Fishing in the desert

There’s only one word to describe this winter: waterlogged.

The wettest winter since records began has brought misery to the thousands whose homes have been flooded. For all of us it seems as though the storms have lasted forever. And though spring might be just around the corner, it can’t come quickly enough.

That’s why we invite you to join us as we head to the world’s driest places. Fishing where it’s hot, dusty and bone dry. It’s time to swap your rain lashed bivvy for suntan lotion and a broad brimmed hat.

Let’s go desert fishing.

New Mexico

Jemez river

Image source: Adventure Insider
A diverse fishing paradise

Land of the saddle weary cowpoke and the dusty gun slinger, New Mexico is the location of choice, for many of our favourite Western movies. It’s also more geographically diverse than it gets credit for. While it’s famous for its rose coloured deserts and barren tablelands, there you’ll also find the forest clad mountain sides and snow capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Southern Rockies.   

For the intrepid angler, the fifth largest state in the US offers everything from alpine lakes and desert gorges to lowland rivers and streams; year round fishing for winter weary Brits. And with panfish, trout, bass, catfish, northern pike and walleye on the list of target species, you’ll have more than enough to keep your rod tip quivering.

Lake Nasser

Lake Nasser Egypt

Image source: Panoramio
5,250 km² in size, there’s plenty of fish in the lake

Anyone travelling to Egypt should check out the Foreign Office website for the latest advice before they go. But assuming you make it, you’ll be rewarded with rich fishing in a climate that will banish your rainy day blues. During the 1960s, President Nasser ordered the construction of the higher Aswan dam, a vast feat of engineering built to control the annual flood of the River Nile.

Fish in the middle of the dramatic desert landscape, as nomadic tribesmen graze their animals on the lakeside vegetation. The waters of lake Nasser offer the opportunity to hook the fish of your life – the Nile Perch. A formidable adversary, this king of fish grows up to 2 m in length and can weigh anything up to 200 kg.

The best time to fish Lake Nasser is October to June – perfect for avoiding the British winter. Choose from one of the many tour operators for a fishing safari of a lifetime on Africa’s biggest lake.

Skeleton Coast

skeleton coast Namibia

Image source: Wikimedia
The ‘land God mad in anger’

The bushmen call the Atlantic coast of Namibia, the ‘land God made in anger’. Infamous for its treacherous cold water current, constant surf and frequent mists, it’s not surprising so many whales, dolphins and ships have met a watery end here. A most inhospitable coast, the bleached bones littering the shore would have provoked terror in the lost and stranded. And with good reason because the sea is full of sharks and it hardly ever rains.

But if this doesn’t dent your enthusiasm, you’ll be glad to know the fishing on the Skeleton coast is to die for. And there are a number of operators offering fishing safaris in the area. Catch wise you’re looking at Galjoen (black bream), Steenbra, Kolstert (Blacktail) and Bronze Whaler.

If you do go, you might want to pack your bivvy, plenty of water and emergency food rations in case your transport breaks down. You could be waiting a very long time for the next bus…

Northern Territories

northern territory red cliffs of Port Essington

Image source: Trip Advisor
Deadly but rewarding

Australia’s Northernmost tip is home to some of the deadliest creatures on earth. It’s stiflingly hot, full of flies and if you get lost, you’re as good as dead. But don’t let that put you off. There are few language issues, cold beer is in plentiful supply, and there are plenty of tour operators who’ll have you afloat in a tinny before you can bound from your bivvy bag and boil a billy.

And the fishing is great. The Barramundi is a superb game fish that grows up to 1.8 meters long and can top the scales at 60 kg. They make good eating too, great for those long hot evenings beside the barbeque.

One word of caution though – beware the crocs…



Festive ice fishing

Why not swap your plastic Christmas tree, with its dusting of fake snow for the real stuff this festive season?

We’re not talking about a winter fishing trip to your local lake, pond or river bank, but a serious ice adventure. It’s time to grab your fishing gear and hop on a plane – or sleigh – for our run down of crazy ice fishing festivals.

Go North

go north map

Winter fishing means one thing – head North
Source: Wikipedia

When the weather gets chilly, the coolest anglers head North – to North America. Why not join them? Embrace the cold by heading out to where it’s really freezing to try your hand at ice fishing. The great Lakes are a great winter destination, offering a fishing experience with a difference.

From Quebec to Indiana, as soon as the mercury plummets, lakeside fishing resorts switch from boat to snowmobile for the winter ice season. And to kick things off, it’s ice festival time!

Eelpout Festival, Minnesota

eelpout festival

Funny but freezing
Source: My Crazy Mind

Each February, more than 10,000 people descend on Leech Lake, Minnesota for the annual Eelpout festival. Ostensibly a fishing contest, the event has grown to include events like a frozen wet t-shirt competition, kissing the eelpout for good luck and the ‘polar pout plunge’ – donning fancy dress and plunging into the lake. Brrrr.

Not a great looking fish, the eelpout of festival fame is in fact a burbot – a type of freshwater cod that grows up to a maximum of about 25 kg in weight. It’s a bottom feeder with an appearance that’s best described as halfway between a catfish and an eel. But regardless of its looks, its popularity is unquestionable.

