Malcolm Meintjes

Enchanting how peach blossoms just appear isn’t it? One minute bare boughs hold one in Winter's grip and the next moment fragile pink bursts through. Reminds me of one of my most memorable flyfishing trips over this past few months. Not that there was any great flourish of Springtime, but rather a lack of vegetation as a whole. Not a tree, not a branch, nor even, if I come to think of it, a blade of grass. But then, that’s Egypt’s Lake Nasser for most of the year.

It’s been my privilege to visit many intriguing fly fishing waters over the last thirty years (Have three decades really gone so quickly?). The vast majority of these venues could have been described in varying shades of wondrous green, but the gargantuan Lake Nasser which backs up the mighty Nile river through a fair proportion of Egypt and down into the Sudan, has no vestige of even drab olive in its makeup. It is a vast ocean of clear water bordered by the great Sahara desert…. And as most deserts are inclined, it is bound together by an impressive quantity of rock and sand.

Clear water in abundance is one thing, but what makes it especially attractive to a flyfisher is not the mere fact that Nasser holds Nile Perch (Lates niloticus) in weights approaching 400 lbs., but that its topography lends itself to the effective presentation of a fly.

Excessive depth is usually the flyrodder’s bugbear in Nile perching, but while Nasser has its bottomless pits, it has also sprawled itself across what once was called Nubia and so reveals countless islands and lonely outcrops which dot the horizon. These islands are natural homing areas for the perch, which, by the way, resemble a monster black bass and which share some of the ambushing tendencies of Micropterus. Which means that they enjoy flitting in and out and over and under, the submerged rocks lapping your very feet.

……Which also means that they are eminently within range of a reasonable caster and indeed, there are times when one can be faulted for trying to despatch a cast too far. Rather take the time to stalk, even though the perch may not always be visible (though often they are in plain view) than stand and deliver into the yonder.

Such a close range invitation once extended is not easily forgotten. So often the fly launched some fifteen metres out is drawn back, invariably up past the fringe boulders. Every now and again, if you cast a leery gaze behind your offering, you may find the pulse tracking a touch faster than the perch eyeing your Clouser.

If you can slow the beating heart and continue a sink-and-draw action, there is every possibility of an acceptance. But the perch is deceptive, for it never moves beyond a leisurely glide. No lightning acceleration, but the bulk simply slides forward and inhales the about-to-be-withdrawn fly. It all happens before your eyes and if you ever had trouble chanting "Nkosi Sikele iAfrica" to a dry fly-supping trout, then the perch will test your patience even more considerably. Let him turn over on it...then tighten on him.

And what size are these fish, you may be wondering? The first that sailed graciously up from the depths to drag the fly back down weighed around 12 lb. A mere babe, granted, but I settled for that quite amenably. Thereafter they improved in weights to between 20 - 30 lbs successfully landed. And the sight of even one of those wallowing on the surface waiting for an opportunity to shake its head on a lunge, is a vision not to be easily erased from the memory banks.

To some degree we were a pioneering group. Not the first at Nasser, but more than likely the second and while we would have greatfully accepted more of the 10lb+ fish with a sprinkling of curious 40 - 50 lbers thrown in, I believe those will come with advances in technique. Certainly we came within an eyeball of such specimens. Heavy grey-silver fish that nudged the fly, but then turned and fled when something alarmed them.

We elected to hunt them with convenience rather than muscle. A 10/11 weight with some backbone worked more than admirably, though a fish that plumbs for the structure after being hooked, always has a chance of scouring the leader and your flyline against the rock face before departing.

Yet it’s exhilarating angling. Hard work at times, until one becomes accustomed to bunny jumping from rock to rock under a debilitating sun. Don’t think that just sunblock and drinking water will save you - take along some rehydration sachets. Remarkable how much better you feel and how the headache disappears - a worthwhile tip to remember when you play your first Nile perch.

Flyfishing in the middle of a desert; sleeping under the light of a full moon and being reminded of a civilization that once was. Who could ask for more?

I didn’t.