Some parts of Africa have not been explored by even the most adventurous anglers. Wars, upheavals and uncertainties have made large areas of the Nile Basin in particular too challenging and dangerous to visit.
Wim Seffelaar is a teacher in daily life, but a keen angler whenever he has the chance. Over the decades he has explored some of the remotest rivers of Africa. Now he is on a quest to catch one of the most iconic and elusive of all African river fish – the legendary Nile perch. They grow to enormous proportions on a stretch of river bordering South Sudan – an area normally off limits to tourists, but with the help of local friends, Wim manages to secure the permits to allow him into this troubled area.
As he follows the river searching for likely locations, he immerses himself in the tribal life along the waterways. Everyone seems to be fishing here, albeit each with their own methods. Not only the many kingfishers, pelicans and crocodiles, but also the people, young and old. What may be sport to the angler is the livelihood of many here. If you don’t catch something, you and your family go hungry.
Child hunters convince him to follow them to their inland lake and show off their skill at catching a variety of fish, but the most remarkable local fishing tactics take place on dry soil. During the dry season, fish survive by burrowing themselves in the mud and staying dormant until the rains form new rivers. The locations of these buried fish or ‘mudfish’ can be given away by subtle movements of the ground. A man whose feet can detect that faint movement above ground can spear the fish through the soil, dig it out and slowly hook it free from the earth.
As he continues his way upstream, enormous bush fires stand in his way, the temperature rises to unbearable heights and the water level drops. The turning point in his expedition comes when he gets help from a former rebel who has fought in the area and knows the river like the back of his hand. With the help of his new friend he moves further afield, onwards to deeper water, indicated by the presence of large crocodiles.
Here lies the promise of the giant. After landing a few huge tigerfish, Wim eventually hooks into a goliath that turns out to be no less than 113 kg, one of the largest Nile perches ever caught on a rod and fishing line.