Month: February 2013

Kayak fishing Uganda, Final preperations taken care of and the trip begins

When OK Pro-staffer Jeff Herman contacted me with an idea to kayak fish the Nile River in Uganda, the response went something like this, ” sounds cool Jeff, if you can make it happen and take care the details and logistics I think we could go for it”. The basic assumption being Yeah right he will never pull this together. We have shot our show a couple of times with Jeff and have always had a great time, he is an awesome fisherman and a great ambassador for Ocean Kayak. When Jeff got back to us a bit later telling us all arrangements we taken care of, kayaks were packed up and ready to ship, lodges and guides arranged and all we needed to do was book our airline tickets and we were good to go. Jeff also sent along this photo as a teaser of the possabilities on our trip, the fish was caught just before our trip by the son of the owner of NRE

I hope we can get one this big

I hope we can get one this big

Now you would think that with shipping the kayaks four and a half months before the trip we had plenty of time for the kayaks to arrive in time for our trip, this was not the case. Just a week before the trip we get word that our kayaks are still sitting in South Africa and may not make it in time for our trip. At that point we had a decision to make postpone our trip, which would be costly, or just go for it and hope that our kayaks arrived or that we could make do with boats already on location. We decided to just go for it.  The final days before the trip the news went back and forth on the kayaks making it to Uganda.

Kayaks are ready to ship

Kayaks are ready to ship

During our twenty-eight hours of travel we were monitoring the kayak situation via our Ugandan contact, and soon to be fishing partner, Jamie Simpson. We were first told the kayaks would arrive the before us day as us at the Entebbe airport, the next report was that they would be there the same day as us. We arrived in Entebbe late in the evening and Jamie let us know that the kayaks were indeed sitting in customs at the Entebbe airport. Easy enough, we would get a good nights sleep in Entebbe, after sleeping in get breakfast then head over to the airport where the kayaks will have cleared customs, load them up and head to our first fishing spot. Oh if only things went as planned.

Checking in with home on our first night in Africa

We did get in our good nights sleep and we did get our breakfast, followed by a call that we should just hang out for a bit before heading to the airport, they were still sorting out the kayaks. This wait actually lasted a couple of hours and a couple of beers before we were given the word to head to the airport. This started what turned out to be a ten-hour very frustrating  wait in the hot sun, broken by the occasional run to the bank or some one’s office to grease more palms to get our kayaks out of hawk. At one point the kayaks were sitting behind a fence where we could just see them, we thought this was a light at the end of the tunnel but turned out to be a tease as they took the kayaks back into the warehouse once again to verify the weight and impose “just one more fee” UGH.

First Breakfast in Africa, waiting on the call that our kayaks are ready

First Breakfast in Africa, waiting on the call that our kayaks are ready

Still waiting

Still waiting

and still waiting

and still waiting

All geared up and nowhere to go

All geared up and nowhere to go

Once the kayaks were finally delivered to us in the parking lot, the crates that Jeff had so carefully built to protect the kayaks were crushed, we could only imagine what condition the kayaks would be in. No sooner were the crated kayaks on the ground a crew of men were on them, tearing apart the crates unpacking them and getting them loaded, still wrapped in the original OK packaging, on top to the van that would carry us for our four-hour drive to The Nile River Explorers camp. Of course this unpacking service which we didn’t ask for involved one more fee. Our pockets now empty we were just happy to have our kayaks so that our African adventure could begin.

Jeff doing more paper work and dealing with the insanely inefficient system

Jeff doing more paper work and dealing with the insanely inefficient system

Finding the only spot of shade while we wait

And we finally have our kayaks loaded up

Now I don’t know if any of you have been on Mr. Toads wild ride but the drive to NRE in Jinja put that ride to shame. The roads are VERY crowded with vehicles of varying size,  hundreds of motor cycles, thousands of pedestrians. The motorcycles were wild, most of them carrying what could have been the riders entire life’s possessions, their farms entire harvest or from one to four persons, rarely a helmet in site. The rule of the road, if there actually was one, seemed to be the biggest and most aggressive driver had the right of way, pedestrians being the lowest on the food-chain. Unlike in the US in Uganda they drive on the left side of the road, which led me to a very terrifying moment during the drive. I was sitting in the front passengers seat of the van and, with a bit of jet lag,  our very long day at the airport and several hours of driving I nodded off for a minute. I woke to a blaring horn as we were  barreling towards another vehicle, being in what would have been the driver’s seat at home on the left side. My brain told me that I had fallen asleep while driving and was about to crash, the adrenaline rush this gave me about gave me a heart attack and kept me awake for the remainder to the drive. Just to add to fun of the day, on the drive to Jinja we were pulled over by police man who said our load, aka kayaks, were and unsafe load and we would need to pay a fine. Ten dollars later we had a safe load, pretty crazy when you think about the motorcycles that carry four people.
I wish I had pictures of this part of the trip but it was all done in the dark so you will just have to believe me.

