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Tiger Fishing

The tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) is undoubtedly Africa’s, if not the world’s, premier freshwater gamefish.

Their toothy, muscular, streamlined appearance alludes to their unparalleled strength, speed and ferocity. T

The take of a tiger is nothing short of explosive and when hooked they are cunning, dogged, acrobatic fighters that frequently leave fishermen with a snapped line and trembling knees. It is not uncommon to land fish of between 10-20 lb, while tigers can grow to in excess of 30lb.

  • Behaviour : The Tigerfish is a voracious and fierce top predator that, with the exception of the largest individuals which are solitary, hunts actively in schools of similarly-sized fish. It favours well oxygenated, unpolluted water in large rivers and lakes and hunts visually in warm surface layers where it’s occasionally snatched up by African fish eagles.
  • Breeding: The onset of the summer rains during December or January causes rivers to swell and triggers a migration of adult tigerfish (2-3 years old, 200-300 mm) to suitable spawning sites along flooded river banks or lake shores.
  • Feeding: Tigerfish are predators throughout their lives. As adults, they can consume prey that are 40% of their own body size and are opportunistic predators that generally feed on small-bodied shoaling fishes like robbers, minnows and sardines.

Catching Tigerfish on Fly: Fly fishing is perhaps the most exciting and challenging way to fish for tigers. Although the odds are stacked heavily against the angler, with only one in every ten fish hooked being landed, the chances of landing a trophy tiger can be dramatically increased by using the correct tackle and tactics.

Tigerfish are best fished for with an 8-10 weight rod matched with a fast-sinking line (preferably DI-7) and plenty of backing loaded onto a large arbor reel. Flies tied on extra-sharp, high quality hooks are required because tigerfish have exceptionally sharp teeth and bony jaws that are difficult to penetrate.

The most effective flies are baitfish imitations such as clouser minnows and other large deceivers. The choice of fly size and colour is influenced by what the weather is doing and by what types of natural prey are most abundant at the time. Large flies tied in natural colours with a distinct lateral line often work best. Leaders typically include about 5 ft of 15-20 lb monofilament ending in a 10 cm of wire tippit. Although fishing with a sinking line down and across is often the most productive way of enticing a tiger to take the fly, intermediate and floating lines can also be effective under certain conditions.

Conventional methods to catch Tigerfish: Spinning and trawling are highly effective methods for catching tigers in both rivers and lakes. For spinning, a flexible 6-7 ft rod with a good quality spinning reel (such as the Shimano 2000 series) loaded with 200 m of 15-20 lb monofilament or braid is perfect. 

  • For trawling, shorter, sturdier rods are required, usually not longer than 6 ft. Snap-swivel wire traces of 10-30 cm work well and allow for quick and easy lure changes. A variety of large rapalas, spinners and spoons can be effective for catching tigers.

Examples of effective lures include 10 cm long rapalas and floating magnums in black and red, 16 g spoons in copper and silver and Mepps black fury spinners in size 4. Adding plastic worm-tails to the hooks of lures is sometimes an effective way to induce a strike when the fishing is slow.

Tiger fishing is extremely exciting and the fish put up a heck of a fight usually making fast hard runs and jumping high out of the water. It is some of the most thrilling fishing there is.

Days begin early in the morning with coffee and a quick breakfast. Then you are out on the river right after sun up. You will be amazed at the number of different species of birds you will see as well as the other wildlife in the area including elephants, hippos and crocodiles. The fishing guides have a vast knowledge of the wildlife species in the region and can identify the many species of birds for you. They can describe their habits and many interesting facts about them. You will definitely want your camera in the boat with you.

As you fish the Zambezi you will see local villages and native fishing camps on both the Namibia and Zambia side of the river. It is a wild part of Africa where many of the native people still live in mud huts with thatched roofs.

Rates: $390 per day per angler - $190 per day per non-angler 
It is also simple for us to add a few days of fishing on to almost any one of our hunting packages. You will fly into Livingstone Zambia and it is a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive from the airport to camp. You may also want to consider adding a day or two to see some of the other sites in the area like Victoria Falls which are located nearby. This outfitter can also provide river cruises for sightseeing and photography.

  • Dates:    Best months for Tiger fishing: Year Round
  • Best months for Bream: Late May - December       
  • Includes:    Cabin accommodations, meals, boat rental and fishing guide       
  • Not Included:    Airfare to Livingston, Zambia, alcoholic beverages, and lures (approx $10 each), tips and gratuities, transportation to/from the airport (approx. $600 round trip)       
  • Equipment:    You can bring your own medium weight rod/reel combination spinning reels or bait casting reels, which are fine. Very strong 20lb test or heavier line is recommended. Medium to large size plugs (similar to what you might use for pike) are the preferred lures. Good quality rods/reels are available for rental at the lodge. Lures are available for purchase at a reasonable rate as well. Any lures you use at the lodge must be purchased by you.       
  • Transportation:    Arrive and depart Livingston, Zambia. Transfers from airport to camp not included in this package (approx. $600 round trip)     


  • Species: Tigerfish, Catfish (Barbel), Bream Species
  • Technique: Spinning (¼ to 5/8 oz rod); Trolling, Fly Fishing, Drifting Baiting 
  • Gear selection is relatively straightforward, with 7-9wt rods being ideal, coupled with a decent reel that won’t explode if a blistering run is made and two decent fly lines. A tropical floating line with a ghost tip or a slow intermediate (The clear tropical ones are great) and a full sinking or 300grain shooting head system for prospecting rock faces and deep channels with Clouser minnows. A word of warning though, an un-intended mid-air collision between a Clouser and fly-rod will end badly. A spare rod is recommended.
  • Leaders are simple, straight 15-25lb maxima tied directly from the flyline to a piece of wire. (25-30lb piano wire is perfect) A perfection loop connecting the Flyline to the leader is ideal. A nonslip "Jozini Wire Knot" for the leader to wire is one of our favorite. the advantage of this knot is that the wire, which could cut through the mono if sufficient tension is created, now rests against x2 mono loops lying at a 90' angle. Your wire needs to be around 4-5 Inches long, some prefer a shorter section, but we have had tigers (especially the larger specimens) that have eaten the fly properly and chewed on the mono, not ideal if you want to land that trophy. 

Hooking a Tiger fish and landing one are two different animals. Plan on one landed fish for every eight hook-ups!!