It doesn’t seem that long ago that my old Blue Match rod had to double for roach-pole, pike rod or anything else that came along, or instead of my huge rucksack, my fishing bag was just an old golf bag. One thing that hasn’t changed however is my love for angling and the constant quest for bigger fish from different places, so when my great angling pal Paul Jones asked me if I would like to go fishing for Nile perch in Egypt I jumped at the chance. Then I asked permission from the wife! That secured, it was noses to the grindstone to save the money for the trip, which cost around £1200 for a two week Safari.
Jonesy used to be my apprentice many years ago but he’d never even held a rod until I took him fishing one Sunday. Now his wife won’t speak to me! He spent a whole winter that first year, wrapped in a huge industrial dustbin liner, pike fishing the fens. Now of course, it’s Fox bed-chairs, Titan bivvys and a myriad of extras, which in a way detracts from the adventure of those early days.
However, here was a chance to inject that adventure back into our fishing and truly go exploring for monsters! As you would expect I read all the articles I could on the fishing in Lake Nasser, as this was to be our destination. The trip was with Tim Baileys African Angler Safaris, immortalised by John Wilson in a spectacular video, which Jonesy and I watched over and over again.
The ten months from our initial idea, to getting on the plane at Heathrow flashed past. I must admit that we received quite a few strange glances standing at the Egypt air check in with a ski holdall. The flight to Luxor takes about five and a half hours and with the time difference we landed at ten thirty at night. Amazingly to us, the temperature was still 36C!
The first night in Egypt was spent at the Luxor Hilton where we met other anglers on their way to the lake, then it was a 6 am start for an internal flight to Aswan. There was little time to sight-see on the way but the organisation was excellent and everything went like clockwork. The flight to Aswan is just a 40-minute hop and at the airport we were met by one of the guides and taken down to the boats. On the way we crossed over the massive Dam that created Lake Nasser - the views at this point are breathtaking.
At the shore of the lake we were met by Tim Bailey who pioneered the sport fishing on Lake Nasser some years previous and who now organises the African Angler holidays. Again we had to part with a bit more hard-earned cash for the hire of equipment and to pay for our fishing permits. At this point we were introduced to our guides, we had asked for Mohamed and Bibi and were pleased that they were both available. The only equipment we hired were boat rods and reels for trolling, these are good quality 30/50 lb. class rods paired with quality multiplier reels, the cost for two weeks was not too expensive at a little over £30. It took about an hour to get organised then finally we were ready for action!!
As we sped across the lake on our way to the first of our fishing destinations we unpacked the gear and loaded the reels with 30lb line on the trolling rods and 25lb on the shore outfits. The first few hours of the trip were spent tackling all the rods up which the guides did in expert fashion. We had with us our heaviest carp gear for shore fishing and some lighter rods for Tiger fish and anything that came along. We had also brought a large selection of lures which we hung up at the back of the boat for easy access. Mohamed advised us what lures to use for different conditions and water depth and he was mine of information.
We were on what is known as the ‘Nubian one-boat Safari’ and we would be travelling further South than most of the other boats. There is no contact with anybody throughout the 12 day trip apart from being re-supplied on the Sunday so we needed to take everything with us apart from food and drinks. Well, we did smuggle our preferred tipple on board and there was cold beer in the hold when required.
Finally the boat slowed and Mohamed peered into the depth finder "Fish here" he instructed "use orange Shadrap". As this was all new to me, I fumbled around a bit until he came over to assist me, nothing is too much trouble for these guys and they were great fun to be with. With Mohamed‘s help, I soon had the hang of things and at last my lure was diving some 40 yards behind the boat as we steered around the edge of a sunken island.
No more than ten minutes into the first troll and my rod smashed around and line shot from the reel. I laughed crazily as I hit into a completely uncontrollable fish - then the 30lb line parted like cotton. I didn’t need to be told, but Mohamed said "That was a big fish. I could feel my bottom lip hit the floor. However another Shadrap in place and we were hunting again. Then Jonesy was into a fish that had no respect for the top class equipment we were using and ripped line off the reel so fast that I thought that it was going to melt. In an instant the fish hit the surface and tried on several occasions to become airborne. This time everything held and Jonesy landed a brute of a Nile perch dead on fifty pounds. What a start, Jonesy was as high as a kite and now I wanted one!
We fished hard the rest of the day loosing another big fish which just slipped the hooks and we landed a couple of small fish around the ten pound mark. Just as the light started to fade I had a take on a big Nilsmaster and, although not a monster, I had a great scrap with a fish of twenty-eight pounds.
