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Flamingo Lodge is as good as it gets. By Steven Phillips

Having been to Flamingo Lodge in Angola a few times, and having friends and family who have been numerous times over the years, we have a good yardstick against which to measure that our 2013 trip to Flamingo was almost as good as it could get. We managed 122 cob, 240 shad and 11 garrick. The cob were also of a good average size, with most between 7kg and 12kg, and a few touching 17kg.

Flamingo is also known for its bus shad; most are over 2kg, with many touching the 4kg mark. They’re very exciting to land too – when you catch them on plugs, you get to see them jump right out of the water when they hit your lure. White and pink plugs are the best, but they readily take spoons and paddletails too.

We tend to plan our trips to Flamingo later in the year, generally in August and September, as we love catching cob, and the leerie and shad are still there, although not as plentiful. The best time for leerie and shad tends to be from April to July, with huge shoals of over 200 leerie often being visible from the shore, just surfing the backline.

Last year we went for 10 days in early August. We had heard from a friend who had been in July that the fishing was not at its best, but we were excited nonetheless.

The team from Mad Mullet had arranged a lot of the tackle for everyone on our trip. We were testing the new ATC Valiant reels and Surecatch Gallant braid, along with Mad Mullet jigheads, spoons, scissors and plugs. I’m pleased to say everyone was really impressed with the quality of the products. The ATC Valiant reels were super-smooth and strong, with the 4000 and 5000 offering 11kg drags. Basil Paul landed a fantastic 15kg cob on the 5000 ATC and I managed a PB leerie of 17kg.

When we arrived, the fishing was a bit slow around the lodge, so we decided to take a trip down south to the Cunene River mouth, through the infamous Dood se Akker – the trip is offered by Flamingo Lodge, when possible. The next day, we packed our bags into the vehicles and made our way along the beach and up the dry, sandy riverbed, past the huge and ancient welwitchia plants to the tar road to Tombwa, a small town about an hour-and-a-half from the lodge.

  

Unfortunately, Angolan roads and offroads can give the vehicles quite a hammering, and we lost the left wheel of the Land Cruiser, leaving us stuck on the side of the road.

Carlos, our ever-trusty guide, was quick with a plan. Two lodge staff stayed to watch the Landcruiser, while the rest of us piled into the other vehicle and headed back to the lodge. It was still early enough when we arrived to catch a quick breakfast, jump into another Cruiser and go fishing around the lodge while they repaired the damage.

With the vehicle fixed by 10pm, the plan was for us to leave for Cunene again the next morning.

Up at 4am, bags and people loaded into the vehicles, and off we went – another trip along the beach, up the riverbed, onto the tar, past the ‘crash’ site. As it was getting light, we started to appreciate the amazing landscape on offer. Lots and lots of nothing at all, except for sand and sea. Perfect! Just the way we like it – untouched scenery all around us.

The Dood se Akker lay ahead, a stretch of about 80m along the beach that has intermittent sections that can be passed only at spring low tide with a flat sea. Water on one side and 200m-high sand dunes on the other – get stuck here and your vehicle is gone, swallowed by the incoming tide. You will spend a few days camping on the dunes with the jackals. Some of the sections are wide enough for only one vehicle to pass through. In the distance you can see Des Tigres Island.

After one or two nerve-wracking moments, we were through the worst of the soft sand and back onto the hard sand, cruising at 100km/h towards Cunene.

Soon, we arrived – and it really didn’t look like anything special. Water dirty, wind blowing, more than 100 turtles visible in the channel at the mouth. We unpacked rods and had a throw, and then we understood. It wasn’t not long before we had a triple hookup, all small cob. We landed a good few more (all released), and then moved spots, looking for another shoal with hopefully bigger fish. We found one and some nice cob of around 10kg were landed.

  

Over that afternoon and the next day, the six of us landed and released over 100 cob – fantastic fishing in anyone’s book.

The Flamingo guides and staff are great; they produced the most amazing hot food for lunch on the beach, tailgate-style, with plates and cutlery and lots of ice-cold drinks in the cooler.

Later, it was back to the Cunene Camp, which is very basic, but it beats camping and has the most fantastic view. An easy trip home to Flamingo on the low tide the next morning made this an unforgettable part of our Angola adventure.

Six more days at Flamingo and the fishing improved, with daily cob and shad catches, and leerie too. Dean Bouchier, Graham Chrich and Basil produced leerie of around 7kg. I came up with a 17kg leerie, and Cliffie Phillips landed a shad of epic proportions.

All in all, 2014 was a fantastic trip too, with a total catch, on lures, of:

            118 cob

            145 shad

            9 leerie

            1 blacktail – on spoon, hooked in the mouth, believe it or not

            2 sandshark – foulhooked; man it really pulls!

            1 sardine, foulhooked through the eyes, casting at a baitball.

  

 

* With thanks to Mad Mullet for the tackle and clothing. Should you wish to organise a trip, contact flamingo@aasafaris.com.

For tackle recommendations, visit www.madmullet.co.za or contact your nearest tackle store.