Tomcod Ice Fishing Festival, Quebec

village-de-peche-5

Join in the fishing camaraderie cabin style
Source: Association Des Pourvoyeurs

Each year from 26th December, some 500 cabins are moved onto the ice of the Rivière Sainte-Anne for the annual Tomcod Ice Fishing Festival. Heated by wood burning stoves and lit by electricity, ice fishing is a comparatively comfortable affair. And with shelters accommodating anywhere between four and 35 anglers, it’s a pretty convivial way to spend a few days.

Travelling with the family? You’ll no doubt be delighted to know that also on offer during the festival, are clowns, live music, ice slides, ice skating, and even a tramway.

Mat Su Pike Derby, Alaska

If Quebec isn’t cold or dark enough for you, why not try the Mat Su Valley in Alaska?  Situated 45 miles north of Anchorage, the Matanuska Valley was settled by Americans for the Midwest as part of the New Deal relief program of depression hit America. The area is world famous for the the size of its vegetables – not surprising with specimen cabbages weighing in at over 100 lbs.

But in winter, you’ll be there for the annual Mat Su Pike Derby. The contest runs throughout February and March with prizes for the longest, heaviest, shortest and lightest pike. All you have to do is drill a hole and get fishing. Fish are cooked at the awards banquet, and leftovers are given to charity. And the best part? Pike is an invasive species in Alaska, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, South Korea

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

More than worth the jet lag
Source: Advanced Technology Korea

For what is probably the most popular ice fishing event in the world, you’ll need to book a long haul flight to South Korea for the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. Held every year in late January, the event attracts tens of thousands of people to try their luck for mountain trout.

Through holes cut in the ice, people of all ages try to catch a fish – something they have a very good chance of doing because the rivers stocked throughout the festival.  Once you’ve made a catch, one of the many cooking tents will grill or sashimi your trout for you to enjoy.

And if that weren’t enough, for the truly masochistic, there’s the bare handed fishing contest. All you have to do is strip off to t-shirt and shorts and leap into a purpose built fishing pool. Alternatively you could stay home, put your feet up and watch a fishing documentary.

The Airflo Team Fly Fishing in Cuba

Cuba 2013 San Lazaro/Las Salinas

 

Fishing trips to Cuba are always special but this year was looking at being even more so as the Airflo crew would be fishing the newly opened area of the Zapata national park called San Lazaro.  After an overnight stay and a few Mojito’s we made our way over to the Playa Largo hotel which would be our home for the next week, while not the most prestigious accommodation it certainly suits the anglers needs. Check out their Facebook page here: Casa Batida Fishing Club

The next morning we were all up bright an early, all very excited about the days fishing ahead. The trip to the fishing grounds is an experience in itself comprising of a coach ride into the middle of the Zapata mangrove swamps where you suddenly come across the marina and after a 20 minute boat ride down the narrow channel you pop out into what can only be described as a saltwater anglers paradise, miles and miles of pristine flats, channels and lagoons which had scarcely ever been fished. You will never see another angler throughout the day, and the diversity of wildlife is just mind blowing. The guides are all of the highest standard and Lazaro my guide for the week was no exception. A biologist and former Director of the Zapata Park his knowledge of its flora and forna was incredible and his fish spotting was as good as I have witnessed anywhere I have fished.

Late afternoon and back at the hotel’s beach bar with Mojito’s in hand the talk was of plenty of Bonefish, Baby Tarpon and lost Permit which considering the cloudy conditions was a great start.

Bonefish

The conditions on the second day were bright and clear skies with low winds, compiling to create the perfect fish spotting conditions. With this new sense so to speak, many bonefish were landed together with a few baby tarpon but while many permit are spotted as ever with these fickle fish, none landed. Due to the policy of rotating the fishing grounds, no area is fished two days in a row ensuring that it is never over fished.

As the week moves on the fishing just seem to get better with the team starting to relax and sighting fish becomes easier. Airflo’s MD Rob Williams manages to hook-up and after a battle lasting 45 minutes, landed an elusive Permit of around 25lb while the rest of the team continue to land good quantities of bonefish and baby tarpon.

Rob with a Permit

The last days fishing come way to quickly Rob Davies and myself decide to make the longer journey to fish solely for Tarpon. After an hour’s boat ride the skiffs arrive at an area of mangrove channels leading straight out into the Caribbean sea. The heat and humidity is intense and as the skiffs move through the channels we turn a bend to be face with Tarpon rolling and hitting bait fish everywhere. With shaking hands the first cast are made and it’s not long before the line is almost ripped out of my hands and a fumbled stripe strike is made but due to the incredibly aerobatic fight and almost armour plated mouth the fish first three fish are lost. Then a good hook hold is made and after a good fight on a #10 the first Tarpon is landed, at about 15lb only small by Tarpon standards followed by another slightly larger and then a much better fish or around 35lb is hooked and landed, this fish brings an end to another truly amazing and not the last trip Cuba.

Tim's Tarpon