pattern to me but I chose one of my favorite Euro nymphs tied by no other than my good Polish friend Vladi Trzebunia. As you know from past blogs Vladi's flies are always good luck for me. We could see the yellowfish slowly milling around the back eddies between the rocks and riffles. They were incredibly spooky. The sun was blocked by clouds making it even more difficult. While Leonard headed towards a small waterfall I slowly stalked my way towards the main river.

I gave up on trying to sight cast to yellows. The light was terrible. I rigged up a dry dropper rig and started covering water. Right away I caught a tiny fish with gorgeous colors. Keith told me the name but it’s slipped me now. He said it’s a miniature cousin of the tigerfish and definitely a popular food for them. In fact as I lifted him from the water a 5lb tiger nearly took out my kneecaps trying to eat him off my line.

Chris and the crew continued to follow Leonard and me with the cameras, never losing hope that we would catch a yellowfish. Sure enough I connected while nymphing a seam against a very powerful rapid. I didn’t know what to expect from a yellowfish. Seeing pictures of them led me not to expect much fight but this fish took off. I was using my 6-weight Ross and it was all I could do to fight him in the rapids. As I finally subdued him, Leonard was at my side and he started going ballistic. This was a kind yellowfish that has yet to be named. Leonard is the only other person to catch this unusual species. He was thrilled. Evidently, when he caught one earlier this year he thought he’d go home and look him up. But he couldn’t. This yellowfish is a new species not yet even named or documented. If you remember from previous blogs, this entire fishery wasn’t discovered until 2008. I caught a fish that has yet to be discovered! Very cool!

Leonard very professionally took a fin clip. Because of the high chances of documenting a new species he even carries a vial and we carefully put the fin clip in the vial. This area is so new to the fishing world several ichthyologists eagerly await to study DNA collected by the Tourette fishing guides. It was only recently that they classified these unique species of tigerfish we’ve been chasing all week (Hydrocynus tanzaniae).

I thrive on adding new species to my personal life list but this was over the top. I was so excited about catching a species that has yet to make the text books that I could hardly think straight. I could have continued to stalk the rapids with my nymphs the rest of the day, but it was time to climb aboard the rubber raft. I was a little uneasy on the whole raft deal. My closest ever to drowning was on the famous Zambezi River whitewater below Victoria Falls. I haven’t’ been on much whitewater since. These rapids weren’t really much but I had no idea how well Rob and Keith could row a raft. We also had concerns of crocodiles and hippos. This is a crappy little rubber raft!

What the heck - before I knew it we were dropping through the rapids. First the raft was a tool to get from one pool to another then I was casting as we drifted. We’d row through some little rapid then hold against some rocks and make some casts. Fishing was superb to say the least. At every good pool we hooked up and landed some nice fish. 10lbers were a dime a dozen and then we landed back to back 14lbers. These rapids were unreal! Due to the heavy current, we were back to straight 30lb Rio Saltwater Tippet and the 40lb wire. We allowed no mercy on these powerful fish. It was simply clamp down on the line and hold them and strip them in. Let the line slide from your clenched fingers and you were sliced wide open and your tiger was gone. It was about as exciting as fly fishing gets. Then it happened. I hooked into a beast.

I’ve had a few fish take off on me this week and I fought them with the drag of the reel. But none like this. All I remember is strip setting once and then my Ross Momentum LT reel was singing like I was standing in the floor seats at Aerosmith. The ***** just hit the fan!

At the same instant Rob also hooked up and he too had the line taken away. Then mine jumped. Only I wasn’t sure it was mine because both Robs and my fish were steaming the same direction. All I knew was that the leaping tiger was one to remember. He was significantly larger than any we hooked all week. And most serious, he was at the tail out of this deep pool and another ten feet to his run and he’d be in the next rapid likely never to be seen by humans again. It was then that I realized it was my fish. I peered down to my smoking reel and heaps of backing was missing. I don’t know what got into me then but it was a good thing. I cranked my drag two spins, lowered my rod towards the fish and began reefing on him and reeling. It was like I was brutalizing a yellowfin tuna from the depths of bluewater. I’ve been dreaming of this monster all week and I was going to land him – period! Meanwhile Keith was frantic. He wanted this fish as much as me and was blurring instruction that I could not comprehend. By now Rob was holding a respectable 12lber. He thought briefly about hanging on to him for pictures of a double tiger catch but then thought wisely. He realized I was going to need some help. He released his tiger and came to the front of the raft to assist.

