TROUT FISHING IN SOMALILAND

There isn’t any. Misleading title. 5Sorry. It’s called a hook and is supposed to grab your attention.  Think of it as an attractor. There are no trout in Somaliland or its southern neighbour, Somalia, but watch this space later this year when I go to fish trout of Bale mountains in neighbouring Ethiopia .(http://www.balemountainlodge.com/index.html). Southern Africa’s trout wealth is fairly well documented, but East Africa’s much less so.

Aidan Hartley, the author of the excellent Zanzibar Chest and former colleague at Reuters, once said I seemed to specialist in postings to countries with low-key conflict and good trout fishing. He made this remark in Kenya, which hosts some wonderful river fishing, high-altitude lakes and a lineage of introduced trout dating back to the start of the last century. There are, or perhaps were, trout in Kenya’s neighbour, Uganda as well as in Tanzania, the legacy of colonial sporting appetites. Not so well known is that a certain fishing enthusiast put trout in rivers in southern Sudan, although I wouldn’t recommend going there at the moment. It may constitute good East African trout fishing but its conflict is hardly low-key. The nearest I get to fishing in Hargeisa is the fish shop I pass on my daily bumpy drive to and from town.

It’s work, not fish, that bring me to Somaliland. I teach communications to the government and try to help the media too.

It’s uplifting to witness this unrecognised state thrive in complete contrast to Somalia, from which it declared independence in 1991.

Somaliland has been spared the chaos, anarchy and power-hungry clan feuds that have wrecked Somalia over the past 25 years. I’ve spent time in both and consider myself lucky to be working to help Somaliland consolidate growth that has brought it democratic elections, a currency, a flag, a noisy free press, admirable judicial system and a national identity founded on dialogue between clans and peoples, not ruinous rivalry. The capital grows apace and traffic jams are commonplace. It’s a friendly, knockabout town to walk around.

Central to daily life is the mild narcotic leaf Khat, which is flown in fresh daily from the upland hillsides of Ethiopia. It’s chewed, usually in the afternoons, and gives you a mild buzz.  Men in the 3.5 million population spend in excess of $800 million a year “chewing.” An astonishing amount of money in a country suffering acute drought that has impoverished hundreds of thousands of its estimated 600,000 nomads and killed their all-important livestock.img_0417 Khat is sold in licenced green kiosks all over the place and consumed in the shade of a tree, at home, or in one of the hundreds of street cafes offering not just coffee but the Somali staple of warm, sweet tea. The economy runs on camels.  And goats. Livestock exports to the Gulf are the backbone of the economy and the two beasts form the major part of the daily diet, with rice. Both can be lovely if well cooked, but take getting used to.

Camel’s milk, “Somali Viagra” in the words of my driver, is dense and slightly bitter. Camels and goat roam everywhere, some camels displaying the cell phone numbers of their owners. I shared counter space at my local kiosk this week with two goats chewing discarded crisp packets. Like all development workers here I travel in a 4X4 with a bodyguard and under strict security rules, not that I’ve ever had a problem.

I spend about 160 days a year in Hargeisa and feel privileged to see progress happen. It’s not perfect and Somalilanders know it, but that elusive quality, hope, is written large on the faces of the boys and girls I see going to school every day, or in the warm welcome I get from ordinary people, many of whom have lived or have relatives who have lived, in Britain, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, America and the Middle East.  Somalis have always been mobile world citizens. They view themselves as part of the bigger world because of that.

Much of the economy is oiled by remittances from the diaspora through electronic banking and mobile phone transfer. The shared language and culture is a thing that binds, rather than divides. So too is a love of song and poetry.  One of its most famous singers is Sarah Halgan, who runs and performs at the Hido Dawr cultural village, a collection of thatched tukuls where we also train. There are trendy cafes in town too, displaying the taste of Western style the diaspora has imported.

img_0412

The world may not yet recognise Somaliland’s independence, but Somalilanders recognise their place in the world at large.  They are proud of their passports, but need second ones for international travel because nobody accepts them. When I stand in line to fly to and from Hargeisa, I am always struck by the variety of passports Somalilanders use to visit relatives overseas and in Somaliland. I was queuing behind two young women in traditional dress brandishing Canadian passports at the airport and overheard the following:

Question: “How did you enjoy coming back to see the relatives?”

Answer.    “It was lovely to see everyone and Hargeisa’s really coming up. I had some nice camel and goat but can’t wait to get home and have a cheeseburger.”

img_0649But there is no freshwater fishing. Most fishermen get antsy about the end or the start of a fishing season, but here there is none. So, I live in a perpetual state of antsy-ness. I’ve yet to cast a line in Somaliland’s s vast offshore waters but will someday.  I whet my appetite for fly fishing while I am here through the most important fishing gadget invented in my lifetime – the Internet.  What’s the use of the latest breathable waders, gravity-defying rod, aerodynamic lines or power block reels if you can’t irrigate your field of dreams with stories and pictures of the places you want to go? And the Internet is where I find it all.

The quality of online fishing video these days is extraordinary, and I’d far rather spend a lazy afternoon watching Venturing Angler or Catch Magazine than turn on the TV and consume stale news or recycled movies. The Net has replaced the catalogues and brochures I used to send off for in the days of snail mail. Instant gratification may not be good for the soul – there is virtue in patience, as all fishermen know – but it’s hard to travel the world, as I do, with kilos of glossy brochures or even paperback books to keep me nourished with the stuff of dreams. Thank heavens for Kindle too. In the past few months I’ve read many books, some of them for a second time, whilst plotting my next adventures – Ireland, Ethiopia, Chile, Kenya and Denmark are in my sights for the next 12 months. The Internet also keeps me close to the many fishing personalities I have encountered, especially in the United States, and the way the USA uses the web on fishing information is outstanding: last night I was checking real-time water temperatures on half a dozen Montana rivers and wondering whether Wade Fellin at Big Hole lodge (www.flyfishinglodge.com)  was crunching snow beneath his wading boots and casting #22 midges through icy guides.

And there are the blogs too, which carry the authentic voice that speaks within every angler about the things he or she loves. Those voices are, to me, like the sound of running water, a link to a deeper life and the endless possibility of surprise.

Below are some of things I’ve struck at wading the Internet from the hot and dusty capital of this Horn of Africa state.  This is a very short list. You can do your own wading.

Some fishing websites/videos

And just about anything on a fishing word search throws up on www.Youtube.com

Blogs

Some Books on Kindle

  • Blood Knots- Luke Jennings
  • Love Madness Fishing- Dexter Petley
  • The Habit of Rivers – Ted Leeson
  • Somewhere else – Charles Rangeley-Wilson
  • The Orvis Fishing Guide – Tom Rosenbauer (Just updated and even better)
  • A river never sleeps – Roderick L. Haig-Brown

And absolutely anything and everything by John Gierach

(https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Gierach/e/B000APBVVM/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1487063317&sr=1-2-ent)

Some books not on Kindle

  • Salmon Trout and Char of the World (Rupert Watson)
  • The Trout: A fisherman’s natural history (Rupert Watson)
  • The Longest Silence (Thomas Mcguane)
  • Faithful Travellers (James Dodson)
  • Love, Madness Fishing (Dexter Petley)

Wade safely, but wade often! – Andy

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