We arrived at Nile River Explorers in Jinja well after the sun had set so really didn’t have a good look at the grounds that night. We were given a cold beer and directed to the tents that would be our base camp for the first two days. Though we were in tents this was not camping, we had nice cots with thick mattresses and blankets and electric lights, it didn’t take us long to pass out on the very pleasant warm evening. Pure exhaustion and jet lag had taken hold and we all slept well past the early morning wake-up we had planned. When we did wake we got our first look at the White Nile while looking out the front of our tents, all of the tents are placed on the slope going down to the river with a spectacular view.

Our Tents at NRE

After a quick breakfast we had the job of unwrapping and rigging up our Ocean Kayaks to get them fishable and of course to add all of our sponsor stickers. I must say we had a bit of trepidation while cutting away the wrapping on the kayaks after seeing the crushed crates they arrived in. Much to our pleasure the kayaks were in brand new show room condition, not real surprising knowing just how tough Ocean Kayaks are. For the trip I would be using an OK Trident 13 and Jeff being considerably smaller than I would be using an OK Tetra 12. We would be doing a variety of paddling on this from flat water distance paddling on the lakes to running white water and both of these kayaks handled all these conditions with ease.

Breakfast overlooking the Nile

Breakfast overlooking the Nile

Rigging up the kayaks

Rigging up

Rigging up

Nile River Explorers is located on a newly formed lake on the Nile river, the lake was formed about a year ago by a new dam, much to the chagrin of the white water paddlers that used to frequent the location for its world-class rapids. As it is a new lake we were not sure what the fish populations would be but we were anxious to find out and to get our first paddle on the Nile in the books. After rigging the kayaks and getting our fishing gear sorted we schelpped our gear down the long path to the water, thankfully they had porters to carry to kayaks down for us, I don’t think my back could have handled it.

Thank goodness for these guys

Our host on this entire adventure, Jamie Simpson, is the former owner of Kayak The Nile, originally from Scotland he has lived and worked on the Nile for over thirteen years. Though an incredible whitewater paddler, kayak fishing is a relatively new endeavour for Jamie so we had a lot to learn from each other. We helped him with different fishing techniques and he taught us how to handle our kayaks in the fast water and eddy lines on the river.

on the lake

on the lake

Besides Jeff, Jamie, myself and of course Will Richardson my camera man.. we were joined by Jamie’s friend Darryl for the first half of our trip.  That first day on the new lake was a good shake down of the gear and chance for us all to get to know each other. Thankfully no fish were hooked to interrupt this process. Even without the fish it was a great paddle and we saw a lot of local wildlife including monkeys river otters and too many species of birds to count.

Marabu stork

Some of the bird life

Some of the bird life

It was pretty interesting to have my Humminbird fish finder on and go over spots in the lake that Jamie told me were previously class 3-5 rapids. He then told us the story of the day the lake was formed how he and many of the other paddlers that frequented the area had run the rapids on that final day until they no longer existed . I was later shown photos of these rapids and it was crazy to think they were now gone.

Jamie Standing on top of what used to be a large hill above some rapids

Jamie Standing on top of what used to be a large hill above some rapids

The target species on the trip were to be Nile Perch, though people don’t think of Perch as large fish, these cousins of the Snook grow to massive sizes with the IGFA all tackle record standing at 230 pounds. Neither Jeff nor I had ever caught one of these fish and Jamie and Darryl had not landed them from a kayak so we all had a bit to learn and this learning curve would make it take a few days before we land our first fish of the trip.

More on that on my next blog as our adventure in Africa continues.

I have to give a huge thanks to our sponsors for making this trip happen.

Ocean Kayak as always for providing the kayaks for our trip

Engel Coolers for not only supply us gear but also assisting in getting our kayaks to Africa

Goal Zero for keeping all our gear charged during the trip

Maui Jim Sunglasses for keeping me in the best prescription sunglasses available

Exofficio for supplying us with the best paddling and adventure clothing on the market

Seaguar for keeping my reels filled with the Kanzen Braid and fluorocarbon

Patrick Sebile for not only the supply of the best lure available but for all your guidance on fishing for this species and on fishing in Africa in general

Penn and Abu Garcia for getting me the rods and reels for this adventure

Scotty for always keeping our kayaks rigged to fish

Werner for the best paddles on the market, nothing comes close

Standard Horizon for always keeping us in contact

Body Glove for the 3T shoes that keep me from falling on my face while rock hopping

Delorme for the GPS and InReach that lets you follow us on all of our adventures.

Back From Uganda

On the Nile Baby

We have just returned from our adventure in Uganda, fishing Lake Victoria and The Nile River. It was a long trip and a wonderful experience unlike any of our previous shoots. This one really was more about the location, people, and adventure than it was about the fish. Because it was such a long trip with multiple locations I am going to break down the trip into several reports on the blog.
Before going into details of the trip itself I want to share with you some of the gear you may want and preparations you need if you are going to make a trip like this.

First off, well before the trip you will want to contact our doctor or travel nurse to make sure you are up to date on all shots and pick up the meds that you will need on the trip. You will need a shot for Yellow fever and you must carry your proof of inoculation with you when entering the country. You will need to pick up anti-malarial meds and take them as prescribed, you do not want to get malaria. This is no joke, everyone we spoke with that spends a lot of time in this country has had malaria multiple times. Make sure you pick up some good bug repellent as well that contains Deet. The pharmacy at my doctors office recommended Ultrathon, seems like a good recommendation as I used it every day and never got a single bite on the trip. Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants in the evenings will help with avoiding those bites as well. Exofficio makes Bugs away clothing that repels the pesky critters and if you don’t go that route, Ultrathon makes gear and clothing spray which works very well. I used it on my hat to keep the bugs from swirling around my face.

