I don’t know whether you remember the Abu Tight Line fishing tackle catalogues that were published in the 1970’s? Well, being a young lad at the time and having just started fishing, they were a source of great inspiration and enlightenment. In addition to being packed full of fishing tackle that I was unlikely to be able to afford, they always had an annual article on the ‘Dream Trip Winners fishing expedition’. This was a competition prize, in which seven lucky angling winners, who had captured the most significant Abu tackle caught fish in the year, would be ‘jetted off’ to an exotic venue to fish for equally exotic fish species. Expeditions in pursuit of Atlantic blue marlin, Indian mahseer, tiger fish, Pacific salmon were the norm and what fantastic prize trips they were. The particular fish species that stayed in my memory from those wonderful catalogues, was the freshwater giant, the Nile perch. It was striking due to its colossal size, its predatory nature and its similarity to a common carp with perch characteristics. Little did I know at the time, that I would eventually be making just such a trip, to cast a line for this legendary game fish.
Although I still own a number of the Abu Tight Line Catalogues, it was not until I saw a television programme featuring the Nile perch as a freshwater game-fish target, that my interest was finally re-awakened. I made arrangements the very next week to embark on a fishing trip to the same venue, Lake Nasser in Egypt. I am what may be considered a ‘specimen hunter’, and I researched the Lake Nasser catch records, in an attempt to deduce the best time to visit, with the possibility of ‘contacting’ a better than average specimen. I came to the conclusion, that the winter months gave a better than average chance, given the right conditions. I therefore booked with the agent, to fly in December, just three months away.
The time finally arrived to pack my kit and drive down to Heathrow Airport to board the flight for Egypt. I was originally due to fly direct to Aswan. However, due to the appalling ‘Luxor Massacre’ in which several British tourists were murdured, there was a complete collapse of the tourist flight market, and my flight was re-routed to Aswan via Cairo.
I finally arrived at Aswan, and it was a short taxi ride to rendezvous on the lake shore with the expedition organiser’s Will Rag, and girlfriend, Alex Garland. Both Will and Alex are both keen anglers, and at the time, administered the expeditions from their flat in Aswan. However, they were not fishing on this occasion due to visiting relatives. So it was goodbye to Will and Alex as the 40 HP outboard engine was started up and the start of an eagerly anticipated Nile perch fishing expedition.
Lake Nasser is a huge lake, and is the result of the River Nile valley being flooded, when the ‘High Dam’ at Aswan was built by the British and latterly the Russian’s. Lake Nasser is approximately 300 miles long and is twenty miles at its widest point. It is a vast wilderness, and you only ever see a few native fishermen and the very occasional cruise liner in the distance. There are huge bays, know as Khor’s, some being larger than the biggest waters to be found in the British Isles. The southern end of Lake Nasser is in the Sudan, however, the majority of its 2400 square miles is actually in Egypt. Being a flooded river valley there are thousands of features such as steep sided rock faces and rock pinnacles that the Nile perch frequent to ambush their smaller prey. The depths are mostly in excess of one hundred feet but most of the fishing is conducted from the shore or trolling from the boat in depths of up to fifty feet on the lake perimeter. Lake Nasser is without doubt one of the best freshwater sports fishing venues in the world. During a weeks fishing it is likely that you will catch a perch of 50 pounds plus with the possibility of a fish in excess of one hundred pounds. There are huge Nile perch present in Lake Nasser, far bigger than any that have been caught on rod and line. The Egyptian fishery authorities have on record Nile perch that have been caught in nets up to 378 pounds. Someone is going to get really lucky one day!
FIRST DAY OUT
Most of the first day was spent motoring south to rendezvous with two British anglers, who had been fishing the lake for the whole of the previous week, and whom I had not met before. The two anglers were Steve Dunbar from London and Troy Louis from Macclesfield, and the intention was to spend the rest of the week fishing together.
It was during a stop for lunch having pulled up to the shore, that I first wet a line on Nasser, and this resulted in my first and smallest Nile perch to date. It took a fluoro orange Rapala CD14 and weighed about 2 pounds. Still it was a start and was put straight back to grow on into a 200 pounder!
