If you’ve ever spent some time fly fishing on the Indian Ocean atolls, chances are you would have heard one of your guides use the word “Frommel”. Frommel is an Afrikaans word that directly translates to “crumple”. It’s an expression they use when a client folds or crumples under pressure and botches a chance at a fish.
“Frommeling” is part of the experience and everyone does it, even the guys who have seen it all before and spent countless hours on the flats will tell you a story of an epic Frommel they had. It happens when a sudden rush of adrenalin courses through your body and your usual calm collected self turns into an overzealous, stumbling buffoon, casting high-velocity projectiles at tailing fish. It happens with a split-second lapse in concentration when you cast the fly just too far at the last second or lift the rod on the hook set. Everyone Frommels.
Shallow saltwater flats are where fly anglers frommel more than in any other fishing situation. One of the hardest things to do is to maintain composure when a trophy fish, the kind that makes you Instagram famous, appears within casting range and your guide starts barking instructions. It’s what makes sight fishing on the flats so damn exciting, and you have to fluff a few shots to appreciate the fish when you finally land it. You also learn a lot with every fish you miss.
On a trip to St Brandon’s atoll with the FlyCastaway crew, I had my fair share of “frommels”. It’s not every day you get to stand 40 feet away from the holy grail of fly fishing in ankle-deep water with his golden sickle waving in the air. If I’m being honest the moment might have been a little too big for me and when I eventually found my grove, followed the advice of the skilled guides, and put the right casts in to get the fish to react, the fish would turn at the last second or just refuse to eat the fly… But that’s permit fishing I’m told. It was a frustrating session on the flats and will haunt me for a long time until I can settle the score.
What all the “Frommels” did do was prepare me for some of the best shallow water sight fishing I have ever experienced. Halfway through our trip, the weather changed dramatically, the usual strong winds that guides and anglers have come to expect from St Brandon’s disappeared, and 3 days of complete flat calm settled over the Atoll. We found ourselves wading in water barely covering our boots and spotting tails a hundred meters out. The bonefish were swimming single and tailing hard on yellow flat on the pushing tide, it’s what saltwater fly fishing dreams are made of.
Because of the calm conditions, the bonefish were on high alert and we couldn’t get too close, it called for some long shots and pinpoint accuracy, luckily, we had lots of casting practice the days prior. When the bonefish are tailing hard with their heads down you have to present the fly as close as possible for them to pick it up. Leading the fish and having them swim on to the fly simply won’t do the trick in this situation. Sight fishing nirvana is the word that comes to mind when I think back on those 3 days of flat calm conditions on the flats of St Brandon’s.
The Bonefish fishing is world-class on this particular Atoll not just because of the way you target them but also the quality of the size fish you catch. Four-to-six-pound fish is the average, but double figures are very common at St B’s and due to the cooler water temps, all of them fight like they are possessed, reminding you constantly what fly reel backing looks like and what saltwater fish are capable of.
The giant predators that swim around this Atoll account for a fair share of “Frommels” themselves, mainly because they don’t appear as often as they do on some other Atolls but when they do appear, they are usually big ones that tend to buckle the knees of even the most seasoned anglers. Unfortunately, I did not get a clear shot at one of the infamous St B’s GT’s but I did bump into a monster Bluefin cruising around a coral flat that could have easily been a GT, at a fork length of 87cm it was one of larger specimens I’ve encountered and gave my twelve weight rig a good run for its money.
As far as world-class saltwater fly fishing destinations go, St Brandon’s ticks all the boxes, it has just the right mix of remoteness, tropical allure, and trophy specimens that will leave even the well-traveled rod wielders satisfied. Yes, you will “Frommel” and yes you might get a little frustrated, maybe even cry a little but you will catch a trophy and be proud to send it to the “gram”.