Sep 20

Okavango Barbel Run, Tigerfish Season 2016 – Week 2

Our second group of the season consisted of Mark, John, Cavan and Mike (whom they nearly left behind in Maun). Luckily the whole gang made it to Shakawe for a few days of good fishing. The water level was getting better and the fishing was also improving. Strong winds were on the move and it was going to complicate the proceedings, but we were not going to let the breeze get in the way of a good fishing trip.

Business end of the swomp tiger

Business end of the swomp tiger

On day one, about five minutes into the first fishing session, Cavan was on the scoreboard with a nice Tigerfish followed by Mike who coaxed a pretty Thinface Bream out of its hiding place. The runs were deep in the papyrus so I followed a flock of birds down a narrow channel in the hope of getting closer to the action. The run was confined to the channel making it easy for Mike and Cavan to get their flies right on the fish’s nose, and off course they ate them like hotcakes. It was a slow start for John and Mark, but they soon found their fishing-mojo and made the best of the afternoon session.

Bill and his wife Sue joined us on day two. They came down all the way from the Moonshine State (West-Virginia, USA) for their 30th anniversary. It was their first encounter with the toothy beasts of Africa and as expected, it blew their minds. Cavan kept his early morning form and was first to get into the action with a healthy Tigerfish. Not too long after that Bill landed a 9lb Tiger and just to sweeten the deal he caught a 15lb Catfish on the next cast. Beginner’s luck? I don’t think so. Driven by jealous rage the rest of the guys began to fish as if their lives depended on it. It paid off for John who subdued and 8lb Tiger. As the runs began to slow down we drifted the open water to good effect. A happy yet exhausted group arrived back at Xaro lodge that evening as a fiery sun tucked in behind the floodplains.

Okavango Tiger

Okavango Tiger

Thinface Bream

Thinface Bream

Cavan must be a morning person, because on the third day he was once again the one to break the ice. He started off with a 6lb Tiger and was soon joined by Mark for an early morning double-up. Mike’s luck with the species continued when he caught a Squeaker Catfish that was about the same size as the fly. Winds soon complicated affairs and the fishing was slow throughout the day. As dusk set in things began to change. Tigers began to smash baitfish in the open water and the guys were rewarded with an exciting session at the end of day three.

Sunset Tiger

You dont want your finger inside that mouth!

You dont want your finger inside that mouth!

Day four was a rather emotional day on the water. For some it was filled with moments of ecstasy and for others raging jealousy. The morning kicked off well with Bill landing a 6lb Tiger on the first run, followed by Mark who landed a personal best 8lb Tiger soon after. From there on the pickings were slim, the wind picked up and the fish went down. Lionel and I opted for an early lunch at Matsoabe Island. Stu just wanted to fish one more spot before they came back, and it happened to be the ‘honey-pot’. John and Cavan landed about a dozen fish in that golden hour. Cavan pulled the fish of the trip from the ‘honey-pot’, a gorgeous 12lb Tigerfish. It really was a trophy fish in every way. Meanwhile the rest of the clan was sitting on the island waiting for Stu to return with the missing lunch ingredients. We literally had to beg them to come and have lunch with us so that we could all get back on the water for the afternoon stint.  The last session of the trip was a tough yet rewarding one. It was a spectacular sunset and the tigers were going off like fireworks, smashing baitfish in the golden light. Bill ended his trip with a fish on his very last cast, what more can a man ask for?

It was a pleasure to have these fine gentlemen and lady on the water with us.

Until next week, cheers

Johann

This little guy was quite ambitious

This little guy was quite ambitious

Fishing the runs at sunrise can be very productive

Fishing the runs at sunrise can be very productive

Sep 07

Okavango Barbel Run, Tigerfish Season 2016 – Week 1

The long wait is over boys and girls; the Okavango Catfish season has officially kicked off. On the 2nd of September our first group of season arrived in the swamps, ready for some tigerfish action. Nic Beaumont and his two sons, Stu and Greg came up to the Delta to celebrate his 70th birthday. As far as clients go, they were a guide’s dream; very keen to fish, but equally happy to enjoy their surroundings and the abundant birdlife.

Day one was slow on the fishing front. The odd tiger came out, but the runs were dismal. Stu Harley took them out to look at a pair of nesting African Skimmers just below Xaro lodge where they were staying. They were fortunate enough to see the breeding pair as well as three other Skimmers that were happily posing for a few photographs.

On their second day we took two boats out and split the team up between the guides. There was the promise of runs further downstream and so we headed down to investigate. The trusty old herons pointed out where the catfish were going and it wasn’t long before we found the action. The runs were still quite thin, but we managed to get the guests onto a couple of Tigers. We made lunch under the lush green canopy of a Livingstonia tree on Motsoabe island where Stu prepared a piece of beef that could feed the entire village of Shakawe. It was glorious to say the least. The afternoon session was tough. I suspect the meat had slowed them down, because more fish were dropped than caught, but that’s typical tigerfishing I guess.

Heading out early morning in search of the swamp tiger

Heading out early morning in search of the swamp tiger

We hauled down to the Redcliffs area on day three and found a bunch of scattered runs. A tigerfish came out every now and then as well as the occasional Catfish. The ‘trout-strike’ was a big problem and many fish made their escape because of poor hook-sets. We took a break from the blistering heat and took a swim in a clear shallow channel below red cliffs, don’t stress it was a crock-free zone. We found some elephant on the banks at Redcliffs and the guys were treated to a proper African experience. In the afternoon we headed down to Moonlight Island. Greg started to understand the principle of strip-striking and landed a beautiful 5lb tiger.

Tigertime

Tigertime

Face to face with the striped dog of the Okanvango swamps

Face to face with the striped dog of the Okanvango swamps

Day four was one for the books. Local guide, Tom, took our guests out for a walk around Xaro Lodge in search of the very rare Pel’s Fishing Owl. Not only did we see the Owl, but also a pair of mating Sitatunga (a shy wetland antelope). The day started wonderfully, now we only needed some fish. We headed back down to Moonlight Island where we were going to camp that night. The fishing was a little ‘hit-and-miss’, literally, but it all turned around when Nic caught a massive Thinface Bream just below the island. That night we camped under the stars and swapped stories about the African wilderness, we were all well pleased.

On the last fishing-day we headed down to Namaseri and headed back for lunch at Moonlight Island before making our way back upstream. It was a scorcher of a day and everybody enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the shade. The afternoon session produced a few smallish tigers and as usual the ‘big ones’ got away, but it didn’t bother us too much. It was a wonderful trip that will be long remembered.

From the team here in the swamps we say cheers to the Beaumonts and hope to see them again soon.

Until next time

Johann

Lunch time feast in the making

Lunch time feast in the making

Another successful release

Another successful release

Amazing the orange colours on these swamp tigers

Amazing the orange colours on these swamp tigers

Sep 01

Okavango Barbel Run, Tigerfish Season 2016 – Pre Season Blog

It is with great expectation that I write the first blog of the 2016 Okavango Catfish Run. It is sure to be the first of many good reports and stories of fish caught and lost. After the hard pre-season preparation and long drive it was a great relief to arrive at camp on the edge of the mighty Okavango River. Stu, Lionel and myself had the camp to ourselves for the first couple of days to sort out logistics and, of course, do a bit of fishing.

Our first day in camp was spent unpacking supplies and unwinding after the tedious drive from the office in Pietermaritzburg. Despite being knackered we couldn’t resist the temptation to fire up the boat for an afternoon session in the swamps. The runs were nowhere to be found, but we worked the bankside structure and holes which resulted in Lionel catching a lovely Nembwe hen. The session soon turned into a leisurely cruise back to camp with couple of cold St. Louis Exports (a local beer) to keep us company as the sun faded into the horizon.

Early morning in the swamps.. Not a bad way to start the day

Early morning in the swamps.. Not a bad way to start the day

Over the next couple of days, we trekked far up and down the river in search of runs and found the odd one here and there. As a result of a good wet-season, the floodplains were still filled to the brim and the runs had not yet picked up momentum. Contrary to popular belief, fly fishing guides don’t fish that often, but when we do it is sure to be a triumphant affair. Despite the high water and howling winds we were able to catch some good tigers and a few catfish.

Apart from decent fishing, the highlight of the pre-season must be when Stu went overboard. We were cruising down the President Channel, following some eager looking egrets hoping we would find a run when we came across another boat heading upstream. As luck would have it the boats met in the narrowest section of the channel which obviously complicated passing each other. Lionel steered to the right onto a shallow lily pad hoping that it would be deep enough while Stu was on the bow trying to avoid a collision. Well, unfortunately for Stu we hit a sandbar and the boat jerked to a halt, launching him off the tip and into the water. In spectacular fashion he managed to hold on to the gunnel and was back in the boat before you could say “Watch out for the crocs!”. Luckily nobody was hurt and it served as great amusement to us and our neighbouring vessel.

The guides testing some new patterns

The guides testing some new patterns

For the guide’s team it was a good few days of relaxation before the hard graft of the season begins. We had some fun in the sun and are well rigged up for a monster of a season. We are excited for our guests to arrive and even more excited to see them do battle with the fierce Tigerfish of the delta. The water is on the drop and it won’t be long before the runs make their way down towards the Shakawe area in full force. The chaotic action of the Catfish run is on the way and is sure to raise the pulses of those who come to take it on.

Get ready for the action boys, it’s gonna be a good one!

Cheerz

Johann and the Catfish Run Team

TF Guide Johan with the first tiger of the 2016 season

TF Guide Johan with the first tiger of the 2016 season

No sunset like an African sunset

No sunset like an African sunset

Jul 01

Week 5, Nubian Flats 2016 – Guest Blog

NUBIAN DREAMS

A guest blog by Paul Danckwerts

“The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later” – Randy Komisar

I only recognise part of it. Old black Africa and his Muslim cousin are similar beings; both ancient and frightening in their own way. It’s the smells and the desert that remind you that you are no longer in the comforting embrace of the western world. The homely and security comforts that have always been there are suddenly gone. As we traverse the vast inhospitable sands of Saudi Arabia in this tin tube one can’t help but feel quite helpless. My isle companions, difficult to age but I’d say around 27 offer me some chewing gum garnished with broad smiles which I guiltily decline. My guilt later fades when I offer them the use of my pen to fill out the Sudanese paperwork. A cultural hairline fracture in the barrier between north and south. How have I found myself here? The pursuit of a giant trevally (GT) on fly; the colour changing piscatorial leer jet of the fly fishing world. The bonefish, triggerfish, bump nose parrotfish and permit are also something of a dream for me but it is this “gangster of the flats” that has enticed me across the world and out into one of the last remaining pockets of untouched ‘nowhere’ on this shrinking planet. Eventually desert turns to water and all you see is two shades of blue separated by a misty white horizon. As we near the Sudanese coast a patchwork of islands, hard rock fringed by turquoise beaches, begins to materialise. “This is why we came” said Jim. He was right. You could almost see a team of GT’s roaring into a school of baitfish in a black rage. We were truly nearing the business end of the Saltwater fly fishing spear.

