Bid Daddy nets Big Hen on Northern

Another open secret is that Northern Camp is fished out, fishless, fishing useless. Not. On Saturday May 26, Brendan Bowles landed a 4lb hen rainbow from Njoroge’s pool on Northern. Here is his story, followed by a reprise of our annual report that seeks to scotch (apols Thomson Aikman) the notion that Northern is, like Sarah Palin, pretty but pointless. (Please note that Brendan was a guest but wants tojoin as a full member. I vote we ban him and confiscate his tackle- ED)

Having arrived late Friday afternoon, unpacked rapidly, set up my brand new rod and headed straight for the river. I had a few warm-up casts in the pools immediately below the lodge and having stretched my legs a bit decided sit down to take it all in.

I had a wee dram or two from my hip flask and a bit of a breather to get the Nairobi smog out of my lungs and enjoy the fresh Northern air.

I was watching the water and looking around on the banks checking for any evidence of a hatch. It was then that I noticed several ‘Daddies’ cruising around in the grass along the river’s edge.

I’m not a regular visitor or member of the Fly Fishers so I don’ know how common an occurrence daddies are, but having done quite a bit of trout fishing in the UK for wild brownies in very clear waters (as well as reservoirs etc) I have learned it is key to try and ‘match the hatch’ and see what is about.

The next morning after a slightly slow start (10.30am – I’m also believer in the 11am-2pm slot is a natural feeding time for river fish) I decided to get my eye in and also familiarize myself with the action of my new 7ft, 4-piece rod and started at the pump pool.

I selected Beaded Daddy for the point and a Black Spider on the dropper and mucked around for 20minutes or so. I turned over 2 fish in that pool but was a bit slow on the up-take after a fairly enjoyable night and didn’t strike quick enough and missed them both. They looked around the 1/2-3/4 lbs mark.

I was fishing downstream, which is not my norm, as a wild fish would run a mile and it does feel slightly unnatural to me, even though I believe this is a well practiced technique for these rivers.

I much prefer fishing upstream and am convinced when trying to tackle older, more wily fish you have better chance using this method (depending on the pool and the river of course!) for various reasons. So having messed around here for a bit I was winding in and Ross walked by and told my gillie Tirus to take me up to Njoroge’s pool and to fish from there up or down.

I felt a bit of a walk would be a good plan to clear the head and to hopefully sharpen my reaction time and get me a bit more focused. After a brisk 10-minute walk or so we arrived at Njoroge’s and I must confess, having seen some of the pools on the way up, had I been on my own I would not have chosen to start here, so it just goes to prove the ‘you never know’ theory.

Despite this, it was time to get fishing and I liked the look of the tail end of the pool as there was good over-hang providing cover and shade, which got my imagination going. I decided that nymphing was the order of the hour and stuck on a beaded GRHE (as it was a similar colour to the daddy I had been using earlier) on the point and left the spider on the dropper.

 

I normally tie quite short droppers when fishing in rivers with plenty of snags etc so try to avoid changing this fly and the leader too regularly. I was trying to cast right in under the over-hang and nymphing upstream but realised that my line was sinking too quickly and snagging.

I had also disturbed the water by wading in and felt the next best option would be to go for a faster retrieve and use more traditional patterns and put a Mrs. Simpson on the point and did actually change the dropper to a Bloody Butcher. I lost interest after a dozen casts or so, got out of the water, and moved 5yds or so up the up the pool to go for my more favoured approach of casting upstream.

I targeted the top 1/3 to middle of the pool, fishing through the strongest/ deepest current between the larger rocks, as it would be the most obvious lie for a fish. Having had no joy after five casts or so, decided to change my ‘menu’ again, selecting a slightly larger, green coloured daddy for the point.

It had a bigger bead than the paler one I had used earlier, I wanted to get deep fast, and sometimes when you open your fly box a certain fly will say “use me”, so I did. I was fishing an Explorer 2/3 weight rod from Captain Andy’s with 3 weight XFS sinking line (as there was no 2 weight line available) plus a sinking leader-tip in preparation for the slower, deeper pools.

 

On my very first cast I felt a thud no sooner than I had taken up the slack, making me think I had gone too deep and snagged. I gave a second slightly sharper tug and my rod tip bowed with that familiar live movement and I knew it was a ‘fish on!’ I jabbed again to set the hook and maybe with this pull from the rod and the natural force of the current she surfaced for the first time and that’s when we first saw her and our eyes widened.

