Keith Clover loves fly fishing and guiding throughout Africa. As the co-owner of African Waters, Keith has taken on freshwater and saltwater destinations throughout the continent, and he is known for exploring new wilderness destinations. Keith recently took on an interview with The Venturing Angler:
Why do you guide where you do?
My passion for Africa, its wilderness areas, the fish and wildlife these areas support, and the people that rely on them is what motivates me.
Born and raised in South Africa, and having a passion for African conservation and wilderness lead me to explore and fish numerous countries on the continent. This started as a hobby, and developed into a fully-fledged guiding and destination development business post University. My time guiding has since evolved (regressed?) in that most of my professional time is spent developing our camps, community, and conservation initiatives. I am fortunate at being able to still get onto the water with guests a handful of weeks each year, and this time spent guiding is a highlight for me.
In developing our various operations, I have guided in the following locations:
Makhangoa Community Camp, Lesotho
Gassa Camp, Cameroon
Nubian Flats, Sudan
Dhala and Samaki Camp, Tanzania
Sette Cama, Gabon
Kalahari Wilderness Drift – Orange River, South Africa
What is your favorite fish species?
That is a tough one. I would have to say tigerfish due to the environments we target them in. Remote rivers and lodges in Tanzania and Cameroon wilderness areas, home to amazing wildlife and birding. The fly fishing is the cherry on top of an already amazing wilderness experience. Added to this now, is that our senior guides (Stu Harley and Greg Ghaui amongst others) have really ramped up the experience by developing consistently productive techniques to fish surface flies and sight fish to tigerfish in these areas.
What is your favorite thing about guiding?
The fish are obviously super special, and for most visiting anglers very exotic, and rightly a highlight when they land the fish they have traveled so far to get. However, successfully interpreting the environment around the fish i.e. the wildlife, community relationships, importance of the habitat, conversation threats and successes, really gives me untold pleasure. When these puzzle pieces click and a guest’s get to comprehend the scale of what the fish they are targeting represents, I think as a guide that is when I feel the most reward.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
Broadly speaking, this would be pretty much the first time we introduce guest to a new fishery we are working on. The guests who we invite on these trips are all good friends, and aware that they will be the ‘guinea pigs’ sampling a raw and uncut version of what we hope to develop and deliver going forward. The learning curve on these trips is steep, and the unknown inspires a great sense of camaraderie between guides and guests as we work together to gain a deeper understanding of the fisheries and fish we are targeting. Thinking back, I can remember clear as day each of these ‘firsts’ I have done with guests like it was yesterday. Be it tigerfish in Tanzania, yellowfish and trout in Lesotho, triggerfish and GTs on the Nubian Flats, and most recently Nile Perch in Cameroon.
What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
In 2009 when we were in the early days of introducing the international fly fishing market to trophy tigerfish in Tanzania, I guided a punter who arrived with all the gear and no idea. We knew we were in for a tough week. However, the complete lack of ability for said punter to maintain any semblance of control of his motor skills when he connected to a fish was hilarious. Dropped rods, missed strips, involuntary jumping, and little shrieks of nervousness were part and passel with every bit we miraculously managed to entice. This culminated in a complete breakdown on my part when a mid-sized tigerfish somehow stayed connected to the point of netting, but when it made one last jump and head shake close to the boat, the angler got such a fright, he dropped his rod, and jumped away from the fish.
What makes your guide service great?
The ability of our guides and camp staff to operate in some of the most remote wilderness areas on the continent is definitely up there. However the collective passion our team has for the conservation of the habitats we work in, and the local communities we work, and instilling the same in our guests, is what I feel really sets us apart. The fact that the team is so fishy some guys should have gills, is also helpful.
If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
I would choose to walk the upper beats of the Bokong River, Lesotho (Makhangoa Community Camp) sight fishing to yellowfish and brown trout with my wife and daughter.
What are your favorite three flies?
Balbyter Ant – a foam and CDC ant that catches pretty much anything in fresh water, from brown trout in Lesotho, to Niger barb in Cameroon.
A hollow tied deer hair baitfish pattern (Andino deceiver type fly) in a natural colour with a marabou collar and long stung saddle hackle tail – this will catch pretty much very predatory fish we target, from tigerfish, Nile perch, tarpon, snapper, jacks and GT.
Alphlexo Crab – trigger fish, bonefish, permit and even yellowfish, there is not much that won’t eat a good crab pattern
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
My Shilton reels – like a Toyota Land Cruiser, they just keep going and get the job done superbly well, no matter how tough the environment.
Do you have any other passions?
Apart from my family and my work, on the hobby front I am a keen ultra- trail runner, have a passion for big mountains and climbing them, I love surfing (completely inversely correlated to my skills on a surfboard though) and beer.
To check out more from Keith Clover, please click here.