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740 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Gambia July 2008 adventure.

Friday 4th July.

I booked my flight with a tour company and the luggage allowance was only average 20k hold and 5k hand luggage. Sports equipment can be booked and paid for as an extra except it doesn’t include fishing gear, this must be taken within your luggage allowance.
Now there are a couple of ways around this problem. Firstly put 25k of luggage in your hold bag and claim to have no hand luggage which must be left with someone or in the car or wherever to be recovered after booking in.

The other thing you can do is to book the sports equipment option at £60 return, but click the “Kite” option or similar. I usually opt for skis if going to a cold climate. My rod holder is a 7 foot x 7 inch diameter length of tube which comes from inside a roll of carpet and is as strong as any commercially made carrier I’ve looked at.
It holds 6 rods, an aluminium tripod and a 2 inch diameter, 2 metre length of plastic pipe that I fill with leads and once there it can be cut in half and used as rod holders.

Officially with this particular carrier the sports weight allowance is up to 13k above your 20k hold baggage. I doubt few if any desk clerks know this and most I suspect will allow the maximum weight allowed for one item which is 32k.
Remember to take a physical receipt for the sports luggage charge or the Gambian booking in clerk will try to charge you for the overweight, they have no computer to check you have already paid.

One more thing about airport formalities, this particular travel company had another card up their sleeve to relieve you of your holiday spending money. On arrival at the boarding gate at Gatwick they weighed heavy looking hand luggage and charged for any excess weight (Above 5k) that’s a new one eh? Mine must have weighed 10k but it was only a small bag and I wasn’t challenged, lucky.

My flight from Gatwick to Banjul arrived on time and customs was no hassle as I paid a porter £1 to get me through the hustle and bustle and to my waiting coach.

I arrived at my hotel, the 5 star! Kairaba in Kololi in the early evening and had dinner at a restaurant I wanted to go to on my previous trip, the “Kora”. Surprisingly I waited ages for my food and it was not good so sent it back. Fair play to the restaurant, they didn’t charge me anything including for my alcoholic drinks so I promised to return. (Next time though)

Bumsters, basically lazy Gambians that want to be your lifelong friend and ask you for money at the last minute are a pain to the uninitiated and I usually pretend to speak only Spanish which gets rid of most. Problem is the area is becoming popular with Spanish tourists and the Gambians are learning Spanish fast, must learn Swahili.

Gambia’s tourist season runs from November until about April and half the town was shut, this is a tough time for the locals as there were few tourists in town. Local taxi drivers were jumping on the Bumster’s bandwagon and asking for enough money to buy a meal, usually rice and beans at a cost of 60 pence. I must admit to buying a few meals for them and as long as I didn’t feel I was being conned I didn’t mind. By this I mean I didn’t give to the ones that pretended to be my room cleaner or coach driver or the ones who were collecting for a children’s charity.

Bumsters 1, John 0.

Saturday 5th July.

Having had a chance to look around my room and the hotel in general I can say it is nowhere near a 5 star and maybe creeps in just under a 3. My bathroom mirror was held on the wall with masking tape!

After a poor warm buffet breakfast in the hotel my well known Gambian fishing guides, Tom and Assan picked me up at 9am. We headed for Tanji for bait, ice, drinks and lunch and then onto Sanyang where we would chase the tide out. I hadn’t picked the best of weeks and a week later would have been better, both for beach and boat fishing, but I have only myself to blame.

Catfish were an immediate pain in the rear and I was soon picking them up nearly every cast. If the initial bite was missed then the fish would just sit there and make very little movement on the rod tip. Only seeing line heading north in the strong current alerted me to the fact I had a fish on, that was of course if the fish moved the 6oz breakaway lead.

See photo of such a pest. (The fish not me)

When I was in The Gambia in January catfish were returned to the sea and only superior species were kept for the table. Things had changed drastically, money and work is now more difficult to find and inflation is going through the roof, especially food.
Our catches of catfish in particular would feed the families and neighbours of Tom and Assan.

Baits were prawn or Bongofish or a cocktail of the two as in the following photo.

There is halibut paste around the lead, which works for me sometimes.

The sea was warm and waves were not too high and I was able to wade out a long way to cast my leads. What with only having 4lb to 5lb t/c rods I couldn’t give them too much welly. My guides were casting shorter and I was catching a lot more fish, be them all catfish. The reason I think, was I had 3 rods to their 2 between them and what with the attention my guides were giving me they were not fishing effectively themselves.
At 1.30pm we moved to a spot towards Gunjur the lads thought would fish the incoming tide much better.

