The Deka Big Five

This feature is an extension from the previous post about a trip to the Deka Drum area in Zambia. Tips about the flies we used to catch numerous fish species and the things we did for fun in between the fishing is described.

Five flies worked particularly well for all the fish species we targeted in the Deka Rapids, viz., the Flash Clouser, black and peacock Whistler variations, a green rock worm imitation, olive Hares Ear nymphs, and also Woolly Buggers in most colour combinations. We didn’t catch ‘hundreds’ of fish each on these flies, but in my experience they worked pretty well – and especially those described for the tigerfish.

 

FLASH CLOUSER

The Flash Clouser, a fly that Richard had used for yellowtail in the Cape waters, was a great search pattern for tigerfish in the rapids and deeper headwaters of Lake Kariba alike. I also used a weightless flashy profile in similar colours and size to catch my biggest tiger in a wide, shallow glide above the Deka Rapids.

After watching the success a local had catching tigerfish on kapenta and also after we caught several kapenta in the rapids with our hands at night, we agreed that the Flash Clouser was most likely taken for kapenta. The lean, multi-flash appearance of the fly matched the slender bodies and iridescent colour of the kapenta.

Step-by-step photo-demo of the Flash Clouser as tied by Richard Wale:

A combination of flashabou is used to create the 'flashy' profile in the Clouser.
A combination of flashabou is used to create the ‘flashy’ profile in the Clouser.

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BLACK&PEACOCK WHISTLERS

Variations of ‘peacock’ and ‘Midnight Blitz’ Whistlers were Alex Jordaan and Russell De La Harpe’s staple patterns for tigers in the rapids. These flies also worked exceptionally well, since I believe Alex was the standout angler with the most tigers caught during the trip. They are simple to tie and consist of a ‘peacock’ or ‘Midnight Blitz’ SF brush with either a peacock and grey or black tail, or yellow over orange bucktail.

Peacock Whistlers as tied and photographed by Alex Jordaan (Fly and Arrow Africa)
Whistlers as tied and photographed by Alex Jordaan (Fly and Arrow Africa)

 

GREEN ROCK WORM

The only yellowfish I caught during the trip ate a small green rock worm imitation. There were also many green rock worms (a large caddisfly larva) present under the rocks and their colours varied from sandy-olive to bottle green to a bright grass green/chartreuse. The fly I fished was chartreuse and it was tied on a #14 scud/caddis hook.

The green rock worm imitation (#14 caddis hook) that caught at least one yellowfish in Deka...
The green rock worm imitation (#14 caddis hook) that caught at least one yellowfish in Deka…
An adult green caddisfly that survived the night.
An adult green caddisfly that survived the night.
A yellowfish caught on the small, chartreuse rock worm imitation.
A yellowfish caught on the small, chartreuse rock worm imitation.

 

OLIVE HARE’S EAR

A tiny, olive Hare’s Ear with a hot orange bead was deadly for catching chessa and small tigers. I found one particular area near our base camp which teamed with these fish and where I also landed five chessa on the nymph in less than 30 min. I fished the fly on a standard dry-dropper rig. Interestingly, I caught a bream and several small tigers on the dry fly – a large Klink Hamer with natural CDC post. The tigerfish and shoals of bream were feeding off the main current and sipped floating ants (and the Klink Hamer) off the surface with the grace of trout.

Chessa food = olive Hares Ear with an orange tungsten bead.
Chessa food = olive Hare’s Ear with an orange tungsten bead.
Juvenile chessa were abundant and fairly easy to catch on smallish (#14-16) nymph patterns fished under a dry fly.
Juvenile chessa were abundant and fairly easy to catch on smallish (#14-16) nymph patterns fished under a dry fly.

 

WOOLLY BUGGERS

The tigerfish found Woolly Buggers in olive, black, black and white, black and peacock, black and grizzly, and black and ‘you-name-it’ tied with hot orange beads irresistible. I lost all my Woolly Buggers in Deka to the maw of tigerfish. One really big fish opened a #1 Gamakatsu BS10 hook while I was fighting it…It was a frustrating experience and I spent quite a bit of time on my traces (I even tried 15 lb Spider Wire) to land a fish, but I simply could not get it right.

There was a big hatch of clubtail dragonflies (Gomphidae) and their nymphs were abundant under rocks in the shallower parts of the river. I believe that although tigerfish are opportunistic feeders and will ‘taste’ most moving things as part of their characinic-nature (fish from the family Characidae are very aggressive and have a habit of nibbling on everything floating past them), the fish in Deka were actively feeding on the dragonfly nymphs. There is certainly great merit in fishing a large Woolly Bugger (#8 – #1) on a floating line for tigerfish; the area that requires more testing is a fine trace that will withstand abrasion from their teeth.

 

FOR SHITS AND GIGGLES

Besides the ‘famous’ five flies there were also five, infamous Deka activities worth taking part in; one was to chill down in the Zambezi River with a cold Coke after a hectic morning’s fishing hike over the foot-blistering hot rocky terrain; the second was to try spot an African skimmer feeding on the surface of the Zambezi in the late afternoon; third, a quick jog through a crocodile resting area, i.e., crock alley, to burn the beer calories before the sun set; fourth, to hunt young crocodiles in torch light after dinner; and lastly to try catch a Cornish Jack at midnight and land twenty squeaker catfish instead…

Deka activity #1 - have a cold Coke in the Zambezi rapids
Deka activity #1 – have a cold Coke in the Zambezi rapids (photo by Fly and Arrow Africa)
Deka activity #2 – try spot African skimmers in the afternoon (photo by Tourette Fishing)
Deka activity #2 - take a jog past the backwaters, i.e., croc alleys, before the sun sets.
Deka activity #3 – take a jog past the backwaters, i.e., croc alleys, before the sun sets.
Deak activity #4 - after scaring the living daylights out of the adult crocs by running through them, go catch a young one at night.
Deka activity #4 – after scaring the living daylights out of the resting adult crocs by running through them, go catch a young one at night (photo by Fly and Arrow Africa)
Deka activity #5 - try catch a Cornish Jack...And catch a gazillion squeakers instead.
Deka activity #5 – try catch a Cornish Jack…And catch a gazillion squeakers instead.

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