Capitaine – Cameroon Season 2020, Blog 1

I’ve never really been one for making New Years Resolutions, although it is hard not to get sucked into the optimism and hype around a fresh new start, so I often end up panicking and keeping a few in reserve just in case. Since starting guiding in Cameroon, that really is not an issue any more: by the time the guides team of Stu Harley, Brent Poultney and myself Greg Ghaui had started the season last week, I feel like we had smashed most of the usual suspects out of the park.

‘Travel more, see more places’. Check. Traveling to Cameroon, and eventually the Faro river is really a whole adventure in itself, and arriving anywhere is an achievement. The Faro is one of the most interesting places I can imagine, and making it back again I know is already a highlight of my year.

‘Learn a new language.’ Check. It doesn’t get too much more immersive than buying materials and then building and running your own fly camp with a crew of guys who you don’t really know, who don’t really understand what you are ultimately trying to do, all in a language that you have a very tenuous hold over. We made huge strides last year, and put in some work in the time between, so running around and flexing our French and building some relationships within its confines has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this year. The scale of some of the misunderstandings and some of the results have been good reminders of how far there still is to go!

‘Improve your skill set’. Check. All veterans to some degree of  pre-seasons and camp buildings in other places, this was more a case of adapting skills, and also with such a small crew and so little time, everyone having to do a bit of something during the building phase. No one was spared a menial task, some manual labor and some wiring, plumbing or carpentry.

‘Test yourself outside your comfort zone’. Check. There is nothing like a hard, impossible deadline and a monumental task ahead to spark some motivation and soul searching for the energy and belief that it could all be done. What we ultimately achieved in about a week of work was a fully functional fly camp that we could happily and proudly welcome our first guests. Never finished but always ready, we boldly but confidently lay claim to the title of: the hottest and highest pressure showers in Cameroon, the consistently coldest drinks in Cameroon, the nicest fire pit, and a very lively and varied menu that keeps us all guessing what feature at the next meal!

With the preseason suddenly done, it was amazing to focus back on the fishing and try and find out more about what was out there for Oleg, Alena, and Helmut every day. What we found was an irresistible amount of water to fish with the slightly higher than usual levels for this time of year and for me the most memorable sessions were the river walks we did. With the perch fishing holes as the destination, and as much time and water as we wanted to fish up to them, we could spread out, dig in, indulge in special projects like Oleg’s Tetra quests, and fall fully into Cameroon time.

We also found much cooler evening temperatures with even the Siberian and Northern European guests shocked at how cold it was getting. The water temperatures were much lower as well, although the days were still cranking up the heat so it would warm up quickly. The lack of the Harmattan dust cloud was another noticeable feature, less sure of it’s impact on the fishing but it made for stunning clear days, and incredibly beautiful starlit evenings.

The perch fishing was every bit as suspenseful, dramatic, pensive and finicky as we remembered, and this week was defined by very localized and specific but sparse action, for some very impressive fish. After a flying first evening with everyone feeling the pull, and a few going spare, Oleg had two top fish, one of 115cm and the other just below the meter mark. From then, it became a case of a solitary bite per session for the next two nights, which is very tough going, but still the quality of the fish we were coming into contact with kept us very much in the game. Alena cashed in all her school fees of the first three days with a trophy 113cm fish on night 4, and her perseverance again reaped her two more on the last night including the show stopping 124cm titan that we will all remember. Helmut topped the table for action and was always in the thick of things, but just needed to adjust his superstitions and mojos to the Faro frequency. This he did in very happy fashion on the 5th night, bringing yet another meter eater (114) to the party, and consolidating it with another strong middler.

Interesting fishy features this week were definitely the water temperatures pushing tiger fish and Niger barb activity much later in the sessions, and still muting them somewhat although everyone connected with their share. The evening star in this moon phase became a noticeable trigger as it set, often signifying a spate of action after a very punctual sunset.

For us, this was a group who just got it right, with the right tempo, focus and attitude, going all in at the right times and letting the results come to them.

The wheels are fully in motion now, the rest of the season is ahead, and we wouldn’t get off even if we could!

– Greg Ghaui