Rebekka Redd is a world-traveling fly angler who represents Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods, Yellow Dog Fly Fishing, and many many other brands in the fly fishing industry. The AMFF is lucky to have her as part of our Ambassador team and she sat down with us to discuss her recent trip to Tanzania, Africa.
What drew you to fishing in Tanzania? In general, what makes you travel to these destination-type fly fishing places?
I have loved traveling since I was a little kid- I guess you could call me a natural born gypsy, but these days its with a fly rod in hand!
November, 2016 came around fast and before we knew it- it was time to fly out to our African destination. Tanzania was ruggedly beautiful, just an amazing destination to film. Jako Lucas, RA Beattie and Thomas and Thomas fly rods all chose the destination, and of course I was amped to go hook into the toothy tiger fish!!
What was the culture like in Tanzania?
We flew into Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after an extremely lengthy travel itinerary, and spent one night in the big city of Dar. Once we cleared customs, all of us were shuttled to the hotel that was by the stunning Indian Ocean. The sights were a bit of a blur to me as it was all pretty rushed. The streets where packed with cars, people peddling goods and food, the air smelled of ocean, and it was extremely hot out. While stopped in traffic, I will always remember seeing hundreds of fruit bats hanging from the tree’s that lined the street. That evening was spent at the hotel restaurant and we enjoyed a variety of excellent food - mostly dishes you get in North America.
The following morning we flew in a small plane to one of the last remaining frontiers of freshwater fishing, so remote and wild that much of the land remains untouched by humans. We fished the Mnyera and Ruhudji Rivers. The Tourette Tiger fishing camp is a professional outfitter with exceptional guides. Everyday we fished hard and we lucked into some epic fish! I still relish in the memories of the beautiful and fierce fish I landed. As a pike on the fly fanatic, landing these crazy tiger fish was at the top of my bucket list, and they surpassed any expectations.
What were the conditions like fishing in Africa? Did you go in with a certain idea of how it was going to be or did you just go with the flow?
It was surreal - I’ve never set foot in Tanzania before, I had no big expectations, really. Just super pumped to go fishing with my team! The best two words to describe it is “harsh beauty”. It’s a tough terrain, yet it’s stunning, truly like no place I’ve ever seen. It was pretty dusty and dry, and there was a distant forest fire that created a certain amount of smoke in the air. I had an allergic reaction to the combo of smoke, dust and some pollen, and that took its toll on me in the last day there. I managed to get conjunctivas pretty bad but, that only affected me on the very last day thankfully.
Rebekka with a fired up crew.
How was it fishing with the dream team that you traveled to Africa with? What did you do for fun when hanging with the crew?
The people you travel and fish with can make the trip or break it. And our team was over and above awesome- Jako Lucas, Paul Bourcq, Jeremiah Hamilton, and myself didn’t miss a beat that trip! Not only was it hilariously fun to work with them all, they were down to earth, humble and super chill.
We work really well together, and even after tough, hot and long days of filming, the humour and light heartedness was always there at the end of the day.
[Laughs] There was one evening after dinner we were gathered around the fire by the river, chilling out, sharing stories from the day, and Jako managed to sneak behind me wearing this freaky, evil looking Halloween pumpkin mask and just “Freddy Krueger” style jumped out at me. I felt myself freak out and then my immediate reaction was to punch…. probably not the reaction he expected. But, practical jokes aside, every evening was awesome! We all would gather fireside to hang out, and a couple evenings we could hear the lions roar in the distance. Each evening after dinner when sun was down the sky became blanketed with stars…. a glorious African night sky!
I have so many great moments from the trip - but one that was so sweet, and pretty much made the trip for me, was when all the guys in the camp, (the cooks to the camp helpers) baked me a cake!! Yes, an amazing cake, baked in a “off the grid” type oven that had originally been a gun case (hey, it worked!). It even had icing and was decorated with my name- somehow they created the best cake I’ve ever had! They brought it out singing! I was so taken back by their warmth and kindness. I will treasure that moment forever.
