For the past two years the desert road running south alongside Lake Nasser to Abu Simbel has been closed to foreigners. This created a problem for our safaris; they all had to start and end at the top of the lake, at Aswan. Before the road closed, we used to drive to a start point called Garf Hussein, 100km south of Aswan, which gave the opportunity of fishing further south than is possible starting from Aswan. But now we have had to find other solutions.
Lake Nasser is the biggest man-made lake in Africa. It extends from the High Dam in Aswan to the Dal Cataract in Sudan (where it is known as Lake Nuba) a distance of 498km (311 miles). The Egyptian section is 324km (202 miles) long and has a shoreline of 7,944km (4,965 miles) excluding the lakes hundred of islands. Thats 15 times the distance between London and Edinburgh!
To understand this vastness more easily, we can divide it into three roughly equal sections: Aswan to Garf Hussein (Area A); Garf Hussein to Wadi el Arab (Area B); and Wadi el Arab to Abu Simbel (Area C).
Area A has a shoreline of approximately 2,000km (1,250 miles), excluding islands. By any standards this is a huge fishing area. Since the road was closed, most safaris have been in this area.
However, getting to know one area well has its down side. Some of our guides, who are very competitive about catching big fish for their anglers, understandably tend to stick to the same known hotspots. With a safaris time being limited, they are reluctant to take a chance on exploring for new locations. Finding new hotspots is not easy and might entail a lot of time running over unproductive areas.
On the other hand, over-fishing known hotspots teaches the perch to wary of artificial lures especially fish which have been caught and released. I feel sure that these skittish fish transmit a danger signal that alerts the other perch in the immediate area. So, next time you come on safari, help us help you by encouraging your guide to look for new hotspots. Believe me, when you find one it is well worth the effort.
Thats not to say that the old favorite spots have had their day. In Area A, there are now several wised-up hotspots. When we first found these places the fish almost used to fight each other to get at the lure, but now they are much more cautious. A good example is The Wall at Khor Mariya, where, walking along the cliff top in the heat of the day, you can nearly always count well over 20 big perch basking in the rocky margins but catching them has become difficult.
In these places you now have to be smart to get results. Stalk the fish and place your lure well, not crashing down on top of the fish. The last time I was at The Wall I acted as observer for John Wilson, pointing out from above the where the fish were lying. Fishing this way, John had three fish between 25lb & 45lb in an hour and a half. But other anglers who try here often come away complaining that it is impossible to catch these fish.
Its important to remember, though, that Nasser is a massive lake with a huge head of fish. So when we talk about fishing pressure we do not yet have a problem. Look at any venues in Europe and they are all far smaller and fished on a daily basis by a lot of anglers.
However, to continue providing a good standard of fishing for our anglers, we have to keep one step ahead of the game. So we run regular training seminars for our guides in Aswan and also operate off-season safaris with just guides and supply boat staff for intensive training and discussion. Guides are now trained to fly-fish and catch small tiger fish for our anglers to use as deadbait. We continue to experiment with new types of lures and are learning to troll deadbaits, as well as developing new techniques of casting from the boats at anchor and drift casting. We also have special safaris dedicated to looking for new areas.
To improve access to the middle of the lake (Area B) we have built a new fast supply boat. Marhaba has a powerful inboard diesel engine and is much bigger and faster than any of our supply boats. She also has a large carrying capacity for fuel and provisions. The plan is that from time to time we will locate our fishing boats well south of Aswan and take anglers in Marhaba to join them. They will then have the ability to fish much deeper into the south of the lake than we have been able to do in the past.
From October 2000 we are also stationing three fishing boats at Abu Simbel anglers being flown in and out. This will open up new fishing areas that have seen very little attention from lure anglers.
But ultimately the fishing will always depend on three main things: the guides, the season and the weather not whether youre in the north or the south. If the fishing is off its off all over the lake.
However, as the challenge to catch prime fish increases, good anglers will continue to keep ahead of the game. To my mind this is the best part of fishing: the constant striving to understand to find a way to catch that special fish, and then release it.
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