Author: Wildfly Travel (page 1 of 9)

Flats Fever

The outer islands of the Seychelles have spawned more fishing tales than the incredible fish populations that it protects. Described by Jacques Cousteau as one of the last sanctuaries on our planet, when you visit the Alphonse group of islands, it takes no imagination to see why.

This salt-water wilderness is far more than one of the finest fisheries in the Indian Ocean, it is a marine reserve that safeguards a diverse array of fauna that will mesmerize you.

We had cracked the envious nod, to join the custodians of this incredible island looking to experience the thrill of sight casting to tailing fish on the flats.

You only have to step off the skiff to introduce yourself to the ghosts that roam these sand flats. And with so many within casting distance, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Regardless of one’s angler prowess, you’re guaranteed multiple casts at the large schools and there’s nothing like the white fox to spin the cobwebs out of your reel.

But the problem with these flats, is that you are distracted by fish in every direction, literally spoiled for choice. Triggerfish are what I was hoping to notch on my species post, but these fish are as skittish as they are prolific. By flapping away sand with their fins or blasting water from their mouth, they uncover mollusks and crustaceans on which to feed and in doing so reveal themselves to the trained eyes of your guides.

But your cast must be on point, with a gentle presentation, leading the foraging Trigger, letting the fish find your fly.

This fish is so deserving of it’s reputation, ploughing into the coral,

regardless of size, they make Tyson look like a clean fighter. So be prepared to make many a cast and enjoy the action.

My fishing cohort on this trip was Scotty Brown and he had his sights set on a particular fish that has eluded many an anglers’ advances. These shoaling plankton feeders deserve their distinction as the hardest fighting fish that frequent the flats and he wasted no time in hooking up. Sadly, his first attempt ended in tears, but undeterred he kept putting his fly in the path of the oncoming traffic until he subdued an absolute beast. As he will readily attest to, his best fight of any fish he’s had on fly.

But if you had to press any of the seasoned guides as to which singular specimen they rate as the game fish that has all the attributes, it would have to be the fish that has frustrated all who have stalked their sickled tails.

My shot was only by virtue of my guide’s eagle eye, coupled with his quick intervention when the line peeling off my reel wrapped around the handle. Nerve racking is an understatement and the relief you experience at seeing the Indo Pacific Permit in the net is only surpassed by your jubilation.

But most battle-hardened fly veterans’ journey to the outer Atolls for the brute that is known as the gangster of the flats. The Giant Kingfish has a reputation that is hard to match in respect to the length’s they will go to chase down your fly.

They’re the biggest bully on this playground and have the power and aggression to prove it. Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to stick a good GT, Scotty managed to land a beauty, giving him the accolade as top dog on this fishing adventure, ticking off every fish he had on his bucket list.

‘You can never pay a good guide enough’, is a well-worn fishing adage that anyone whose been guided into their personal best, will gladly repeat.

Not taking anything away from the skill that it takes to land your fish once hooked, the fact is, irrespective of your fishing quest, such indelible memories can only be made in the right location and with the invaluable help of the men who put you on the spot.

The Land of Fire and Ice

In a country with hundreds of volcanoes of which 30 are in constant turmoil, you might think this an ancient land of upheaval, but it’s quite the contrary, this activity is constantly creating new ground, making Iceland one of the youngest countries in the world.

Characterized by a continual upsurge of water, there isn’t a mountain from which water doesn’t emanate, with springs quickly developing into streams, and the gradient creating powerful rich rivers that feed the surrounding ocean.

Being at the edge of the artic circle these ice-cold waters have created the perfect conditions in which gargantuan fish grow! Prehistoric Browns that have been resident since the ice age, Artic char and a population of migrating salmon that almost defies belief is what had drawn us to sample the majestic lakes and rivers in the Southern region of this remarkable country.

We arrived to picturesque conditions, with clear skies and not a breath of wind, leaving us wondering why we even packed our Winter woolies, but this meant it would be very difficult fishing for the primeval Brown Trout, being our first target species.

We had designed a baby Artic Char pattern, learning that the big fish in these lake systems feed on little else and this soon caught the attention of the cruising Trout.

My fishing mate Shane Fergusson opened his account with a personal best, which is one hell of a way to start a fishing expedition!

But the bright sunshine did not make the fishing easy.

Our guide Mattius was willing the faint hint of changing skyline to bring in the clouds, knowing overcast weather would draw the Browns closer to the shore.

You should always be careful of what you wish for!

Over the next few hours we encountered a weather pattern that was reminiscent of a approaching cyclone, but we had travelled 15000 kilometers to experience lake Thinkvatlavar, so stupidly we took on the elements. But eventually we had to admit defeat and wait it out, until we could actually cast beyond our feet. So, our first session only really kicked off at 4pm.

Dressed to impress Eskimos, as the wind abated we waded in and started casting to the moving Trout. My better half immediately hooked up and also joined Shane in notching up a PB, which was closely followed by Fred Poeggenpoel joining this club.

