The Croc Pool and The Last Fish

This morning we went for a nice walk around the Étang de Guic. It was very sunny, and we walked for around three kilometres, which is my longest walk since my accident. I am toying with the idea of taking up fishing in my dotage as it were.  It is not really the act of catching fish I am interested it, it is the act of fishing, a wonderful way to spend time in nature. I used to do this as a boy.

My first real experiences of using a rod and line were at these two lakes in Zambia, Mulungushi and Mita Hills Dam. The mining company had hydroelectric power stations served by these dams. Smelters need a lot of electricity. The company had a villa at each site which its senior employees could rent out. It was at the Mita Hills dam that the phrase “croc pool” was coined. At the back of the dam there are several residual small lakes. One morning my sister and I went fishing in one of these. I was nearly eleven and my sister 18 months younger. My mother was on occasion a late riser. When we got back, she was having her morning coffee.

What have you two been up to?

We have been fishing.

Where have you been fishing?

In the croc pool.

Why do you call it the croc pool?

Because there are big crocodiles there.

My mother was not overly impressed at this reveal and we were forbidden, hence forth, to go there unaccompanied.

Later we went fishing in a boat on the croc pool with the father of some friends. He hooked what was a specimen sized “barbel” and had to cut it free because he reckoned it would not be safe to land it in a small boat on a crocodile infested pool with two small children. It was really a catfish and not a barbel.

The last fish I recall catching was caught here in the Kafue National park on the Kafue river, at Chunga Camp. We had been driving around the game park on the rough roads in our old fiat. My dad had been a lieutenant in REME in Malaya, so he was a bit gung ho. I went fishing with one of the guides. We rowed out to a reed bed he knew, and we fished for a few hours.  Between us we caught five pike and two small Nile perch. The one I caught was just shy of four pounds. It was his last day alive, the guide. But we did not know that at the time. So, the last fish I remember catching was that perch which we subsequently cooked on the braai and ate. The guides too had a fish supper.

The following day three guides, myself, my sister and another boy, encouraged by the catch rowed out to try our luck. A hippo came up under the boat and capsized us. One of the guides could not swim and drowned, I had to get him off me. He drifted away in the current. We tried to right the boat and failed. We kids swam to a nearby island. The two adults followed us. The man who had been my guide and companion the day before was pulled under by a crocodile in front of our very eyes. There was a lot of splashing and then silence.

It is pretty weird revisiting this on Google Maps.

We had to walk / swim between islands to get within shouting distance of the camp.  My dad had to drive a couple of hundred kilometres in the fading light to get a canoe. We were cold and wet and hungry as the African night fell hard and fast. Where we had reached the river was faster, less likely to have hippos or crocodiles, but we were alone with a shell-shocked guide in the middle of a game park on a little island at night. The bush is noisy at night!

My dad returned with a canoe and he and the other boy’s father came out to the island with a gun, dry clothes and food. At dawn we rowed back.

At the police station at the gate house to the park I had to write a statement concerning the two deaths because the policeman could not write. I can tell you for a near eleven-year-old that is a freaky thing to have to do.

For the following two years I had behavioural problems in school and often had to do punishment “rounds”. This is where you run round a track, five rounds were a bit over a mile, and this was the usual quantum per offence. Anyway, a good outcome was that I made the athletics team running 1500m and did well at cross country.

I am wondering If I do start fishing will I recall more of these events?

It is kind of an interesting experiment…