Low tide was about 2pm and so at 3pm we were expecting the fishing to improve. It was looking good at that time especially when the beach crabs came out to feed, Tom told me this coincides with the fish gong on the munch. Certainly the cats were on the feed and in fact they never stopped all week.

Just after the turn of the tide Assan caught a Sumpat or white Snapper, also called a Roger’s Grunt. I never heard one grunt but they twitch as you hold them. Good eating and similar to the Cassava I’m told. These fish seemingly move in groups so we were hopeful of a few, this one is small for the species.

See photo of Assan and his Sumpat.

Not long after Tom also caught a Sumpat and I must admit to having been envious because one would add a new species to my 2008 hunt, now standing at 38.
I don’t like being surrounded by other anglers and do love an end peg. The two lads had me surrounded and I said that was why they were catching the good fish leaving me with the catfish!

By 5pm we had to move again because of heavy weed and so headed back to Sanyang. We were still suffering with a little weed and now strong wind too and it was enough to spoil my presentation I thought. My line had a large bow in it and bites were even more difficult to see even though I was using braid.

Tom caught a small Stingray during the early evening and I was still catching bucket loads of catfish. Assan had himself a small Cassava.

See photo of Assan and his Cassava.

We packed up at 7pm and my total catch must have been at least 25 catfish, still they would feed some hungry and needy people.

Back to my hotel for a shower and I fancied a drink and so went to the mini-bar, empty. It transpires you have to order in advance, and pay for it whether you drink it or not, whatever you want and only then would they come and turn on your fridge.

What with the lack of restaurant choice in the town I went for a local Chinese restaurant. I tried a few different dishes and most was ok but the sweet and sour pork was excellent. I love hot and sour soup but I’ve never had it so literally served and this one should be renamed “Very hot and very sour soup”

I went for a drink to the “Wild Monkey” restaurant where they tried to con me over fresh lobster in January and there was some impromptu entertainment by four local Gambian drummers and dancers, a good end to the night.

On the way back to the hotel a bumster told me he was hungry as he hadn’t eaten for two days and wanted 25 pence for a bowl of rice, I gave him 50 pence and told him to leave me alone tomorrow!

Bumsters 2, John 0.

Sunday 6th July.

We arranged a late start today so we could pursue the tide in until dark. After chasing around for bait and ice which was not available in Tanji, but found in Gunjur, we started fishing South of Sanyang not all that far from the Senegalese border.

After only ten minutes and with catfish to my name already I said I was going to change my nickname to “John the catfish man” the lads thought it highly amusing.

About 3pm I broke my duck and landed a Cassava, the biggest fish of the trip so far.

See photo.

Shortly after and just before the turn of the low tide we headed for a mark near Footsteps Beach which the lads say is well known for Stingrays and Crevalle Jacks.
It wasn’t long before Tom had a small Stingray.

Early evening I lost a biggie with a hook pull in the surf and the profanities might have been heard in Tanji. Difficult to judge I know but from landing over a hundred 20lb plus carp that’s the constant weight I felt was bending my rod.

A Sunpat for Tom and three cats for me early evening but we were still confident after me losing the big fish.

It wasn’t long before Tom brought in another fish I would have loved to catch, a “Shiny Nose”, similar to a Captain Fish.

See photo.

Just before dark I decided to change tactics on one rod and added another hook up the line. This I hoped would allow a catfish to hook itself on the bottom one and at least give me a chance of catching something else. Within ten minutes I brought in a catfish on the bottom hook and a Captain Fish, species number 39 in my 2008 hunt, on the top hook. I had seen the catfish was hooked but left it and my plan had come together.

See photo.

Now I hear you say “why didn’t you think of that before?” Because in January every fish I landed was hooked on the bottom bait and only once was a top hook bitten off by a Butterfish. I wanted the extra distance and so from this experience there was no point in wasting it with extra bait on. Hindsight is a wonderful ability I look forward to possessing when I go to the great sea in the sky.

My last casts of the night with three rods produced a Stingray and two catfish; I didn’t even know they were on. I caught fewer catfish today but judge it was still 20, the two compound’s inhabitants would eat well again tonight.

Back at the hotel I looked in the mini-bar but nobody had turned it on or put anything inside. When I enquired as to why, I was told the mini-bar man was off work today and he would likely do it tomorrow. I quipped “So if the chef is off tomorrow I get no breakfast?” I didn’t even get a smile.