It is hot and humid in Uganda and the sun is brutal, you want to make sure you bring plenty of waterproof sunscreen and lightweight clothing, like you get from Exofficio, and drink plenty of bottled water. My favorite shirt for these conditions is the Exofficio Sol Cool, protection from the sun and does actually keep you cool. Don’t forget to bring a wide brimmed hat also to keep the sun off your head, face and ears. In these conditions you are also going to want good eye protection, I wear Maui Jim’s and would not trade them for anything. I always bring two pair, one with the HD lenses for the cloudy days and one with the darker lenses for the bright days. Of course MJ’s are not cheap so you don’t want to lose them that’s why I have Cablz Zipz on all my glasses to hold them on nice and snug and prevent sending them overboard.

Enjoying the sun

A trip to Africa may be a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to forget any of it so you will want to bring along a camera or two. My go to on the water camera is the Canon Powershot D20, besides being waterproof it has a built in GPS. The cool thing about that is that after the trip I can go back through the mapping software and see exactly where the shot was taken, which is a great way to relive the trip.

Canon Powershot

Of course on a trip like this you never know what kind of gear and kayaks you will end up with so I always make sure I bring along some things to make my trip more enjoyable. First off I always travel with my own paddle, Werner makes a 4 piece carbon Camano that packs easily and is a joy to paddle. I also always bring my own PFD so I know I will be comfortable, my choice here is the ExtraSport ProCreeker. I also want to make sure that the kayak I will be using will have at least a couple rod holders on it and I have some tackle storage that is why I have mounted a couple Scotty Rocket Launcher rod holders to my Plano tackle box.

Love having my onw paddle and PFD

The Scotty Rod holders are attached to the orange Plano box

Whenever I am fishing a new location I find it very beneficial to have a fish finder on my kayak so I always bring my Humminbird portable, I just strap it to the deck of my Ocean Kayak and slap the suction cup transducer over the side and I am good to go. Of course if you are bringing electronics on a remote trip like this you will need a way to keep all your gear charged up. If staying at a hotel or lodge you will need to have a plug adaptor and power converter. If you are going to be remote, as we were on parts of our trip you will need a different solution. What we have used for the past couple seasons while shooting remote are Goal Zero solar panels. For my 12v battery for my fish finder this year Goal Zero has come out with the Guardian with 12v volt controller. This thing was perfect for me, I could use it to recharge my battery at the end of the day. If we were having a particularly long day on the water I just strapped the solar panel to the bow of my kayak and hooked it directly to the battery this would keep my finder running all day long.

Goal Zero at work

We did a lot of dragging kayaks up streams and rivers and the Body Glove 3-T shoes were perfect for all this rock hopping, never slipped on even the real slippery stuff. It was just like being barefoot but without trashing your feet on the sharp rocks. The shoes are quick draining and do a good job of keeping the rocks and sand out.

Body Glove Barefoot 3T

The river is filled with sharp rocks and I lost a lot of lures so make sure you bring a good supply and a variety of styles and sizes. The lures I had the best luck with were the Sebile Koolie Minnow and the Sebile Flat Shad.

Nile Perch on the Koolie Minnow

Nile Perch on the Koolie Minnow

The fish can really range in size so I would recommend bringing at least a few rods so you can address the different conditions and fish size. A nice low profile reel like the Abu Garcia Revo for tossing the light lures and something bigger like a Penn Torque for trolling the big Koolie Minnows. I loaded my reels with Seaguar Kanzen braid then had top shots of Seaguar Fluorocarbon from 12 to 60 pound test.

Flourocarbon anyone

You will put in some long hot days on the water so it is not a bad idea to bring a small soft cooler to carry your snacks and plenty of cold water bottles. We brought the Engel coolers and they worked very well. Engel also make a drybag backpack which worked great for protecting all of our gear we needed to stay dry.

Engel Cooler great for food or gear

A cool item that we started using last year on our trips that is even more important when on a true remote location like this is the Delorme GPS and InReach communicator. These great items not only kept you up to date on what we were doing but also allowed us to communicate with our families to let them know we were all OK or where to find us in an emergency.

Follow us with Delorme InReach

It is also a good idea to bring along your Standard Horizon VHF radios to communicate with your fishing partners and I never travel without my headlight for when I get stuck out in the dark.

One last item that I really like that saves me on the long flights is my Exofficio Storm Logic vest, the thing that is so nice about it is that it rolls up into a neck pillow. This may seem like a small thing but with 40 hours of travel you will love having this thing.

Yes this vest rolls into a neck pillow

Likely the most important thing you can bring on this trip is your patience, things happen at their own pace over there and getting upset won’t help at all. You may want to bring along a few extra bucks to move things along though.

Ten hours waiting on our kayaks really tested our patience