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Fly fishing in Kenya isn’t on most anglers’ radars but it’s actually pretty spectacular. The trout fishing Kenya has to offer is within the national parks so, while fishing, you can also expect to see antelopes and even elephants wandering past – it is a true fly fishing safari experience.
Table of Contents
- My Experience Fly Fishing in Kenya
- Why Fly Fish in Kenya?
- 10 Best Trout Rivers in Kenya
- 6 Best Fishing Lakes in Kenya
- Saltwater Fly Fishing in Kenya
- Kenya Fly Fishing – Fish Species
- Best Flies For Kenya
- Kenya Fishing Season (By Species)
- Kenya Fishing Report
- Best Fly Shops in Kenya
- Kenya Fly Fishing Licenses
- Fly Fishing Guide Services in Kenya
The fly fishing doesn’t stop there either as you can have some excellent saltwater fly fishing for GTs and sailfish if you know where to go and when.
Having been born in Kenya and spent the first 20 years of my life there, it’s where I first learned to fly fish which laid the foundation for me to become a fly fishing guide. Since living there, I have worked as a fly guide or lodge manager in Seychelles, The Bahamas, and more.
However, my fly fishing heart is in Kenya, and I still offer guided trips there.
More Fly Fishing Destinations
My Experience Fly Fishing in Kenya
In all honesty, I didn’t really get to know the best fly fishing in Kenya properly until I started a fly fishing safari business there in my late 20s with a friend of mine. Over 5 years we explored, learned, and guided fly anglers around all the best fishing spots in Kenya.
From the Aberdare Mountains, home to the best fishing rivers in Kenya, to Mount Kenya where the best fishing lakes in Kenya are found, and the islands of the Lamu Archipelago, we put anglers onto everything from trout to GTs and sailfish.
Why Fly Fish in Kenya?
A Kenya Fly Fishing experience offers something that I’m yet to find anywhere else in the world. It is rugged, beautiful, filled with wildlife, and dare I say – pioneering. Combining it with the culture you get to be a part of along the way makes for one unforgettable adventure.
10 Best Trout Rivers in Kenya
In 1905, the British introduced trout into the high-altitude rivers of Kenya. Trout has since become “wild” and is now protected within the national parks. Here are the best trout fishing in rivers to spend your time on:
Located in the Aberdares National Park, the Chania is a small river that runs its way from the high moorlands down into the dense forests of the Aberdares. You will need a 4×4 to access it and it’s best fished above the treeline in the moorlands as it’s open for easy casting.
The Amboni is also found in the Aberdares National Park, not far from the Chania. Again, a 4×4 is needed to access the river banks and it’s best fished high in the moorlands, not only for casting access but so you can see any wildlife coming your way. The same flies as on the Chania (Adams, caddis, hare’s ear, etc.) are recommended here.
The Gura is the final of the three Aberdares’ rivers worth casting a fly into. The browns and rainbows are easily fooled with the same flies mentioned above. It’s a small river, and again, needs to be fished high above the tree line so you can cast easily and avoid getting caught out by wildlife. You’ll need a 4×4 to access it.
These fish love small black tungsten nymphs and it’s a good idea to throw an olive streamer into some of the bigger pools. Fish up to 4 lbs have been caught here and to access the area, you’ll need a 4×4.
The Nithi is probably my favorite river to fly fish in Kenya. Home to only wild brown trout that love an Adams or tungsten hare’s ear, the river runs down the southeastern moorlands of Mt Kenya National Park. It’s open, easy to fish, and is surrounded by zebra, buffalo, and antelopes that watch you curiously. You’ll need a 4×4 to get to it and can access it via the Chogoria Gate to the national park.
The Kazita is on the northern end of Mt Kenya National Park, next to the Rutundu Fishing Lodge. It’s a small technical stream in a gorge surrounded by many bushes and trees, so small roll casts and bow & arrow shots are required. Small-weighted nymphs in black are best, and you’ll need a 4×4 to get you up the mountain.
The Mathioya flows out of the Aberdares National Park into the lowlands and is an easy river to access, even without a 4×4, and is brimming with trout. It’s a large, clear stream, and the fish will happily sip a small dry fly off the surface or inhale a weighted nymph.
6 Best Fishing Lakes in Kenya
There are some incredible fly fishing lakes in Kenya, the majority of which are trout lakes but there are some bass and Nile perch lakes worth considering too.
Lake Rutundu is on Mt Kenya, next to Rutundu Fishing Lodge and the Kazita River mentioned in the section above. Home to mainly rainbows and the odd brown trout, it has steep banks and is best fished on the boat provided by the lodge.
A 4×4 will be needed to get there and it can only be fished if you are staying at the lodge.
