Rudolph's Reel Adventures

My first visit to the Okavango Delta – Part 1

Venue: Okavango Delta @ N’dhomu Island Camp 

Date: 7 to 13 September 2017

The Okavango Delta is one of those special fishing destinations that most angler wish to visit – a true bucket list destination! Ever since I heard of this venue as a young boy, I wanted to experience it. My father and I, with some of my mates, was thinking of visiting this venue in 2017. Due to various reasons, we had to cancel these plans. Ironically, out of the blue, I received the news that I won a trip to fish the Delta in September!

This opportunity included a package for 5 days of fishing on the river under the guidance of the experienced guides of N’dhomu Island Camp, accommodation on the island, boat hire and fuel as well as all our meals and most of our drinks – the perfect all-one package!

Our group consisted of Evert and his wife; Gherda Laubscher, Francois Nel and I. We decided to drive up to Maun for the trip and made use of an off-road trailer to make sure we had enough space for all our luggage (a.k.a all our fishing gear). After asking around we decided to travel via Palapye, Serowe, Orapa, Rakops, Matopi and then Maun. We slept over at Audi Camp in Maun from which we traveled to Gumare the next morning. The Trichardt’s would meet us here and escort us to the river; here we would load our luggage on to their boats and commence fishing as we head towards the island.

N’dhomu Island Camp is one of the newer camps on the Delta. The camp is based on an island which is situated where the Delta and the panhandle meet. More info on location. On the island guests stay in tented camps. You are guaranteed to experience the whole “living on an island” vibe which is great experience on its own. Every night we were treated to tasty meals and even desert. The Buffalo hamburgers we ate the one night was scrumptious – what a unique meal! The Trichardt’s really go through a lot of effort to ensure their guests are well catered for as best as the island permits. There is no permanent electricity on the island, but a generator is in place for charging phones and camera batteries each day. Furthermore the lodge can cater for up to 6 anglers per trip with aluminium boats and experienced guides. It is amazing to see how well the Trichardts and their guides know the river. The Delta consists of a maze of small channels, lagoons and backwaters – the perfect design for inexperienced visitors to get lost in.

We spent our fair share of time fishing different areas; from backwaters, lagoons and the main river, as well as the flood plains. When we left for the river we were hopeful to see a few catfish runs. This is a phenomenon where all the catfish in the river gather in schools and chase bait fish out of the reeds to feed on them. During these runs the whole river becomes a feast of activity with various waterfowl, fish eagles as well as tigerfish and bream joining in on the feast of bait fish. We didn’t experience any catfish runs, but the guides mention that anglers mainly catch catfish during these runs. Seeing that we catch our fair share of catfish in South Africa, we weren’t too disappointed to miss out on the runs.

My main goal for this trip was to catch a decent Three Spot Bream and Nembwe. I have caught both these species in the past, but the Three Spot I have caught was the size of my hand and my PB Nembwe is just over 1 kg – so, both species have ample room for improvement. Another goal for me was to try catch my first Dusky Bream. It was clear that my intention from the start was to spend more time on targeting the various bream found in these special waters, rather than focusing on targeting tigerfish.

I think many anglers miss out when visiting the Delta as they only fish for tigerfish. The Delta hosts so many unique fish species; it is a darn shame to overlook them when visiting these special waters.

Due to space restrictions each of us were limited to taking 4 rods on this trip. I took the following 4 setups with:

Bream Rod:

  1. 2000 Penn Clash spinning reel
  2. 7 ft. Abu Veracity Medium action spinning rod
  3. 15 lbs. Berkley Nanofil

Heavier Bream Rod:

  • 2500 Penn Clash spinning reel
  • 7 ft. Abu Veritas Medium Heavy action spinning rod
  • 20 lbs. Berkley Nanofil

Spinning/Trawling Tigerfish Rod:

  • 2500 Abu Soron spinning reel
  • 7.2 ft. Shimano Clarus Medium Heavy action spinning rod
  • 16 lbs. Berkley Big Game mono line

Heavier Tigerfish Rod:

  • Shimano Curado E7 200 casting reel
  • Shimano Clarus Medium Heavy action casting rod (Worm and Jig version)
  • 50 lbs. Berkley Whiplash braided line

Out of these 4 setups, I fished with the Veracity for bream and pike and the Clarus spinning setup for tigerfish, most of the time. With future visits to this destination, I would rather take two finesse spinning setups with for bream (one rigged with a jighead or small crankbait) and the other rigged with a spinner. For tigerfish I will still take my Clarus casting setup with to Afrijigs and spoons, but I will change my Clarus spinning setup to a stiffer rod and fish with braid on it, rather than mono. I will also rig up a few of my cranks with inline single hooks for tigerfish, as big tigers throw treble hooks too easily (this we learned the hard way on this trip!).

