Other than the thrill of catching your own lunch, one of the joys of sport fishing is being removed from the bustle of daily life, thinking of nothing other than casting your rod while bonding with friends you may have not seen in a while. There is also the curative power of water and the immense benefits that can have on one’s stress levels and mental health. Here, then, are three spots to consider in Kenya:
Watamu Marine National Park.
Watamu is said to be one of the few places where three kinds of marlin, sailfish, broadbill swordfish and short bill spearfish are all in abundance. Hemingways actually pioneered the ‘tag and release’ practice with billfish at the Kenyan coast. Depending on the season, you can spot blue marlins as they follow shoals of tuna in the deep sea, drift in the night to catch broadbill with light sticks on the leader and squid weighted to various depths, and more. After trolling for about an hour, you might catch a small beautiful fish with colourful vertical stripes and forked tail in your line and quickly reel it in. This will then be hooked onto the end of a rod and cast out as live bait for whatever will bite. As if on cue, a few minutes later the captain will shout that there is something bigger caught at the end of the line and gesture for you to sit in the fisherman’s chair and reel it in fast while sweeping the line from side to side. A total body workout believe me. The crew then leans over the edge to haul the catch, emerging a few seconds later brandishing a fighting giant kingfish that might as well be about 10kg! Now who doesn't want to try their hand in fishing?
Set on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya, the Afro montane forest here is breathtaking. Tall, narrow trees tower high above the ground with branches meeting at the top to create a canopy which keeps the harsh sunlight at bay, if you’re keen on hiking. The area is said to be teeming with wildlife ranging from buffalos to elephants, leopards, mountain bongo and an array of birdlife. Fishing is a key activity here, and Ragati River which flows through the area was initially stocked with rainbow trout in the 1920s. Since then, they have gained a unique red colour and this is now a go-to spot for fly fishing enthusiasts. Armed with all the required tackle (you can hire some if needed), walk down to the base of the waterfall where, after a few pointers from your guide, you will be off casting your line like a seasoned pro. Accommodation at the serene and secluded cabin here starts at Ksh 11,500 per person per night, with children under seven going for free. This includes the conservancy fees, fishing licence, guides, fishing equipment, guided walks, staff fee and firewood for those cold highland nights.
Kiunga Marine Reserve, Lamu.
People go on sport fishing holidays here, where each day begins at around 6.30am and ends after eight hours in the sea. You can however decide how long you want to be out. Together with a crew, gear and a location already mapped out, set off into the blue. You will be handed a rod that is light enough for you to handle, followed by a demonstration on how to cast a line far out into the water, wait about a minute to bait a fish and then quickly reel it back in. Of course there are certain techniques to this sport (such as keeping the line in the right position or sweeping it from side to side) which one is able to hone over time. You could also troll for kingfish whereby one captain hooks two lines with bait such as tuna and these are then hoisted on the back of the boat and dragged through the water as you start heading back towards the camp. Whether you’re lucky or not, the possibility of the catch will have you back in the water the next day.
Travel tips: If you burn easily, wear layered clothing, good sunglasses, a hat, mask and sunscreen. You will be contending with not only direct sunlight but also its reflection off the water. If you’re prone to seasickness, take some medication for it the previous night.
Other thrilling beach destinations to consider for sport fishing: Chale Island, Rusinga Island, Lake Turkana.