From OR Tambo international airport it takes eight hours to fly to Dubai International Airport followed by a three-hour flight to Port Sudan and a three-hour drive on a seventeen seater minivan to the Scuba Libre; an 18m catamaran that we would call home for the next six days. Port Sudan is a young settlement less than 100 years old. It’s a whirlwind of Dajaj trikes, six seater Daewoo mini taxis, Bedford trucks from who knows when and Hyundai everything else. Modified trailer drawn bikes and donkey drawn drums of water were also common. A Cessna 150 mounted on a pedestal in the middle of town also bears mention. The streets are lined with stores selling anything from fruit, nuts and clothes to cinder blocks while camels and goats roam freely. Few international logos (e.g. LG and KFC) can be recognised amidst a sea of Arabic scribble. Once out of town we’re greeted by the desert with its inherent beauty; our minds already adrift, wondering what the next six days held in store.

Nubian Desert

The Scuba Libre is a modest yet spacious vessel sporting two seven meter fibreglass tender boats, three bathrooms, six single beds in the bow and two double beds in the aft. We are warmly greeted by the five-man crew and the two guides; Stuart Harley and Federico “Fede” Castignoli. The afternoon briefing is sound and to the point, a well balanced mix of professionalism and humour. What springs to mind is a staunch emphasis on safeguarding the ecology of the area as well as the fishery; not overworking the beats and avoiding standing on coral where and when possible. Of particular significance was a strong reminder to keep hydrated as we were now “within walking distance of the sun”.

Day 1 – Shambaya and Angarosh

At some point in the night the lights of Shambaya went off and the thud of the generator ceased. One lone red light off a distant cell tower was all that remained. The Nubian breeze was constant so I was happy I brought my sleeping bag. The stars alone made sleeping on the foredeck, something I did every night, beyond worth it. Everything was where it should be only tilted somewhat. Scorpio was now standing on his tail; perpendicular to the horizon.

The anchor was hoisted with the sun and we set sail for Angarosh “Mother of shark”, an isolated atoll ringed by a 60 to 900m drop-off. Everybody was up at 05:30 ready and eager for the first day in fishing paradise. At 5:50 my fishing companions and I were already going through our equipment checks. Phrases such as “I am a big fan of things that work, it doesn’t matter what it looks like” and “thin through fat and fat through thin” filtered around the upper deck. If you weren’t a fisherman you wouldn’t know what we were talking about. “So what fly are we using today?” Jim asked head guide Stuart Harley. “Anything with a good hook” he replied. What better answer could one wish for. At some point during the morning during a conversation about GT’s I was told in no uncertain terms that once you have mastered your fly line all you need to do is “strip fast, strike hard and hold on” and that gloves, a tight drag and strong hooks would go a long way. To me it sounded more like good analogy for life.

Caranx Ignoblis Red Sea

 

First cast with the tease (a hookless pencilnose popper) and it explodes as it hits the water like a hand grenade. I remember thinking that that was simply not possible. The fish must have watched the tease’s trajectory through the air. Nothing prepares you for what happens next; not Stu’s tailored briefing (honed by years of experience), his shouts of “Drop it! Drop it! Drop it!” or the voice in your head telling you to remain calm. That you’ve got this… because you don’t. That voice in your head is lying to you. The fly hits the water and the GT, black and angry, screams towards it. Your strips need to be quick and concise. Mine were not. In the time it had taken me to strip twice, this demon of the deep had come and gone. I was shaking like a leaf and all I could think was “what the #### was that?”. I had a second enquiry that morning. Two GT’s zoned in on the tease simultaneously, a line of erupting water betraying their presence. The first broke off early, the second estimated at 90cm in length charged towards my fly only to break off at the last second. I was left with nothing except a bewildered expression of disbelief. Once we’d walked around this tiny patch of sand and seashells, we tried our hand at queenfish and the occasional bluefin trevally with our nine weights and chartreuse clousers. What followed was reminiscent of the Okavango barbell run in Botswana; fly lines and piscatorial chaos. Between the two of us we caught six bluefin trevally and four queenfish, both worthy adversaries in their own right. The other group caught triggerfish and a large porcupine pufferfish on the flats.

That evening I returned to the boat hands bleeding along with my pride. The GT dream had eluded me on a further six occasions during the afternoon session. Four were half-hearted follow-throughs from the opposing team while two brought me close to tears. The first involved a 90cm and a 70-80cm GT working in tandem. Both flew in like torpedoes hungrily searching for a target. They got to within the length of my rod before making their customary disappearance. My fly was not where it should have been. It was caught on a rock in front of me. What it was doing there I simply do not know. The second involved a large bluefin trevally that rocketed in from the right a few minutes after the tease was drawn. My fly was still in the water. The fish sampled my offering between strips before leaving me with the proverbial “%%%% you”. I felt the tension for just a moment. Again, the dream slipped away. Stu insisted we snorkel around for a while which turned out to be a great suggestion and something I wish I had done more of. In the ensuing snorkel session, a school of 6 large permit and a pod of dolphin casually graced us with their flawless elegance. The visibility must have been close to 50m. I had never seen such clear water.

Giant Trevally

Day 2 – Khor Shinab

At 03:00 hours the captain fired up the engines and we set sail for a lagoon in the North; Khor Shinab. We were on the water rods in hand by 09:30 as ready and eager as the previous day. Armed with our twelve weights we walked a near constant drop-off that shined with possibility. Our first shot arrived after ten minutes. A trio of GT’s had fallen to the tease’s charm. My colleague and I failed dismally. For some reason my fly line was wrapped around my real. While we were exploring the scope of every profanity known to man the fish vanished. For whatever reason every cast is perfect until it matters but we need not have worried. Faced with several hordes of bluefin trevally we had two successful double-ups in the region of 60-80cm. It was also in the midst of one such onslaught that I was picked up by a 70cm GT. In those few short seconds he tore so much line out of my reel and abused my equipment to such an extent that I was convinced I was about to break something. Losing a fish like that will and very nearly did reduce a man to tears. It was a double up. My companion on the day, Merryman, lost a fish of about 1m in length while I landed the fish of a lifetime. No mix of words or music will ever come close to adequately describing that feeling. Stu likened it like hunting buffalo except you’re trying to balance on coral and rock while being belted by six foot waves.

During the afternoon at the edge of the blue water we combed a coastal reef with our brushflies while walking on a false bottom of coral. We saw three different schools of bump head parrotfish feeding well within casting distance. Fede gave us that challenging look which we tried to ignore. He’d hooked up with these fish before but had yet to land one. Merryman and I agreed that our battle lay with the GT and not these behemoths so on each occasion we admired them and then fished on. There was no wind and no current so naturally the fishing was tougher than usual with only two snapper enquiries and yet another large GT that deserved its freedom. I was busy watching this strange hazy sunset that only the desert can provide when my fly hit a brick wall. I struck like it was the stepmother of all trout with predictable results.

Beers at the end of a succesful day flyfishing the flats. Life cant get any better than this

Day 3 – Khor Shinab

This morning saw my first shot at a triggerfish. Up until now I’d preferred the cut and thrust of GT fishing but it wasn’t long before the quick fingered trickery of trigger fishing had me by the proverbial short and curlies. Rather predictably my first cast saw the fly drop onto his head and he spooked. On my second the fly was heavily scrutinised by three triggerfish before they lost interest. Little did I know but my relationship with the “bump, strip, wait” was in its infancy. It was a very calm and hot day so there was not much movement on the flats. We had one shot at a number of moderately sized Bluefin and one GT but they were not as aggressive as their predecessors.  We had a few exciting encounters with smaller fish and on the way back to the mother ship I landed an 8kg barracuda on a chartreuse spoon.

That afternoon we chose to dabble with triggerfish on a coastal sand flat that was at least 200m across while the others went in search of GT. They had a chaotic afternoon with two double ups on GT, a six foot barracuda that hit the tease and a successful landing of a yellow lipped empora. We ended the afternoon by throwing nyap poppers off a sand spar at the entrance to Khor Shinab amidst the most beautiful oceanic desert scenery I had ever seen. Unable to resist such intriguing countryside Stu and I climbed a large sand dune comprising mostly of sea shells. We were treated to a birds’ eye view of the desert, the lagoon snaking it’s way inland and the unblinking eye of the desert melting into the sands.

Middle East Barracuda DSCF3428

Day 4 – Shab Kumera

The mornings session was memorable for two reasons. Although I fought and lost a 1m GT at close quarters, it was witnessing a large bluefin or GT in action on the flats for the first time which I will never forget. And it happened twice in fairly quick succession. Fede spotted the fish first and shouted for us to “load up!”. I was ready and couldn’t understand why the tease wasn’t already in the water. The tease went out and I knew that all I had to do was drop the fly within the 50m kill radius of the fish, strip for all I was worth and it would zone in on the fly like a bullet with a grudge. On the first bluefin (80cm) the fish reeled the tease so quickly that Fede simply could not pull it out of the water fast enough. On the second, the bluefin, a very large individual nearing 1m in length, broke off the tease and rocketed towards my fly at a terrifying speed. I was watching the fish instead of my hands. I fumbled a strip and I was left with yet another sequence of events that will haunt me for the rest of my days. However, we did not go back empty handed and managed to catch two moderately sized bluefin which proved to be just as satisfactory.