Back to the story at hand…

We arrived at Audi Camp late in the afternoon. Audi is located next to the bottom end of the Delta in Maun. Here we say the Delta for the first time and obviously, we had the urge to make a few casts on the river. We arranged with one of the guides to go out on the river for an hour with his boat. It was great to drive on this beautiful river for the first time during the last hour as the sun was setting. We noticed quite a few lodges next to this part of the river. In my experience, more lodges next to the water usually means less fish. Evert, Francois and I threw spinners at a few spots, but we didn’t even get a nibble. Seeing that the river is so close to the big town of Maun, I would suspect that these waters has its fair share of nets. So, I wasn’t very surprised that we didn’t catch any fish during this session, but it was still cool to see the river.

That evening we ate at the restaurant at Audi and both Evert and I ordered fillet steaks which tasted horrible. I would advice visitors to stay clear of the steaks offered by this restaurant. At least the facilities offered by Audi is fine and they don’t charge too much for camping.

Day 1:

The next morning we hit the road early towards Gumare. At Gumare we met up with Jakes Trichardt. We quickly packed our luggage over on his Land Cruiser and left our SUV at one of their friend’s homes. With the Land Cruiser we managed to drive through the swamps to the area where our boats were waiting to take us and our luggage on board. The plan for this day was to fish some of the bigger lagoons for bream and pike as we work our way towards the N’dhomu Island. 

Evert and Gherda fished from the one boat, while Francois and I paired up on the other one. We decided to split up and fish different areas of the first lagoon. Before we reached our first spot, we got a call from the other boat. Evert landed a big Humpback Largemouth on his third cast for the trip on the trusty 4.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornet crankbait. It was game time!

Francois and I decided to cast spinners next to reeds and see if we could also catch some bream. Francois managed to quickly hook up with a few nice size Redbreast bream. I was missing out on the action as my spinners was a bit big for the Redbreast to take.

A size 1 spinner was the lure of the hour (ironically, I left all my size 1 spinners at home as I thought the bream’s preferred bigger spinners). Luckily after seeing a few follows, I went tight with big African Pike of 800 g. New PB! Francois caught a few more Redbreast before we moved on to another spot. The fish kept close to the reeds and it was therefore important to cast as close as possible to the structure. Francois varied his retrieve with the odd jerk in between to get the Redbreast to commit to his lure.

It was pretty cool to experience driving in the narrow pathways on the flood plains. These boats drive full speed in these pathways which are often just as wide as our boats! While going full speed we saw a crocodile in the pathway, the croc quickly dived down and I could see it on the bottom below our boat as we drove over it. Luckily we didn’t hit it.

Our next stop was at a very shallow lagoon that was covered in lily pads. Here I managed to catch two decent Redbreast kurper and was very surprised to hook a small Vlei kurper on my size 2 spinner. We barely started fishing and already we were standing on 4 species between the 4 of us.

Our next stop was at the island. Here we unpacked and quickly ate something before heading back to do an afternoon session for tigerfish.

We were fortunate to catch several small tigerfish on spinners. I had two chases on the surface from big tigerfish while burning the 9 cm Wave. It was epic to see the water lift up as the tigerfish chased my lure. Unfortunately, both big ones, didn’t commit to take my lure. Even catching smaller tigers on lure is still a lot of fun as their speed and strength is on another level. We would often see movement on the water which showed us where the schools of tigers were hunting. Casting on to these spots and retrieving your lure close to the surface would lead to exciting moments as the schools of tigers chase your lure. Our lures were thrown several times, again we saw that treble hooks are only good for losing fish. Here and there we hooked up with up to 2 kg tigers, but on our light spinning setups, they easily schooled us.

We decided to cast with our spinning rods with spinners as we were hoping to pick up the odd bream between the tigers. Yet, we had no luck with tigers. That evening we came across very lively waters during the last few minutes before sundown. Here Francois and I caught a few tigers. I remember hooking up with a just over 2 kg job on the Wave, we I managed to bring just next to the boat before it threw my lure. Francois caught several ones on the 9 cm Executor in Hot Perch colour which he worked with a burn and pause action. Every time he paused the lure, the tigers would smash it as it was floating to the surface. I changed to spinner once again, on my Veracity setup. We saw a few big fish in the area and I wasn’t really thinking straight as this setup was too light for the circumstances. Needless to say, I paid the price, as a big tigerfish grabbed my spinner and pulled away with an epic run! After pulled my rod straight down and continuing to run away with my lure for a few minutes, the tigerfish came up and threw my spinner. In this same period Evert and Gherda managed to catch a few tigers which included one decent size one.

At this time we needed to head back as it was almost dark and we didn’t want to share the river with the hippos which are extremely active at night. That evening we enjoyed a great meal at the camp with some cold ones.

The next day we would head to fish some of the Trichardt’s favourite areas for Three Spot bream.

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