Kololi has a typical African restaurant known as “Uncle Nuhas” (Noah’s) and I was invited by their promoter, Assan the other night to take my fish there to be cooked. After waiting an hour and a half for my meal, my typical “English style fish and chips” turned up covered in fried onions, very tasty it was too. I insisted on paying the full price of the meal and asked that the staff have the other 3 portions of my Captain fish. I think fish and chips on the menu, was £2 and so it’s no surprise the place is packed with locals, especially taxi drivers during the day. As for the typically African food I haven’t a clue, I didn’t go again.

I had a drink in “Ali Baba’s” garden restaurant where there was some entertainment. It’s a place I wouldn’t go into last January as there were always lots of street promoters outside trying to pull me in and that puts me off.

Bumsters 2, John 1.

Monday 7th July.

Yesterday morning, while waiting for the lads to pick me up I chatted to one of the official guides that are based outside the Kairaba and Senegambia hotels. One told me he could get me on a boat with tackle and bait from Denton Bridge for £50. As it was so quiet I would probably be the only angler but the price would be the same and would include transport there and back.

I asked Assan to ring Ninja (Assain) to see if he was busy and if he wanted to do a deal for three days. We agreed on two days at the full rate, £100 a day and a day’s fishing for free, fair enough I thought. The tides weren’t good and as I said before I was a week too early.

Assan and Tom picked me up at 8am and we found Ninja catching baitfish under Denton Bridge. Assan was joining me on the boat and Tom was going to clean the 4 x 4 and pick us up later.

Baitfish caught were, Ninebones, herring and Black Angelfish, I was surprised there was no mullet. We headed towards Bakau where we met Tom on the beach, he had gone to buy prawns from the market as Ninja didn’t have any.

We fished somewhere close by on a sandbank 2km out to sea. Our mark was close to a drop off that went from 9 feet to the 31 feet we were fishing in.

Ninja asked if I wanted him to set up my rod and I agreed saying I would start fishing the way he suggested, he’s the expert. The rig was simple with a running ledger and 3 foot of 30lbs mono trace I guessed and a 4.0 hook. My own rod was a Shimano 20lb class 7 foot and 34lb braid mainline on my Shimano Charter Special.

About 11.30am I had a tap-tap bite then the rod bent over, as I lifted into it I think the bait was pulled out of the fish’s mouth. I quickly dropped it back down but after a minute of nothing happening I began reeling in the line. A fish hit hard and immediately the rod bent over but then I had lost it, or another fish, for the second time. Ninja wasn’t happy and looked away in disgust and maybe I did have my clutch set just slightly too tight but not enough to cause a hook pull I thought. On retrieval the mono line had gone at the swivel and so I at least didn’t feel so bad, I didn’t tie it. After that I used a 60lb mono leader.

Ninja was fishing two rods with live baits and one with prawn and Assan was on prawn too. If I go there boat fishing again I will take two rods, one for live baiting and one baited with prawn to hold. If it gets too busy one can be reeled in.

Midday, Assan had a Shiny Nose and shortly after an angelfish. Ninja had a few Butterfish.

See photos of Assan with an angelfish and Ninja with a butterfish.

Ninja soon landed a fish, a Palometa, with Assan following it with a Sumpat.

High tide came and we moved a few kilometres further South. The strong tide was about to start and would be less of a problem there, Ninja quickly landed a Butterfish.

I thought it was about time I tried my own method and put on a six hook white feathered mackerel trace, hooks were baited with prawn. My weight was just bouncing the bottom with me giving a few foot of line every now and again before tightening up. This I thought would be giving me perfect presentation and what is a killer rig on my home ground in the Mediterranean, it didn’t work and I received no interest.

To be continued.

740 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Assan had a rockfish and Ninja a fish Gambians call a Choff

See photos. Including one of Assan holding Ninja’s Choff.

“When in Rome” came to mind and I changed my rig back to a more typical Gambian one: a running lead with a three foot trace of 60lb mono leader and a long shank 2.0 hook.

I only mentioned a few fish caught by Ninja but he had several Butterfish and up to 8lbs or 10lbs I would guess.

This afternoon the wind and waves got up and it’s lucky Ninja’s boat is seaworthy, saying that it’s still not for the faint-hearted. I don’t think we actually fished for more than 4 hours.

Tuesday 8th July.

The lads picked me up at 8am Gambia time (8.30) and we headed for Bakau to meet Ninja on the beach.

Not long after arriving at the same mark as yesterday Assan caught a Cassava weighing about 5lbs.

See photo.

I asked Ninja this morning if he had double checked his knots and as a wry smile came across his face he said “I was thinking about that as I lay in bed this morning”

I was live baiting and Ninja had either Ninebone fillets or prawns on his three rod’s hooks, Assan was on the prawn.