The immense tiger was close by now. He made a few heart stopping jumps next to the boat but I had him hooked well. I tried my best to get him to Rob and then the usual craziness began. Every time I hoisted him to the surface he spooked and shot deep and under the boat. Nets are useless on giant tigerfish because their teeth chew right through the mesh. The only way to get them is to tail them. Several times I got his head up but the tail dangled three feet below the fish. Finally after numerous scares, Rob got two hands around the tiger’s tail. I yelled with delight and dropped down to Boga the prize.

We never weighed this incredible tigerfish. Lifting heavy fish by their jaw on the Boga grip is a practice that often injures such large fish. There was no way I was taking that chance. I would have easily estimated him at 20lbs, but the final vote went to the South Africans – it was 18lbs. Like I know a 6lb trout from a 4lb trout, they were probably right on. Until I make it to the Congo for goliath tigerfish, this will probably be the biggest tigerfish of my life. Fantastic!

All the excitement in our rubber ducky kept us unaware of the excitement that Leonard was experiencing. He too was fighting a great fish from shore. His fish was 15lbs and soon we were posing for a double with our fish. Then he released his and we all went to work for Chris. My fish was what this film was dreaming of and we had to work fast to keep the tiger safe.

After a serious filming session and some photos, I watched the remarkable creature return to the Mnyera River rapids. This place is so rarely fished that it’s likely he will go on to pass the 20lb mark and most likely will never see or meet a human again. He was truly one of the great fish of Africa.

We continued to catch the tigerfish for the remainder of our float. Except for a very scary run in with some hippos I was daydreaming, continuously replaying the incredible day in my mind. It was epic to say the least. I caught a species that’s not yet documented and a tigerfish so big that I will have difficulty believing it until I see the photos and film.

We spent the later part of the afternoon relaxing on a beach while Chris interviewed the South Africans for the
movie. I leaned back on the raft and before I knew it I was down for the count. The trip had reached its peak on the last day and as a team we may have made one of the coolest fly fishing film segments ever. Today will go down as one of my most memorable fishing days of my life!

Special Note – Because I am in the Confluence Film I will be very limited on taking my own pictures. A special thanks to Jim Klug, Jim Harris and Chris Patterson for providing most of what you see on the blog for this Africa trip.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing Website

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 5 The Wind has Stopped

November 6, 2010

It’s always nice to wake up fully intact after a nights camping in Africa. It was a baboon spider free night and quite honestly one of the soundest sleeps I’ve had in a long time. But deep inside I thought I heard some commotion in the wee hours. Sure enough, I did. The South Africans got attacked by army ants! I wouldn’t have even known what to do. Actually they just ran from their tent swiping the biting ants from their bodies and ended up sleeping down by the beach without a tent. It was their only choice and I guess I’d of done the same.

As always, we were up at 4:45 am this time driving across the bush back to the Mnyera River. We stopped for some sunrise photos then proceeded through the tsetse fly infested forest. From there we crossed the Mnyera on the ferry and moved back into our original camp. We’ve still yet to film what the South Africans consider a big fish so after a quick breakfast we headed upstream to some new water in the hunt for a big tiger.

The only thing Chris could use to spice up this film segment is more wildlife. In fact we quit fishing early today just to do a wildlife drive at sunset. Fortunately along the way to the fishing spot this morning we ran into elephants, hippos and crocodiles. Chris got some great footage and it took off the pressure to find animals tonight. Once we started fishing I noticed a big difference from days before, the tigers were eating with vengeance. What I mean is almost every strike I got ended up with a hooked tiger. The tigers weren’t just striking and getting off but they were hammering the fly and getting hooked. I wasn’t the only one to notice either. Keith was quick to point out the fact that the wind was gone and now the tigerfishing was improving. Boy was he right. Every time my fly landed in a good looking spot I caught a fish. I knew a big one was coming soon and sure enough I strip set into a new personal record – a 15lb tiger. It is amazing the difference between a 12lber and a 15lber. This fish had tremendous girth and Chris filmed the fish at every angle imaginable. Then Klug and Harris stepped in and took some fabulous still photos. Then Chris got out the underwater camera and filmed me releasing the giant tiger back to the river.

At that point we made an already great movie segment even better and it was all high fives. I was in awe. While I was preparing for this trip weeks ago in remote Victor, Idaho I never would have dreamt of catching such a huge tigerfish on film. Meanwhile, Leonard was in croc danger while casting off a drop-off and he too connected to a large fish. Keith whom was helping us film my tigerfish screamed at Leonard for his carelessness. Fortunately all was good and Leonard retreated from the edge and remained hooked up to his hefty tigerfish. This tiger looked like the twin to my tiger and once again Chris, Klug and Harris went to work.

These two big fish were the icing on the cake. So much so that Klug actually put away his camera and started fishing for the first time all week. And yes he hooked up. Klug landed the biggest fish of the week, a 16lber!