I already had a slight hunch she might not be very strong as the second ‘strike’ had not been that aggressive but had brought her head up to the surface quite easily. Tirus jumped in a bit too quickly (I believe he’s quite new there so no fault of his, just excitement) and I had to call him back and tell him to wait until she was ready. I could see she was well hooked and felt I had a good chance, as the pool is quite open, straight, and long and I was holding her with a size 10 hook.

That said she did wake up a for a moment or two and gave me a bit of a run for my money. It was great trying to hold her away from the banks on such a small rod and felt a bit like trying to control a wet bag of posho against the current when she put her head down.

It was apparent from her fight that she was tired, having just finished spawning, as even on a light rod I managed to control with relative ease. And although one always feels a slight sense of urgency to get larger fish in quick, I would have loved a bit more of a scrap but, that said, I was very happy to guide her into the net. The whole ordeal took about 5-7minutes to hazard a guess, as I was pretty caught up in the moment.

I landed her at pretty much 11.30 on the dot. I had no measuring device to get her dimensions but was carrying a small spring scale that measured her at around 1.8kgs soon after she had come out of the water. I tried fishing a bit more but was too overawed by the catch and headed straight back to camp.

We weighed her on the lodge scales and she was around 4lb mark again but gave a slightly different reading either way every time we weighed her. Unfortunately there are no digital scales up there, which I believe are a must for both your camps.

So having done all the photos and posing and the cheering we cruised to the nearest butchery and used their old-fashioned balance type scale, with a 2kg weight on 1 side and the trout plus 2 x 100gms in the tray. 1.9kgs was too heavy and 1.8kgs was a fraction under so we agreed on 1.8kgs/4lbs.

We also took plenty of pictures and some even of her alongside Gavin Bell’s 4.5lb rainbow to give a good comparison. His was a bit thicker (esp in the abdominal region) and about 1-1.5cm longer.

She had a beautiful big tail and I wonder, had I caught her a week or so before when she was still full of eggs, if she may have been closer to Gavin’s and maybe a bit more feisty!

Report on fishing trip to Bale Mountains

This was a four-day recce to check out fishing conditions in three rivers known to have trout (both rainbow and brown) in them, the Web, the Shaya, and the Tegona. They were stocked as far back as the 1970s, with populations now breeding naturally, and still an abundance of fine wild river trout.

 

Best fish was a 5lb rainbow hen from the Tegona, whilst the best fishing was in the Web, where 9 fish ranging from 3lb to 1lb were taken. The trip began at Dinsho, HQ of Bale National Park, and 0.5km from the Web River. This is an eight-hour drive south from Addis, stopping at Shashemene en route for lunch. There is basic accommodation in the Government run lodge at Dinsho, as well as a good campsite in the Juniper forest above.

 

For those interested in wildlife, the area has a number of endemic mammals such as the Mountain nyala, and Ethiopian wolf, as well as several endemic bird species such as the bluewinged goose, found only in the Bale range. We retained the services of an excellent ghillie, Ato Taha, who is one of the few knowledgeable guides in the area, as well as being the local imam in Dinsho.

 

Days 1/2: Web river
The Web runs from south to north, from the Bale plateau towards the Somali region. It cuts down through steep rocky valleys, but there are numerous deep pools for around 10km south of Dinsho all worth fishing.

 

Day 3 Shaya River
This runs down from the Bale plateau from south to northeast, passing just west of the town of Robe. Parking at the road bridge and walking 4km north, the river widens into some deeper pools, and a couple of good fish were caught on a beaded nymph and a Mrs Simpson. The banks of this river have seen a considerable increase in farm re-settlement by
Oromo tribes-people over recent years, which has led to quite serious encroachment. Herds of cattle coming down to drink and people washing clothes can be off-putting, but the fish are still there.

 

Day 4 Tegona River
This river flows south to north-east down from the Sanetti plateau, just east of the town of Goba. It then meanders in deep channels into open pasture-land across the plains north of Robe. That night we camped up on the Sanetti plateau, at an altitude of around 12,000 feet, and were able to use the facilities of some of the FZS researchers tracking the wolves, and were lucky to see several, including this one who came right by the campsite mid-morning. They hunt during the day and feed mostly on mole-rats