Sir Baker Discovers Lake N’Yanza and Local Fishing Techniques

After struggling through the Sudanese Sudd, and then confronting various ethnic groups who were more – and often less friendly, Sir Baker and his wife Florence at last found Lake Albert N’Yanza.  After months and months of travel and negotiation with local notables, he was quite overcome with their discovery.

Given his love of hunting, he also provided a description of fishing techniques in the local villages.

Exploring Lake Albert-N'Yanza. Source: The Albert N'Yanza, by Baker

Samuel Baker, The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile And Explorations of the Nile Sources, 1867.

I could not believe it possible that we were so near the object of our search [Lake N’Yanza].

The day broke beautifully clear, and having crossed a deep valley between the hills, we toiled up the opposite slope. I hurried to the summit. The glory of our prize burst suddenly upon me!

There, like a sea  of quicksilver, lay far beneath the grand expanse of water,–a  boundless sea horizon on the south and southwest,  glittering in the noonday sun; and on the west, at fifty or  sixty miles’ distance, blue mountains rose from the bosom of  the lake to a height of about 7,000 feet above its level.

It is impossible to describe the triumph of that moment;–here was the reward for all our labour–for the years of tenacity with which we had toiled through Africa.  England had won the sources of the Nile!

…I determined to honour it with a great name. As an imperishable memorial of one loved and mourned by our gracious Queen and deplored by every Englishman, I called this great lake “the Albert N’Yanza.” The Victoria and the Albert lakes are the two Sources of the Nile.

The waves were rolling upon a white pebbly beach: I rushed into the lake, and thirsty with heat and fatigue, with a heart full of gratitude, I drank deeply from the Sources of the Nile.

Within a quarter of a mile of the lake was a fishing village named Vacovia, in which we now established ourselves. Everything smelt of fish–and everything looked  like fishing; not the “gentle art” of England with rod and fly,  but harpoons were leaning against the huts, and lines  almost as thick as the little finger were hanging up to dry, to  which were attached iron hooks of a size that said much for  the monsters of the Albert lake.

On entering the hut I found a prodigious quantity of tackle; the lines were beautifully made of the fibre of the plantain stem, and were exceedingly elastic, and well adapted to withstand the first rush of a [fish]

The natives had a most killing way of fishing with the hook and line for heavy fish. They arranged rows of tall  bamboos, the ends stuck firmly in the bottom, in a depth of  about six feet of water, and about five or ten yards apart. On the top of each was a lump of ambatch-wood about ten inches in diameter. Around this was wound a powerful line, and, a small hole being made in this float, it was lightly fixed upon the point of the bamboo, or fishing rod.

The line was securely attached to the bamboo, then wound round the large float, while the hook, baited with a live fish, was thrown to some distance beyond.

Long rows of these fixed rods were set every morning by natives in canoes, and watchers attended them during the day, while they took their chance by night. When a large fish took the bait, his first rush unhitched the ambatch-float from the point of the bamboo, which, revolving upon the water, paid out line as required.  When entirely run out, the great size and buoyancy of the float served to check and to exhaust the fish.

There are several varieties of fish that exceed 200 lbs. weight.


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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2 Responses to Sir Baker Discovers Lake N’Yanza and Local Fishing Techniques

  1. Pingback: Pencil Lead Rigging: Fishing Weights | Ultimate Fishing and Hunting Blog

  2. Pingback: Sir Baker Discovers Lake N'Yanza and Local Fishing Techniques … | World of Flyfishing News

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