Klug is not in the film so after few pictures of him with his tigerfish of a lifetime, Rob took over and Chris filmed yet another beast of a tigerfish. Man do these big tigers have some teeth! When I was holding my big tiger I was in such la-la land that I didn’t even admire the teeth. They are just plain serious! For the first time all week the South Africans were finally at peace, the big fish were eating.

Unfortunately it was time to head on out. We bolted downstream and back to camp and loaded up on the safari vehicle for a trip to the bush in search of some wildlife. Along with us was Masai warrior Michael, the guy that watches over camp at night. Michael was born in the bush and a great guy to have along when searching for African wildlife. We drove a four wheel track for at least ten miles but other than numerous pukus and waterbuck, the wildlife viewing was extremely slow. Even the elephants were somewhere hiding.

The highlight however was Michael. Michael was a great model for photos and showed us some of the Masai traditions. He doesn’t speak much English but it was really fun hanging out with him. Michael went as far as to loan me his club of which I gave some elephant crap a good ride. Then he gave me a lesson on the Masai high jump dancing. That guy can jump! Dare I say another great day in Africa!

Special Note – Because I am in the Confluence Film I will be very limited on taking my own pictures. A special thanks to Jim Klug, Jim Harris and Chris Patterson for providing most of what you see on the blog for this Africa trip.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing Website

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 4 The Distant Edge of Civilization

November 5, 2010

We had a little excitement last night. Fortunately it wasn’t in my tent. The
South Africans had a baboon spider sharing their residence and were nice enough to show us before they carefully released him back to the wilds. Evidently there are many species of baboon spider but no matter how harmless they are this truly massive spider would of scared the living ***** out of me had he been in my tent.

We got another early start. We were up by 4:45 am and motoring up the
Rhudji River with coffees in hand. Today was a true expedition run. We drove upstream for 4 hours. We went to where the South Africans have been only three times since they discovered this tigerfish filled river. The ride was scenic to say the least because we started in near darkness and watched the sunrise. Surprisingly we only saw two hippos as far as mammals. Sadly, this particular area gets poached. However, what we didn’t get to see in mammals was easily made up for with amazing bird species.

Three hours into the ride we came to the first local village we’ve seen all week. We were quite a sight for these folks and I think every single one of them came down to check us out. They seemed very friendly and nearly all of them waved to us from the minute we popped in their sight until we went around the next corner. It was what fishing and travel are all about.

We began fishing on the upstream end of the village. Local kids lined up to watch the mysterious visitors. In my boat were
Rob, Keith and Chris. Chris has been filming from the other boat these first three days so today he climbed in with us for some new camera angles. The pool we started fishing had a lot of current and Rob and I sort of swung our flies through its tail-out. Each time Rob and I got jolted by quick striking tigerfish but could not connect. Just as we were getting frustrated I tagged into a 9lber. The kids of the village watched curiously as I battled the leaping tiger to the boat. Then I revived the tiger and let him swim away. In the distance I heard a mom yelling something to the kids. I could only guess she was telling them to ask for the next fish, but they ignored her because they weren’t up for the language barrier challenge with their strange guests.

Our plan was to drift and fish our way all the way back to camp. A four hour drive upstream against the current would likely only be about a two hour boat ride back. By drifting down all day we could hit so much good looking water we’d be bound to catch the giant tiger we are dreaming of filming. Pool after pool we pounded the banks and dredged the depths. We caught some fish but it was surprising just how slow the fishing was. At last we hung our first good fish.
Rob had gotten strikes three casts in a row with his Rio deep 300 grain shooting head. Then on his fourth run through the pool he came tight and shouted big fish. I reeled in to make sure my line wouldn’t be in the way and got ready to see a giant.

The strike was bigger than the fish. Although it was no tiger to baulk at,
Rob was disappointed as we tailed the 12lber. Nonetheless, Chris went into action and filmed the entire catch as if it would be our biggest. Realistically it could be as we will be half way through our trip at noon today. And if 12lbs is our biggest only the South Africans will be disappointed – a 12lb tigerfish looks like a beast to we Americans!

We drifted downstream and fished through some gorgeous African scenery today. I too landed a 12lb tigerfish and like Robs, we worked him with the cameras. All these tigers have the most incredible looking blue adipose fins. This segment of the
Confluence Film #3 will be about 12 minutes long and already they have enough to make a great one. At this point a tigerfish larger than 12lbs would simply be a bonus.

Fishing became red hot at sunset.
Rob and I were fishing as Keith poled us into some fast water. We both cast to the bank and on our first strip we were doubled up. We’ve doubled up a few times this week but never got both fish to the boat. This would be our first as we each hoisted hefty tigers for the cameras.

