There was a lot of rain through the night. And I woke up with a sore bruised left hand from taking the reel handle many times over on that first ginormous tarpon run last night. We sped to the estuary mouth under ominous skies before dawn. We had high expectations but the only fish caught was this striking longfin jack that I picked off out of the one and only feeding frenzy we saw. There were no tarpon and the tarpon tide was over before 7 AM.
The sun came out and the six of us headed for the estuary itself in three boats. Mike and I were with the non English speaking boatman Ted. No English may sound bad but there’s always good communication in fishing. And Ted gets it. What I mean is when we could barely see jacks busting a half mile away, Ted started the motor and worked us quietly into position to cast to them.
As strange as it sounds, when I first started fishing in Belize in the late 80’s jacks were considered a trash fish. Jack crevalle for instance simply took too much time to land because of their powerful circling manner of fighting. I was in my 20’s and fell in love with them and it’s never ended. I’m happy to say that finally anglers have woke up to the fact that jacks are superb fish on fly.
Not only that, jacks love the popper, they’re good looking, cooperative and usually plentiful. Although they still wear you out, with today’s equipment we land them a lot faster. I’ve caught many jack species from around the world including many of the trevally, but these longfin jacks, unique to the equator section of West Africa, have been a real eye opener. Mike and I boated at least ten big longfin jacks – enough that my shoulder could use a massage. These are truly a stunning new species I’ve experienced this week.
It wasn’t only our boat. All three boats chased the jacks around and caught a bunch. I looked over at John and Conrad and several times they were doubled up. It was a fun fish-busting-break after three days working for a fish a session at the estuary mouth.
The busting jacks settled as it became scorching hot around 9 AM. That’s when Ted took us against the jungle banks to throw streamers for snappers and grunter. The grunter here is almost the same as the one I tried hard for in South Africa back in November. The most obvious difference is that this one is a lot easier to catch. His name is the sompat grunter (Pomadasys jubelini). Anytime we saw a sand flat we’d bounce a Clouser along the bottom and sure enough you’d see their shadow tailing on your fly. It was really fun.
The snapper fishing was stellar as well. I love the snapper family of fishes and if you read the blog you’ve seen me smile with some beefy pargo from Baja and bohars from Sudan. You need a strong leader and a rod angle that allows you to stop the fish dead in his tracks. Let him run and he’ll break you off in the rocks and snags every time.
The snappers we caught this morning were small but gorgeous. Most were baby African cubera snapper but we also caught the Gorean Snapper (Lutjanus goreensis) and me possibly a brown snapper. I’m working on the identification with my friend Ed Truter who not only spent more time fishing the waters of Gabon than anyone I know but Ed knows his fish.
We fished an extra hour on the morning session and returned to camp around 11. We were starved and thirsty and we crushed a few Régabs over a delicious lunch. I haven’t mentioned it but the food here at Sette Cama Camp is absolutely delightful.
Our tides are not as favorable as they were when we arrived and some tweaking to the usual fishing program is in order. Mark broke out some maps and we all hovered around and planned the evening fishing based on species. There’s nothing more exciting than breaking out the map on an exploratory mission. We have an incredible group here and some great plans developed.
Heavy rain fell during afternoon nap time. It’s hard to wake up after the pitter-patter off a metal roof for an hour. Luckily the storm downed to a sprinkle and we left at 5 for the mouth of the estuary. We had a similar plan to last night only Garth anchored in the boat and Conrad, John and I worked an area that just came right tonight to try for big cubera snapper. Mike and Arno went to the point for threadfin and tarpon.
When we got there however, the tide was still coming in. This pushes lots of clear saltwater into the estuary. Mark has learned that this is the opposite of what the Gabon fish like. We had one hour before the tide changed to outgoing so rather than waste energy fishing when it wasn’t happening, we relaxed and patiently waited. A good tip here for all my readers.
Prime time started at dark. I was sitting on a log getting splashed at high tide one minute and ten minutes later the water dropped significantly and a huge current back out to sea ripped. This current line in particular is where Mark’s clients have caught huge cubera snapper on plugs over the years. We went to work with our 12-weights, sinking lines and bushy flies that resemble some of the commonly used plugs.
It didn’t take long for hook up. Conrad went tight and like we often do John and I ran over to help. It was too cloudy for moonlight so it helps when friends show up with headlamps. We knew right away this was a snapper on because Conrad was nearly getting pulled out to sea. We try as hard as we can not to let these brutal cuberas run much because guaranteed, they will find something to shave your leader on. Soon Conrad was posing with his prize cubera. Notice the fly creation from lunch worked!
An hour went by after Conrad’s cubera without any action at all. We migrated to the point where Mike and Arno hadn’t touched a fish all evening. We began dredging hoping for a threadfin. John pulled out a solid and spectacularly colorful cubera but that was our only fish for the next two hours. We reeled it in and like last night hovered around the cooler for dinner on the beach.
Meanwhile, while we worked out tails off on the beach, Garth was at work anchored from the boat like John and I did last night. He not only landed a tarpon from the boat but jumped ten others and landed a threadfin! We were starting to think my threadfin was a miracle but they actually do still exist. More hope for everyone for the next two days!
A special thanks to my friends of Tourette Fishing – Fight it in Africa for inviting me on this unreal trip!