If someone is not a fisherman it must be hard to understand the sorts of feelings that go through our minds and bodies at times like this. Lake Nasser is, I would guess, most freshwater fisherman's Mecca, a dream water where you can catch crazy fighting fish bigger than you are - and be in with a real chance of smashing a world record or two. Jonesy, my partner in crime, was already stumbling about the room. After a night in the bar, a 5am alarm call takes a while to sink in before all hell breaks loose. Then it's off for an early breakfast and on into the unknown.
We had travelled from Heathrow to Luxor the day before and as usual everything had gone like clockwork. The flight on the Egypt Air Jumbo was comfortable and at five and a half hours was not too long. Chaka travel had performed brilliantly with all the tickets and information arriving well in advance. At Luxor airport we were met by the African Anglers staff and, without a hitch, whisked to the Luxor Hilton for our overnight stay. Now it was just a hop on an internal flight from Luxor to Aswan and on to the banks of the Nile and lake Nasser.
So it was that Tuesday 16 May that saw us both on the makeshift jetty, rekindling old friendships from last year, swapping photo's and bragging about times gone by. Everybody was buzzing with enthusiasm, as gear was stowed and equipment unpacked and assembled.
Mohamed was to be our guide again, at our request, along with Bebea and Akmed on the supply boat and an armed Police officer along for the ride. (This is a new idea from the Egyptian government to make tourist anglers feel more secure)
Jonesy went to collect his trolling rod which he had arranged to hire and, frankly, the choice of gear was very poor compared with last year. I had invested in an up-tide 4lb TC 9ft glass three-piece rod from Harris Angling. Paired with that, a state of the art Abu 9000. This was to prove an unbeatable and unbreakable combination and put me on the road to a dream trip. On the other hand Jonesy was to regret his decision to hire the trolling rod, which was hardly worth the £20 that he paid to hire it. He had also brought with him a second hand Abu 6500 multiplier which had been fine last year but played up from the off on this trip.
When tackling such fierce fighters as Nile Perch and vundu catfish, everything has to be spot on.
As for Lures, a selection of Shadraps, Rapala,CD14 and 18, Bucher Depthriders and shallow Raiders, Russell Lures all sizes and colours. Different patterns will work in different conditions, so take lots. Best all-round workers in our opinion were Red Head Shadraps and Depthraiders, Natural Roach Shads, Silver Roach shads, Orange CDl8, and Shad Pattern Shadraps.
I'm not a lure specialist but after loosing lots of lures on my first trip and being short of all the good patterns, I spent about five hundred quid on lures for this trip, buying some each month soon mounts up. My local tackle shop, Old Town Angling in Hemel Hempstead, was pleased to do me a deal on the amount of gear I was buying. Kevin the owner used to see me coming and start rubbing his hands together! Anyway my advice is, take loads of lures.
As for line, we used Yo-zouri 381b for trolling and Silver Thread 25lb for shore work. I also got some high quality braided lines which were okay but not as good as nylon in my opinion. Top quality 80 or lOOlb nylon for leaders and top quality QED swivels for the business end. If you get hold of the Harris catalogue it's all in it, also it's worth taking some light gear as there are all sorts of strange things to catch, like roach with teeth!
Apart from the trolling gear we took with us a couple of 31b test carp rods, a couple of spinning rods and all the usual end bit's
After a couple of hours sorting things out we were on our way, bashing down the lake, setting all the rods up as we went. Mohamed is a mine of information and is only too pleased to help with the rods and setting up. It is worth mentioning that it is your guides who are the experts and if they suggest something to you, like a particular lure pattern to use, it usually works.
After a few hours motoring the boat slowed and it was time to wet the line. I could feel my skin prickle as the afternoon sun began working on my white bits, even through the factor 24. We slowly trolled round a series of sunken Islands and under water ridges, only the constant chug of the outboard could be heard as evening slowly approached. My rod tip suddenly slammed over with first savage take of the holiday and everybody on the boat shouted "Fish" as my line screamed out against what I thought was a hard-set clutch. As the fish slowed, I struck again to make certain of a hook-hold but after a short battle the fish took me into a snag, leaving me dazed at it's sheer power, a big fish to be sure.
I had two more takes that first afternoon and lost them both but Paul got on the score-card with a couple of smaller fish around the low doubles mark. That evening Jonesy caught a small tiger fish that we cut up for bait. That night, rods were set and we sat back in the boat for a chat, a cold beer and a good meal. We had caught up with the supply boat and moored together in a small bay with the rods just flicked out the back. I decided to sleep on deck and looked straight up into a million stars, there is no such thing as stress out here.
I jerked awake as the first light of dawn met my eyes, that still colourless light that only early risers know. All was not well. Line was pouring from Paul's reel! I shouted for him to get up and he leapt from the boat's canopy (his chosen sleeping place that night) and tightened down on the fast running fish. Straight away all went solid as the creature on the line sulked on the bottom of the lake. Eventually the pressure of the 25lb pound line and heavy duty rod proved too much and our first ever Vundu catfish came grudgingly to the boat. At 16lb it fought like a demon - God knows how you stop a 60 pounder! After breakfast photos were taken and the fish released to fight another day.
Mohamed punched the boat on to where he called a 'special place'. After about an hour he slowed the outboard to a steady trolling speed and advised us to use a light pattern Shadrap. I flicked out a red head and let it trail out about seventy yards behind the boat before I set the line. It was 10am and already the temperature was up in the high thirties, we began to bake.