After the morning session we sailed to a set of unbelievably beautiful oceanic reefs known as Shab Kumera. This line of reef was truly something to behold. Fisherman or not, this was beauty beyond measure. A reef with a false bottom of coral surrounded by the deep blue. Colours and shades of blue and purple that they don’t even have names for. The coral coupled with the tide provided some fairly treacherous footing so one had to be cautious, slow and deliberate while walking. After being dropped off some way from the channel so as not to spook the fish we positioned ourselves at the edge of this tiny break in the reef and fished the same spot for three to four hours. Once we arrived Merryman went to work with a tan coloured brush fly. He had still not caught a GT. Fede suggested I use a nyap popper and also decided not to use the tease. It was a good decision. While I was changing my fly a 75cm GT smashed Merryman’s fly on the lip of the reef. We saw him scrabble to the edge as fast as he could with his rod almost vertical. Given the state of his flyline afterwards he had not been without a fair measure of luck in the landing of that fish. I was very happy for him and so was Fede. I started chugging my nyap popper through the water. Three or four casts later a giant white mouth swallowed the fly and plummeted downwards. It was a big fish. I had not seen a GT this size before. Fede screamed at me to “hold it!” and I did. With one hand, as hard as I could I tried. Alas the coral cut the leader and my second 1m GT earned its escape. I was after one thing and Merryman, his GT in the bag, was simply enjoying himself. A whole host of interesting and thrilling species were caught in those three hours. And we did not stop casting.

Big trevally double up

As an almost perfect day drew to a close Fede and I were standing on a coral bump chatting mostly about fishing, the mythical GT’s of Socotra to be specific, and women. Occasionally the conversation was punctuated by a lot of shouting and swearing whenever a fish followed or smashed the, by now battered, nyap popper. On one such occasion a big (90cm plus) bluefin erupted over the lip and grabbed the fly but with its momentum continued onto the coral bed. Fede had to duck while my rod passed over him. In the next second the fish realised where it was, turned and fled over the lip and down. I leapt off our coral protrusion and ran towards the lip as fast as it could by which time the fish had already dismembered any hope of me controlling him. In my haste I found myself entangled in my own fly line. All I could do was laugh. And I did. At what I was doing, what had just happened, where I was and the beauty of it all. Doing what I loved while the two tender boats swayed gently silhouetted against the sunset. I had ample time to think about it that night; sitting in the dark looking at the stars with their mirrored reflection on the ocean surface, listening to the roar of the reef.

Day 5 – Ras Abu Shagrab

That morning we walked some truly magnificent coastal flats; 50 shades of azure transparency over 300m wide. A powerful north current throbbed over the flats; excellent conditions for GT. The water was cold and, with Stu’s careful scrutiny of the flats, teaming with triggerfish. Months of searching for delicate irregularities in colour or texture coupled with the behavioural subtleties that betray a hungry triggerfish or bonefish meant that he missed nothing. In total we had nine shots at triggerfish (excluding the fish that spooked); five were mine. Trigger fishing is a difficult thing to explain to someone who has never done it. It must be without doubt the most interactive form of fishing. It begins with what has to be an almost near perfect presentation of the fly which results in either a spooked fish or some intense scrutiny. Everything you do then results in an action from the fish which precipitates a reaction on your part and on it goes. In some cases, the fish will continue to inspect the fly long after the leader has entered the eyes of your fly rod. Only if luck is in your favour the fish will actually pick up the fly. At this stage often he does not know that he is hooked because between the teeth and the mouth he is as tough as old leather. Your success rests with the fish’s realisation that he is hooked; the theory being that with the first run the hook sets itself or something to that effect. If the fish does not realise that he is hooked, you end up dragging him through the water as he pumps his pectoral handbrakes. On my tenth shot this clever boot had me worried. Once I’d set the hook I was into my backing in seconds. A few runs later, after some careful give and take and much to my relief I landed a 30cm yellow margin triggerfish. Long live the triggerfish.

Yellow margin triggerfish

Before commencing with the afternoon plans Stu, Merryman and I walked out into the desert and up onto a large sand dune. Once away from the water one could feel the heat vibrating around you as the moisture was sucked from our bodies but the view we were presented with from the summit was breath-taking. After our 3-4km loop we flagged down the tender boat and made for a tiny island connected to an oceanic reef 300m long that no-one had ever fished with a fly rod. As we waded out towards the waves on another magical false bottom of coral Stu told us to be ready as it was not uncommon to see the fish patrolling in the waves. The words had barely left his mouth when we spotted at least four bluefin in the breakers. With 5m of line already out I immediately slapped the water with the fly. Two Bluefin cruised towards it and broke away at the last second. By now Merryman had his in the water too. Thirty meters off to my right was the biggest of the four. He was at least a 90cm in length, casually trailing the other three. In no time my fly smashed into the water three meters ahead of him straight into an oncoming breaker. In one strip this blue missile was onto it. Only now did I realise how big he was. He launched down the front of the wave and engulfed the fly in what seemed like slow motion. I gave him all I was worth. One. Two. Hard strip strikes before he was onto the reel. I gave it to him a third time from the reel just for good measure. He tore back into the waves for only a few seconds before the fly line popped. We walked and fished that perfect reef twice but only came right with two garfish. Every time we approached the tiny island 200 terns flew into the air at once and floated past us in the breeze against a setting sun. The scene was too surreal for words. On the way back to Scuba Libre we released the aforementioned chartreuse spoon as well as a nine inch Rapala. As we made our final approach to day’s end Merryman and I were simultaneously thrown into a 75cm GT and a 15kg dogtooth tuna. We managed to land both but due to some tired and torn fingers I prematurely released the GT before we could capture the moment on camera. That night my hands were in need of some attention. I counted 21 cuts and a torn something or other on my left hand between my ring and middle finger as well as grazes on both legs from the coral.

broken hands from stripping

doggie tuna in Sudan

Day 6: Margarsum

By now the trip had long exceeded my expectations let alone my objectives so regardless of what the fishing gods were to deliver I was happy. Naturally a choice was offered as to what fish we were to target. I was grateful we even had the choice as sometimes, we were assured, the weather can be unforgiving so to me it did not matter. We drove out towards the flats on the far side of a large island known as Margarsum and fished the eastern drop-offs. Other than a sulky 6ft barracuda who completely ignored our flies and a really big titan triggerfish that was basically beaching itself like a killer whale in its feeding efforts at the water’s edge we had little luck. Stu decided to abandon our plan and move to the large flats on the western side of the island. En route to our intended drop off point we stumbled upon what was quite possibly the biggest GT of the trip; a 110cm giant that was casually scouring the edge of the flats in search of fusiliers. Immediately the tender boat was positioned broadside and out came the tease. All too quickly we were again schooled in piscatorial law by one of its most savage representatives. Another reminder that this truly was the “gangsta of the flats”. We spent the rest of the morning tampering with triggerfish. Merryman finally got his first, a respectable 25cm yellow margin triggerfish, and I, hooking three more but landing none, added a few extra unforgettable sequences to add to my long list. We walked to the end of the flat on the Northern tip of the island, bumping two schools of bonefish along the way. As the flat narrowed out into the deep blue in front of us one could almost see the curvature of the earth. Another moment I’ve permanently etched into my memory. To borrow the words from a recent Instagram post by Ranger Diaries. Sometimes you find yourself in a moment so beautiful that the world around you fades away. No troubles and no worries. Just beauty and grace.

Yellow margin triggerfish

After our three hour drive out of Port Sudan we have a meal at the Red Sea Café before taking off for Khartoum; one of the dirtiest and dustiest corners of our overpopulated world. After landing in the middle of a mild sandstorm we pass the carcasses of three or four passenger jets either side of the runway. Stu’s been asleep since we left and I’ve been wishing we’d never left the Scuba Libre. After a 45min wait we take off for Dubai. Stu shakes his head as we take another look at this humanitarian sprawl that stretches out either side of the Nile River into the polluted haze as far as the eye can see. A stark reminder of how fortunate we have been.

We who have spent the last six days reconnoitring massive coastal flats, islands, atolls and oceanic reefs hunting for triggerfish, GT and their equally powerful Blue finned brethren; every night planning and preparing, every morning exploring and experiencing this forgotten corner of Africa. From authentic Sudanese string cheeses and Red Sea seafood pasta dishes to glow in the dark coral and flying fish that splay out from beneath the tender boats across the mirrored blue waters there is a wealth of other Red Sea wonders which would require the use of a book to cover adequately. What truly makes the Sudan experience unique is the undoubtable sense of adventure inherent to each day that makes Sudan an inexcusably must fish destination. I also personally saw a sailfish breech itself repeatedly within casting distance of the tease and having succeeded in throwing a tease over a sailfish from the shore twice already who knows what the men of Tourette Fishing will come up with next.

Bonefish on the tropcial flats

Nubian Flats bluefin kingfish

Jun 30

Week 4 – Nubian Flats Season 2016

Week 4 of the season we welcomed onboard the South African trio of Jay Smith, John Toich and Richard Gorlei. They were joined by German guest Steffen, and TF’s Tanzanian guide Greg Ghaui. Other than John, everyone had fished the Nubian Flats over prior seasons.

With the weather forecast still looking good, the plan for the week was to head straight north to Shambaia, then if the weather allowed, head even more north the Khor Shinab. An area we had not  yet been able to go to this season.

Upon arrival at Shambaia on the first morning, we were greeted by a really strong current that almost looked like rivers flowing around the coral heads. We wasted no time and headed for the pinnacles. It did not take long before GT’s in all shapes and sizes were coming in on the tease, angry and ready to crush everything in sight. Richard managed to hook into a real monster on the inside of Merlo and everything looked really promising but after a good fight, his knot on his fly came undone. Everyone managed to tussle with some more GT’s but these fish were getting the better of everyone. Jay managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over however as he put the heat onto the bluefin trevally, managing to land SIX very descent fish.

