With the collapse of the perch fishery imminent and inevitable, we figured we best try our luck as soon as possible. After all, from Dar es Salaam, Lake Victoria is easier to reach than Egypt’s Lake Nasser.
Knowing that this trip was upcoming, my brother helped outfit me with some beefy fly gear. He loaned me his brand new Orvis Mirage V reel and Orvis Depthcharge lines in 300, 350 and 450grain weights. I paired that with a Loop Evotec 10wt of my own, that is really more like an 11wt.
Mark showed me how to tie the HangTime musky fly, and I tied a few for the trip. Mine paled in comparison to the gorgeous flies he tied with thoughts of musky dancing behind his eyes. He graciously loaned me a few of those, too.
Even with this gear, I was setting myself up for an ass-kicking. Fish between 60 and 100lbs are still pretty common. Unbelievable, a person trolling and staying in the same camp we were to stay landed a 93kg perch back in May. That’s 205lbs, and they get even bigger.
For any larger fish that we might troll up, I had a Shimano TLD25 on an 8ft Penn Senator rod. For casting, we brought a Shimano Baitcaster 6000 on a 7ft Cabela’s Saltstriker, spooled with 40lb braid. I had a box of huge Rapala-style lures that would allow us to fish anywhere in the water column. I thought we were fully kitted and ready to go.
Rubondo is the only island national park in Tanzania’s park system. The forests covering the 175square mile island are almost entirely pristine. They were never, ever, logged. Most of the animals were introduced in the hopes of establishing something like a genetic Ark incase the Serengeti ecosystem was not preserved. There are elephants, chimps, a few species of antelope, bushpigs, giraffes, hippos and crocs present, as well as some huge monitor lizards and a host of other reptiles and birds.
The lushness of Rubondo conjured images of Jurassic Park in comparison to the deforested and eroded shoreline of the mainland. We were buzzing with excitement and anticipation as we approached the impenetrable prehistoric shoreline.
The only signs of life were thousands of snowy egrets flying low over the water and a boat anchored in a cove.
We came in low and hot to buzz the runway from east to west. We circled around a marshland thick with hippos and crocs to buzz the landing strip again. Pilots won’t land on Rubondo until they’re reasonably sure something like a bushpig won’t lumber out onto the runway.
We spotted our lodge on the 2nd pass. We were to stay in a lakefront cottage, and head out for perch with Tanzanian Park Officers.
A stereotypical Land Rover was waiting for us in the “arrival, waiting and departure lounge”. This family of bushpigs strolled across the runway a few minutes after landing. The largest was over 150lb.
We watched our ride depart from close range and turned towards the lake. We thought of the slammer perch swimming in the dark depths that we were soon to meet, in person. It was time to go fishing.