It was bitterly cold, drizzling rain and exactly what the fish were waiting for. We all know Browns love a miserable day, but in this lake they demand it!

Over the next 4 hours it would not be an exaggeration to say that we hammered the fish, landing 16 incredible Brown Trout, forgetting all about the freezing water in which we were fishing.

My very first cast yielded a 77cm 15lb beast of a Brown and my last cast a 72cm double digit beauty.

Our team didn’t land a fish under 60cm, so understandably you couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces, I can safely say that I have never seen a Trout fishing session like this in my entire life…..it was off the charts.

To exceed every expectation from your first cast is a feat I doubt I’ll ever repeat but it’s certainly one that I’ll never forget. Thankfully I had some great friends to experience it with, which we’ll be celebrating about for many years to come.

From here we were heading to the famous West Ranga Lodge to meet Harpa and Stefan the pioneers behind Iceland Outfitters, hoping to tick off an Artic Char on route before tackling the Atlantic Salmon…….our journey had just begun.

Fifty shades of Blue

The Maldives is in so many ways an unusual and unique country. It consists of 1192 islands scattered over an area of 90 000 square kilometres. Despite this wide-ranging area, the total land surface of the country covers just less than 300 square kilometres. It is the lowest-lying country on earth, with an average height above sea level of just 1.5m and the country’s highest point is a mere 2.5m above sea level. The population of Maldives is less than 400 000 people making it the least populated country in Asia. The nearest landmass to the Archipelago is Sri Lanka, about 750kms away.

We were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the spectacular Como Maalifushi resort, on Thaa atoll, one of the southern atolls of the Maldives. The final leg of our journey involved a scenic one hour flight by sea plane from the main Island of Male’, which took us over a deep blue sea, speckled with numerous beautiful and remote coral atolls. It was an amazing experience taking off and landing on the water.

Upon our arrival at the resort, it was immediately apparent that this place was something special. We were welcomed at the jetty by the resort management, bearing chopped open coconuts with straws in to refresh us with ice-cold coconut water. The water villas, those iconic Maldivian structures, which are built on stilts above the calm clear waters of the ocean, turned out to be just as spectacular as they look in promotional pictures. With air-conditioning, a well-stocked minibar, a private infinity pool and steps down to the water’s edge, each villa is its own private piece of paradise.

Meals at Como Maalifushi are exceptional, with specialist chefs preparing amazing dishes of various cuisines. Some of the highlights were sushi, prepared by a Japanese chef at the Japanese restaurant on stilts above the water, with sharks and fish swimming around below us, which we could admire through a big square cut out in the floor. The seafood evening, with grilled lobster and langoustines, was also amazing, but my favourite was the Thai evening, where I got to eat arguably the tastiest food of my life.

The resort offers a variety of activities, from scuba diving and snorkelling to fishing, paddling kayaks and sailing Hobie cats. The water is as clear as water can get, making any snorkelling or diving an absolutely breathtaking experience, especially as there is such an abundance of tropical ocean life such as turtles, rays, fish and corals to be enjoyed, even by beginners in the shallows. One of the underwater highlights was spending 40 minutes snorkelling up close and personal with two whale sharks at night in the lights of a fishing boat. It was like watching the most incredible underwater ballet, performed by these giant fish.

Fishing involved being poled across the flats by a guide on a skiff, targeting flats specialist species such as trevallies and triggerfish. We also cast lures from the deep towards the reef edges for GT’s, barracuda and snappers. I was very fortunate to get a day fishing on the resort’s 68ft Hatteras Sport Fisher, a luxury motorised yacht with every mod con that you can imagine. This produced a stunning sailfish, which I was able to hold in the water for a few minutes, before letting it slip away to continue with its life in the blue.

All too soon we found ourselves embarking on the sea plane again for our return trip, with cameras full of amazing pictures and minds filled with incredible memories. Como Maalifushi is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. With friendly, attentive staff, spectacular scenery and a luxury resort, where nothing is left to chance, it is definitely up there in my top three places to visit.

Mixing It Up

When it comes to catching big tigerfish, one of the most important considerations is to fish in remote areas that don’t get a huge amount of fishing pressure.

The Barotse floodplains area on the upper Zambezi is just such a place.

I was fortunate enough to visit Matoya lodge in this area in September. Getting to this isolated area involved a flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka on SA Airlink, then a charter flight from Lusaka to Lukulu with Staravia.

The first thing I noticed when I saw the river, was how clean the water was. I have fished the upper Zambezi many times during winter, but this was the latest I had ever visited the area.

The water was about as low as it would go for the season, and very clean indeed by Zambezi standards.

The clean water was pretty to look at, but it looked like it could make lure fishing difficult. Tigers are fish that are seldom leader shy, but in clean water conditions, they can see the trace setup much more clearly and are more likely to be put off the bite.