After just a couple of minutes into that first troll I had a heavy and powerful take. I slammed the rod into its full fighting curve and watched about a hundred and fifty yards of line vaporise from my multiplier. Mohamed, using the boat, allowed me to regain most of the line from the initial run. As we came alongside the fish, following at its swimming speed, it just ignored the pressure on it and stripped another eighty yards of line off. Slowly the pressure told on the fish and it just became a tug-of-war. At one point the fish just hung in mid water and would not move, only time and gradual changes in pressure got it moving. Slowly out of the depths came a sight that weakened my knees. Jones remark of "You jammy b****rd" seemed to be a distant echo, as before me was all I could have hoped for. A reward for all the planning and hard work. A Nile Perch of immense proportions.
It came to the boat thrashing and fighting all the way, but beaten. Mohamed chin-gaffed the monster and the water erupted; it took all our efforts to control the fish as we slowly towed the it to shore. I leapt into the water which was now chest deep and cradled the fish as the others got the scales and cameras ready. I was just awe-struck by its size and I could feel the power in it's body.
We carefully lifted the fish onto the jumbo sized sling and Salters that every boat carries and it took three of us to hold them steady. After deducting the sling Mohamed shouted "147 pounds". Again, in the back of my mind I could hear Jones's voice " You jammy b****rd!" and I smugly thought, "Yes, you're dead right!"
We photographed and videoed the fantastic creature. I will never forget how the fish regained it's strength in my arms and powered off back to depths. I was left overwhelmed, burnt and very happy. All this and it was just day two. We trolled on and took a few fish to around twenty pounds and then stopped for lunch at 1pm, as it's to hot to fish when it's around 50C! Anyway, I had to celebrate with a couple of beers.
At about 3pm we went ashore and had fun with the lighter gear, catching small tiger fish. After this, for no apparent reason, I didn't have a take for three days! Paul caught fish after fish, forties, fifties, culminating in an eighty six pound whacker from the shore. After so long without a fish I was getting a bit "crabby" so Friday night I got drunk, had a good nights sleep and vowed to catch something in the morning.
Saturday dawned bright and hot as usual. While we were waiting for breakfast I spotted a large Puffer fish circling the boat. I set up a light float rod and ended my three day blank with a three pound Puffer fish. Good fun, but I got loads of stick from the others!
Breakfast over, we set off for a mark where there were lots of features. Ridges, sunken islands and an underwater pinnacle. On the first troll trough I took a fish of seventy nine pounds. The fight was fast and furious with the fish airborne most of the time. Every pass we made on the pinnacle one of us had a take. Then Jonesy hit into something special. A fish of huge proportions leapt completely clear at about a hundred yards behind the boat and smashed the leader. That fish was easily over a hundred pounds and Jonesy was gutted. But we went on catching fish in the upper twenty pound class. Then, eventually, the action tailed off. With that Mohammed suggested a move to a bay that he had only fished once before and, as far as he knew, nobody else knew about it.
Travelling quite fast, the trip to this secret bay took around an hour and as we swept into this great weedy bay, Mohammed cut the engine to trolling speed. The bottom of the bay was a uniform twenty feet deep and had no features like the other places we had been fishing. This was Buffalo Bay said Mohammed - I was just about to find out why he had named in Buffalo Bay.
Shad-raps were the order of the day in the classic Shad pattern fished on a long line behind the boat at around 70 yards. Straight away we had action, but only small fish, three, five and a ten pounder came to the boat. We started to think that we should have stayed where we were until I hit into a very fast moving fish. Again the line flew from the spool of the big reel, wrenching off 100 yards off on the first hit.
After turning and following the fish with the boat to regain some of the line, the monster seemed to shift a gear, moving ahead faster than the boat and stripping off more line. This time we managed to slow the fish to a stop and it was time to stand up and fight. The heat struck me as the boat came to a stand-still. It was approaching mid-day when the tug of war started. No unstoppable runs now just brute force and patience. I literally inched the fish to the surface, the 38 pound Yozuri line held firm and we finally slipped a massive 121 pounder into the boat. I couldn't stop grinning! It took a while for the fish to recover but eventually it was fine and we carried on fishing.
Now Jonesy will tell anybody that I am prone to a bit of luck but what happened next was out of this world. I was straight into another big fish and at 101 pounds it gave another spectacular fight. I just kept on grinning and Jonesy gave me some real stick. That afternoon I bagged a 50 just for luck, and that night I caught three big tiger fish and another perch of 16 pounds from the shore, casting at the moon. That day I could do no wrong and Jonesy slipped into the doldrums.
The holiday continued in this vein. He would do wel1 then it would be my turn, but for Jonesy the big fish continued to elude him. The problems with his gear played a big part but he had some real bad luck; he hooked into and was smashed up by six or seven very big fish. On one occasion in Melon Head Bay a big fish hit his short line Shadrap so hard that it broke his 100 pound leader on the strike. This was another area that nobody had fished before so Mohamed named it after Jonesy's bald head and we vowed to return. We were fast approaching the end of the trip and had started making our way back to Aswan, fishing as we went. We had both had a great holiday with lots of action and saw some great sights.
Massive crocodiles are quite common and the bird life is fantastic. In the evenings we watched the jackals come down to drink and occasionally desert foxes. But to end, as all fishing stories should; on my last cast on the way into Aswan at a spot called the Beacon, I hooked into a true monster of the deep. I played this fish for over an hour, or should I say it played with me. In all that time I never thought that I would get to see it as it was just too powerful. I was gutted when it did finally snap the line but in a way it was a fitting end to a dream holiday.
Will I go back? You bet!