Assan soon had a Sumpat and Ninja was bringing in butterfish regularly.

It wasn’t long before a couple of other boats joined us including one owned by Mark Longster. He was accompanied by his mate Trevor who also lives in the Gambia. Apparently Mark has been around a while and previously employed Ninja as a guide for many years.

See photo.

Just before midday and as Assan and Ninja and the other boat’s occupants were catching a few Cassavas I decided to bait with prawn and changed my rig accordingly.
Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet but I wasn’t having much luck was I? And when I asked Ninja what I was doing wrong he said “Nothing your just a jinx” Cheers!

Assan caught a couple of Cassavas and Sumpats and Ninja a few more Butterfish. Me? I just carried on drowning dead prawns until I hooked and landed what was probably the smallest Butterfish of the trip, still it was something. I did follow that up with a slightly bigger one.

See photo.

I was down tiding but was much closer to the boat than Ninja, but no closer than Assan to be fair, who was on my right. I asked Ninja if his three rods at the back of the boat had an advantage. He said not but I wasn’t so sure or was I just feeling sorry for myself?

I was losing many prawns off the hook and felt I wasn’t fishing effectively, Ninja had no bait elastic and I hadn’t brought mine but would tomorrow. I’ve got to be honest, if I wasn’t on a freebie the next day I wouldn’t have been going out on the boat.

12.45 Assan had a good Butterfish and a wrasse.

See photos.

Ninja caught a fish I think he called a Guanga, some sort of jack he said, it looks a bit like a Palometa of some sort.

See photo.

1.30 we headed for shore to try and catch a Tarpon, we float fished live baits. After 30 minutes with no sign of them we were off and stopped at a rocky mark just short of Bakau. After 30 minutes we were off again and I was surprised that at 2.15 we were getting off the boat at Bakau beach. The wind and waves had got up and I suppose we literally fished for a maximum of 4 hours.

Wednesday 9th July.

We met Ninja at Denton Bridge at 10am as he thought our best chance of a big fish would be near Baria Island. This mark was literally in the mouth of the river and is where he would usually only fish a neap tide. We still had a big one and would have only a short period of time to fish before the tide became too strong so he said. Maybe I heard this wrong.

There was what you might describe, clouds of brown murky water on the surface and I asked Ninja and Assan if they knew what caused them. They didn’t know so I told them they were the result of whales having “Banjul Belly”, neither of them got it even when I tried to explain further.

The tide was strong but due to slacken around 2 pm which it was doing and I was more than a little surprised when at 3pm we headed back to Denton Bridge. I doubt we had much more than 3 hours fishing.

See photo of Denton Bridge in the rush hour.

Not much traffic when you consider this is the only way in and out of the country’s capital.

Only two fish were caught today, a small stingray for Ninja and a catfish for Assan. We had some live baits destroyed by crabs and a few fish came back with only their heads. A second tail hook may be the answer although this is not favoured by Ninja and not necessary as far as he is concerned.

We said goodbye to Ninja.

See photo.


740 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That night I tried a restaurant in Kololi (But not on the strip) called the “Amsterdam Dolphin”. It was full of Dutch and British expats and good value as you might expect. If it was on the “Strip” it would be a place I would frequent regularly when there. There is a British owned bar close by called Churchill’s that I’m told is a good place to go, for what I don’t know.

Thursday 10th July.

Assan and Tom picked me up at 8am because we intended getting the best out of the high tide. We were at Sanyang beach before 9am but there was a lot of weed about and so we headed further South and found somewhere more suitable.

Three of my rods were rigged with the successful 2 hooks, one up, one down, that worked for me on Sunday evening and it wasn’t long before it proved its worth.
After two catfish on one rod the next came in with a cat on the bottom hook and a Black Grouper weighing 8 or 9lbs on the top one. This was a new species for me and number 40 in my species hunt for the year.

See photo.

My fourth rod, when I eventually had time to cast it out was rigged with a flapper type setup, three 1.0 hooks on short links and the weight on the bottom. It casts a long way but it only managed catfish up to three at a time, I soon changed it when a hook straightened on a fish and I lost it.

It wasn’t long before I landed another new species (41st) and one I had been waiting for, a Sumpat.

See photo.

A small stingray came to me next and I was pleased both my last fish had taken the top hooks after catfish had been captured by the bottom ones.
12 noon I managed to keep all four of my rods out but only because I left them out even though I could see catfish tapping away on the rod tips. I would leave them out for at least ten minutes then bring them in to find one or usually two cats on, that was unless something good took one first.

