A Fly Fishing Day on the Reef to Remember

by | Dec 11, 2018 | fly fishing for snapper | 5 comments

bohar snapperFishing the reef with a fly rod isn’t for everyone.  Its hard walking and not uncommon to get mashed by a wave.  Line management is brutal and many of the fish you hook break you off on the coral.  But to me the rewards are often high enough to deal with the nuisances.  The one person on this trip to Anaa Atoll I’d never met before, Matthew Heumann, feels the same so he and I went on a full day reef walk together.

Matt Heumann flyfishingIt was another beautiful day with blue skies and light wind.  It was perfect for the reef because the breaking waves were small.  And it didn’t take long to learn we made the right choice.  Matt hooked up with a bohar snapper on his first cast.

Bohar SnapperBohars are probably the fiercest fish on the reef.  Yes, a giant trevally will drag you through the dirt and they can reach 80lbs and there are Napoleon wrasses hiding out there over 100lbs.  But pound for pound, the bohars are tough customers.  You better have your 12-weight and a reel that when the drag is set at its tightest doesn’t budge.  Which in turn means you need a fly line that won’t snap and a straight piece of 150lb test for leader.  These fish mean business!

Bohar Snapper, Bauer Fly ReelsWhen I fish in the bohars neighborhood I’m always using my 12-weight Boron III Plus Winston and my Bauer RX 7 Reel with the drag cranked all the way.  You must absolutely have a full floating line and I use the Scientific Anglers Big Water Taper.  This line has a 100lb core.  Then I use a 5 foot piece of 150lb test as my leader and tie on the big Clouser minnow.  Bohars, Napoleons and trevally fear me!

Jeff Currier bluefin trevallyMatt landed his bohar before I ever made a cast.  When I got done taking photos, I wandered down the reef a 100 feet.  As I was pulling line off my reel to make a cast, there was that electric blue color streaking along the reef.  A bluefin trevally on a mission.  I got my line out and fly on him in a nick of time.  Between Matt and I – two casts – 1 bohar and 1 bluefin trevally.  Man did we make the correct choice in fishing the reef today!

Jeff Currier bohar snapper, red bassNo exaggeration, for the next three hours there was hardly a time where one of us wasn’t either hooked up to a bohar or a bluefin trevally.  If one of us wasn’t hooked up, it was only because we were re-rigging.  I got broken off by monsters 5 times!  5 times fishing 150lb test leader!  Here’s a respectable bohar that almost got me.  My leader was severely chafed and the hook on my Clouser was so bent up I had to toss the fly.  But I got him.

fly fishing for Napoleon wrasseMy arms were stretched to the hilt by 11 from yanking on bohars and bluefin.  From 11 till noon I only walked and scanned the drop off the reef hoping to see a Napoleon wrasse to catch.  I saw none.  It’s not to say they weren’t there.  Napoleons are so camouflaged its unbelievable.

Matthew Heumann Anaa AtollMatt continued to battle bohars behind me.  He was enjoying the time of his life.  At noon however he and his guide caught up to me and mine because it was lunch time.  The guides started to cut away from the reef to the island to take up some shade under a palm.  Matt passed me and walked a little further.  Suddenly he crouched and shouted, “Currier!  Currier!  Napoleon!”

Napoleon wrasseI stood motionless waiting for Matt to cast.  Instead Matt kept his eye on the fish and motioned me towards him with his left hand.  I’m not a fool.  I went to a low to the ground crouch and false casted and ran his way.  Disguised or not, I saw this Napoleon with ease.

I still wasn’t sure Matt wasn’t going cast so I hesitated to let my loops go.  But when he said drop it I put my fly right next to the Napoleon.  The fish swam right on by.

The Napoleon didn’t seem spooked or aware of our presence but he was slowly approaching deeper water and I was losing sight.  I dropped my fly at him again just as I lost complete sight of him.  I stripped and hoped.  Then there he was – Napoleon on!

Humphead wrasseChances of landing Napoleon with jagged coral in every direction were slim.  But I wanted this fish so bad that it was I that played dirty.  My evil strategy was to beach him on the reef before he knew he was hooked.  I stripped and ran backwards at lightning speed.  The only problem was that the loose line I stripped in and dropped to the ground got stuck in the reef.

It’s a wonder my momentum didn’t snap my line.  That says a lot for the Big Water Taper.  But it did stop me long enough for the Napoleon to wake up and there he went, right down into a coral hole.  “Noooooooooo!”, I yelled.

Jeff Currier Napoleon wrasseBut I never stopped stripping and by some miracle, Napoleon didn’t dig himself in enough to win.  Instead I got him out and surfed him up on the reef with the next incoming wave.  This Napoleon was a decent one!

Napoleon wrasseI dread the day when I’m asked to paint someone a Napoleon wrasse.  Let’s just say, the prices on my website may not cover the task.  The colors, the warpaint around his eyes, the crazy zigzagging lines on the face and belly and fins are unmatched by anything else I’ve ever seen in nature.  The Napoleon wrasse is a creature to behold!

Anaa AtollAbout as I released my Napoleon Tim and Turner and their guides had met up with our guides and were calling us for lunch.  It was a long hot walk through the palm forest back to the inner atoll where the boats and cold water to drink awaited.  I must say however; the walk didn’t bother me at all!

stocky hawkfishSnappers, groupers and I suspect Napoleons are similar in that when they’re feeding, they’re feeding but when they’re not, they’re not.  After lunch we returned to the reef and it was quiet.  The bite was off.  Matt and I each squeaked out one more bohar and a few wrasses.  The most interesting catch for me was this stocky hawkfish.  The only reason I know this fish is that I caught several in Sudan and it took lots of research to label him (thanks to Ed Truter).

Jeff Currier Global Flyfishing

Me enjoying the sunset with the pet blacktip sharks – Scott Smith photo

Every saltwater trip you hope for one incredible day.  Today was the day.  Yes, the Napoleon was my icing on the cake.  But what Matt and I experienced by catching numerous big bohars and hooking them constantly this morning was a dream.  The Anaa Atoll reef is no less than incredible!

Be sure to keep track of my upcoming 2019 speaking schedule and catch me along the way.

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Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

5 Comments

  1. Mike Dougherty

    Incredible tales that keep me rapt like the best adventure stories. I look forward to every writing. See you on the Fork next June

  2. Jeff

    Thanks for reading Mike! Lots of time goes into these so its always a pleasure to hear back from the readers. One more big day to go. .. .

  3. Tad Einloth

    That was a spectacular day of fishing!

    Tad

  4. Matthew Norton

    Like Mike said… “Incredible tales.” I too am ‘hooked’ like a Napoleon wrasse on a 12 W Winston with SA big water taper and 150 # Test! LOL…150# test… Damn, that looks fun.

  5. Matthew Heumann

    What a day man!! Probably my favorite of the trip. Thanks for writing it up!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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