The afternoon session was quite slow compared to the morning as the wind started to pick up and blew our only shot of going to Khor Shinab right out of the window. Greg salvaged the afternoon for the guys and sight-fished a very nice bohar snapper right before the end of the day.

bluefin trevally, one of the most beautiful saltwater flyrod species on the planet

bluefin trevally, one of the most beautiful saltwater flyrod species on the planet

The morning of Day 2 we woke up to even stronger wind but still manageable. The current was still going but the wind and swell made the crossing to the pinnacle a very wet and wild one. John and Richard walked the surf side on Abbington hoping to spot some trevally while Jay Smith fished blind over the edge on the inside. His white NYAP got so much attention that guide Mark had to craft more NYAP’s on the go by cutting up bits and pieces if other flies and UV glued them together. GT’s, bluefin trevally, snapper and coral trout were attacking the fly with gusto. The hook up to landing ration was not looking so good though. The edge on this atoll is so fowl that you need the biggest dose of ‘good luck’ just to land a small fish. None-the-less, Jay was having a ball, which in the end, is all that counts. Over at Angarosh though it was slim pickings for Steffen and Greg as the weather was pushing the fish down.

The wind grew even stronger overnight and by the start of Day 3, we were forced to cancel our plans to fish the atolls as the wind made the sea to wild. Unfortunately these things happen. We took this opportunity to tie up some flies, re-rigged rods, and made we were 100% ready and prepared for our next session out.

Late in the afternoon the wind gave us a small break and we jumped onto the tenders. We headed out to the coral heads just north of the mothership, where a brute of GT appeared under the one tease. Both anglers made perfect casts behind the tease and before the flies even  started moving, a beast GT inhaled Greg’s fly and then raced off into the deep at a frightening pace. Italian guide Fede grabbed the boat quickly and soon the guys were offshore, fighting this fish from the safety of the boat. Trying to fight a fish of this size on terra-firma while he is swimming over the edge in the deep, is almost guaranteed to end in tears. After what felt like forever, Federico grabbed the fish by the tail. A real monster! The guys were lost for words, especially Greg-who on his first trip out in 2014, missed out on a photo of his then PB GT of 98cm, which got away while the guys were getting ready for the pic. However this time round, everyone made sure Greg got his photo as this fish deserved some real bragging.

Greg(left) and guide Federico with the monster GT

Greg(left) and guide Federico with the monster GT

What a beast

What a beast

For the second half of the week we moved a little more north to Ras Abu Shagrab where we fished for Day 4 & 5 before moving down to the island Magarsam for the final day.

The triggers were out on the prowl around Ras Abu Shagrab and the lads took full advantage of this. Steffan netted FIVE triggers in the one session (including a trigger slam consisting of a yellow margin, titan, and a picasso). Jay landed a very nice yellow margin right after he missed a shot at a really nice bonefish, while Richard and John also ticked off triggerfish on their species list.

On the second last day the fishing slowed down considerably compared to the previous day but the area around the lagoon mouth still produced  fish. Some small GT’s, bluefin as well as a big barracuda were landed.

On the last day on the flats around Magarsam the stars aligned somewhat for the guys. Split into two teams, Greg and Steffen tackled the eastern side while the others headed to the West. The fish were out on the feed and the guys had a really good hooking ratio, hooking almost every fish casted to, but the landing ratio was not in anyone’s favor, other than the fish. On the western side, the guys hooked eight triggers but didn’t land any! The flat was quite shallow so the majority of these fish were feeding right on the edge over very foul coral.

The trigger master Steffen. He really brought his A-Game to Sudan

The trigger master Steffen. He really brought his A-Game to Sudan

On the eastern side, Greg and Stefan were not having much luck either. They did not get many shots at triggers, but ran into plenty trevally. Loads of bluefin and small giant-trevally were making the most of the cooler water on this side of the island and kept the guys entertained. Greg had a shot at a good GT midmorning but the fished missed his fly completely. Not long after, Stefan’s had some misfortune as well, pulling the hook on a good GT, as well as losing an estimated 15kg barracuda that bit through his leader after a short explosive fight. Steffen manage to salvage his day by landing a good titan triggerfish right at the death, and in so doing bringing a week of fairly erratic fishing to an end.

A big thanks to all our guests this week. It was a pleasure guiding you, and great to share the magic of the Nubian Flats together again.

Tailing triggerfish, a sight that will get any fly fisherman weak at the knees

Tailing triggerfish, a sight that will get any fly fisherman weak at the knees

Richard with a nice Titan Triggerfish

Richard with a nice Titan Triggerfish

Spectacular GT Release

Spectacular GT Release

Jun 24

Week 3, Nubian Flats Season 2016 – Guest Blog

 

Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevally

GUEST BLOG BY CHARLOTTE CHILCOTT:

I’d been watching the Nubian Flats reports and teasers from the minute the first one quietly slipped into my inbox several years ago. I’ve always been a wanderer and the lure of travelling still runs strong so I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the fact that this intrepid group of anglers had picked such a seemingly random country to explore. Sudan has, to be blunt, a less than stellar appeal and (to me at least) wasn’t the most obvious place as a fishing destination. Fishing adventurers Tourette may be but they are also researchers and while they often seem to be going off piste, they do find gems in unexpected places (Gabon is another good example). Would they have gone on a whim? Not likely. Italians in particular have been heading to coastal Sudan for a long time, primarily to dive but a hardy few had been popping and jigging for trevally and reef species and for those in the know, the opportunity was there.

Two years in, and with the realisation that they could just keep on exploring this vast area, the first commercial fly fishing trips to Sudan ran last year with Peter and Lutz taking their respective groups and their feedback only fuelled the desire to get out there myself.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyWhen my other half blithely announced he was off to explore Romania and Austria on his KTM with a bunch of friends, I needed no further justification for a holiday of my own. With Sudan in my sights, I called Geoff, who I’d fished with several times in the Seychelles and who is as fascinated by triggerfish as I am. With a fishing partner for the week, I settled down to wait. And plan.
Aside from fishing somewhere new, what made Sudan so attractive? Triggerfish. They are not the only target species here by any means; aggressive GTs prowl the drop offs and pinnacles and do maraud their way across the flats. Bluefin trevally hunt the edges, there are significant reef species to target, sailfish hunt between the pinnacles and permit feed on the flats. Very occasionally very big bonefish are seen and even more rarely landed, but triggerfish are here in huge numbers. My love/hate relationship started long ago now on Alphonse and had a significantly long “dry” spell, broken in March this year when the Alphonse triggers were being unusually co-operative. IMG_8415Triggers are picky and unpredictable and, in my view, are a vastly under-rated target species. When induced to take, they fight hard and dirty. The testing bit is to get them to take. Sometimes they come in hard and at other times the take is so delicate it’s akin to trout nibbling on a nymph. They might grind your crab into the sand before eating, they might just inhale the fly on their way past it. You can do everything right and they ignore you. You can get it totally wrong and they’ll take the fly. They will spook at something half a mile away or let you walk right up to them before casually heading off. They are absolutely fascinating and while I’m as keen to land a GT as the next person, that wasn’t why I was here. I had come for triggers.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevally

