To experience something new is always special and exciting. Not knowing what to expect is exhilarating, traveling new roads, seeing new destinations and experiencing things that many people go a lifetime without seeing are truly incredible. These moments in time, to me are the best adventures. Not only the destination but the journey to get there, to travel through a beautiful country just makes the trip more worthwhile and the destination that much more incredible.
This was the case in my last adventure. Just over a week or so ago, we headed up to the Okavango Delta, Sepupa to be exact, to spend the week getting in some Tiger fishing during the annual Barbel run. Not only was this a completely new experience for me and a new destination but it was also a very special time as my father travelled up to join in on the adventure, making it a great father and son week as our company was Allan and his father Tony. Getting to see family is always great but spending time with them is amazing and always will find a top placing in my memory.
With great excitement I picked my father up from the airport and before we knew it we were at Allan’s house doing the last minute preps before we leave. Making sure all the rods, reels, tackle, cooler boxes and beers were packed, I’m not too sure if any of us were too concerned about food or clothes. I think that’s the normal case on any fishing trip.
Packed and ready to go we headed off, leaving Gaborone in the early hours of the morning, 3am to be exact. We had a 1100km journey ahead of us on some, for me, untraveled roads. Although it was a long drive through the very dry and flat country side we made it across the country and arrived at our destination 14 hours later. All of us a little tired we managed to get our campsite set up and cracked open the first beers on the banks of the Delta at the well-known Swamp stop, a popular place among fishermen visiting the Delta. It really didn’t take long for the relaxation to kick in by being in a place like this.
Sitting around the fire, Allan and I were rather eager to get our lines wet, so we grabbed the rods and threw a line out for those rather ancient looking and very strange squeakers. If you haven’t fished for these before you really need to try it, you will have a rather amusing time with these little guys.
The next day we got all the equipment ready, picked up the boat and got them launched, all of us very keen to get on the water. We headed out for our first fish. At this point in time I had a completely different picture in my mind as to what the delta looked like. Being in the pan handle of the Delta it is basically made up of channels and lagoons that run between the papyrus forming a swamp land of huge proportion. These winding channels through the papyrus and sandbanks is where we would be spending the next few days hunting for those monster Tiger fish.
First afternoon out and we got our first glimpse of the Barbel run. The slapping of water and the noise that these fish make moving through the edges of the papyrus is truly something. It wasn’t on the scale that I expected after hearing people talk about it, maybe a slight miss judgement in timing but it was still an amazing sight non the less and believe me there are millions of Barbel in pan handle. It’s not only the fish that put on a show but it’s the incredible birdlife that follows the run, you basically feel engulfed in the whole experience. Catching a couple Barbel was the only outcome of the first days fishing but even these were good fun to catch and release.
Second day and we were out on the water much earlier. Now knowing how to find the runs it became a little easier. Look for the birds, find the fish! Following the runs are rather exciting so many fish and you are basically just waiting for that monster to bite so you can feel that fight and bend of the rod. Although the sons never caught much other than a couple Barbel on this day the old men showed us up by getting a couple tigers and man did it look fun. My father hooking into a nice 3kg and Tony hooking into 2 nice size tigers too. I must say there was a little bragging that night from there side but it was well deserved. Talk of the days fishing carried on while we sat around the fire to a hearty meal after a long day on the water, something that I think all of us needed.
Third day and back on the water as we watched the sun rise over the papyrus. Heading up stream I just marvelled at the beauty of this place especially in the early morning, the sun glinting red off the water, the numerous amount of birds flying in front of you and the all so common but so beautiful cries of the African Fish Eagles. It was a great day to be in Africa! After following the runs for a while again and then heading further up looking for more runs we got back to the first run we were following and this was my time. Near the bends around the sandbanks I threw just into the run and one or two pulls and he hit me, MAN ALIVE, it was game time. Hitting me like a freight train this fish wanted war, jumping from the water trying to shake my bait he gave me a first look of what I was into. Tiger on the line and the fight was on, rod bending and straining this guy gave me a good fight, finally getting it to the boat and out the water to weigh, get the lure out and take that trophy photo I had to sit down for a little while as the adrenaline was pumping through me at an incredible pace. Hands trembling from the adrenalin and holding this fierce looking fish we managed to get a photo or two before releasing him again. What a fight, such an incredible moment. A 3kg Tiger is no slouch. A few hours later it was time to head back to camp but all I had on my mind was that catch, such an experience.
Day four and we headed out to another beautiful sunrise. Finding the run pretty quickly we managed to follow this for few hours, hooking into a few Barbel and a couple Tigers. My father managing to get a few good ones and myself hooking into another great fighter of 2.5kg. After a few hours on the water the run started to dissipate and fishing died down so after a good lunch on the riverbanks we went in search of more runs in a new part of the pan handle, finding a couple runs we threw a few casts but as the sun was starting to disappear we needed to head back to camp. Another great day on the water although being on the water under the Botswana sun really can drain the energy out of you.
Reminiscing about the day and going through some of the photos taken so far I was really blown away by the amount of birdlife, from African Fish Eagles to the very special sight of the African Skimmers, the copious amounts of herons and egrets, don’t forget about the little Kingfishers as all these just add to the beauty of this place. I can’t say I would recommend this place to the non-fisherman but if you are an avid bird lover it’s not the worst place to go. I could have quite happily drifted down stream looking for birds as you would get a few sightings of Crocs and Hippo’s too. The African Skimmers are always a great treat to see and you won’t battle to get any close ups of the many Fish Eagles around.
The last morning on the water and we were in search of that monster Tiger again. Finding the run pretty close to camp we followed it up and down stream as the run seemed to go back and forth, swapping sides they just seemed to be all over the place. Not catching much other than Barbel, which was still great fun, the fishing started to come to a close and on my last cast, as if to say thanks for coming, I hooked into a small Tiger to give me one last fight.
Back at camp we started to pack up a few things so we could get on the road early the next morning and although I think we were all a little sad that the week was coming to an end I think we were all feeling quite fished out. A great week of fishing, sun, water, camping and wildlife.
If you up in the area for fishing or just on a holiday be sure to check out Swamp Stop as it’s a great place to stay, if you camping or staying in chalets. Check out their website at http://www.swampstop.co.bw
I just got to say a huge thanks to my Father who came up to visit, it was amazing having you here and, as always, great to spend time with you. Same time next year? Allan and Tony, thanks again for a great week, It was definitely a trip that I will be doing again.
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