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Dams & Trout in Chelinda, Nyika National Park
Posted on: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Blog Category: 'Activities in Malawi'


A blog by Lauren Slater following her stay with Wilderness Safaris in the Nyika National Park.

“If you knew everything, you would still have to learn how to fish.” Don Lort

Any keen fly fisherman - amateur or old salt - will be thrilled at the virtually untouched possibility of the trout-filled dams at Chelinda Camp and Lodge on the Nyika Plateau. = 

The Nyika National Park calls out to those who savor rolling grass plains, close-up encounters with abundant antelope and the hopeful wish to see a rare leopard and other mammals. But besides the game drives showcasing stunning views across the plateau, a completely satisfying and worthwhile pastime is the fishing in all three dams within close range of the Lodge and Camp.

Dam 1 is literally off your doorstep at Chelinda Camp, while Dam 2 is a 25-minute walk away, in view of Chelinda Lodge. Dam 3 can be easily reached on a 15 minute drive, with a bit of game viewing along the way. A large fishing platform sits directly in front of the rooms at the Camp and within easy reach of a waiter bringing you beverages of your choice! Grab a packed lunch from the kitchen and head down to the other dams for a sublime stint on the water, with nosy roan antelope and zebra eyeing you out from the surrounding hills.

The dams on the Nyika - like all developments there - have interesting tales to tell. Shortly before Malawi's independence in 1964, Sir Glyn Jones (last governor of Nyasaland, he oversaw the transition of the country to Malawi), a keen angler, lent his support to a proposal for trout fisheries on the Nyika, the argument being that the Chelinda River was not large enough to encourage a sustainable trout population and would eventually be fished out.

The proposal that three dams be built was accomplished using a South African system which entailed using dam-building scoops which were drawn by oxen as though they were grader blades. This was quite a process and also involved some defensive action against lions, as they frequently attempted attacks on the oxen!

Once the three dams had been completed, fresh, fertilized rainbow trout ova were put on a plane from South Africa to Chileka (Blantyre) and then made their way to Chelinda, like a lot of us do, in a Land Rover. They had to make a stop every 100 miles to get an ice top-up: they had been packed in ice for the journey. When they arrived at Chelinda, the ova were placed gently into a stream which ran into the Chelinda river and the rest is fishy history…

The time to be on the dams with your rod out is from 1 September to 30 April and year-round on the rivers and streams. The latter areas do require some skill as the surroundings tend to be overgrown and the waters often narrow.

You’ll find trout - and many - up to 30cm in Dam 1 and somewhat smaller specimens in the other two dams – although just as abundant. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife has recently requested that all trout caught are measured before being released and the information kindly passed on to them, as there is a catch-and-release policy in place and very little data has been recorded in recent years.

A fishing license will cost you $4 per day and rod hire, if you don’t have your own, will cost $6 per rod per hour, including flies. The ever-helpful guides of Wilderness Safaris will be happy to give you some lessons if you are a first-time angler – just bring your good humour and a bit of patience. After all, as the saying goes, a bad day’s fishing is better than a good day at the office!

By Lauren Slater with reference to “The Nyika Experience” and “A Visitor’s Guide To Nyika National Park, Malawi”.

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