Lake Alice is about an hour’s hike up Mt Kenya from the car park by Rutundu Fishing Lodge. The lake has crystal clear blue water, and some excellent sight fishing on the shallow northwestern edge using dry flies. The deeper sections on the east of the lake are great for stripping a streamer such as a viva or a leech pattern.
Lake Ellis is on the eastern side of Mt Kenya just up the mountain from the Nithi River mentioned above. Access is via the Chogoria Gate and a 4×4 is required to get to the lakeshore. Once there, tie on a weighted zebra midge or blood worm and be prepared as the rainbows in this lake reach over 8 lbs.
Lake Michaelson is a high-altitude lake on Mt Kenya and is a 1-2 day hike up the mountain from Lake Ellis. Sitting inside a natural amphitheater, Michaelson is about as beautiful as it gets and is teaming with fish that will eat almost any fly.
Access is tricky as a 4×4 is needed to get to the start of the hike and then you’ll need to walk in with your camping gear and supplies for the trip.
Lake Naivasha is a haven for wildlife and is home to hippos and a huge array of beautiful birdlife. You’re also likely to see antelopes, zebra, giraffes, and more walking along its shores. The lake is home to largemouth bass and throwing big streamers and poppers along the edges to tempt a thumping strike from a lurking bass is a pretty magical experience.
You can drive there in a normal car but will need to stay along the lake. A boat must be hired to take you out fishing and walking along the shoreline must be avoided so as to prevent encountering any dangers due to the large hippo population.
Lake Turkana is a huge lake in northern Kenya close to the Ethiopian border. It’s home to giant Nile perch that will happily take a large streamer pattern fished on a sinking line. It’s one of the most unique places on earth and is about a 2-day drive from Nairobi. Alternatively, you can fly in on a charter plane.
You’ll need to stay at a camp by the lake shores with boats to hire if you want to be able to fish it.
Saltwater Fly Fishing in Kenya
There’s some great saltwater fly fishing to be had in Kenya but sadly no one really offers it, so you’ll need to bring your own fly gear. If you’re up for the adventure, then here are the best spots to go to:
The Lamu Archipelago is a stunning island chain on Kenya’s north coast. Home to GTs, bluefin, pompano, queen fish, and mangrove snappers, as well as pelagics like yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, and sailfish. You can tick off a lot of species here.
It’s best to fly to Lamu from Nairobi and then stay on Lamu, Manda, or Kiwayu islands which are all accessible via a boat transfer from the airport. Saltwater baitfish, crab, and shrimp patterns are best and, of course, you’ll need to book a boat to get to the fishing grounds.
Watamu & Malindi
South of Lamu are the coastal towns of Watamu and Malindi and these are both excellent for targeting sailfish on fly. It’s best to fly into Malindi from Nairobi and then book one of the many offshore charter boats available. Big sailfish flies and 12-weight fly rods are needed for this.
Kenya Fly Fishing – Fish Species
There are quite a few, rather unexpected, fish species you can catch while fly fishing in Kenya, such as the trout that were stocked there in the early 1900s.
You can find brown trout up to 2 lbs in the rivers of both Mt Kenya and the Aberdares. The best fishing spots in Kenya for them are in the moorland rivers of the Aberdares and the Nithi River on Mt Kenya. Flies that work include tungsten hair’s ear nymphs and parachute Adams.
Rainbow trout can be found in the rivers of the Aberdares and Mt Kenya. The best rainbow trout fishing Kenya has to offer is on the lakes of Mt Kenya, particularly Lake Ellis which is home to giants of 8+ lbs.
Fish it with chironomid patterns such as gold head zebra midges and blood worms.
The largemouth bass found in Lake Naivasha are a ton of fun to catch on a fly rod. Throw bass poppers, frog imitations, and streamers into the reeds and next to snags to tempt them. They grow up to 4+ lbs and fishing for them is like being on a boat safari as you watch the birds, hippos, and other wildlife on the shore.
Nile Perch is one of the biggest freshwater species in the world and in Lake Turkana can grow in excess of 200 lbs. Catching a big perch on a fly rod is unlikely, but with large streamers and a sinking line, you’ll certainly come across a few in the 20 to 40 lb range.
Catching a GT on fly is something every fly angler has on their bucket list. While Kenya is renowned for them, you can find quite a few around the Lamu Archipelago, and they range from 60 to 100 cm in size.
Big brush flies and poppers are the names of the game, and teasing with a popper/stick bait on a spinning rod is a great way to search for them.
The sailfish in Kenya are on average around 50+ lbs and there’s nothing quite like hooking on these creatures on a fly rod. They’re one of the fastest fish on earth, so you’ll be in your backing in seconds and you’ll need a 12 wt with 250 yds of 50-80lb backing and a large 9-inch sailfish fly.
Other Saltwater Species
If you find a bait ball, you can have anything from mahi-mahi to yellowfin tuna, bonito, and queen fish chasing your fly – use a 10wt, floating line, and a brush fly or Lefty’s deceiver. In the mangroves, tempting mangrove snappers out of their lairs is another awesome experience, a 7wt with a flexo crab is ideal for this.