Later on in the day, and nearing the rendezvous point with Steve and Troy, we started to troll near a noted ‘hot spot’ at West Kalabasha, known as the ‘Beacon’. This is a rocky out-crop in the vast expanse of Nasser near a military warning beacon and is frequented by big Nile perch. On the second troll through I latched into a good fish and after a spirited fight we boated my first decent size Nile perch. It was a beautiful fish with dark, almost black colouration, and weighed 46 pounds on the salter’s. It was a good start to the trip and expectations were high for the next five days.
On meeting Steve and Troy at the end of my first days fishing, it transpired that they both had experienced a very successful week, each having caught Nile perch to 104 and 109 pounds respectively and were very pleased with their results. They had caught large fish from both the shore and whilst trolling out in the boat. The majority of their fish had been caught on Russellure’s and Buchertail Depthraider’s.
The first and subsequent nights were spent sleeping on top of the boat roof, and the wind had started to blow fairly strongly, with the temperature plummeting. Never mind, there wasn’t any rain to contend with.
The second day started bright and pleasant with the temperature in the seventies. Steve, Troy and I immediately started trolling near to where we had spent the previous night. Within a short time I hooked into yet another good fish. Following three long runs with a tight clutch setting, and several spectacular leaps clear of the water, a perch was stringered and then weighed. The silver green coloured specimen, weighed a fraction under the magical hundred, at 96 pounds exactly. So near, but yet so far!
The following days were spent shore fishing and trolling and the perch were being taken at regular intervals. The notable feeding periods for the Nile perch, were dawn and dusk, with a ‘good chop’ on the water being the optimum conditions. We were ‘blown-off’ the water one evening as the weather decided to take a turn for the worse.
The expedition was nearing its end as we went out for the final evenings trolling in the boat. We had been moving north, heading back towards Aswan, and we were due to spend the night near to West Kalabasha. The water was fairly choppy as we started to troll lures near to the ‘Beacon’.
Steve was the first to make contact with a large fish, which proceeded to run and snap his 20 pound line like cotton. Troy was the next to connect with a large perch, which took him straight through some large boulders on the lake bottom.
I finally ‘hooked-up’ and luckily the fish did not hit a snag. It started on a long run away from me, which very nearly emptied my Abu Ambassadeur multiplier on full drag. I applied thumb pressure to try and prevent any more of the 30 pound test mono leaving the spool, but to my horror, saw only a few yards left on the reel. Luckily the boat had been turned and I managed to recover much needed line back onto the reel.
The perch stayed deep, going on shorter, but unstoppable runs. During the fight, I had to walk along the boat rim on several occasions, with the rod tip sunk under the boat to prevent a break, as the fish continually changed direction. The perch eventually went to the bottom, where it ‘sulked’ for a minute or two, before sustained pressure from the fully bent rod began to takes it toll. The fish then went on another run, this time rising in the water. When the fish hit the surface, its huge body heaved above the water with violent head shakes and gills flaring, that left us in no doubt, that attached to my lure was a two hundred pound plus Nile perch. I knew the fish was mine if the trebles held fast. Following a few short runs the fish was eventually brought alongside the boat. The leader was held and the fish was lip-gaffed. However, the gaff straightened due to the weight of the fish, and it took a second attempt before the fish was secured and stringered. It was then slowly towed to a nearby island for weighing and measuring. The fight took twenty five minutes to land and the perch was caught on a perch-patterned depthraider.
The huge Nile perch weighed 213 pounds after the sling was deducted, and nearly took the Salter scales to their limit. It was 6 feet 2 inches long with a girth of 51 inches, a new unofficial, IGFA All-Tackle World Record. It was then allowed to recover on the stringer in deeper water before being returned alive to grow onto even larger proportions. The next morning was the final day, and I hooked another large fish, which eventually ‘pulled out’ after a long run. It didn’t seem to matter though!
My monster perch was ratified, as an All-Tackle and 30lb Line Class Record, by the IGFA in the New Year. As a famous actor once said, "I'll be back".