After a chat at the Sportfish Show, and having waxed lyrical about my passion for triggers, Tom Haskins very kindly tied me a bunch of crabs in varying sizes and colours to take and try. I have to be honest, I owe Tom a lot of beer for those crabs; they rocked. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyPacking without a Seychelles weight limit of 15 kg was novel and getting to Port Sudan was straight forward on Emirates via Dubai with luggage checked all the way through. Once in Dubai I hopped on the transfer bus, and headed to Terminal 2 to meet up with Geoff. Normally quite effusive, Geoff was a bit more restrained than normal, greeting me with a polite handshake and nod and it wasn’t until we walked off to find a coffee that he said quietly “I didn’t want to give you a hug in case I got arrested and I want to go fishing”.  Heading for the counter, I spotted Mark Murray, Tourette’s head guide who was joining us and, as you do, we had a greeting hug. Behind, sounding quite a lot like Grommit crossed with the prophet of doom, said Geoff “oh no I’ll be fishing on my own at this rate”.  The last time I saw Mark was in Tanzania the previous year when I had lost my voice and was trying to fish for tigerfish with a fever (not the fishing kind!).Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyTrying to spot the two Italians joining us, Ottavio and Filippo, we boarded Fly Dubai and four hours later landed in Port Sudan. Dry heat. A lot of dry heat. A very welcome change to the humidity to the Seychelles and the grey chill of England. Formalities were straight forward and very well organised. Luggage took a while but eventually we had it all and we headed off to our bus. Windows open, luggage loaded we rattled off for the three hour drive across the desert to the coast, picking up Adil (our Captain) Mohamed Ahad (Mr everything) and several big jerry cans of fuel on the way.
We also picked up a very big stone, having stopped and rejected some smaller stones. In Sudan, women on board are “not good” to quote Adil so to counter any bad luck I might have brought with me, they needed an appropriately sized stone on board to balance that out. Initially, I was a little put out that the chosen stone was so big but with my innate clumsiness, it probably was about right. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyMohammed Col, our embarkation point, is a rather bleak military zone so photographs aren’t allowed. The process of unloading the bus (and the stone) and transferring to home for the week sadly goes unrecorded but it was quick and smooth and before long we were on board the Scuba Libra.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyWe settled down to unpack all the fishing kit on the upper deck. Each of us had a crate so we could stash spare reels and fly lines; saving having to hunt for bits and pieces in the cabins. Bags almost empty, we headed to our allotted cabins, found room for everything and regrouped for dinner.  On board as the guide team were Stu and Mark, both South Africans and both well attuned to these Sudanese flats and Italian Federico (Fede) who is one of the owners of the operation and the MV Scuba Libra. We were in good hands. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallySaturday’s start was unusual, both in time and manner. There was a time when 0530 was when I’d roll in on a Saturday morning, not get up to go fishing and I’ve never woken up to find a man with a big spanner leaning over me to secure a porthole!  We were shortly to be underway, leaving our mooring to head north east. After breakfast we had plenty of time to tackle up, check knots and choose flies before reaching our mooring and getting out onto the flats around 0800.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyDay one on the flats was easy underfoot, the wind was strong (about 25 knots) but visibility was good and I was stunned by the vastness. The flat we were wading seemed endless and on either side of us, around small points, were equally long flats stretching off into the haze. Team Italia with Fede, Ottavio and Filippo had headed out with us and we weren’t to see them again until we returned to the Scuba for lunch. I think we all enjoyed the respite from the wind and we headed back out late afternoon, fishing until roughly 1730. With Mark and Stu, Geoff and I tried to get our eyes in and get to grips with the wind – Geoff with more success on the later than I. By the end of the day, Geoff had landed a lovely titan triggerfish of about 5 lbs and had lost a bigger yellow margin trigger at the net. Ottavio and Filippo had caught some small reef species but triggers were scarce for them. We had seen more triggers in a morning than I normally do in a week on Alphonse. The yellow margins were plentiful but were totally uninterested in us. Possibly showing mating behaviour in a run up to – or during – spawning. They were more interested in one another than in settling down to feed. The titans, on the other hand, were feeding and I hope I never lose that breath taking moment when you spot a feeding trigger’s tail. As for me, well, I had been tested and found wanting; not managing to convert my opportunities but I was too overawed by my surroundings to be despondent, just more determined. Whilst I wasn’t expecting to see bonefish, I have to admit it was “odd” not seeing them on the flats but I couldn’t get over how many boxfish were on that particular flat. They were everywhere. Blue, yellow, brown, black they were there in abundance but with sneaky titans often hiding amongst them.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyDay two, Sunday, we headed out to fish further down the flat, heading back to the Scuba for lunch. Again a beautiful clear day but the wind had dropped to eight/ten knots and the water was cold and clear. We were heading up towards a small island, linked by a sand bar and behind which the water was a stunning turquoise. Munching the trees on the island was a family of camels and the night before Mark had said that he would love a shot of a trigger landed with the camels in the background. I sent Geoff off with Fede to fulfil Mark’s photo request. Mark meanwhile had wandered up towards the camels. They were moving down the sand spit with the smallest camel splashing and playing and trying to get Mum to join in the fun. Eventually, worn out, it slumped onto the sand and the rest of the group followed, staying in their mother/child pairings and settled in to watch these strange creatures waving sticks in the air.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyMeanwhile, Geoff and Fede had disappeared up towards the island in search of triggers and I was walking slowly up the flat on my own, occasionally using a rock or a boxfish as target practice. I spotted a trigger some way out, moving right to left from one area of turtle grass to another where I lost it completely.  Meanwhile, the boxfish was still hanging around so continuing with target practice, I put my fly right in front of it, gave it a twitch and then recast at the second boxfish which had appeared behind it. It didn’t follow the fly but something about it made me pick up and recast. Putting the fly, one of Fulling Mill’s Cuban Shrimps, just to one side I stripped veerrrrry slowly and watched it follow. I stripped again. Again a follow. A tweak. Nothing, my boxfish turned away. Again, something about it made me pick up and recast. Another agonisingly long, slow strip. Just as I started that strip I saw the shape properly and realised it was a titan. Thank heavens for small mercies because if I’d noticed that beforehand, I dread to think what disaster I’d have created.  The titan kept following, I saw the head go down, the tail came up, I watched it twist and bang. Fish on and running! I think I shouted for Fede but can’t remember. Watching my line, I wasn’t going to lose this fish to a tangle but it all ran smoothly and keeping tension and my line high to avoid the coral, I stopped breathing. Fede had quietly appeared and was close by as panic was beginning to set in. I REALLY did not want to lose this fish and after a short, but fraught (on my part) fight, Fede scooped it up, I could breathe again and we had a beautifully marked, pale titan in the net. Duck gone. I had my titan. Mark had his shot. All was well.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyWe headed back to the boat for lunch and sailed as we ate. Post lunch I slept up on the upper deck, snoozing through two barracuda that team Italia brought in for the kitchen. Once moored, we were back on new flats for the afternoon and although we saw significant numbers of triggers, we had few follows. With hindsight, I think most of them were yellow margin triggers, still totally disinterested in anything put in front of them. Walking with Fede amongst big patches of turtle grass, and with the light now dropping, I cast at a dark spot that Fede had pointed out. I stripped slowly, had a short follow before the trigger lost interest. I picked up and cast again. It was a very dark titan which followed, nibbled then followed again. I saw the head go down. I felt the bite and struck.  Nothing happened. I had tension, my line was running slowly and Fede said, very quietly, “he doesn’t know he’s hooked”. As he said it, the titan took off, getting my line back on the reel as he headed out. Rod high, again to avoid the coral, it didn’t feel right. My trigger was shaking its head. Run. Shake. Run. Shake. It wasn’t right but the fight was done, the head was up, its nose and teeth just out of the water as I brought it towards Fede and the waiting net. Disaster struck, the hook slipped and the net remained empty. Happy nonetheless, I’d hooked and played my second fish of the day but the remainder of the afternoon was quiet. Thank you Tom, it was your fly and it had clearly been bitten hard but was intact and the hook was fine. Geoff had a few follows but no serious interest and we headed home. Filippo and Ottavio had had a tough day, with triggers behaving badly and they headed off for their nightly snorkel before dinner.  Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyDay three, Monday, dawned very still and very hot. Too still really and not enough current. Geoff and I set out to dredge and to pop the drop off, Ottavio and Filipo went off with Fede and Mark to fish the pinnacles.  We had little success and when Stu saw a sail inside the reef, we sacrificed a Brushy to for my big pink tube fly. The teasers went out. We putted up and down. Up and down and eventually called time. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevally

We sat in the deep water opposite the pinnacles where Ottavio and Filippo were snorkelling and taking some great underwater footage of the corals and the drop off on their Go-Pro. Watching that footage later that night, we were amazed at how clear the water was. Far below them, swimming lazily in the streaks of sunlight was a magnificent shark, far down but absolutely clear. Done with snorkelling, they returned to shore, rejoined Mark and Fede and headed out to the edge. Filippo hooked and lost two GTs, one quite quickly and one after a decent fight. Ottavio lost a big bluefin trevally at the leader. Meanwhile, away from the excitement of the pinnacle, Geoff and I were above a big and cheeky school of queenfish. Geoff was having a whale of time, bringing in one fish after the after; my tan and white clouser wasn’t as enticing as the chartreuse and white clouser Geoff had on and as soon as I swapped over, I joined in the fun. Geoff hooked and landed a small dog tooth tuna in amongst the melee of queenfish. For a small fish, no more than 1 lb, they put up a worthy fight on a 12#! Ready to move off and leave room for team Italia to hit the queenfish, the 12# with the sacrificial pink sailfish fly was disassembled and a popper put back on. The rod had just been set down when Stu spotted the tip of a sail and we were treated to the glorious sight of an airborne sailfish. It’s all about timing. A few minutes earlier and we’d have been in the game.  As it was we weren’t and we retired back to the Scuba for lunch (and a nap). Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyHeading back out to the flat we’d fished the day before, approaching from a different angle having dropped team Italia off on the way, Geoff and I both saw plenty of triggers (Stu saw a lot more). We both had plenty of follows and a respectable number of nibbles but both failed to connect. Walking on the left with Stu in the middle and Geoff on the right, the angle of the light made spotting fish difficult but I was presented with the dream shot. Two titans, far enough apart to both be valid targets, I cast at the fish furthest away. Stripped slowly and poof, spooked and off it went. The closest titan was still there, happily feeding and, rather peeved, I picked up and put my fly down way too close, almost on its head and off he went. I should have taken more time. I should have taken a deep breath and relaxed. I didn’t and I will be haunted by that scenario for a very long time. Full credit to Stu, he didn’t even sigh deeply. Were I him, I’d have drowned me. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyWhat we did see that afternoon were several schools of milkfish. They were feeding, grubbing away in the sand; not feeding on the surface or daisy chaining as I’ve seen them do in Seychelles. There were enough milks to make them a viable target species (more in the south I’m told) and I have no doubt that they’ll work out how to target them; the general consensus being that they are feeding on worms. Something more to add to my fly box. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyThe sand hung thick in the sky today and we had lost sight of the distant mountains completely all day. The suspended sand results in a strange haze and with the sun low in the sky late afternoon, we called it a day as it was difficult to see. Filippo had landed a very dark yellowmargin trigger on a very small chartreuse and white shrimp while the rest of us had had enough chances but hadn’t made the most of them.  Back on the boat, I slunk down to the cabin, still sore at myself for my own stupidity. To my total astonishment, my little area had been transformed; I now had brilliantly colourful bedding, another pillow had appeared, something delightful had been sprayed around and my scattered bits and bobs were all tidy. When I tracked Amadino down to thank him, I got a small smile and was told that “it is all good. Women they like nice things you know”. The big stone was doing its job.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyDay four, Tuesday, was blown out. The wind had picked up overnight, pushing between 30 and 35 knots and with the best will in the world, the wind wasn’t going to be anyone’s friend that day.  The swell had been picking up all night and I think we were all feeling a tad unsettled as breakfast was a quiet affair.  We upped anchor and headed off to a more sheltered mooring behind Big Snake and we all settled in to do whatever it was you did when there was nothing to do. I slept.  Stu and Mark tied flies. Geoff watched, picking up tips. Ottavio and Filippo were snoozing on the upper deck, making the most of the wind.  After lunch and later in the afternoon, desperate to do something, Fede, Ottavio and Filippo went out with spinning rods and landed a nice barracuda and the remains of a big yellow spot trevally. The rest of it having been eaten by something on its way into the boat.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyDay five, Wednesday. The wind had dropped a bit but it was still blowing quite hard. Keento be out, we headed out a bit later than normal, with the two teams fishing opposite sides of the island, meeting eventually to head back to the boat to have lunch and move on. We all had several follows but nothing really determined; I think everything was unsettled by the big change in pressure. We had a big water crossing on which we were accompanied by a pod of dolphins, including a tiny little baby dolphin. As soon as we were safely moored at Marsharifa, we were back out on the flats. The wind was better but it was still pretty windy. Again, the two teams split up, fishing separately around the island. I had several really positive follows from yellow margins but each time they turned away. I tried varying my strip. Long and verrryyy slow, little short hops, a combination of the two and I just couldn’t find the necessary combination. Frustrated I changed my fly, choosing a small tan Flexo but had to discard it after one cast as it didn’t have a weed guard and was impossible to strip without it hooking up. The titan that had initially chased it down, spooked off. We saw no more triggers by the time we’d reached the end of our little island but over on the other side, Ottavio had landed a lovely big titan on what is now “Ottavio’s point”.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyFede, Ottavio and Filippo went off to spin for what remained of the afternoon (landing a very nice three spot trevally) and keen not to be back on board of as long as we could manage it, Geoff and I opted to stay and walk the areas we hadn’t previously fished. Geoff went off with Mark, Stu and I headed across the island to fish the side. With no warning, I crashed to my knees, one leg had gone straight through the sand crust into a cavity. I didn’t know if this island was also home to the constrictors found elsewhere but I wasn’t hanging around to find out. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyBack on the flat, we headed out and across, into the wind, initially looking for triggers and after a false start caused by a blue spotted ray. We both spotted birds diving at the edge of the flat accompanied by several large splashes, so we headed out across the flat in the dropping light to see what was what. Stu was carrying my Hardy Proaxis 11# and it made sense for him to get on as fast as possible; I’d already told him that if there was action up there he was to get on and catch something; no point wasting the opportunity because I had to go a bit slower over the coral.  The birds and bait fish remained reasonably static and by the time I got there, Stu was already casting into the melee. Straight into the wind, which was still pushing hard, it wasn’t an enviable cast and I kept my distance as I didn’t want to stuff anything up by falling over on the coral! With no reaction to the fly, Stu was just watching the birds when we saw three GTs, coming in immediately on his left. With too much line out, the chances for disaster was high but one hard strip and bang, he had a fish on. Shouting at me that it was my rod, I told him to get on with it and get the fish in which he did after some nifty footwork. I said I’d land it, grabbed my glove and after a miss, tailed his GT. I’m not sure who was more relieved. 83 cm nose to fork, it was a solid steel grey with a recent crescent shaped bite on one side. It would have been interesting to get a weight because whilst not long, it was a stocky beast and quite deep in the chest. Walking back into shallow water, the reason I’d given Stu my rod initially (wind aside) became apparent. I’m clumsy. I tripped over some coral, came crashing down on top of the fish, lost my glove, dropped my 9#, ripped my tights and embedded some Sudanese coral in my leg. All I was worried about was the GT but Stu still had him. Same can’t be said of the glove. Sorry Peter, it’s somewhere off the coast of Sudan. Can I borrow another one please?Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyPicked up by the transfer boat, we were on uneven coral and bit deep. Geoff hoisted himself in with admirable grace for a man slightly over 69 but sadly the same can’t be said of yours truly. Worried I would break Stu’s proffered leg I tried to get in as fast as I could and ended up sliding inelegantly over the side on my tummy, landing in the bottom of the boat like a large, blue clad seal. I was laughing so much I just couldn’t move and it was perhaps a fitting end to my rather accident prone day. As Stu helpfully pointed out, things happen in threes but we couldn’t agree on whether the seal landing counted or not. A great end to the day and with one day left, I was hoping the fishing gods were going to be kind to us when day dawned. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyDay six; Thursday. Last day out.  The wind was perfect, visibility ideal and the mountains were absolutely crystal clear. Our last flat of the week was very long and very wide. Not easy underfoot near the edge, a little further in it was hard sand, a little old broken coral but an easy wade. We spread out, going very slowly like a bunch of gunslingers in the Wild West. There were triggers galore; tails waving in the sun with the occasional flash of silver and blue as a bluefin shot past.  The bluefin had been around but were not keen to eat and had been a bit “off” but I cast, and stripped and bang. He was on and off and running. I never cease to be amazed at how hard they fight and whilst not a trophy fish by any means, it was a beautiful fish with stunning colours. All that excitement done, we carried on up the flat, now lagging quite a long way behind the others. I had several decent triggers to cast at but they wouldn’t take. They’d follow the fly up the rod tip and turn away so when I had one follow more aggressively than the others, I held my breath and hoped. Long and slow, the leader was in and I had visions of the trigger taking my fly and the tip of my rod but just before it got that desperate, the head went down, the tail came up, I felt the bite as it hit the fly and bang, it was on. And then it swam off. I’d hooked the coral. Urrrghhh! Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyOn we went, new fly on. We’d seen a very big tail waving away a long ahead so we slowly made our way up. Close enough, I cast and stripped but the trigger moved off. He hadn’t spooked, so we let him settle before following again. I recast, let it settle and stripped. Slowly. A couple of sharp hops. Slowly. Then all of sudden, he came in fast and hard, hit my fly and was off. Letting him run, I was grateful that he headed up and inwards with very little coral to interfere. Stu scooped him in the net and we had another, very nice chunky titan.  A little later in the morning, Stu spotted the sickle tail of a permit and shouted across to Mark and Ottavio who were heading directly towards a group of about fifteen permit, feeding happily but moving quite fast as they did so. Ottavio cast and recast, but to no avail and the permit kept moving, slightly ahead of them all the time before moving off and dropping into deeper water. Moving on up, still on the inside of the flat, Stu shouted and grabbed the 11#, I dropped the 9# and cast towards a group of what I thought was three GTs. They were moving down the flat at a reasonable speed and I popped my fly about six feet in front of the lead fish, stripping fast diagonally in front of them. They ignored the fly completely and I picked up and recast, stripping as fast as I could, but they turned in front of us and swam off, to pass directly in front of the others, ignoring their flies before heading over the edge. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyWe carried on until lunch, hopped on board the tender boat and sat down for a much needed lunch.  While munching away, Stu and Mark spotted a rare Sudanese bonefish briefly before it vanished over the edge into deeper water. Back out on the flats, we all swapped around and Fede and I headed up the inside when he spotted a titan feeding in front of us. I had the line in the air when he grabbed my arm and pointed at a yellow margin right in front of us. It had been facing directly towards us and it wasn’t until it turned sideways that we saw it. I stripped in some line and put the fly a little too close to the fish for comfort. Both Fede and I hissed an inward breath and froze as the fly settled. One little twitch and that yellow margin pounded on the fly, inhaled it and took off across the flat, heading for the edge and running me right into my backing. It was a little powerhouse and it dived straight into a hole. Left with a tight line, a fish in a hole and lot of coral, really there could only have been a bad ending. Fede whipped of his hat and glasses, rummaged in his bag and brought out a pair of goggles and waded in.  I must have looked as astonished as I felt as Fede just shrugged and said it happens often. By now everyone had gathered as we watched Fede dive and have a look. After a couple of dives, his patience was obviously at an end when Mark shouted his name with some urgency, drawing his attention. “FEDE”. “You’ve got an octopus on your head”. We all howled with laughter as Fede’s dreadlocks were full of water and sticking out from his head like a lot of little arms. He was less amused and after that, the triggerfish didn’t stand a chance. One minute nice and snug in its hole, the next airborne in triumph.  Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyA lovely, if startled yellow margin triggerfish and bizarrely, it ended in a group photo. I’ve never seen that before around one fish. Anyway, we carried on, Fede and I moving into the much shallower water, and leaving the others to fish the better line. There were a lot of triggers but we decided to move on up and on the way. I detoured to have a look at one of the large osprey nests. Unoccupied, wedged within the walls of the nest were the skulls of triggerfish (it’s not uncommon to see the ospreys take a trigger off the flats) and parrotfish amongst the scattered remains of many a meal. Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyAs Fede was using the facilities, and I was looking the other way, we spooked a big bonefish and while bemoaning our fate, saw Ottavio hook a triggerfish pretty close to the edge. In horror, Fede and I watched as he played that trigger like a GT. I was shouting “careful, careful” and Fede, much louder than me “piano piano piano piano” with increasing volume. Ottavio’s rod went perilously close to the point of breaking as he wrestled the yellow margin in. It has to be a record landing. That fish was hooked and landed in what felt like 30 seconds. A very dark fish, it seemed that having ignored us earlier in the week, the yellow margins were ready to come to the party and Ottavio was a very happy man. Sadly for us, the party was nearly over and against a backdrop of clear mountains and almost violet light, it was time to make our way back to meet the Scuba Libra at Mohammad Col.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyWe broke up the tackle, hung our wet stuff up to dry and set off to pack before having one last dinner and getting ready to head home the following morning.

Will I go back? Absolutely. We had a bit of bad luck with the wind but I feel that I’ve had a little taster of what Sudan has to offer.Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevallyAs for “other stuff”, well …………

• The MV Scuba Libra has bags of personality if not bags of room. She’s clean, comfy but she’s basic and at 50, a bit creaky in places but safe. The six guests share two cabins, each with three beds and each forward cabin with its own shower/loo/sink. While the cabins have fans (some nice new big ones) it can get warm; there are plenty of mattresses if you want to take your sheet and pillow and sleep up on deck (as the crew do) and catch the breeze. I didn’t feel the need to but wish I had; the night sky was beautiful and you really can’t beat sleeping under the stars. Earplugs are good thing to pack, primarily against wave noise.

• The lack of room isn’t really an issue as, tackle and fishing clothes aside, you need to pack very little. A couple of pairs of shorts and t-shirts, something to sleep in and you’re done.

• The food, prepared by Hady the cook, in what has to be the hottest kitchen on the planet was plentiful and with an Italian influence; plenty of pasta to fuel the fishing. Fresh fish, chicken, salads, cheese, local flat bread and plenty of fruit. It is simple fare but well prepared. Days began with a big breakfast, lunch is either eaten on board or on the flats depending on what works best on the day and your evening meal is always accompanied by desert, often in the form of a freshly baked cake. I was grateful for the energy bars I’d taken; it’s a long time between breakfast and lunch.

• Days on board the Scuba Libra start early. Awake (if not up) around 0530 with breakfast at 0630. Waiting for the light, there’s plenty of time to change flies or leaders before heading out at around 0800.

• Don’t flush the loo if the head guide is out having a swim. He’ll get cross (it wasn’t me by the way).

• They use two big fiberglass boats to move around the flats; deep sided, they have a very shallow draft and Abu Grab and Moamod (the two boatmen) are both experienced Sudanese fishermen and move their boats around with a deceptively easy skill.

• You need to have a valid yellow fever certificate; the vaccination is valid for 10 years and once you have it you are sorted for a variety of South American and African countries including Tanzania.

• A visit to Sudan does mean that the American ESTA visa waiver programme won’t apply to you (whether intending to travel to, or transit through the USA) assuming you are coming from a country to which it applies. You will need to apply for an American visa and that necessitates form filling and an interview at the nearest American embassy. For those with British passports, the form takes about 20 minutes, the visa costs $160 currently and it is valid for 10 years. The interview date is set automatically (London or Belfast) and once accepted, it takes four working days for the visa to come through. You can either collect your passport or pay for it to be returned to you (currently £18.95).  Is it worth the actual cost and time? For me, absolutely it is. Undeniably, it is more hassle and yes, there’s an accompanying cost but on balance, to be able to fish those extraordinary flats it’s a price well worth paying.

Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevally

Sudan, triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish, GT, bluefin trevally

Jun 14

Week 2, Nubian Flats Season 2016

For the second week of the 2016 Nubian Flats Season we welcomed onboard an all American group. Returning guest Mike la Sota was joined by his friends Russ, Matt, Mike, Josh, and Wade. A reall great bunch of guys with an even greater sense of adventure. So after the briefing everyone got settled in and marked the start of a ridiculously fun week.

After some careful consideration and planning according to the weather forecast, we headed north on the first morning to our first anchorage for the week at Ras Abu Shagrab. This area has some huge coastal flats and can produce some world class fishing.

There was a huge north current pushing over the flat and this was textbook GT conditions in the Red Sea. For some bizarre reason though, we did not bump into any on our walk but as luck would have it, a shoal of 30 odd GT’s came swimming along where our trusty boat driver Mahmood was waiting for us on the flat. But this did not faze us as the flat had a couple more tricks up its sleeve.  About two hours into our walk and numerous shots at triggers, we spotted some bonefish moving out of the shallows. We managed to hook one at our first attempt but sadly broke off on the eat.  Shortly after though, Russ hooked into and absolute brute of a bonefish, which gave him a spectacular fight.  Lady Luck was not on our side and this fish, estimated at +-13lbs, came unbuttoned right at the net. This defeat was taken well however and the guys gave each other a strange mixture of high-fives and comforting pats on the back. Loosing a fish at the net is sort of a win but in hindsight, managing to get the eat and watch that fish rooster tail into the distance was a victory on its own and more than satisfying. We saw one more massive bonefish that we miss-took for a GT in the deeper water, but did not manage to show a fly to.

After lunch we thought our luck might make a turn for the better and soon Mike la Sota hooked into another 10lbs bonefish. He got a very good hookset and soon this fish was racing over the flat. Lady luck was still not with us. Somehow Mike managed to bump his spool with his hand halfway through the fish’s first run, which sent the fish quite spectacularly into the air before snapping the tippet. In-between all the bonefish chaos, Matt kept the team’s score ticking over and landed himself a very beautiful yellow margin triggerfish and some snapper on the tease.

Josh with his new PB Sudanese bonefish

Josh with his new PB Sudanese bonefish

By day two the current slowed down and so did the fishing. The difference was like day and night but the guys were undeterred and carried on with the job at hand. The lads managed to land some nice triggerfish. Matt, Wade and Josh all went tight into triggers and converted. The story of the day had to go the Josh. He decided to turn the tables on the bonefish very casually and hooked into a 9lb bonefish, but this time round, pulled it right into the net. Everybody was beyond excited and this moment served as the turning point of our luck.

The morning of Day three, Team America got a full introduction into just how incredible and intense the offshore pinnacles can be! Or as fellow Italian guide Federico puts it “being rape-ed”. As per usual we split into two teams with Mike L, Josh, and Matt on Angarosh while Mike, Wade, and Russ headed to Merlo.

After a giving the guys a very thorough briefing on what to expect, the guys on Angarosh waded cautiously out for the first tease. With a strong current from the south we had high hopes and we were not disappointed. On the second tease we had 10 Geets (all over 90cm) come racing up the wall in a V-formation behind the teaser. Like pro’s, the guys kept their cool and everyone presented perfect casts which almost instantly turned into organised chaos! Josh hooked the biggest GT, in access of 100cm, which immediately popped his flyline on the hookset. Both Mike and Matt managed to turn theirs before the edge but Mike’s fish tried one more rush and just managed to get its head over the edge and parted his 150lb Seagar leader like it was cotton. From over on the left came a loud high pitch singing noise which wasn’t Matt but his line on full lock down being pushed to its limits as his fish was trying the same tactic. As he turned the fish again, he received massive applause from the beaten anglers to his right and an even bigger applause when the fish surrendered and got tailed grabbed. This is where teasing turns into a team sport as any fish landed is a team fish. The rest of the morning we sighted 8 more big GTs cruising the flat on Angarosh while staking out the waves on the wild side. We had four shots at them but unfortunately didn’t connect with any.

The team on Merlo’s story was just as savage and dramatic as ours. They returned with all their fly lines broken by GTs. After putting his head under water and looking over the edge with his mask, Italian guide Federico actually made the call to stop fishing on Merlot as the fish were just to big to land under the circumstances.

Giant Trevally on the Nubian Flats

Giant Trevally on the Nubian Flats

So at lunch we had a 1 in 6 conversion rate, which we all agreed was perfectly acceptable given the terrain we were fishing on. After lunch we hit the flat we call Shambaia for some more civilized trigger-fishing. The wind proceeded to die down through the course of the morning and by mid afternoon the flat looked like one giant mirror. Needless to say, the guys had to get their ninja on as triggerfish in these conditions can be close to impossible. Mike la Sota stepped up to the plate however and almost immediately ended his Titan drought by landing one right out the gates. We also got some really good shots at milkfish shoaling on the flats, as well as some bonefish. No conversions but incredibly exciting close quarter stuff.

On Day 4 we woke to pan-flat glassy conditions and incredibly high temperatures. It was so hot that it felt the sun was within walking distance from us.  With no wind and current, and given how educated triggerfish become in these still conditions, we decided to go try for some sailfish offshore where we’ve been seeing them hunt the last couple days. Sadly nothing came up on the birds and we ended the day off species hunting over the deep reef edges with 9wt’s and small flies for all sorts. This turned into a great deal of fun with the guys racking up about 10 species, from queen fish to peacock grouper.

The team admiring their catch out on the pinnacles

The team admiring their catch out on the pinnacles

The wind was playing ball on the second last day of the trip and blew just enough to keep us cool and not effect the guys casting. The current also picked up again and there was a fierce push from the south. It was a no brainer and soon after breakfast we made our way back out to the pinnacles. This proved to be an excellent choice as straight off the bat, Wade landed a very respectable Geet. The action died down immediately for some reason and we weren’t sure what was going on. Tease after tease nothing, but then on a tease, that went quite far out, a big dogtooth tuna came out of the deep blue in hot pursuit. It was so big it could dwarf a dolphin. This clearly created some FOMO(Fear Of Missing Out) under the surface and within a second, GT’s were coming from everywhere. There must have been 30+ fish coming at us like torpedo’s ready to crush everything in sight.

The guys were ready though and as the angry mob reached the edge, we fed them three sempers and yes, Tripple UP! De-ja-vu two days ago! With anglers all hooked up right on the edge of a 50m drop, plus one guide dancing around trying to keep everyone on their perches, the ocean decided that this was not enough entertainment and decided to put a huge oceanic white-tip shark into the mix.The hungry shark came right onto the flat and ended up almost on-top of Rus, who in the process lost his footing and was flat on his back, while still connected to his GT. Then to make matters even more exciting, 2 big reef sharks crashed the party as well and quickly turned this cluster into something that needed some really quick, careful decision making. Matt quickly snatched his fish by the leader, and pulled the fly. Then proceeded to help Wade keep his footing on this gnarly mix of sharp uneven coral and deep holes, before loosing his fish to reef. Meanwhile Rus managed to get his fish over the edge about two minutes later, which then surged again into the deep once more before cutting his line on the coral edge.

We were completely man handled by absolutely everything but will go down as the most exhilarating few minutes of our lives. After some tremendous laughter and head shaking, we composed ourselves again and carried on fishing. Straight away Rus hooked something massive again, but this time round it was fighting more like a big dead weight than a trevally. He would gain some line and then the fish would just go stationary on the wall again for a while before moving a couple meters. After a quick inspection with some diving goggles, we realised he was hooked into a massive malabar grouper that was perched on the reef and had zero plans of coming up to the surface. In the end, this giant won the battle and snapped Russ’s leader on the coral. A very eventful morning!

After a quick lunch and sail over the middle of the day, the team set out to tackle the Snake Islands before sunset.

Mike la Sota with a beautiful Nubian Flats titan triggerfish

Mike la Sota with a beautiful Nubian Flats titan triggerfish

Little Snake Island had some very obliging triggerfish and Josh landed a very nice yellow margin triggerfish. The guys on Big Snake Island came across a big geet while still making their way to the island. They quickly intercepted the fish, but the fish missed the fly and spooked after seeing to the tender boat.

The final day of the trip we got greeted by big wind and rough seas. We fished the northern section of Magarsam Island but by midday the wind started pushing close to 35knots and made conditions unplayable. We called it a day and headed back to the mothership to celebrate an extremely eventful but fun week.

 

Trigger happy on the Nubian Flats

Jun 09

Week 1, Nubian Flats Season 2016

DSCF2904For the first week of the 2016 Nubian Flats season, we were blessed to be joined by a number of great characters of every corner of the planet. We were joined by Bruce from Scotland, Tom from the USA, and Johan from RSA. An interesting mix of cultures but all three of them had one thing in mind, fish!

Early on the morning of Day 1, the mothership steamed out of the harbour and set course for the first anchorage just south of Snake Island. The plan for the day was to fish the western side of the big Island for the day, looking for triggerfish and trevally. The morning started off well and not long into the walk Tom had a good shot at a permit with-in the 20lbs range. The fish showed good interest and followed the fly but then in true permit fashion, it decided that this was not the day, before spooking off into the distance.

Tom got given a second chance and soon after he was presenting his fly to another smaller permit. Again the fish showed plenty interest, but this time round Tom’s fly got snagged on the bottom. Needles to say, the fish lost interest and went in search of food elsewhere. By midday some clouds(very unusual for this time of the year) rolled in over the area and made sight-fishing a nightmare. With the low visibility, we changed tactics and ended off the day with some teasing along the outside reef of Snake Island. The lads landed some really nice bluefin trevally and ended the day in the high spirits.

Triggerfish Sudan

Titan Triggerfish heaven

On Day 2 the clouds disappeared and the guys got treated to some good fishing. Landing some good titan and yellow margin triggers on the flat, as well as some big bohar on the tease and one big GT lost.

