I had a rough night of no sleep. It was a mix of excitement of being here in the Seychelles, adjusting to a twelve hour time change and a big time congestion deal moving in my head. I got up a 4:30 and slipped out on the porch to work on the blog. I was absolutely munched by mosquitoes and every other insect to pass by. Day 2 began a little shaky but with a stunning sunrise.
I’m fishing with everyone in my group this week and today I went out with Mark Rangitsch of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Our guide was young Brendan Becker of South Africa who’s quickly making a name for himself as one of FlyCastaway’s tops. With low tide rushing out we headed for an area called the wreck. Just like yesterday I held back while Brendan guided Mark onto the flat. Once they set off in a direction I cruised the opposite.
The dropping tide wasn’t ideal upon the start and I cruised a mile of flat with hardly a cast. I saw a couple of yellowmargin triggerfish (caught my first in Sudan last March) but neither paid interest. However, I picked up a new species. He’s nothing incredible and I found out later he’s a pest. It’s known as the blacktip grouper, redbanded grouper, also known as the redbarred rockcod. At 10 AM in the distance I could see Brendan waving me to join him and Mark.
Brendan and Mark had about the same luck as I. But we were entering prime time and Brendan suspected the arrival of bump head parrotfish (bumpies) on the flats just as low tide occurred and high tide began to rush in. As we waited Brendan posed with this nice bluefin trevally I picked off on the crab.
The deal on the bump head parrotfish is this. Unless you’ve fished in the Seychelles you probably haven’t heard of them. Most North American flats anglers haven’t because bumpies aren’t found in the Caribbean. But in the Indian Ocean, particularly in the Seychelles, bumpies are considered a prize.
Bumpies are hard to catch. They’re incredibly spooky. These oversized parrotfish nearly always feed in schools. Every fish does their job of eying for predators. Anything suspicious sets off the alarm and the entire school goes running.
Like most parrotfish, bumpy heads feed on the coral, only occasionally eating crabs and shrimp. Already, the best crab fly in your box only draws the infrequent look from a bumpy. And if you get one to eat your fake, good luck hooking him. All parrotfish have a hard coral busting beak for a mouth with very little soft tissue for a hook to stick.
If you’re lucky enough to get a bumpy to eat and hook up – good luck landing him. Bumpies thrive amongst coral heads and coral cuts tippet and fly line like a knife. You must be blessed to find feeding bumpies at least a few hundred yards from their normal territory. Even so, the strength of a bumpy is amazing and he will do his best to get home and break you off. A 9-weight with 200yds of backing is a must. All this and your tackle still may not be enough.
As predicted, the first bumpies wandered onto the flat with the first push of the incoming tide. They were monsters, each likely over 50lbs. Mark and Brendan went to work getting in position to cast. I waited not far from them hoping for some bumpies of my own. Sure enough some smaller ones came.
For all flats fish I have an aggressive approach. Basically I get my fly to them fast. I can’t tell you how many times I fancy footed around casting short or too far ahead of feeding fish only to have them leave before ever seeing my fly. I went on hot pursuit of these bumpies.
By the time I got in range I could see eight bumpies. I dropped my crab amongst them several times. One bumpy gave my fly a hard look but he refused. Then they moved away to unreachable deep water.
My chase wasn’t over. I could see the bumpy school. Sure enough they came back shallow and I got another few cast. This time, one bumpy in particular broke from the school and took a good hard look at my fly. He tailed and I waited for a pull but no such luck. He spun and went back to his friends. I cast specifically to him again. Again he showed interest. This time, rather than waiting for him to pick up the fly I did a long very slow strip. Suddenly I felt resistance and saw my line taking off to the right. I lifted the rod and the bump head parrotfish was on!
A belly bruising battle began. I was using my Winston 9-weight SX and my Abel Super 9/10N. At first I let the bumpy make a run but as expected he stayed with his school and headed for the coral. I cranked the drag on my Abel as far as it would go. My new Titan Taper line made a crackling sound as it left the reel but soon it was replaced by the smoother sound of backing zipping through the guides.
By now Brendan and Mark were cheering and running my way. My bumpy looked to be about 25lbs and there was no way I’d be landing him myself. I still couldn’t quite stop the bumpy but I managed to steer him clear of several large corals. Finally I broke him from the school, the first sign of progress in bumpy battle.
About eight minutes passed. My leader was straight 30lb Scientific Anglers Flouro. I was putting the heat on this bump head parrot. I was literally dragging him back on to the flat and towards me. Brendan shouted, “Wow Jeff! I’ve never seen a bumpy go down so fast! It wasn’t over but it was close. “Roll him over to prove to me he’s tired and I’ll go for him”, announced Brendan. I did just that and Brendan slipped a harness into the bumpies mouth and grabbed the tail with his other hand. I had my bumpy on the fly!
It’s hard to explain the great feeling of meeting the goal so early in the trip. I was thrilled as I admired my first bump head parrot. His colors were unique, his scales were huge, and the mouth on him dangerous. I could hold him fine by the tail and he posed well for pictures. Overall the strange fish had a lot of personality and all the time I held him he was making a funny high pitched grunting noise. When I released him he swam away like some sort of cartoon character fish waving his pectoral fins up and down in the strangest fashion. What an awesome experience!
I went blank for the next half hour. I was taking in my moment. Ten days ago I was carp fishing in Arizona with no idea I’d be going to the Seychelles. Now here I was with a long awaited species under my belt 8,000 miles from home.
Mark and Brendan continued their pursuit of the larger bumpy school but no luck. I’d been extremely lucky to get a bump head to eat and then actually land him. An hour went by and the tide got too high for further wading.
Mark and I requested a look for some bonefish and permit. We went for a boat ride back towards camp and settled against the beach on the leeward side of the main island. Here there a few finicky permit and massive schools of bonefish. Brendan went overboard to drag the boat along and I got up high to help spot for Mark. It didn’t take long before Mark hooked several nice bonefish.
We just finished up a fine dinner of sushi and grilled grouper. After the lousy night of sleep last night I can hardly keep my eyes open. Stay tuned. . . . Morning will come soon!