Trout Fishing In
Africa and trout are not synonymous. No doubt, this is in large part due to the continent's reputation for game-filled savannas and dense, steamy jungles. Tarzan wrestled crocs and lions, not brookies and rainbows.
Maggie's and my primary
objective in going to Kenya was to do wildlife photography, but as a seasoned traveler to
far-flung places, I know that trout can be found in what would seem the most unlikely
places. And so my inquiries began, and proceeded very slowly indeed.
Tamu Safaris, our travel agent, looked into the matter and arranged a tented camp called Sangare from which we would be guided into the Aberdares. I still had no solid idea what flies to bring or whether I needed to lug waders half way around the world for one day's fishing. Also on my mind was whether there were really any trout. Reputations linger. On occasion, I've gone to a remote location only to find that fish once in great numbers disappeared many years past.
The clouds finally parted
when I got a response to a message posted on virtualflyshop.com from an American in
Nairobi who fishes the Aberdares regularly. He explained that the terrain was moorland at
an altitude above 10K in the vicinity of Mount Kenya, and that the small clear streams
remained full of brown trout stocked long ago by the British. As the book had suggested,
the flies used are sundry local attractor patterns such as Mrs. Simpson (a wide-profile
streamer) or Kenya Bug (a simple gold-ribbed black nymph), and the fish see precious few
anglers. Hip boots would do fine. My itinerary would coincide with the beginning of the
rainy season, so there was the risk that both the route and the streams might be muddy. In
other words, the challenge would not be the na´ve trout but the long trek just to get
them. This is somewhat typical of exotic fishing travel.
We arrived in Nairobi on the
second of April, and after a night's rest, were shuttled three hours north to the
Aberdares Country Club, a lodge that has a trout stream close at hand. (By all accounts,
this stream is fished out, and a stream we saw nearby was muddy, slow and unlikely-looking
trout water.) Kenyans are understandably proud of suffering dilapidated roads, one of
which led right up to a well-manicured golf course, the greens strewn with preening
baboons and grazing wart hogs.
The marvel of Africa's
abundant wildlife was quickly apparent even in our short drive from Nairobi to Aberdares
where we'd seen ostrich and zebra. On the forty-minute mid-day drive to Sangare, we saw
waterbuck, go-away birds, suni (a rabbit-sized antelope) and in a marsh just short of
camp, the first of many elephants. By comparison, drive through forested areas in the US
or Canada for hours and see nary a chipmunk. Sangare is one of four tented camps owned by
Savannah Camps and Lodges. It is situated just to the northeast of Aberdare National Park
and next to a large plateau overlooking the slopes of Mt. Kenya to the east.
After a late afternoon
horseback ride amongst zebra and Thompson gazelles on the adjacent plateau, we settled in
for a Tusker beer fireside at the pond's edge as the sun set and the chill night air
descended. Dinner would have to wait until later. Night game drives are permitted, and so
we set out on foot to circumnavigate the pond looking for big-eyed arboreal critters like
bush babies and hyraxes. While we didn't see any bush babies that night, we did interrupt
a leopard stalking waterbuck, a memorable eruption of confusion, glowing eyes, pounding
hooves and whirling flashlight beams.
I rigged up my five-weight, tied on a #6 black wooly bugger and had a follow on my first couple casts. I switched to an olive bead-head wooly bugger and immediately hooked up with a twelve inch brown. I horsed the first one in to make sure I could say I got at least one, and the mahogany fish in my hand had the largest red spots I'd ever seen on a square tail - a truly gorgeous, wild fish. As Paul and Maggie watched and photographed, I took another three fish from the pool, none larger than thirteen inches. As it happened, I had been unable to procure native flies, and was relieved that standard American patterns would take fish.
Paul was philosophical about
the lion situation, demurring when it came to talk of carrying a gun. He said there
weren't as many lions these days, that they weren't very aggressive and that you could
throw rocks to chase one off. As long as you kept an eye out the risks were very slim.
Paul also said he was once camping in that area and a lion lay on the side of his tent,
taking advantage of his body warmth without taking advantage of his body's nutritional
value. His anecdote didn't make me feel any more secure, but if he wasn't worried I didn't
see why I should be. Since he was standing on the stream bank, they'd
The next stop, I believe,
was Gura Falls. (Paul wrote down the names of the streams, but they didn't always match
letter for letter with those on the map I acquired later.) This river was remarkably
similar to the previous two locations. The angling played out identically to the prior
stream, and I quickly took four fish, including one trout on a stimulator right up close
to where the water plunged into the pool. Paul had asked if he could keep some of the
fish, and when I landed one I would toss it to him where he lay on the grassy bank.
Angler's Travel To Africa
A side trip to the Aberdares was easily incorporated into an otherwise non-fishing trip to other popular destinations. Contact: Tamu Safari's 800-766-9199/404-591-7119 email@example.com or Savannah Camps and Lodges PO Box 48019, Nairobi, Kenya firstname.lastname@example.org. Camping in Aberdare National Park: There are seven public campsites, but two have shelters/cabins that are right on the stream. Sappers Hut on the Upper Mangura River can be booked through Let's Go Travel email@example.com. Kiandongoro Fisherman's Lodge (cabins only, no staff) can be booked through the park headquarters PO Box 22, Nyeri Kenya Tel. 0171-55024.