During the next hour or so I beached a load of cats of course but also three Sumpats and two stingrays. My two guides wanted to know why I was catching and they weren’t. I said “It’s my turn” and after the three days out on Ninja’s boat I deserved a good day. I did also have four rods out against their two and they hadn’t changed their rigs to two hooks either.

A catfish managed to impale one of its poisonous spines into my thumb. Although I sucked like mad to get the poison out it wasn’t long before I felt dizzy and began hallucinating. I had to lay down with my eyes closed for about an hour before the effects dissipated and by the way the sting hurt like hell.

At 2.45pm I added another new species to my list, now 42, a Crevalle Jack.

See photo.

They apparently swim in shoals and I had another one on I think but lost it.

During the afternoon the lads and I had loads more catfish but I was still on a small roll and landed a couple of Sumpats and three stingrays. Most if not all on the top hooks as I remember.

See photos.

I can’t believe how well stingrays fight; pulling them off the bottom from a boat is hard enough but from the beach it’s more difficult. They flatten themselves on the bottom at every opportunity; a 2lb stingray is a real adversary on light tackle.

We packed up a little earlier than usual as it was my last night in the Gambia and I wanted to take Assan and Tom for a Chinese meal, they had never tried one before. I over ordered on purpose and their wives loved the takeaway leftovers. Two plates of sweet and sour pork didn’t go down well but I enjoyed some! (Pork and Muslims doesn’t go)

Friday 11th July and last day.

I wanted to be at the airport for about 5pm to get a decent seat and arrive before the hoards of passengers arriving on coaches so asked Assan and Tom to drop me there. This would give us 6 hours fishing on my last day. Nothing memorable happened, lots more catfish and I had a decent butterfish.

See photo.

What would I do differently in the future? The two hook rig is a must from the start and I think it’s time for me to buy a couple of beachcasters. Although my 4 and 5lb rods do well they are not capable of throwing those big leads out as far as I would like sometimes. There were also times when I felt I needed a bit more strength in the rods and I probably lost one very good fish because of this.

That was my second Gambian fishing adventure over and it’s my intention to return for another in November this year, I don’t think I’ll bother with the boat fishing.

Best wishes to my Gambian friends and I would like to thank Assan and Tom especially for their hard work and commitment to helping me catch fish.

Assan can be contacted on 002207781160 or Tom on 002209981413.

433 Posts
Excellent report John, (as we have come to expect from you).
Sounds like you didn't really have a great time with the fishing although you seemed to get loads of small stuff. Perhaps we should learn Latin - that'd foil the bumsters!
We've just booked for the 1st week in Feb '09, a bit early but we all wanted single rooms which are usually in short supply.
I'll probably give Tom a call - we usually use another guide but there's 7 of us going this time so we'll need 2 4x4's


164 Posts
Thanks John for another great report. What a pleasure it is to read!

I didn't realise the catfish spines can be so potent - will remember that for the future.

Good to see Tom, Assan and Ninja looking well. They must be fed up with eating catfish by now tho!

4,457 Posts
That was an epic report John...cracking photos.

I have seen assans posts and read about his illness, its good to see he's on the mend and getting out to do some guiding.

740 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for your comments, it makes the effort more worthwhile when people reply.

Jim, the weather was hot for sure and I used waterproof factor 60 at all times. It was also humid but as I live in Spain it wasnt any different and so I dont think I noticed it much. I was also busy casting up to 4 rods every ten minutes and was wading out a long way and more than one wave broke over my head, very cooling I can assure you, the water temps were like bathwater but as you come out of it the wind cools you down.

Another thing I would change would be to use one bigger hook (4.0) and bait, maybe on the bottom to help stop the cats getting hooked so easily. These bigger hooks are obviously not as sharp as 2.0s and so would give me a better chance of hooking something bigger.


1,205 Posts
Thanks for the report glad you had a good time! We went in August a few years ago and had a good time. I must get back soon! In August I managed a 30lb+ tarpon just off the beach inside mantel reef south of
Bakau under the small red cliffs. fishing from a boat only 80/90m out with
small live mullet on spinning tackle really good sport! I hope to meet up with old friends and some of the rogues! All good fun! A shame you didn't
connect with any bigguns! Maybe next time.

740 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hello Martin, those cliffs would have been roughly where Ninja took us for Tarpon but none showed, a "No show" was the story of my week really but not all fishing trips are great succeses. Only a couple of weeks before I fished the Ebro and had 7 x 30s to 39lbs and shed loads of 20's (Carp). Can't win them all, John.
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