After many missed opportunities, it was at the end of day 6 of the hunt that our objectives were met. The majestic Lord Derby eland kept us running in its herd of 50 animals for over 5 hours, and this old buffalo whose herd rebelled against us after its dominant had fallen…
All these fleeting moments, imbued with contrasting and unique emotions, will occupy our memories forever.
That same evening, we were progressing quietly on a rocky bank of the Faro River, when we ran into a couple of Western Kobs silently drinking. They locate us: the female Kob whistles to warn her male of the potential danger we represent. The latter, of equal elegance and curiosity, stares at us while remaining motionless. His ethereal silhouette seems unreal. The streaks from its horns reflect the light: magnificent animal!
I barely have time to take out my Canon camera to immortalize his portrait.
A few dozen meters further, we arrive. We lay our load on the still warm sand as the last rays of sunshine take hold of our eyes.
Dinkao collects some wood for the fire he will light later in the night. Edward and Stuart are busy getting their gear ready as I check that my 416 Remington’s magazine is full. However, I balance my rifle on a smooth rock. It looks like I will not need it tonight. And so, the quest for a Trophy Nile Perch begins! Edward grabs his 12-weight fly rod and turns towards the river. He scrutinizes the slightest roughness of the weak current and evaluates the distance that separates him from the opposite sand bank. A few warm-up casts follow. No moon tonight, the experience continues in complete darkness. We cannot rely on our eyes, which makes fly fishing even more sensorial. It is the ideal training to master your casting! If you concentrate, you can even feel the vibrations produced by the water-pushing fly when you pull the line in. Without the ability to anticipate, the bite becomes electrifying. It spreads throughout the hand before reaching the shoulder. It is the adrenaline that ends up flooding your mind.
Flies slice through the air with an almost bewitching hiss. A couple of Pel’s fishing owls are echoing. A hippo growls timidly whilst a hyena sneers a few hundred meters away. I cannot help but think: is she laughing at us? It is a prodigious paradox of silence and orchestra. However, the fantasy of a Giant Nile Perch breaks me loose from my torpor. I know its image swims in all minds.
Suddenly, a voice tears the silence: “I’m in!”. It’s Edward’s. A fish has taken the fly. As an experienced fly-fisherman, his excitement leaves no doubt: the fish is big.
I rush to his side to light him. The fish immediately takes several dozen meters of line before Edward manages to slow down his run by blocking his reel with both hands. Despite that, the fish is still running away. His fingers are burning and Edward is forced to run to the shore in order to better control his fight. I escorted him at full speed and against all odds… the fish turned back. Is it a fish after all? It could be a hippo or a crocodile after all.
When in doubt, I go back for my 416 Remington. Our fisherman gains centimeter by centimeter before he loses it all again. The confrontation goes on for more than an hour: it is indeed a fish! A crocodile or a hippo does not dive that long underwater.
The adrenaline is at its peak and Stuart and I sit on the floor waiting for the outcome. Our trackers argue, I hear Saliou confiding to Dinkao “that is more than 60 kilos!”. Edward reels his silk in meticulously, with exemplary composure. The light from our headlamps reflects off the Nile Perch below the surface. Suddenly, the fly got loose from its lower lip. Stuart rushes at the fish and catches it by the mouth. It is over. 162 cm long for a weight of 72 kg.
The fish is spectacular.
After a re-oxygenation session, the dinosaur has been put back into the water. It will continue to pass its genetic material on and feed the Faro river with his offspring.
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We have been descending the Ndugba river bed for more than 5 hours. The heat is unbearable and my body starts to cry out for mercy. My feet hurt, my legs, although hardened, support me only with difficulty…