This thought was confirmed over the next few days fishing, as I tried all my lures and tricks in order to get a decent tiger fish on the line. There were certainly big fish around. I lost two fish in the 15 to 20lb class in the first two days. One took my line around a submerged tree and managed to shake the hook during the resulting chaos.

The other took to the air, well tried to, but was just too heavy to lift its whole body clear of the water. It did enough to get its front half out of the water, then shook its big, armoured head and spat the lure back at me.

I decided to start drifting with a live bait out while I cast lures. Livebait were still a decent bet to get bites from those big, suspicious fish, while lures were going mostly untouched, with thousands of casts resulting in only a handful of hits.

We took some decent sized bottlenoses from the lodge livebait cage and took them with his on our next outing. These were rigged with a single 4/0 Owner Mutu Light circle hook, on a wire trace, through the nose and allowed to drift weightless in the current as we floated down the river and cast lures at good looking structure.

It was interesting to see how many more bites the live bait generated. I guess there is nothing artificial that can completely mimic the scent and movement of a live fish. The tigers hit the baits at speed and ran hard with them. After giving the fish a few seconds to eat, I would turn the handle of the Penn Baitrunner reel and click it into gear. The resulting tension was enough to set the sharp hooks, with no need to strike.

Fishing this way I managed to land some very decent trophy tigers, with the best two being 17.5lbs and 18.5lbs.

These are spectacular fish and I was glad that I had varied up my techniques, in order to experience the privilege of handling giants like that at the boat. Had I just stuck to spinning on this trip I would have had a lot less trophy fish action.

Sometimes it pays to mix it up a bit, especially when conditions are challenging.

Inaugural NCTA Augrabies Falls Fly Invitational

In August this year, twenty-two excited anglers made their way by road and air (on Airlink) from all corners of South Africa to the quaint town of Augrabies in the Northern Cape.

The recently revamped Augrabies Falls Lodge was to be the setting of the 4-day inaugural NCTA Augrabies Falls Fly Invitational.

NCTA Event
Augrabies Falls Lodge

The largest river in South Africa, the Orange, winds its way past the town where it plunges 56 meters down the spectacular waterfall situated within the SANParks reserve.

Augrabies Falls

An unseasonal cold front arrived as predicted, but this didn’t dampen spirits in any way, in fact, other spirits were adequately imbibed, for medicinal purposes of course, and to keep warm in the chilly weather.

Four stunningly beautiful beats (sections of the river) had been identified by Craig Eksteen, owner of Kalahari Outventures, the premier fishing and rafting operators in this region, and co-organizers of the event. Each team of 2 anglers would get to fish all the beats over the 3 days of competition.

Deep slow-moving water, a spectacular unfished gorge within the Park, along with freestone riffles and rapids were all in play, with both SANParks and local farmers generously allowing us access through their private properties for the event.

Orange River Beats

With air and water temperatures plummeting, these hardy fly-fishers were tested to the extreme. Large Mouth Yellowfish are the apex predator in these waters and the scoring system allocated the highest points for landing and releasing one of these prized specimens. Their cousins, the Small Mouth Yellow, Catfish, Carp and Tilapia amongst others, all counting for points on a sliding scale.

Each evening around the fire pits at the Lodge, seemingly endless tales of success and failure were told and retold in the time-honoured tradition of fishermen everywhere.

On day 3, the final day of the comp, it was still anyone’s event to win, but with the weather starting to settle, the cream was coming to the top. Overall, 115 fish were safely caught and released, with the young but experienced team of Eddie Rall and Des Fourie finally taking top honours by some margin, earning them an all-expenses paid guided fishing trip and 2 return Airlink flights anywhere in SA. Eddie also won the best angler award, along with a complete Large Mouth rig kindly sponsored by Xplorer Fly Fishing.

Eddie Rall & Des Fourie – Overall Winners

Amidst much hilarity, booby prizes were presented for those who had not fared quite as well as others, along with some really great travel and tackle prizes for the runners-up.

Wine flowed thereafter, complimenting a fantastic meal served al-fresco on the veranda of the venerable old Lodge, followed by an evening to remember, as new and old friendships alike were cemented in the festive pub.

As the contestants set off for home on the final morning, a group of excited young school children from 3 of the local schools in the area were hosted at the river by SANParks and Kalahari Outventures. Squeals of delight as, in teams of four, they learned to paddle on the water, cast fly lines and understand the link between entomology and flies. Conservation of this wonderful but threatened waterway is of prime importance and the local kids who live in the area need to be part of any solutions going forward.

Local School kids included in the event

All in all, the inaugural NCTA event was great success, with most competitors promising to be back for the 2022 edition, and our thanks must go out to Northern Cape Tourism and the many other wonderful sponsors without whom it would simply not have happened.

Next year’s event (24 to 29 August) will be expanded to include 32 anglers (16 teams of 2) so if you’re a keen fly-angler with a sense of adventure, and a sense of humour, we look forward to seeing you there…

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