Nile Perch Lake Nasser Jonathan Boulton

Nile Perch

Interested in something different? This spring saw the development of new fly fishing techniques to tempt one of the largest freshwater fish on the planet – the Nile Perch. A popular sport fish on conventional gear it is only recently that fly fisherman have started to target this aggressive species. Although present in several of Africa’s lakes, logistical problems of access and excessive commercial fishing have ruled out many of them. Lake Nasser in Egypt and its 6200 square kms however proved to be the ideal venue for pioneering these techniques.

The perch in Lake Nasser commonly reach 100 pounds with the record a 350 pound fish taken by a commercial fisherman. In the Northern hemisphere spring, the Nile tilapia, which attain impressive weights of over 10 pounds, enter the shallows to spawn and are closely followed by their main predator the Nile perch. Famous South African fisherman Jonathan Boulton was fortunate to embark on a ten day exploratory trip in May to coincide with the tilapia spawning and this presented the ideal situation to target these awesome adversaries with a fly rod.

A fleet of three fishing boats, solid 24 footers with reliable Yamaha 55 HP engines are based around a larger mothership, where meals are prepared and taken and showers and toilet facilities are available. This enables anglers to cover vast tracts of water, meeting up at lunch time and evening times for meals, and an ice cold Egyptian Stella and to swap stories of encounters with unseen monsters.

Nie perch are both aggressive and inquisitive ambush predators. The sandstone ridges and hills that have been flooded by the dam produce impressive overhangs, drop offs and boulder piles, and it is in these that the perch lie in wait for unsuspecting tilapia. By far the most effective way of catching these fish was for the two anglers and their guide to work as a team, clambering over the cliffs, spotting cruising fish and pointing out likely looking submerged ledges.

Two methods that also worked extremely well included 'dredging' - very much the norm for offshore fishing in Mozambique and the Seychelles. Here depth finders are used to identify underwater structure and submerged islands, drifts are set up and fast sinking lines and heavy mega clousers are thrown 'up drift' then stripped back as they reach the required depth. This technique was fairly successful but its appeal is limited as it involves just chucking, counting down and stripping back with very little visual stimulation. The other successful saltwater adaptation that was found to work very well was 'teasing'. Throwing hookless, diving Rapalas and carefully working them up from the drop offs or across the entrances of underwater caves. The best looking ledges and overhangs were first covered with a fly, and then one person would make short casts with the teaser while the 'rod man' watched from slightly higher ground. The minute a fish was seen the trick was to make the 'switch' as quickly as possible. If the fish got to mouth the lure it would be put down and ruin any chance of it eating the fly. Flies used were large baitfish / Rapala imitations fished on heavy duty #12 weight rods and reels with ample backing.

Several fish in the 60 lb class were quickly teased up and provided some heart stopping action as they came up and engulfed flies literally at the fishers feet. Flyfishing for Nile perch was sometimes a double edged sword, some of the most challenging and frustrating fishing yet two minutes later some of the most exhilarating one can experience. Their sheer size and aggressive nature combined with their unpredictability make them akin to the giant trevally fishing that is popular in the Seychelles. But lets not forget these are freshwater fish! During this exploratory trip fish in the 150 lb bracket were seen and cast to but alas not landed so it seems there is a distinct possibility of hooking some truly massive fish on fly tackle.

In 2008 Jonathan Boulton will be hosting three 10 day trips on Lake Nasser. This fishing is not for the faint hearted - daytime temperatures peak above 40 degrees, casting a #12 rod and large flies is hard work and the fish are brutally strong. If you think you are man enough and interested a sampling the more extreme face of international flyfishing please contact Jamie.