African Waters Head Guide David Taylor had a Nile perch fishing in Cameroon season to remember, with some amazing moments on the water. Highlights include catching the biggest perch of the season, landing a huge unidentified catfish, having a thrilling battle with a mystery fish, and surface fishing for a feisty perch.
The final hour of fishing for Nile Perch in Cameroon…
It’s always so satisfying when hard work pays off. Our longest perch of the season was caught quite literally in the final hour of a trip by a guest (Jeff) who had worked harder than anyone else I guided this season and had undeservedly blanked 6 nights in a row while fish were pulled out all around him. It became our mission as guides to get Jeff his fish, as we were almost beginning to take it personally. Hard work like that without reward was just not on.
On the very last night, Blaede took Jeff to Electric Catfish Rock on the Marais du Croco beat, and in the very final hour of the session, a massive fish inhaled his fly out of nowhere. It headed downstream at a good pace, dragging Jeff behind as it headed for a narrow channel to cut him off. Blaede jammed his hand into the reel for Jeff as a last resort, as the drag could not handle this fish. Amazingly it turned, and Blaede managed to grab its bottom jaw with both hands.
At 140cm long, it was not only the longest perch of the season but also the most deserved. As an added bonus, while taking photos, I pressed the shutter as the fish flicked its tail and caught all the water droplets in the light of the flash, making an interesting photo.
De Ruyter Catfish…
This happened before the first guests arrived during the guide week. We were busy learning the beats and were spending an evening on the Marais du Croco beat. Blaede and I were fishing lower down, and Ewan and Phil had gone upstream.
Suddenly Blaede went tight on a tank of a fish that sat deep and refused to come up, even on the 12wt. I ran over to help out where I could as Blaede put an unhealthy bend in his rod and eventually managed to pull the fish up. In our torchlight was not the giant perch we had been expecting but rather a blob-shaped catfish of about 25kg. Neither Blaede nor I knew what kind it was, so I suggested that lip landing would probably be the way forward. Luckily our disco show of headlamps had attracted Ewan and Phil back down to see what was happening, and I was stopped in the nick of time as Ewan identified it as an electric cat.
We eventually managed to drag it to the side with the help of a large stick and then had to work out what to do with this fish. Ewan came up with the bright idea that they use all of their charges in the first couple of shocks when they first get a fright, so this exhausted fish should pose no threat. He promptly got out his Leatherman to remove the hook, and as he made contact, he jerked violently while shouting some expletives that don’t need repeating.
Apparently, even a tired electric cat puts out significantly more than a cattle fence. While I am sure it was very unpleasant, it was extremely funny to behold, and it will remain one of my main memories of Cameroon for me.
An amazing fight…
We were fishing a beat close to camp on about the 4th night of the second group came through. They were good anglers and had been putting in some serious effort, but although the daytime fishing was off the charts, the big perch were a no-show. After a good 2 hours of flinging a 12wt sink tip with half a parrot into the oblivion of night, Pete suddenly hooked up. It didn’t immediately go to the reel, so we thought it must be a smaller perch.
In typical perch fashion, it tried to dive for the undercut under our feet, so I was scrambling with the MVP (forked stick) to try and persuade it to go back into the deep water. It then started to head upstream in an unstoppable way. No longer seeming to be a small fish, we chased it down, trying not to break bones and twist ankles on the rocks.
Eventually, we got to a rocky point and really tried to put the brakes on, but it just would not turn. When it had taken 100m of line on a locked Shilton SR12, we realised this could not be a perch. A loud snorting came from suspiciously close to where we figured the fish must have been made out hearts sink. Pete had foul-hooked a hippo. We eventually managed to follow it until it decided to stop, at which point Ewan joined us, walked about 15m from the hippo and snapped the line. I must admit I was relieved not to have to lip-land it.
Surface fishing for Nile Perch in Cameroon…
Our last group had a guest (John) with similar luck to Jeff in that he left it right to the end to get his perch. He really had been putting in an admirable effort, and although a few tigers and a barb or two had come his way, the perch still eluded him. On the last night, I ended up with him and decided to try something different. We had been hearing what we thought were perch feeding on the surface at the head of the pool in shallow water.
We went for a natural coloured perch peanut and stripped it across the current on the surface, but nothing was happening apart from one small bump. As a last effort, we put on a massive articulated pink thing I will refer to as a “Honeymoon Handcuffs”, and immediately it was smashed on the surface by a feisty 75cm perch. Things were looking up. It then went quiet again for a while, and as we were about to call it, the fly got smashed by a much better fish which immediately screamed downstream. This was a problem as the fly line had broken, and I had fixed it with a series of nail knots.
Although I had tested it, the stakes were very high and hearing that knot go through the guides was terrifying. Somehow it held, and John managed to work the fish back to himself where I could grab it by the bottom jaw, a truly lovely fish of 89cm and in the best condition I had seen. After a couple of shots and a long exposure of the stars, we sent it back to the depths before heading back to camp, finally satisfied. What a way to end the season.
The last highlight is not a particular event but rather a regular experience. On the first night of each group, we take the guests to fish a beat called Le Ministre. It is a small beat, absolutely brimming with hippos. As it gets dark, the hippos start calling, and you get massive crescendos from complete silence to almost deafening, all happening within casting distance. There is no moon, you stand right next to the water, and your headlamp is turned off; truly a humbling experience.
It is hard to describe the feeling of knowing in your very bones that you are not at the top of the food chain and you fish the Faro at the whim of nature. I think that is a major contributor to what makes the Faro a unique experience, and once experienced it is never forgotten.
If you fancy doing battle with the hard-fighting Nile Perch of Cameroon, then the Gassa Camp is a destination for you. If you’d also like any further information, you can contact our fly fishing specialist Peter Collingsworth on 01603 407 596 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.