Best Flies For Kenya
Below, are the best flies to have loaded in your box for a fly fishing trip to Kenya. There a quite a few you’ll need to have but it depends on the species (labeled in brackets after the fly) that you want to target.
When trout fishing in Kenya, it’s imperative to have these dry flies in your box. They are pretty standard and there aren’t any unusual patterns, so they should be easy to find:
- Parachute Adams: This is a deadly pattern all over the world, use it on the moorland streams of the Aberdares and Mt Kenya in sizes 14-16 (trout)
- Elk Hair Caddis: Another dry fly that looks like almost every winged insect out there. Great on the lakes and rivers of Mt Kenya and the Aberdares in size 12-16 (trout)
- White Moth: Particularly effective on the lakes of Mt Kenya in size 12-14, especially in the morning (trout)
- Stimulator: Fished on a drift on Mt Kenya lakes or as part of a tandem rig with an Adams behind it on the streams of Mt Kenya and the Aberdares. Deadly in all sizes and colors (trout)
- Hopper: The lowland streams of the Aberdares have a lot of grasshoppers and a small hopper fly in size 14-16 works wonders (trout)
Wet flies are also very effective on the streams of the Aberdares & Mt Kenya when hunting trout, some of them were even designed in Kenya.
- Mrs Simpson: Fished in a size 12-14, the trout go wild for this Kenyan classic (trout)
- Invicta: With its touch of flash and wings, in size 12-16 it mimics every drowned winged insect the fish love (trout)
- Coachman: Another Kenya classic, the white wings and brown buggy body drive the fish wild in size 14-16 (trout)
- Bloody Butcher: In sizes 12-16 this is excellent during mid-day on the rivers of Mt Kenya & The Aberdares (trout)
- Peter Ross: Another excellent drowned wing insect imitation, use it in sizes 14-16 on the trout rivers
Here are the streamers you’ll need when trout fishing in Kenya, bass fishing, and going after Nile perch:
- Viva: A great fly on Lake Alice on Mt Kenya in size 10-12, fish it slow and deep (trout)
- Egg Sucking Leech: Another deadly fly on Lake Alice in size 8-10, slow and deep works best (trout)
- Wooly Bugger: Best in black and size 10, fish in the deeper pools on the rivers (trout)
- Clouser Minnow: Cast this to the edges where you feel bass are lurking deep, black/green in size 1/0 (bass, Nile perch)
- Lefty’s Deceiver: An awesome all-around bass fly in black/purple, olive, and black/red (bass, Nile perch)
- Bass Popper: Create a lot of commotion with this on the surface, best in a 2/0 size in darker or very bright colors (bass, Nile perch)
Nymphs are going to have you catching more trout than any other type of fly in Kenya. Here at the must-haves for your box:
- Prince Nymph: Size 12-16 with a tungsten head, you can fish this all day long on the trout streams (trout)
- GRHE: Also deadly in size 12-16 with a tungsten head on the trout streams (trout)
- Zebra Midge: Deadly on Lake Ellis and the trout rivers with a tungsten head in size 14-18 (trout)
- Blood Worm: Another great one on Mt Kenya lakes and its rivers, gold/tungsten head in 12-18 (trout)
- Perdigon Nymph: Size 12-18 in black with a tungsten head, it causes havoc on the rivers of Mt Kenya and the Aberdares (trout)
With such a large range of saltwater species in Kenya, you might find you need a bigger fly box if you want to target them all. However, I’ll keep the list to the essentials so you don’t break the bank as saltwater flies can be pricey. Remember, some of them will also work for Nile perch.
- Brush Fly: Ideal for GTs and shoaling pelagics in black/purple, red, and tan – size 4/0 ( Nile perch, GTs, and others)
- Double Barrel Poppers: Again, shoaling pelagics and GTs love the surface commotion these make in black/purple, red, and tan – size 6/0 (Nile perch, GTs, and others)
- Flexo Crab: Tan, white, and olive in sizes 2-6 cast this over shallow reef areas and channels (Reef Species)
- Sailfish Flies: Black/purple or blue/white are the top combinations, fished with a popping head in a 9-inch length and with two hooks (sailfish)
- Lefty’s Deceiver: Blue/white and black/purple combinations are perfect. This is the go-to fly for casting into bait balls (pelagics, GTs, queen fish, Nile perch)
Kenya Fishing Season (By Species)
The Kenya fishing season runs all year round, but it depends on which species you’re looking to target as to when you should go. Generally, it’s best to avoid the rainy season between April and July as access is hard, seas are rough, and rivers can flood or become very muddy.
Kenya Fly Fishing Season – Trout
The best trout fishing Kenya has to offer is between the months of July and April and this is mainly due to access.