More on the team….
I thoroughly enjoyed watching our expert camera team Paul and Jeremiah of Drift Media Productions hook into their first tigers and seeing how stoked they where!
Traveling and working with Jako, Paul and Jeremiah was an honour. Each one of them brings such top tier talent in their own right.
Jako and his extreme angling talent was super fun to watch- he is a fishing magician but still stays a super down to earth humble guy who’s fun to be around.
I’ve fished with a lot of people, but between these 3 guys, it was not only totally enjoyable, but I learned so much from each one of them. I felt so fortunate to be working along side them.
Even though we traveled there as a small team, it was the guys of Tourette fishing camp that made our trip the success it was. Rob Scott, Greg Ghaui, Stuart Harley, Mark Murray and all the great men who work at the camp are the real deal and I have so much respect and appreciation for all of them. I learned so much from them, and that fishery. They are incredible guides and, in my opinion, they rank amongst the best in the world.
Tigers are a fish not for the novice, so you really have to come with your “a-game”: know how to set the hook at the right time with the right intensity, be able to control your excitement when you’ve hooked one, and fight it well.
What species were you fishing for in Tanzania?
Of course the tiger fish was number one on the list, but what was really cool was dry fly fishing for the African yellow fish- what a little beauty! I also hooked and landed the rare “ Ndungo “ fish. The last time it had been caught was some 5 years prior to me. What an awesome looking fish!
Tell me more about the Tiger Fish. Are they some crazy lovechild of a muskie and tarpon? How do they fight and what can people who are fishing for them expect?
Haha, that’s well put! I also like to call them the “Tanzanian T-Rex” ! First off, they are difficult to hook due to their hard boney mouths and the massive teeth that line their mouth. Sometimes they simply hold onto the fly in their teeth (not hooked) and let go once they see the boat. They are powerful and some of the fish I caught put me straight into the backing! They are prehistoric looking, with incredible shimmering armour like scales and a very distinctive sapphire blue coloured adipose fin.
When I landed my 1st tiger fish, I was in awe cradling the freshwater monster. I am forever enamoured by toothy predatory fish and their arsenal of teeth, and the Tiger fish is at the top of that list. No matter how many fish I caught on that trip, each one felt like my 1st. I was feeling on top of the world and totally pumped to see each one come to hand and to be standing in such an incredible landscape.
What kind of learning curve did you go through fishing for Tiger Fish?
Tigers are a fish not for the novice, so you really have to come with your “a-game”: know how to set the hook at the right time with the right intensity, be able to control your excitement when you’ve hooked one, and fight it well. There is a learning curve to them, no doubt about it! I did hook and land my very 1st tiger and it was a fat 16 lbs. It totally got my blood pumping and as soon as I thought “I got this”, I got schooled pretty good by a few giant tigers…I learned fast, I had to! No time to waste, we had a film to make.
Rebekka with a "Tanzanian T-Rex" in all its glory.
What was the most striking characteristic about the Tiger Fish?
The Tigers have a deep sapphire blue adipose fin! Something I never expected till Greg and Stuart showed me on my 1st Tiger…. I was in awe!
How do you go about landing, handling, and releasing the Tiger Fish?
Very carefully! It was not an issue with such a great team. Once the fish is a little tired, we get it out of the current, land it to the net, and we use a Boga grip on it. That way the fish is in the water at all times, chilling out, and, with the control of the lip grip, you can keep the teeth respectfully away from any one. They are quite well behaved for such a savage looking beast! We snapped a quick photo, and filmed the fish under water as it was released.
Jako Lucas bows down to a thrashing Tiger.
Did you have any close calls or interactions with the wildlife in Tanzania?
Countless amazing memories of wildlife - all good thankfully! One morning just before dawn, I was woken up to the sounds of tree limbs rustling next to my cabin window. It was a troop of monkeys! It was too dark to decipher what kind they were, but I just stood quietly listening to them, peering at them through the darkness.