It is absolutely essential to be back at camp by dark so even though the tigerfish were on a tear we had to reel in after we released the two fish. On the short ride home we saw two
hippos. One was especially cool because he was trapped in shallow water. He charged downstream ahead of the boat in a desperate search for a deep hole to hide in. I was just starting to wonder when he’d turn around and fight when he found his hiding spot. In he went. Of course, we had to drive the boats through the deep hole to get by him. It’s not uncommon for hippos to attack a boat but luckily we slid on by without confrontation. We made it home just in time and after a great dinner out on our beach we were in our tents resting for a trip back to the Mnyera early in the morning. Another great day in Africa!

Special Note – Because I am in the Confluence Film I will be very limited on taking my own pictures. A special thanks to Jim Klug, Jim Harris and Chris Patterson for providing most of what you see on the blog for this Africa trip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 3 Tsetse Flies and the Rhudji River

November 4, 2010

With the exception of some wild pigs foraging through the leaves on the forest floor outside my tent it was a quiet night. But somehow I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t fearing the arrival of African wildlife and should have been tired from long day of casting, but instead I just laid there. I heard Michael the
Masai warrior that patrols camp all night approach my tent to wake me up at 4:45 am. I surprised him when I was
already up gathering my fishing stuff. I felt like crap but we had a long day ahead of us. We were switching to a different river.

Rhudji River flows 40 kilometers adjacent to the Mnyera River. 40km doesn’t sound far to travel and isn’t, but when you have nothing more than a dirt track to take you there in fully loaded safari trucks it takes about two hours. That also includes taking both trucks across the Mnyera River via a homemade ferry system. Oh, and one
flat tire. Normally a ride across the African plains at sunrise would be a joy but we got absolutely annihilated by blood thirsty tsetse flies. Tsetse flies would eat you whole if they could but instead they pick you apart piece by piece. When we got to our new camp I was so tired and chewed up I could hardly set up my gear. The South Africans motivated me by assuring me there were enormous tigerfish waiting and fed me some strong coffee. In no time we were fishing and filming again.

Rhudji River is slightly smaller than the Mnyera and very clear. You can easily see your fly coming through the water column as you retrieve it. Sure enough, I watched a 7lb tiger inhale my black whistler minutes into our first drift. Despite his insane leaps I proudly stripped him in with authority and smiled as he threw water all over us before announcing him a rat. We hammered numerous rats up to 10lbs and then like yesterday the fishing completely
died. The temperature definitely rose but the wind continued to crank. We pulled under some overhanging trees to get out of the broiling sun and ate lunch, sipped beers and rested for the late afternoon session.

Before returning to fishing we took a rare
African swim. There was a shallow flat near our lunch spot. If you sit in the middle you are at least 30 feet from the drop-off to deep water. I promise you, if you get within ten feet of such a drop you will get eaten by a
crocodile. The crocs of Africa frequently surpass the length of 18 feet! They are sneaky, can mimic a floating log and often lie completely submerged just below the surface by these drop-offs just waiting for an easy meal. We’ve all seen them eat zebras, wildebeests and etc on TV. Crocs are the real deal and you don’t mess around.

Fishing turned on in the afternoon. We changed the boats around so that
Leonard a
nd I fished while Rob poled. We floated down to one of their favorite places, the Casino. The Casino is infested with protruding logs and sunken trees mixed with strong current. We rigged our leaders with straight 30lb Rio Saltwater Tippet and attached the 40lb Rio Wire. When you hook a tiger here you can not let him run an inch or you will lose him to structure. On nearly every cast Leonard and I put a tiger in the air. And on each hook up I clenched the line with all my might. Sometimes I’d win and get the tiger to the boat while most times the line would slip loose from my grip and the fish would put lines scars I thought only possible from saltwater fish. It was amazing!

We drifted the Casino several times and then drove 30 minutes back to camp and drifted the camp water until we couldn’t see anymore.
Leonard and I must have landed 20 tigerfish up to 10lbs. I was thrilled with these gorgeous fish but somehow the South Africans seemed disappointed and even
stressed. There are obviously some much larger tigers in these rivers and they simply aren’t eating right now. That’s what the South Africans want us to film.

We sat around the campfire tonight and drank
Kilimanjaro beer
and shared stories while listening to the distant grunts of hippos and trumpeting of elephants. All the time the orange glowing eyes of crocodiles watched secretly waiting for us to have one too many. Fat chance crocodiles!

Special Note – Because I am in the Confluence Film I will be very limited on taking my own pictures. A special thanks to Jim Klug, Jim Harris and Chris Patterson for providing most of what you see on the blog for this Africa trip.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site