Namibia: Cubango River for giant Tigerfish

Namibia: Cubango River for giant Tigerfish

Namibia: Cubango River for giant Tigerfish.

I had to stop fishing!

We only had one night in Namibia. Crossing over from Botswana, at the offline border post of Mohembo / Shakawe – (Open 08:00 – 18:00) we entered the notorious Caprivi Strip.

This is where the even more notorious 32 Battalion lived. And where many of my compatriots played out their compulsory army service. It wasn’t all fun and games though. It was very serious as 32 Battalion supported the Buffalo Brigade – 100 elite soldiers from all over the place. Who were the elite spearhead force of the 32 Battalion.

The camp housed 3000 odd military personnel and hosted the even more infamous Pik Botha and our then president P.W. Botha, for many strategic parlees, overlooking the strong flowing, animal rich and pristine – Cubango River.

This was the hotbed of “terrorists”. The border, as we used to know it, as dozens upon dozens of names of our mates and families’ sons killed in action, scrolled ominously down a dark blue tv screen, every Friday night, after the news.

For what?

Back to “I had to stop fishing!”

I had to stop fishing. The monster tiger came in at breakneck speed, colours all lit up like a marlin! The hefty fish missed my erratic spoon action, but turned in it’s own body length and came at it again. I hardly reacted at all, it was so fast.

The charge happened right at the boat. I was fishing alone, off a pontoon boat, that kept me a metre up and away from the stupid crocodiles, who were extra prolific and dangerous, in this river. All my tiger fish action on this trip seems to be right at the edge as I am about to lift my lure up for the next cast. And as the brute fish smacked my spoon this time, right on the surface, the hook never found anything to hold onto, and my spoon popped out of the water.

The Cubango River is full of mean nasty crocodiles, otherwise known as flat dogs
The Cubango River is full of mean nasty crocodiles, otherwise known as flat dogs

The tiger turned on a ticky, took aim and lept clear of the water to get to my spoon. Right in the air in front of my wide-open eyes. I’ve only heard of fish that can do this! Never seen in real life, a huge golden fish, leaping out of the water to get to my lure a metre in the air above the water. He missed again.

The tiger splashed back into the river, and started looking for the lure to hit the water again, as a naturally fleeing jumping fish would have to. Luckily my reactions finally caught up to the script playing out, and I flicked the lure back into the water. The tiger smashed it, this was the fourth time. My rod buckled and as I saw the spoon had hooked him in the head and I was in for a huge fight, the spoon broke free.

I had to stop fishing.

The tackle I chose for that early morning was far too light. I had selected my new favourite 15lb braid with the tiniest reel and rod. That said, it is a powerful enough rig, with 100m or so of braid, to tackle many fish, in the right conditions though. These were not. That fish was far too big and powerful. It might have gone 15lbs (tigerfish are measured in pounds).

Then there were the crocodiles. This is wild Namibia remember! And I was a metre up on the platform boat. And the river was flowing healthy. There were rocks downstream – the direction that fish would surely end up going, and my 15lb would never be able to handle the flow. Never mind the rocks.

I was also on my own, the sun hadn’t even come up yet. And I was shaking so from adrenalin.

I just packed it in, and walked away. Not even my 30lb outfit would have been much help.

With meetings and surveys over, later that day, we crossed back from Namibia and into Botswana. Where I will have another go at the all too pleasing and polite Okavango tigers that side of the border. Much friendlier.

This all happened whilst we were working up at the Tsodilo Hills, or the Mountains of the Gods, a quick 30kms from the Okavango Delta panhandle. If you would like to join us on these research-based operations, we have started taking on paying volunteers recently. See contact details below or simply email Sean on

Our projects take a month or so, at a time, and we work all over Southern Africa. Our last project was assisting an Israeli university crew get up close and personal with Humpback Whales for research, and ultimately, conservation of these cool cetaceans.

We also offer you a chance to participate in our Plastic Fantastic initiative. Wherein we teach grassroots communities all over Southern Africa, on how to collect and identify plastics for easy recycling. Focusing on HDPE and LDPE, we have been producing fishing lures, protective covers, We are being joined by philanthropic tourists all the time, you can see the video playlist below.

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