That night we had a couple of cold beers and a great laugh with the guides and Bibi cooked a tasty chicken meal whilst we reflected on the day. Sleep came quickly that first night, a combination of travelling and the heat, which during most part of the day stayed in the mid forty’s and only dropped about ten degrees at night.
The Nile perch angler’s day starts typically at about five thirty, a quick check that there are no crocodiles around and a dip in the lake is a must to revitalise all the parts. Then, a wander round with the spinning rod while breakfast is prepared, or just a look around, as there are all sorts of amazing sights. Like the jackal that I met on the trail as I was returning from a desperate call of nature. I looked at him, he looked at me and slowly we just passed one another. Eagles and vultures are around all the time and have little fear of man so they will fly in quite close to check you out.
Despite what the guides say, you do need to watch out for snakes and scorpions, especially when climbing around shore fishing and have a good check round when going to the loo as well! Swimming is usually fine but we did have a croc of about fourteen feet long next to the boat, this was in the early hours of the morning and was a fantastic sight but I wouldn’t like to share my bath with one.
After breakfast we set off, trolling as we went, to a top shore fishing spot. Along the way I lost another wacker and lure when I had a take in eighty feet of water. It just felt like I had hit the bottom but Mohamed just shook his head and said "another big fish". I was starting to lose it a bit then, three big fish hooked and lost is three too many. However my luck was about to change!
The morning was turning into a real scorcher as we motored into a small bay at the back of a boulder strewn island. This place is known as Maria and has been the scene of some great battles with some massive fish being caught. Here we fished from the shore, stalking fish that are basking in the sun. This type of fishing is absolutely breath taking. I spotted a fish of approximately forty pounds. I cast just beyond it with an imitation rubber fish the size and shape of a half pound trout. I had just started to work it back towards my target when I had a vicious take and landed a fish of twenty-six pounds. Further up the bank Jonesy was also in action with a couple of twenties, then a massive fish smashed him up as it took his rubber fish right at his feet. We were starting to get the hang of this but with the arrival of another boat the pressure on the fish was too much and they faded away. We spent a bit of time chatting to the guys in the other boat but when Mohamed gave us the nod we were off to another interesting spot.
This place was very similar to Maria but was quite a bit deeper, forty plus feet deep at the edge. At first we fished in the same way as on Maria, spotting fish and fishing to them with rubber fish. This turned up a couple of fish for Jonesy, the best being a bit over thirty. As the fishing started to tail off with the pressure, we switched to fishing CD 14 & 18’s and letting them sink for around thirty seconds. This produced a small double for Paul and then I had a cracking take. The fish stayed deep and just went where it liked, but again the hooks pulled out and I nearly threw the rod in! Next cast after that, Jonesy hit a big fish that again seemed uncontrollable, staying deep and finally snagging him on a sunken rock - he was not a happy chappy. A couple of minutes later when I was retrieving my red & white CD14, a fish of about thirty pounds followed it in and then, right under my feet a huge fish turned, it’s white flank dwarfing the other fish.
Mohamed told me to change my lure to a Russell lure; I was a bit surprised, as all the action seemed to be coming on the CD14. However I changed to a dark red Russell lure and, as I cast in, Mohamed and I both prayed to Allah for a big fish. Half way through the retrieve something powerful nailed the lure and again there was solid resistance. I put as much pressure as I dare on my old carp rod and slowly I started to make headway with the fish, until it decided to run! It went from under my feet, out into the lake about eighty yards and became airborne. As soon as I saw it, I said to Paul that I was not going to land the fish on this gear. But everything held and finally, after just over 20 minutes, the fish was mine. It was an amazing fight and for me a dream come true.
I could just about lift the fish to weigh it and at eighty-seven pounds it was a colossal perch. For the first time in my fishing career I couldn’t say anything, even when Paul pointed the video in my face for an on-the-spot interview.
We fished on but after that fish was caught nothing seemed interested in our lures, so we jumped in the boat and both landed sixties on the troll. We continued the rest of the trip with a combination of shore fishing and trolling. Some days were better than others. We stopped counting doubles and stopped photographing twenty’s in case we ran out of film. We lost some big fish and both landed several more big fish all over fifty pounds.
Unfortunately Paul got an infection in his hands and towards the end of the trip could not fish at all. It was a worrying time, both for him and me and he ended up quite ill for a couple of weeks after the trip. He’s ok now though and we are just planning our next trip. Guess where to!