Angler Lee Ann Ross (shown above with a "small" Nile perch caught in Devil’s Cauldron) filed this Journal entry from the tsetse fly infested banks of the Nile River at Murchison Falls, Uganda...
Looking for a truly unique fishing adventure? With all due respect to the recent infatuation with golden dorado, and before that tigerfish and peacock bass, try stalking Nile perch at Murchison Falls in Uganda. Often targeted by fishers in Lake Victoria and Lake Nasser, they also swim up the Nile River from Lake Albert stopping just below Murchison Falls. The largest Nile perch caught at the falls has been 237 pounds, the largest on a fly has been 55 pounds.
The landscape is awe inspiring. At Murchison Falls, the entire Nile River rushes through a 25-foot chasm dropping 150 feet creating the greatest force of water on earth. The prime fishing spots are just below the falls in the turbulent waters called Devil’s Cauldron. The river there is invested with crocs, hippos and a wide array of fish – several species of huge catfish, tigerfish, barbel, wahrindi, alestes, awaka, and of course Nile perch. The surrounding national park is full of African game as well as 450 varieties of birds.
I fished there for four days, casting from the banks at the base of the falls two days and twice from the Uganda Wildlife Authority boat. One needs to be fit to hike down the trail to the falls (it’s a hot 45-minute climb back out) and surefooted to scramble through the bushes to get to Devil’s Cauldron. The water is incredibly swift and if one were to fall in, one would be swept away by the enormous current making a nice plaything for the hippos and crocs below. The tsetse flies can be unbearable and I strongly recommend Buzz Off clothing. I had Buzz Off pants but forgot my Buzz Off shirt. I had over 50 bites on my back but none below the belt.
I targeted Nile perch that were hiding in the back eddies near the shore. With a 12-weight rod, I would tease them up with huge saltwater flies. When the first one hit, it smashed the fly and took off for the deep churning water. I was mesmerized just watching him run but came to my senses before he got into the heavy current from which I would never have been able to reel him in on a fly rod. I cranked the drag down and walked back towards shore from the rock spit I was fishing from and hauled him in. My friend netted a stunning 20-pounder. According to Alistair Brew, the only fly fisher who guides at Murchison, I was the first woman and only the fourth fly fisher to land a Nile perch on a fly there. Great fun!
Fishing from the boat, we targeted the local tigerfish using heavy mono or wire leaders. These are not the monsters of Zambian fame but they are fun. Tigerfish have an anti-coagulant on their teeth so we handled the with care. The alestes and awaka were also great fighting fish. The Uganda Wildlife Authority boatman was very knowledgeable and put us on to plenty of fish. He kept remarking as to how in all his years he had never had two ladies fishing from his boat.
I organized this trip by myself. Having worked for the US foreign aid program (USAID) for 25 years, spending eight of those in Kenya, I had a friend in Uganda who helped me set this up. I borrowed a car and driver and went on this adventure with my fly fishing buddy from Oregon, Dolores Marsh.
The best time of year is the dry season as the roads can be very unpleasant in the rains (I managed to get stuck even in the dry season). The dry seasons are generally July to October and January to March. The best fishing is when the river is at its lowest and clearest level from mid January to early April.
To undertake a similar trip, start by checking out the web site: www.fishingmurchison.com. This site provides all the background information needed to fish Murchison – the fish to be caught, tackle and tactics, location information, getting there and away and some stunning photos. The Ugandan Wildlife Authority web site: www.uwa.or.ug provide the fees for the fishing license ($50 per day or $100 for four days) and for boat rental ($300 per day for the “Mamba”, $150 for a half-day). You can reserve the boat by calling ahead (English is a national language). One can also get to the falls by taking the 17-kilometer daily UWA launch trip from the ferry crossing to the falls. You can be dropped at the falls on the morning trip and picked up by the afternoon trip.
To arrange a trip through an outfitter, I would suggest Wild Frontiers at www.wildfrontiers.co.ug or Afritours at www.afritourstravel.com. For the budget minded, see www.redchillihideaway.com. Wild Frontiers can also arrange fishing expeditions for Nile Perch in Lake Victoria.