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The largemouth breams (or “serranos”) are a distinct group of large predatory cichlids that have inhabited the ancient river systems of tropical central and southern Africa for millions of years. Of the ten species of African largemouth bream that exist, the nembwe (Serranochromis robustus) is the most highly sought after by anglers.

Nembwe are aggressive hunters with heavy-set muscular bodies, rigid, powerful fins and distinct rows of large conical teeth. This predatory bream resembles the bass in appearance and fighting ability. When hooked, Nembwe often take to the air with numerous jumps in an attempt to free itself of the hook. Standard bass lures such as spinnerbaits, spoons, rapalas, and soft plastics to name a few will catch the Nembwe. Adult nembwe frequently attain a size of about 6-8 lb, but specimens weighing in excess of 12 lb have also been reported.

Dark emerald yellow/green colouration, yellow to orange edges on the fins and bright egg spots on the anal fins in males are distinctive of the Nembwe.

Behaviour: Nembwe are visual predators that hunt by ambushing their prey and “inhaling” them by means of suction created when the mouth is opened rapidly. Large nembwe reside in deep main channels of rivers and in permanent lagoons, whilst younger fish are usually found in smaller secondary channels and lagoons.

Feeding: Nembwe are piscivorous (fish-eating) predators throughout their lives. Young fish feed mostly on small prey fish such as minnows, but adults have a preference for larger prey fish like squeakers (bottom-dwelling catfish).

Catching Nembwe on Fly: Nembwe are a popular target among fly fishermen, providing an exciting and explosive fishing experience comparable to that provided by North American bass. They often co-occur with tigerfish and represent an alternative quarry for fly fishermen that enjoy a variety of fishing challenges. As with bass, nembwe are best targeted by fishing in and amongst woody structure and reed beds, and can be fished for with sinking, intermediate or floating lines. Flies are fished slowly and twitched through structure where larger nembwe lie in wait and hunt by ambushing their prey. Bulky flies with cone-heads for weight and plenty of intrinsic movement (e.g. zonkers, wooly buggers and leeches) are often most effective at drawing strikes from larger specimens. Because nembwe are fished for in dense woody structure, weed guards drastically reduce the number of flies lost on reeds and submerged branches. Although a range of fly colours can work, darker natural shades with a touch of flash are often the most effective patterns. Because nembwe flies are relatively large and bulky, they are best fished with an 8-10 weight rod, and leaders of around 5 ft of 15-20 lb monofilament are ideal. Shooting head lines can be advantageous for accurately firing bulky flies into structurally complex lies.

Conventional methods to catch Nembwe: Since nembwe are lurking predators that feed mainly on baitfish, they can be fished for with a variety of jigs, spinners, spoons, spinner-baits and other and small lures like small chunky rapalas using conventional bass tackle. A flexible 6-7 ft rod with a good quality spinning or bait-caster reel loaded with 200 m of 15-20 lb monofilament or braid is perfect. As with fly fishing, the use of lures that possess a plastic weed guard is recommended.