The pace has slowed here on the beaches of Oman for us Currier’s. I got up before sunrise and walked the beach with my 9-weight but unless there was a protruding tail I wasn’t looking that hard. But I very much enjoyed watching the hundreds of marauding dolphin slashing bait balls in front of camp.
After my walk I felt no rush for fishing. I made coffee and Granny and I enjoyed the morning drink then went right into a major breakfast feast over the fire. We had eggs, potatoes with tomatoes and peppers and left over pompano from last night’s dinner. A bunch of greedy camels watched as if they wanted some. It was a good thing we protected the food because little did I know, in the very near future I would require plenty of nourishment.
The beaches are so clean and beautiful here walking barefoot isn’t a worry. Granny and I did the slow beach walk for permit for an hour. I had my second excellent shot of the trip but once again I couldn’t fool the fussy fish.
At the end of the beach we came to some rocks. I told Granny I was going to peek up around the corner. Barefoot and rocks don’t usually mix but these rocks were smooth. It was beautiful water and I blind cast my crab and sunk it along the dark blue edges but nothing showed. That’s when I heard Granny shout, “Those pompano things! Those pompano things again! Cast! Cast!”
Sure enough further down the rocks six Africanus (Trachinotus africanus) tails protruded the surf. They were feeding on the clinging mussels and naturally in the worst place imaginable. You could only see their shinny tails when they were between waves. The breaking surf was wicked and I was barefoot.
I barreled out of my spot to gain higher ground to assess the situation. I took a bad hit as I reached dry rocks. My common sense said get your OceanTek boots, but my instincts said don’t waste time idiot! This rare opportunity was now or never.
Once to high ground I had a clear view of the southern pompano. They were going nuts and I decided to barefoot my way to them. Yesterday’s lame pursuit wasn’t happening again. This time it was all or nothing. I organized my fly line for a beating and waded as carefully as I could around the sharp mussels and rocks and made my cast. I was balancing in the pounding waves by a thread.
I made my cast without fear. I landed it right in the faces of all six feeding pompano. They would either spook, eat my fly or I’d be terribly snagged. The biggest tail whipped around and demolished my fly!
Nothing messes with adult Africanus. I’m sure he felt the same prick he often does with eating crabs. Instead of taking off, he wallowed as if it was another day in paradise. In order to keep tension I started stripping him towards me. It was the last thing I wanted because I was dragging him deeper into the rocks. I wanted him to run out to the sea.
What happened next was a blur. All I know is that my 9-weight was raised as high as I could lift it in my left hand and I was down for the count looking for my next breath. A rogue wave bounced off the rocks from behind and knocked me down. I was underwater pushing off the rocks with my right hand struggling to get to my feet. I was hurt but there wasn’t time for it. The Africanus wasn’t wallowing anymore, he was 100 yards gone and still going but somehow my tippet cleared the rocks and mussels!
I limped my way back to the rocks with my rod high. I had my back to my fight. I simply wanted high ground as fast as I could get it to save my body from more thrashing and most importantly to get my backing as high and away from the rocks as possible.
As I pressed for higher ground I could see my blood splatting on the rocks. I saw Granny cringing. There was no time for it. “Get the camera!” I shouted!
I turned to my fish and was delighted to see my backing was high and clear of the rocks and mussels. The next problem was my 9/10N Abel was nearly empty of backing. I tightened my drag to the max and although the Africanus kept pulling it slowed him.
There was a break in the rocky shore and a small beach about thirty feet from my perch on the rocks. That’s where I needed to be. By now I’d stopped the Africanus so I pulled him as I went for this beach. He was more than 200 yards away. The rocks gradually thinned.
When I got to the beach it lowered me and my backing was skimming off the rocks where I’d hooked the Africanus. I speed waded out as far as I could. By miracle it was a gradual drop and wading to my chest put me past the rocks. Unless there was a hidden obstacle out to sea I had this rare fish under control.
For the next twenty minutes I did the bullying. Inch by inch then foot by foot I regained my backing. If you’ve ever fought a big permit, this was the exact same fight. Soon I saw my fly line to backing knot cutting the water not too far from me.
When I got my line on the reel was a relief. I trust my knots but now the exhausted pompano was close in comparison to the start of this battle. I began backing up to the beach. When I got there he sensed the rocks where I originally hooked him and surged. My only defense was to clamp down and trust my 30lb flouro. I survived yet another near catastrophe.
That was the last fight in the southern pompano. I lifted and reeled repeatedly gaining ground fast. Granny and I could see this beast for the first time. His size was shocking. He was at least three feet long and two feet wide. What a creature!
At last I had him fifteen feet away. We were making eye contact. His eyes weren’t as dark as a permits but there was a life story and no doubt he was sizing me up. I waited for the next big wave to surf him up on the beach. The Africanus was beaten, floating on his side waiting for this to end. He was getting released but of course that’s beyond him. Certainly he thought his life was over. Then the wave I needed came towards the beach.
My timing was perfect. I’ve surfed many big fish up on beaches. This was routine. But what happened next will haunt me to my grave. As the wave progressed under the huge Africanus I pulled to begin surfing him up the beach. To my horror the fly pulled out. Before I could think to grab him he bit by bit up righted and swam little by little away. We watched him go.
Shock was the first emotion that took effect. Certainly I’ve lost incredible fish before. But never a fish of this caliber. I’d survived so many hindrances from rocks at hook up, the backing stealing run and the fight itself. And I’m in Oman. Fishing has been tough this entire trip. This fish had to be caught.
I went through the whole cycle of emotions. When the shock left I got angry. Then I felt sorry for myself. Then I didn’t want to fish anymore. I needed a beer but that wasn’t happening. Then finally, an hour later, I said lets go find more Africanus.
After Granny tended to my wounds we hopped in the rental and returned to where we saw the Africanus yesterday. There were none. Then we hit every similar looking habitat we could see within 50 km of camp. There were none. I was so possessed we packed up camp and continued driving south and looked at every spot within 200 km. There were none.
At 4 PM I was done. I snapped out of it. I wasn’t possessed anymore. The Africanus was gone and it was time to move on. If only it “hadbeen”. We were close to the city of Salalah, Oman, the last before Yemen. We decided to check it out and resupply our cooler and maybe get that fuel canister we’ve been after for days.
Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing