Category: Travel Blog (page 1 of 11)

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.

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…

Lazy Boyz

To tube or not to tube is a shouldn’t be a dilemma.

Although targeting Trout from the bank and stalking a fish is the way to go on arrival at any dam (as long as you get their at the proverbial crack of), to not jump in your float tube when fishing any decent sized dam is just limiting your options.

The design of any established still water means that accessibility is limited from the bank, very often the dam wall and one side of the still water being your only vantage point from which to cast. And even if you have 360 degree access and can throw a line like the late Lefty Kreh, you’re still only prospecting the fringes around the bank.

So when that sun starts to raise it’s bright head and you’ve exhausted the sight casting opportunities should you jump into their domain and enjoy your floating Lazy Boy.

And to catch any fish, you have to find them first.

No matter how great your cast, how perfect your presentation….even if you’ve got that sure thing fly pattern……if you’re fishing in the wrong area, then you might as well be on dry land, so you should always take a moment to survey the water and plan your attack…..and I revolve my approach around the structure.

Any structure affords fish cover or protection and this refuge is often also a habitat for aquatic life on which they feed. So look for rocky outcrops, overhanging trees or any variation in the dam floor. Not all structure is visible, so if you can, get a height vantage point, aside from helping you to spot moving fish in clean water, you’ll get to see what lies below.

A lot of anglers moan about weed, but a dam without weed can’t support an adequate population of insects or Trout food. Weed is a fly fisher’s friend, (in more ways than one). Find the weed beds and you will find the fish under, alongside or within striking distance thereof. You need to find the spaces in between, so if you’re in float tube, anchor yourself in the middle of the weed and cast into the channels or holes.

You want to put your fly on the edge,  so the advantage of a tube, is that you can cast into the weed bed…..you can also cast onto the bed and bring it over the edge, or you can cast along the wall of the weed, fishing the length of the channel .

Don’t overthink it, just work the spaces in-between.

Every dam has an inlet, this might be just catchment run off or fed by a natural spring, either way Trout naturally gravitate towards running water, which brings with it fresh nutrients and above all else oxygenates the water, so this is always a good bet on looking for moving fish.

It’s easy to find, but often not easy to access, it will inevitably be shallow, hence approach slowly, because in thin water you’ll only get a cast or two….so make it count.

Conversely is the outlet or spillway.  If there is a running outflow then this moving water will be an attraction to fish, but even the inert spillway of the dam represents a structural change in which you’ll find moving fish. Here the fish will have a drop off, just off the shallow spillway in which to lurk, so a cast just into this change in depth can sometimes be very rewarding.

Both the inlet and outlet of a dam are the shallow areas and in low light, both at dusk and dawn, you will often find fish brave enough to be milling in these areas

Use the technology at your fingertips, all of this can be done with a simple Google map search, well before you arrive at your venue, so you’re not wasting time on guesswork….you go in with a plan….doing the groundwork for your next fishing adventure is half the fun anyway, so enjoy this preparation.

What depth the fish are at depends largely on time of day and water temperature.  Figuring this out, if not evident by rising / feeding fish, then simply work the water column. I usually start at the top and work my way down, but when you figure out where the Trout are in the water column you’ll know what line and fly weight to use.

In low light they’re near the surface and in bright sunny conditions you’ll find them a lot deeper

When you’re in the right zone, accuracy and presentation trumps distance, you’ll be surprised how many fish are within 10 meters of the edge of where you’re positioned. Now I love casting, but no angler has caught a fish with his fly in the air, so don’t spend more time trying to make longer casts….the basic maths tells you that the more your fly is in the water the more fish you will catch.

Focus on putting the fly in the right spot as gently as possible….to much casting simply scares fish in the vicinity.

Retrievals depends on fly and line selection and there’s no definitive right or wrong way, my fast and your slow can be worlds apart and how short or long you strip is very subjective, let alone the pause in-between.

Remember to hang your fly. By simply lifting your rod slowly with about 8 meters of line still in the water (most fly lines have a hang marker), changes the angle of the fly through the water column, which often induces the strike, if a fish is following……and you’d be amazed how many fish follow without you knowing!

What fly works has fuelled more debates on bar stools than I care to remember and there’s a library of books to prove it. Colour and how the fly swims are my main criteria when it comes to streamer selection. Obviously only when you enjoy some success with a particular pattern do you gain the required confidence, which is key to stop you changing flies too frequently.

My simple rule of thumb is try keep your fly in the water longer, again logic dictating that you can’t catch a fish with your fly out of it.

So, Let the fish find your fly…..this is a pearl that only after chasing too many trout have I begun to truly appreciate.

Eden Bleu

The Seychelles has become the go to place for fishermen who want to experience wild, untouched fishing in a pristine environment. The island nation consists of a hundred and fifteen islands, scattered over a large area of the Indian ocean. The capital city, Victoria, is on the main island of Mahe’, as is the country’s international airport.

Just off Mahe’ is a fifty-six-hectare man-made island and marina with accommodation in the form of penthouses, townhouses and apartments. Also on Eden island is the magnificent four-star Eden Bleu hotel. The hotel rooms either have garden views or views over the island’s beautiful marina.

The Eden Bleu hotel is the perfect jumping off point for trips to the Seychelles outer islands, when one needs to overnight on Mahe’ prior to or after a visit to one of the remote destinations. Day fishing trips can be undertaken from Eden Bleu, where one can be taken out to the drop off of Mahe’s plateau. This involves a boat ride of around thirty-five miles each way.

Fishing some of the outer coral atolls is spectacular and is generally reserved for fly fishing. Most of this is done on the flats around the islands and species such as bonefish, permit, triggerfish, milkfish, GTs and many others can be caught. Most of the fishing is sight fishing and is some of the most exciting fishing experiences that one could possibly experience are to be had. 

The fishing around the drop off is excellent. This normally takes the form of trolling, jigging or popping with strong gamefishing tackle. Big gamefish such as marlin and sailfish, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, dorado, wahoo and giant trevally are commonly caught in this remote and isolated area.

The drop off, as the name implies, is a massive underwater wall, coming up from the depths of the ocean, to around 30m from the surface. There is excellent fish holding structure along the drop off and plenty of current upwelling to bring nutrients up from the depths, which results in plenty of filter feeding baitfish being present in the area.

Charters out of Mahe’ offer either a day trip, or one can undertake to spend a night on board a bigger vessel out on the dropoff. Apart from the excellent fishing, the area also has world class scuba diving and snorkeling, which can be arranged with charter operators.

Eden Bleu hotel is luxurious and comfortable, with free WiFi, flat screen TV’s, spacious rooms and spectacular views. Meals can be taken in the hotel’s Marlin Bleu restaurant, which offers meals all day. Meals are typically prepared from fresh produce sourced on and around the island. Bountiful seafood is one of the hallmarks of this establishment and the delicate flavours of Seychelles cuisine can be explored here.

Eden Bleu is very conveniently located, only a five minute drive from the international airport and 5 kilometres from the capital, Victoria. It has conference facilities and can be used as a wedding venue for those wishing to tie the knot in paradise.

Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island

Luxury in Paradise

Every once in a while we do a fishing trip where we stay somewhere so ridiculously luxurious, that I feel guilty walking into my room all salty and sweaty after a day’s fishing. The upside, of course, is that I get a super comfortable night’s rest and wake up refreshed and strong.

One of these destinations is the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island. In keeping with the Four Seasons standards, the hotel is a luxurious five star resort. It is situated on the beautiful Desroches private island, with 14 kilometres of exclusive, white coral sand beaches and surrounded by the stunning blue Indian Ocean.

Transport around the island is on bicycles and golf carts, which one can use to access remote and isolated beaches, the giant tortoise sanctuary and numerous other points of interest. Rooms are privately appointed, and fitted out with king sized beds, huge bathrooms, private balconies and a mini bar.

Exploring the fishing around the island on foot, or by bicycle is a real Robinson Crusoe experience, with walks down stunning white beaches. Fish that can be caught in the shallow, clear water, include a variety of trevally species, bonefish, threadfin and a whole lot of tropical reef associated species.

Offshore fishing on the sport fishing boats is exceptional, as the atoll is surrounded by deep water. Species such as sailfish, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, wahoo, giant trevally and dorado are common in the waters around the island. Boats are fully equipped with trolling equipment and also have some spinning gear on board.

A day trip to the nearby St Joseph’s atoll is a must for fly fishermen. Walking the flats on St Joe’s is a marine wilderness experience. Between casting the fly at species such as bonefish, triggerfish and permit, one can enjoy sights of turtles, rays and sharks literally swimming around your feet.

Snorkelling and scuba diving on the reefs around Desroches is world class. The only visitor to these reefs are guests of the hotel, so coral is pristine and untouched and the fish are undisturbed. With warm water one can spend hours exploring the reefs and swimming with all manner of beautiful sea creatures.

A climb up the lighthouse for an elevated view of the island and its surrounds is well worth while. In fact I would recommend taking a few beverages up there to enjoy a sunset in breathtaking surroundings.

Meals at the resort are a gastronomic experience unparalleled in my experience. With a huge variety offering anything from cheeseburgers and Pizza, to the most decadent and delicious seafood treats one can imagine or something as exotic as veal and truffles.

A trip to Desroches is definitely one that you would want to do with your significant other. The resort and its facilities are too luxurious and romantic to be wasted on a single fisherman. I know that if I go there again I will definitely be taking my wife with me.

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