Fly Fishing Isle Saint Marie Madagascar – Day 15
We get up early every day but today I must have wandered out to the beach before 5 AM. It was well before sunrise and the lighting on the water was incredible. After a short walk and some play time with a local lemur, I grabbed my 8-weight and headed for the point overlooking the channel between the Isle Saint Marie and Isle Aux Nattes. By now the sun was up and the locals were in action like they never went to sleep. The pirogue taxis were vigorously shuttling children, fully decked out in their school clothes across the channel. Evidently there’s no school here on Isle Aux Nattes so they make the trip across everyday. That’s a cool school bus alternative! Along with the taxis, the channel was crawling with fisherman. Some were hand lining bait while groups of others were dragging huge nets and tossing a few small fish into the bottoms of their boats – not a good sign.
As I cast away, it was obvious I’d be the talk at school and amongst the local fishermen. The kids and pirogue guides especially, stared and watched my fly line sail through the air both curiously and cautiously. What the heck was this alien doing? Then to show them, even to my surprise because action was truly slow, I got ripped by a fish. At first I thought I really had something good but the run faded fast and it turned out to simply be a scrappy bluefin trevally of about 10”s. That gave me a mental boost but after an hour and a walk around the point, the only other fish I caught was the common blackspot emperor fish, another tiny one. This morning was my realization that there may not be many fish here.
During breakfast with Granny and my new South African friends, I noted that the fishery here could be in trouble. The water is spectacular looking. Water such as this in Belize or Christmas Island would be crawling with fish. And the Seychelles, a mere 1000 miles away, is one of saltwater fly fishing’s best, but here seems not only slow, but nearly void of fish.
After breakfast I actually relaxed (3rd or 4th time now this trip) in a lounge chair in the shade and typed up yesterday’s blog. Time flew and before I noticed it was lunch time. They make some great food here at La Petite Traversée so Granny and I had the cook, Oliver, make us a pizza, and of course we enjoyed a tall Three Horses beer to go with.
During our lunch along came the pirogue boatmen I spoke with briefly last night about fishing today. They were caught up on their taxiing for the day and were ready to make an extra buck by taking me fishing. We negotiated a price of $3 an hour – yes $3 an hour! As you can imagine, with a price like that and I woofed down the rest or my share of pizza, told them let’s fish till sunset and grabbed my gear. Granny opted to stay back and relax.
My guides, Florio and Herman, were super nice guys. Florio spoke reasonably good English while Herman is learning. Both shared the workload of guiding me. While one poled the other paddled and they switched off jobs on occasion. Remarkably, they moved that boat as if they had been guiding fly fishers their whole lives. They were very impressive. And surprisingly, they never questioned my fishing method (remember, they have only seen fish caught by hand line or net) or suggested we fish their way. They just watched and moved the boat and we chatted about the usual things – where the USA is, family and fishing in general.
Casting from the pirogue wasn’t easy. I’ve fished from plenty of dugouts and other strange watercraft my whole life. But usually I stand up and cast from these unstable boats on freshwater. It’s often calm and large rolling waves don’t exist. But on the ocean, in a wobbly pirogue, standing took some practice.
Once I got comfortable, casting was easy and I combed the water column around the coral reef with “old reliable”, the Clouser minnow. About three hours went by like nothing and we hadn’t even a follow. Seriously, we fished to coral head reefs that should have been teaming with life, but zilch. Not a single fish. Then it became apparent why. The fellas asked me to reel in as they were going to move past a particular area. At first I couldn’t figure why, the place looked just like the previous places we fished, but then I saw. I noticed fishermen nets tied from coral head to coral head. I’ve been plenty of places where over fishing is a problem, but this was ridiculous. They were literally netting every fish alive here! Even little tropical fish – yikes!
Let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of confidence from that point onward. And being the person I am, I started lecturing Florio and Herman about how bad netting coral heads was. They had a simple answer, “we must eat”. Well, there’s no doubt about that statement. It’s the way of the world. What can you say? Nothing. I just swallowed hard and thought to myself, “okay man, this area is more beautiful than anywhere I can remember, relax and enjoy it. I’m lucky to be here. Lucky I can leave and fish places that are full of fish. And lucky to be from the USA”. The world is full of places like this and I aint gonna change it. So I went back to my casting and prayed for a miracle. I wanted to catch and release a fish more than you can imagine!
I, Florio and Herman had a great time this afternoon. We had some great conversation and they worked as hard to please me as any fishing guide I’ve ever been with. They were fantastic. And best of all, I caught a fish! It was the smallest grouper I think I’ve ever caught. Juveniles like this are difficult to identify but the three of us are pretty sure it’s a baby Malabar grouper. The fishing trip was a success!
As usual, we just finished up another great night around La Petite. Granny and I and our adopted family of South Africans just enjoyed a fun cocktail hour and a massive seafood feast. This place really does it right. Now we are exhausted. The evening rains have started and it’s time for bed.