From May to June is the rainy season in Kenya and you won’t be able to drive to the rivers or lakes in your 4×4 during the heavy rains as the roads will be impassable.
Kenya Fly Fishing Season – Largemouth Bass
You should target the Largemouth Bass in Lake Naivasha between July and April as this is when the water is clearer and warmer, which turns the bass on and makes it easier for them to find your fly.
Kenya Fly Fishing Season – Nile Perch
The Nile perch in Lake Turnaka can be fished all year round as it is an extremely arid part of the country that sees close to no rain all year round.
However, getting there is another story and unless you fly, you will want to avoid the months of April, May, and June as driving up there might be impossible depending on how much rain there has been.
Kenya Fly Fishing Season – Saltwater
There are only a few months when you can rely on the seas to be calm and clean enough for inshore fly fishing and these are October, November, and March.
If you want to go after sailfish on fly, the months of October and November see a huge migration of sailfish along Kenya’s coast, but it is possible to find them through to the end of March.
Kenya Fishing Report
I spend most of my time in Kenya saltwater fly fishing with the odd trip up the mountains to catch some trout and see some wildlife.
The saltwater side of things is very organized so long as you go with the right operation, however picking the time of year (explained in the Kenya Fishing Seasons section above) is imperative so that you have calm seas.
The fishing can be absolutely insane one day, and then quiet the next, so it’s best to go for 4-5 days so you have more chance of experiencing the hot spells.
The freshwater fly fishing in Kenya is a real adventure as you’re essentially fishing while on safari. The hard part is the lack of professional guides are there aren’t many, so you’ll need to bring your DIY skills along with you. Luckily the trout are hungry and aggressive so you should succeed.
Best Fly Shops in Kenya
Kenya is one of the top exporters of flies in the world and is therefore a great place to top up on all your fly patterns as they’re a lot more affordable there. However, there are very few places to buy fly gear such as rods, lines, and reels in Kenya so be sure to bring your own.
Gone Fishing Kenya
This is an online shop that ties excellent flies. You can either order flies in advance and pick them up there or get them sent to your home country. Don’t be scared of the prices – they’re listed per dozen.
Captain Andy’s Kenya
With fishing shops in Nairobi, Mombasa, Watamu, and Lamu this is a great shop to grab leader from if you’re in need when saltwater fishing. The Nairobi shop also has fly gear in stock on occasion as well as flies, tippets, etc.
Fishing Flies Kenya
Kenya Fly Fishing Licenses
Getting a fishing license is either incredibly easy or a complete nightmare in Kenya. If you’re saltwater fly fishing, the boat will be licensed and you will be included in that, meaning there’s no need to buy one.
When fishing in the national parks of Mt Kenya & The Aberdares, you can buy one at the gate you enter through for around $10 USD along with your park fees ($50-$65 USD pp per day).
For all other fishing licenses, you will need to locate the fisheries department in the county you are in (Google Maps is helpful) and apply for a license. This usually takes about 1-day to organize and costs around $10 USD.
Fly Fishing Guide Services in Kenya
There are a lot of Kenya fishing guides to choose from, especially when it comes to offshore fishing, but fly fishing guides are very few and far between. If you want to take a fly fishing safari across the whole country, you are best off contacting me.
However, if you’re looking for a little bit here and there, these are the guide services I recommend:
Address: Ragati Conservancy, Karatina, Kenya
Phone Number: +254 799 489 399
The only true fly fishing guiding company when it comes to trout fishing in Kenya. Their guides are kind, well-trained, and know the mountain rivers and lakes well. They can also organize trips to Lake Turkana for you.
Manda Bay Hotel
Address: Manda Island, Lamu
Phone Number: +254 716 579 999
Manda Bay has some excellent skiffs with good guides that can show you around the inshore fly fishing available in the Lamu Archipelago. However, you’ll need to bring your own gear and the price per day is very expensive, sadly there are no other options.
Address: Peponi Hotel, Shela, Lamu
Phone Number: +254 722 203 082
Little Toot is my favorite offshore boat in Kenya. Based out of Lamu, the skipper, and crew are world-class and excellent when it comes to billfish on fly. You’ll need to bring the fly gear and then let them do the fishing finding and teasing until you see a dorsal and bill behind the boat to feed your fly to.
Fly fishing in Kenya is an experience like no other, and even though my opinion is rather biased, I still believe it holds true.
You can fly fish for a large range of species across incredibly diverse environments; from trout in the mountains to Nile perch in a desert lake, and GTs around paradise islands. I don’t know that many other places in the world offer such experiences.
A fly fishing trip to Kenya is also a serious adventure as getting to the best fishing spots in Kenya is a safari in itself. You’ll find it very hard to leave once the beautiful culture of the locals, the awe of the stunning landscapes, and the incredible wildlife get under your skin.
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