Catching Kariba Bream on a Fly

Not an obvious choice, but bream do take a fly

Bream in their many forms are a ubiquitous fish throughout Africa, and although they have a slightly mundane reputation – perhaps because they are so common and are caught in such large numbers, even to the extent that they are a dietary staple in many regions – they are a worthwhile sport fish, and are caught reasonably easily on a fly. There are many different species distributed over much of Africa, but the Kariba Bream could be one of three species: Red Breasted Tilapia, or Tilapia rendally, commonly known as a pinkie, found in large schools, and known as a decent fighter, although seldom caught at weights over 1kg, Nile Bream, or Oreochromis niloticus, quite a commonly caught fish, or Kariba Tilapia, or Oreochromis mortimeri, declining rapidly in numbers, and not caught quite as widely as Nile Bream.

Flies and Tackle

Standard light trout tackle is fine for bream on Lake Kariba. Patterns that work well are black nymphs and worm patterns, the American wooley bugger being an excellent choice. In fact, if all else has failed, just in the interests of catching a fish, a green or black wooly bugger with a brass bead head should be a last resort. If you fail to hook a bream on Kariba with this little streamer then the odds are that the fish are in a breeding cycle or simply not there. Other patterns that work are a Gold Tipped Hares Ear, various Caddis patterns and gold nymphs. You could try a dropper or a Rainbow pattern fly, which is a popular trout wet fly in Zimbabwe and South Africa, intended to replicate the flash of a rainbow fry to appeal to the cannibalistic instincts of rainbow trout.

Dry flies are quite effective if you detect a rise, usually in the morning or evening, and as usual some observation on the local entomology is necessary to imitate what is attracting the fish. Bream are omnivores, and as such have quite a wide ranging diet, but they can also fixate on a particular food source at any given time, and in this state will frustratingly ignore anything that does not approximate what they happen to be feeding on at any given moment. A point worth remembering is that bream seldom hook themselves. A reactive strike is necessary at the first hint of interest, and in the instance of a dry fly they are quick to sip in and spit out, so speed of reaction is vital.

Strong mono filament leaders are fine for bream. They have abrasive but not incisive teeth. Some fraying of the leader might occur, but they are rarely broken or severed.

A few general observations

The topography of Kariba is ideally suited to catching bream on a fly. The petrified MopaneĀ  forests that still characterize large areas of the shoreline and deeper inlets are prime fishing locations, and from a boat casting into the vicinity of drowned trees can be very productive, although some care needs to be taken to keep the fish clear of entanglements as you are bring him in. The same is actually true for tiger, but more so, because bream do not take off like a turbocharged torpedo at the first strike, and are generally easier to control on the hook.

Bream are shoal fish, with the average size of individual shoal members tending to be more or less the same. The result is that if you locate a shoal you will more than likely catch a few fish, each generally of comparable size.

Fly Casting is fun, and it yields results, but a better method if fish numbers matter is to drift with a nymph or a wooly bugger until you get a strike, at which point work the water with a casting technique until you have either lost the shoal or caught as many fish as you need.