Sunday, 11 December
Today I am up at 6am, preparing for a day on the lagoon. Seven people are going out for a day of fishing. We will be taking two boats of which I will pilot one, as part of my on-the-water training experience. We are underway by 7:30, the day is starting out promising, with calm waters and light clouds. Our destination is “rouge alley”, a branch of N’Dogo lagoon near Sette Cama consisting of islands and peninsulas overhanging with jungle vegetation, waters especially abundant with carpe rouge, a fish more similar to bass than carp. We arrive within the hour with a plan to troll around the islands and along the overgrown peninsulas, pulling lures as close to shore as water depth will allow. Averaging 1 to 2 metres of fishing depth, we dodge the numerous submerged and overhanging trees and hanging root-stalks of the mangroves. The first hour passes without luck as we each try lures of different colors in hopes of finding success. Soon after, a rouge is landed on a blue and silver lure, and blue becomes the dominant lure-color of our success today. We have great views of the forest edging the water.
Clusters of pandanus with heavy, pineapple-looking fruits sprout from stilted rootstalks, their crowns dripping with serrated sword-shaped leaves. Graceful climbing palms ascend into the canopy on slender stems. The large leaves of this palm, divided into many leaflets, end in a long cirrus, an extension of the leaf lined with serrated hooks that grip into surrounding vegetation, allowing the stem, which cannot support itself, to climb towards the canopy. I learned last week that this palm is a dangerous plant to pass under, as the hooked leaves will tear into flesh and clothing with painful tenacity and require careful removal to minimize injury.
Other trees extend out over the water’s edge, creating pockets of mysterious shadow along the banks, their branches supporting the occasional monitor lizard that slips into the dark waters as we pass. Another monitor lizard, sunning itself on a partially submerged deadfall, is reluctant to leave its perch in the warm sun, and we approach within a few metres before it clambers into the water to swim lazily toward cover. The forest echoes with birdcalls, and we hear the loud croaking call of a great blue turaco, then see the fowl-sized bird high in the canopy, gliding between trees and scampering among branches. Pockets of cicaedas scream their ear-piercing alarm-buzz from the understory as we troll past, an understory of a thousand shades of green, popping through the hazy sunshine to mute into the depth of forest shadow. Circling back to familiar waters, we take a moment to organize rods and tackle, and suddenly alongside the boat is a tremendous swell and rush of water, indicating something of substantial size has approached the water’s surface alongside the boat, then retreated. A mystery to everyone on board, we wonder if perhaps a hippo, or some monstrous fish, or even a crocodile…
Returning through a narrow channel between islands, we cut power to let a herd of approximately 25 red river hogs, le Potamochére, swim by with snouts high in the air, dog-paddling with determined but feeble efforts toward adjacent shore.
A half-dozen piglets have difficulty swimming a straight line. Likely their first time in the water, the tiny piglets bob and turn in the water as we approach, their striped and spotted bodies the last to find shore. They struggle through the shore vegetation and rush, squealing, in search of family.
By 1:30pm, we have ten rouge in the coolbox, and pack away fishing equipment for the hour-long return to Shell jetty. A cooling breeze has picked up and there is a chop on the water as we cross the expanse of N’Dogo lagoon.