On the morning of Day 3 we moved the mothership to the next anchorage to the north of Snake Island, where we planned to fish the last couple days of the trip before making our way back to Magarsam for the final day.

The massive sand flat that we call Shambaia had a good variety of species which included milkfish, some triggerfish, and trevally (both giant and bluefin), but the glassy conditions were just to calm and we landed very few fish. Most would think that glassy conditions are perfect, but try drop a fly in front of a weary fish without disturbing the water and making a noise. Almost impossible. Outside on the pinnacles however, the fish were on the feed and we tried to capitalize on this. The flats on these pinnacles had some really big GT’s on them and we got handled by some brute’s! Tom hooked into a monster that somehow unhooked itself, and straight after Johan got cut off by a meter-plus sized fish that was unstoppable and swam him right off the flat and over the edge. On the tease it was even worse. Countless big GT’s were exploding like grenades behind the tease, and tearing through leaders like there was no tomorrow. Like fellow Italian Guide Federico would say, it was a “massacre satanico”. These pinnacles hold some spectacular fish but on this terrain it is almost impossible to land fish. Extremely sharp coral with crazy drop off’s is enough to even shred the best of tackle.

The lads kept the scoreboards ticking over and managed to land some small bluefin but the GT’s were clearly leading the scoreboard. GT’s Hero – Flyfisherman Zero

flyfishing for trevally

Bluefin Trevally taken on a black brushfly

Snapper fishing

Bohar snapper, the dog of the Nubian Reef

On the final day we were back on the northern side of the big Island and things were looking up. Bruce opened up the scoreboard by landing a very nice yellow margin triggerfish . Tom followed up soon by hooking into another nice yellow margin but this fish managed to chew through his light tippet before he could get it to the net. Next up Bruce, who was clearly on a good day, landed another beautiful yellow margin triggerfish. If the previous couple day’s hiding by the GT’s weren’t enough, we came across a good 90cm fish in super skinny water, hunting with his back sticking out of the water. Tom quickly got his 12wt ready but it was not to be. He placed the fly right in front of the geet, but got denied. Another victory for the trevally. But thats fishing

It was a week of many highs and certainly a few lessons in what it takes to land fish in these conditions, but it was a week that was thoroughly enjoyed by all the guests and guides.

GT fishing in tropical saltwater

Johann Kuhn with a lovely Giant Trevally

Red Sea dolphins

A common sight in Sudan, dolphins surfing infront of the skiff

May 16

Makhangoa Community Camp: 6 – 12 May 2016

MCC (11)The sun had already tucked itself behind the hills and dusk was creeping in along with the cold. There was no sign of the guests arriving and the last light had now faded out completely. I was just about to head back and phone the boss when two headlights appeared in the distance. It seems that car trouble found them long before they found camp and they had to make a tactical stop in Fiksburg to get a fix. It was a great relief to finally welcome Deon, Andrew and Matthew to camp, the only problem was that their other two mates had not yet arrived. We were speculating about the reason for their mates being m.i.a. but it wasn’t long before they too rolled into camp. As it turns out Reese forgot to pack his passport, so he and his cousin Kyle had to make a ‘little’ three hour detour. There is a lesson in this folks; check your car before you leave and double check for your passport.

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There is an advantage to arriving so late on your first day. Everything is a surprise the next morning, and what a pleasant surprise to wake up in a place like this. Needless to say the rods were setup in a flash and they hit the water like a flock of coots. Andrew was on form. He was using his go-to-fly, the Viva Tadpole and it was proving irresistible to the yellows. On their second night the guys were joined by Kyle and Reese’s uncle, Roger. It was a jolly night with no shortage of banter and jokes.

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The next morning the guys headed upriver in search of some fish, despite some superficial injuries and throbbing heads. They worked their way up onto beat 3, checking every run and pool, leaving no stone unturned. As luck would have it, Kyle took his eyes off the water for a couple of seconds and spooked three massive fish that were chilling in the skinny water of the skate park section. Unfortunately those fish were not going to give them second chance, and no other fish gave them a chance either.

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We made a trip down to the Malibamatsu to go and tease out some big lunkers below the dam wall. While the others were focussed on going deep, Reese was keen to entertain himself with a dry fly and a couple of small trout, and he was not disappointed. Reese proudly explained to us that one of his victims was the smallest trout that he had ever caught in his life and used his index finger to give us an idea of scale. Although it provided amusement for the group there was something admirable about his attitude towards the tiny trout. He was as happy about the small fish as he was about big ones that came out and that is a trait that all fly fishermen should have.  Despite the fact that Reese got his personal best ‘smallest fish’, the rest of the day out on the Malibamatsu went quite well, everybody caught a couple of fish and the guys came back to camp all smiles.

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The rains came on the morning of their third day, it was proper rain and much needed. Kyle and Reese returned home, this time with their passports nearby. Matthew and I braved the cold and took on the pocket water of beat two. It was not too long before sanity took over and we retired to camp. Deon and Andrew on the other hand were sticking it out on the estuary, with some good results I might add. That evening Andrew spent time behind the vice restocking his box with Viva Tadpoles while I was turning out orange Zonker Minnows for Matthew.

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Andrew’s faith in the Viva Tadpole was commendable. Despite the fact that there were no tadpoles around he fished it with confidence and it worked for him. The tadpoles had the yellows going mad, but the trout were not as interested, so I suggested a change. A change sometimes makes all the difference. I tied up one of my Double Strip Dragons for Andrew, told him to try it and the result was a beautiful brown trout and the cherry on top of a great trip. Viva!

Tight loops

Johann

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May 06

Makhangoa Community Camp: 24 April – 2 May 2016

Over the last week the fishing in Lesotho was slow and the ongoing pressure of the drought is taking its toll on this world-class fishery. There is no need to sugar-coat it, conditions are tough, very tough and without some serious changes in the weather these conditions are unlikely to improve. Despite this bleak picture that I am painting there were some real highlights for the last two groups. It was a week of personal bests for our guests.

Neil and Jeremy were the first to cash in on the riches of the Katse Dam. In general they had some slow fishing sessions on the estuary, the fish were not smashing large streamers like they did the weeks before. The tactics had to change. Neil was determined to crack the code so he tried just about everything from baitfish to buzzers, but in the end the trusty old bloodworm did the trick. Neil fished it statically below an indicator and it got swallowed by a brute of a rainbow trout that tipped the scale at 9lb. This slab of a fish was released in good health after a quick photo and is lurking in the deep waters of the estuary once again.Neil 91b1

On their next session it was Jeremy’s turn to fool the fish. The fish were no longer interested in tiny flies, but were feeding on larger prey again. With a large black SF Minnow, Jeremy succeeded in landing a couple of lovely fish, they weren’t anywhere near 9lb but it was good enough to put a smile on his face. Neil and Jeremy left in good spirits and have already made plans to return next season.

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Cobus and his wife Jil came all the way from Maun, in Botswana, to tame the trout. Cobus was keen to catch a new personal best river fish and I was keen to give him the chance to do so. They had a fruitless first session on the estuary so we decided to head out to the Malibamatsu River the next morning. A recent landslide had changed the river drastically and some of the finest pools were silted up, but luckily the plunge pool below the dam wall was still as good as always. Jil was struggling to cast her setup so Cobus offered to give her his rod to fish with and as he was stripping his line back to hand her the rod a river fish of note attached itself to the other end of the line. It was a 5lb rainbow trout that nearly pulled the rod out of Cobus’ hands. It was by far the best river trout that he had ever caught; it was in perfect condition, beautifully marked and a wild as can be. A personal best in all aspects.

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After a lunch at Katse lodge we were back on the river and worked our way downstream. There were hundreds of juvenile trout and it wasn’t long before Jil landed her first fish on the fly. It was a proud moment for both husband and wife. We continued to fish until the last light faded and the cold drove us back to the car. They caught more fish than they care to remember and fish so big that they will never forget.

To them the highlands of Lesotho will remain a place of firsts and personal bests for a long time to come.

Tight loops

Johann

Neil 91b 3

24- 27 April 2016

It was a quiet week in the hills. There were no near death experiences or struggles with poachers, so I think it is safe to say that it was pretty good one too. Byron, Paul, Jason, Tyron, Brandon and Howard arrived on the day of the first big frost of the season and there were high hopes that this would put the trout into migration mode. Tyron made the most of his first session and landed a lovely trout of 19 inches. A couple more trout and a few yellows was enough to put them all in a great mood. It was the first of many cheerful evenings in camp.

On the first morning the valley was laced with glistening crystals and a thick blanket of mist floated up into the mountains. A familiar chat was flitting around, snatching the unsuspecting insects out of the crisp air while some baby trout were stirring up the glossy waters of home pool. The hopes of fooling some big fish were high and the boys were on the water as the first rays broke over the hills. Although the trout were a bit scarce the yellow fish were happy to eat their flies and even the mudfish came to the party. It was a good day for Paul in particular, he landed his personal best muddy and not long after that he got stuck into a bus rainbow trout. It put up an aerial display that would put any tarpon to shame, tail-walking and jumping all over the show. Paul was holding on for dear life and finally got it to the tube. As with so many trout just when you think you have won, it finds a way to spit the hook. Paul was inches away from another personal best fish, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. That evening clouds rolled in bringing much needed rain to the Bokong, not enough to push the dam up but enough to provide some good fishing on their second full day.

 

The burst of fresh water seemed to activate the fish. The slow-go of the previous day was over and the guys were fishing with more confidence. The Mrs Simpson that did the trick for Paul the day before was once again at the wrong end of the food chain. It go smashed up by something big and nasty and was left in tatters. Rumour has it that it was a brute of a trout, we will never know for sure, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Howard was also having a pretty good day on the water, even though he didn’t even realise it. It was only that night at the dinner table that he became aware of his achievement. He showed me pictures on his phone of a pair of jackal buzzards that were feeding on the bank. I then scrolled onto a picture of a brown trout and when I asked him about it he didn’t know that it was a brownie. As it turned out, he had a Lesotho-slam in the bag. Just like that a good day, turned into a great day!

These guys had a good trip despite the ongoing pressure of the drought. There are scores that need to be settled with a couple of big, so a return visit to this lovely place is in order. As winter is setting in I hope to tell more success stories in the very near future.

Cheers for now.

Johann

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