Tim Bailey runs and organises 'The African Angler' and it is through Tim's enterprise that most sport fishing anglers find themselves in the searing heat of southern Egypt. It must be emphasised from the very outset that the term safari is precisely what a fishing trip to Lake Nasser is. The environment is rugged, though incredibly beautiful, remote, demanding and hostile. Yet despite this Tim has, over the past few years, evolved an adventure which is remarkably civilised in several aspects, primarily centred about the social and culinary side of the trip.
British anglers, at the present time at least, depart the UK from London's Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3 on scheduled Egypt Air flights to Luxor. Flying time is approximately 5 hours and from clear skies it is possible to get really excellent views of France, Corsica and the west coast of Italy before beginning the descent to Luxor. Arrival at Luxor is around mid-evening and from here coaches transfer the anglers to the Luxor Hilton hotel, a few miles from the airport. It is not practical to transfer from Luxor to the lake immediately so the first night (and the last night) are spent in an hotel which competes favourably with many European standards. After a pleasant evening socialising and a good nights sleep (make the best of this one, it's the last time you'll see a proper bed for at least a week!), coaches once again transfer you to Luxor airport for the 30 minute flight south to Aswan.
Assuming everything goes to schedule (and don't put money on it doing so) and after a further coach transfer to the High Dam several miles out of Aswan town, you get your first view of this huge lake. The boats are moored at the High Dam and you are met by Tim, his locally based staff and the guides with whom you'll be spending the time fishing on the lake. If the heat doesn't hit you as you disembark the plane at Luxor, it surely will have by the time you board the boat!
Sometime around midday or ear1y afternoon, your luggage, rods and tackle, the food and other goods needed to support the safari for at least a week heads south and away from civilisation. In some ways you left (what we have come to regard as) civilisation when you left England, though that is not a criticism of what you experience in the short time you drive through Egyptian roads on the way the High Dam. It most certainly is a very different form of living however, and poverty is for all to see, yet, the guys with whom you will be sharing your lives for the next few days couldn't be much happier, more friendly, less aggressive or more courteous.
Tim Bailey has at least one half dozen angling boats based on Lake Nasser and two support vessels. The angling boats are around 26 feet and support 3 anglers very well. At the front of each boat is a canopy which not only provides the only shade there is, it also doubles up as sleeping quarters - two people beneath the canopy, one on top. Truth is though, that the weather is so predictable, and so very warm for most of the time that you may choose to sleep outside of the canopy, even on the beach away from the boats. The support boats follow the angling boats around the lake, providing cooked, hot food and drink to the party at the twice-daily rendezvous (midday for a couple of hours, and each night). The angling boats also carry plenty of water and soft drinks.
A word about the weather. Egypt is one of the hottest, sunniest countries on Earth. Around Aswan there is no recordable rain for any of the 12 months of the year and from dawn to dusk the sun almost always beats down from cloudless skies, unrelenting, hot. The 'cooler' months of the Egyptian year follow the same pattern as in England (both countries are, of course, in the northern hemisphere). Out on the lake, in December, night time temperatures will fall to the mid-50's f; in the daytime, between around 10 am and mid-afternoon, it may hit 100f. In July and August, the night time temperature may not fall below 95f, the day temperature will hit 130f directly in the sun.
Clearly, for comfort you would be wise to choose your safari between the months of October and May. For anyone who has not experienced the unrelenting heat of an Egyptian summer, from which it is almost impossible to escape from the direct rays of the sun, the inability to cool down at night can become tiresome and very demanding. You need only watch the wildlife to appreciate that the period between autumn and spring is the more tolerable.
Speaking of the wildlife, you can reasonably expect to see Nile Monitors (lizards that reach a length of perhaps 7 feet but which remain shy and reclusive), numerous skinks (little lizards rarely exceeding 6 inches, the males have bright blue tails), perhaps Egyptian Cobras, Vipers and if your luck is really in, Nile Crocodiles. Bird life includes Pelicans and Egrets, several birds of prey including Vultures, geese and any number of European birds that migrate south during our cooler winter months. This latter aspect I found odd initially - seeing birds that spend their summers with us then disappear. Well, here they are!!
Jackals make their presence known at night by howling (much like the wolf in sound) and may even come close to camp; foxes and a variety of rodents effectively complete the list. It's great fun, after a night has passed to walk carefully across the sand spotting animal tracks which may include snakes and monitors, certainly will include gerbils and mice and trying to interpret what they have been up to in the dark hours. Surprisingly, at certain locations around the lake frogs of all creatures are very evident and appear to be doing well despite the heat and the low humidity.
The night sky is one to behold. Being at such a remote location, and many miles from any form of town there is no residual glow from street lights, power plants and other forms of mans development. This results in absolute darkness which provides the star-gazer with a fantastic night sky and probably the very best view of the Milky Way you'll ever see. At night the desert silence is absolute save the sounds of nocturnal creatures and the feeling of isolation, freedom and peacefulness can be overwhelming. It is a quite glorious environment.
Lake Nasser was formed by damming the River Nile. The lake runs south from the High Dam at Aswan in to the Sudan and is over 300 miles in length, 4000 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 2000 square miles. Many of the bays and inlets are simply beautiful and consist of rock or sand, sometimes dropping away dramatically into 50 feet of water, at other times sloping gently in to shallows of just a few feet. Rocks, rocky outcrops, sunken trees and islands provide the popular fishing spots. The numerous weedbeds are not so favoured by the angling guides.
Early in the day, and again as the sun sets, the desert often takes on a beautiful red glow nearly matched by the color of your skin after a few days!
Concerned that your trip might be a 'one off' and you don't have the tackle suited to this kind of fishing? Well, don't be. If you are a regular carp or pike angler using 'modern' tackle, chances are you'll already have both rods and reels that will meet the demands of this fishing. A through action rod of around 3-lbs test curve coupled with a reel holding not less than 100 yards of 50-lb test line will cover just about all your shore fishing and a fair bit of boat fishing. Except that I personally feel that 12-ft rods are a little too long and that you cannot get sufficient leverage to really haul on a big fish. In my opinion rods of between 9 and 10 feet are better suited to both shore and boat fishing. The very powerful lines most commonly used on L. Nasser are not just with big fish in mind but are needed to pull free the lures from the abundant submerged trees and rocks. With 50-lb test line you'll retrieve almost every snagged lure; with 30-lb test line you'll be lucky to get back half of those you snag up and at anything from £8 to £15 each it's a bit of a costly mistake.
You might find yourself well and truly hooked on the fishing and on the scenery and if you do, you'll very likely buy a purpose made set of tackle for your safaris. If, on the other hand, you don't think the investment is worth it you can hire all the necessary tackle, the lures and other kit directly from The African Angler at very reasonable rates. If you lose the lures on hire Tim Bailey charges only the market value - there is no 'mark-up'.
One last and very important point. Most of the lures best suited to Nile Perch fishing comes supplied with hooks that are too soft or brittle (Rapalas seem to be the exception) and must be changed for extra, extra strong hooks. Ignore this advice, as I did and you'll lose a big fish!