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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.