5:30 the alarm goes off, we shake off the night before in a hot shower, congregate in the main lodge , enjoy the aroma of fresh coffee and home made rusks. The conversation is subdued as we watch with interest as Africa wakes up beneath us, pulling the mist duvet away, revealing the mountains, the valley, and finally the lake. The last of last night edges itself out, almost embarrassingly with a slight shiver. The Francolin urge us on. This is Heavens Gate Lodge at Royal Jozini, Swaziland. It just talks to your inner spaces, without effort, without drama but with the promise of a days adventure that awakens centuries of lost instinct within each one of us, man and woman alike.
Africa continues to awaken around us on our drive to the water, unstoppable and reliable like an old friend. Showings of shy Kudu, glimpses of Nyala, and a disapproving look from a neck of giraffe remind us that we are in paradise.
The boat is dripping with dew, the Golden Orb spiders have been active and the geckos scurry for a dark hole , the Yamaha coughs and destroys the silence in a cloud of smoke and adrenalin.
Time to hunt!
The tiger fish in this magnificent 35km stretch of clean fresh water are unique in that they do not occur farther south in Africa. They are artistic in Color and design and best of all, they have increased in size year after year here.
There are any number of ways to hunt these predators but beware! these fish challenge anglers of all size and creed. In such a massive body of water the hunter has to first find the fish. This takes time and experience.
The Tiger go for bait on a static line, and remarkably find pilchards quite tasty. The take on static dead bait is gentle and often mistaken for a weed or grass. One has to allow the fish to take the bait BEFORE striking, so frustrating when you know just how close you are to a hook up. Strike to early and its gone, strike to late and the hook is naked, it takes practice, practice , concentration and nerves of steel. A successful hook up and everything changes, there is pandemonium on the boat, all lines are brought in, the boat made safe and so the hunter starts his battle, the objective, keep the fish in the water, don’t let it jump.
When fishing with lures or Fly the hit is so explosive that it can take the rod out of your hands, it is incredibly fast and powerful. The desperate life saving battle to free itself from the hook is ferocious and ancient. One cannot help but to respect the energy and power of this fish as it takes you on, both physically and mentally.
A successful Tiger fish hunt ends with a photograph a high five, big grins and a release. The fish eagles let us know that they have beared witness and they echo one another in their appreciation. The sense of satisfaction is enhanced by the release and the protection of this magnificent species for our junior and unborn hunters to enjoy long after we have gone.
Roger McLeod at Heavens Gate Lodge (Lisango Lezulu Lodge), Royal Jozini, Swaziland