Most nights I could hear the hippos only a stones away throw from my cabin by the river. Like clock work, they would appear around 11:30 pm to bathe, and loudly grunt (sounds like laughter) in the river right out front of my cabin.
I sat on my front porch steps listening to them, so entertained by this magnificent beast I was so strongly warned about prior to leaving for the dark continent. Thankfully, we never encountered any angry, territorial hippos. While out at night listening to the hippos, I would shine a light on my cabins walls and see the unbelievable amount of geckos. Being a tomboy kind of girl, I love lizards, frogs, and such…. so I was fascinated by all the new species that I was seeing first hand.
We saw elephants leaving the river one late evening; I was able to snap a quick photo before they made their exit. I was able to sneak a peek at a bush baby way up a tree in camp, thanks to my guide, Stuart’s good eyes. He spotted it and showed me. We saw fresh lion tracks, wild boar, wildebeests, buffaloes, baboons, elands, kudus, gazelles, countless exotic birds including the regal African fish eagle... and so much more.
There are a wide variety of bugs!
One morning I was confronted by a giant territorial praying mantis! Living in Canada, I never see these bugs. It had claimed it’s spot on my doorframe - and refused to move. I had to move the little titan, other wise it would be flat as a pancake from the closing door. I laughed at the situation - here I am battling with a giant bug, all while back home my friends are probably heading home from work, mowing the lawn, dining, or what ever we see the norm as. But here I am, in my job, and at the moment it was to convince a giant green bug to move along. I definitely prefer my situation.
While travelling from camp 1 to camp 2 - there is a 2 hour commute through the East African terrain - epic! On the Safari we saw endless wildlife, many times we stopped to observe and shoot film.
The only issue with this Safari trip to camp 2 was the horrific tsetse flies, but wearing long sleeved shirts and pants pretty much kept us from being bitten.
Rebekka with a beautiful Yellowfish, a catch she won't soon forget.
How did you adjust when you returned home?
It was difficult to adjust back to the cold!! I arrived back home to winter (when I left there was no snow) - and I had climatized to the hot weather, tanned up and had adjusted to that time zone. It’s crazy to know that I was catching fish in the heat of the day in Tanzania and it was about 3 am home time!
So where is the next big trip?
Where ever the dart drops on the map! Just kidding! It’s going to be hard to top Tanzania, and the wonderful memories that are etched into my life.
I have some amazing salt water trips planned and some pretty sweet fresh water places in the books coming up shortly. I’m booking for 2018 and 2019 already.
It’s hard to think that far in advance, but it’s pretty awesome!
I’ll also be fishing a lot of my home waters this spring/early summer, as it’s my most favourite time of year to fish Ontario.
Check out more photos from the trip.
Ranking in the planets Top 10 most dangerous freshwater fish, when it comes to the mighty “fresh water T-Rex” the right gear is essential!
Here is a break down of what we used on our expedition :
ROD: 9wt and 10 wt rods are perfect – You want them fast enough and stiff enough to handle heavier flies, and sinking line.
LINE: We used 300 and 350 grain shooting head sink tip TROPICAL fly lines and full sink 300 grain Tropical lines.
LEADERS: 5 to 6 feet of 40lb ultragreen maxima with a Bimini or furled leader …Then straight to 8 inches (or more) of 45lb knotable multi strand wire (with an Albright or unit to uni knot)
FLIES: We used top water flies that where aptly named the "harley shake" (Tied by Tourette Guide Stuart Harley) and a variety of streamers including the Black brush fly - see video!
The guides at the Tourette camp tied up some epic flies that they have designed specifically for the Mnyera and Ruhudji waters.
Here is a great fly tying video that Mark Murray posted to YouTube. Mark guided me to some amazing fish on our Tanzanian trip, check out his tutorial on how to tie the "Black Death tiger fish fly" below.