I slept well and woke up feeling strong today. The full moon was setting. The seas were calm and skies clear. As the sun rose every bird on Farquhar sang which always makes me dread the cold I return to next week at home.
I fished with FlyCastaway guide Wesley De Klerk and my guest Tom Camp from Southern Cal. Tom had a great first two days and he too caught a bumpy head parrot. I packed along my sharpies for the trip and last night took on the challenge of his bump head on his tackle bag. For the first bumpy I think it came out cool.
The tides were exceedingly high as we left for the flats. We had to wait an hour before considering wading. We looked for some golden trevally and giant trevally (GT) from the boat in some key spots but no luck.
Shortly after the tide began to rush out, Wesley anchored the boat and we started our wading journey in water nearly over our head. Tom is the shortest and Wesley had to pull him along by his collar for the first twenty yards.
Once up on the normal waist deep flat we watched for GT’s but also had some blind casting options. Our flat was a narrow path through several deep blue holes. The fish that live in these holes can be scary at times. I held back and watched as Wesley instructed Tom how to approach them. Basically you drop your fly about twenty feet off the edge, let it sink and rip it back up over the drop off.
It didn’t take long for Tom to connect. He hooked into a blue African marbled grouper. All I heard was Wesley shouting not to let the fish take any line – a task easier said than done. Groupers don’t run far but their strength in a short burst is sensational. This grouper of Toms pulled so hard it nearly broke his 12-weight!
Tom picked up a couple nice groupers and nearly landed a saddleback, a species I’m familiar with from pics on the internet but have never seen one in the wild. They are one of the more stunning looking fish of the Indian Ocean. I was in full sprint when I heard the excitement in Wesley’s voice at the sight of a saddleback on Tom’s line. Unfortunately before they got hold of him for photos the barbless fly slipped out so who knows how long it will be before I finally see a saddleback.
My fishing was slow. But I messed with a moray eel and I was having fun ripping a popper along. I had one grouper take a swing at the top water fly but I missed him. About then I saw yet another species I’d love to catch, the Napoleon wrasse. The large emerald green fish waked across the flat and dropped into a blue hole. He didn’t dive but rather cruised the surface slowly working his way to the far edge. I was in hot pursuit but the single fish was just out of range. After he sank from sight I blind casted my popper and then switched to streamers but no luck.
We had a slow morning walking the flat for nearly five hours. Next on Wesley’s agenda was to work back to the boat and dredge a proven drop off for GT’s. That sounded good to Tom but I was drawn back to the blue hole where the Napoleon wrasse went. He was there but on my first cast to him my fly got stolen by my first brown African marbled grouper (species #4 for the week). The artist in me drew me to the color of his fins.
The African spooked the Napoleon so I was back to blind casting. Surely there had to be more than one Napoleon wrasse in this blue hole hotel. That’s when I pulled out yet another unique fish, the Malabar rockfish. I’ve actually caught these mean looking grouper before but they were tiny. This aggressive fella had some attitude!
The three of us were famished by the time we met up again. It was almost 3 PM. We’d been so focused that the time slipped away. Wesley anchored the boat and we ate. As we were chowing a school of interesting fish came in range. I grabbed my quickest rig which was my Winston 8-weight with a shrimp. The second the fly hit the water this needlescaled queenfish skyrocketed three feet out. I’ve taken heaps of similar fish in Madagascar but this is yet another member of the large family (species #5).
By the time lunch was over it was time to get near camp for the last hour of fishing. The tide was roaring in so wading flats was not an option. Yesterday Wesley teased up some sailfish so we opted to give that a try. As we were heading there I asked Tom if he minded me dredging for a dogtooth tuna for fifteen minutes or so before he manned the chance at a sailfish opportunity. Not knowing what a dogtooth is Tom said, “why not?”
Wesley knows exactly what a dogtooth is and gave me that “are you **** serious” look and cracked a smile. Dogtooth tuna are one of the most ferocious beast in the ocean (see Madagascar 2011). I opened my Simms Reel case and held up my Ross Momentum LT #8 loaded with a 700 grain Bluewater Express. I didn’t need to say anything else. Wesley’s smile got huge and he said I have a spot to try.
There’s a reef 90 feet deep surrounded by much deeper water out in the open ocean near camp. Wesley used his GPS to find the distinctive pinnacle and I fed my 700 grain line straight down with a giant chartreuse Clouser – all the way to the Bimini connecting to my backing. It was a spooky place to have your fly. Then I braced myself in case of a monster and started stripping back as fast and hard as I could. Ten strips in I got jolted!
My heart skipped a few. Anything down that far in the blue water had to be amazing. But the hard pull only lasted a minute and I began gaining line fast. In came the first of two hefty bluefin trevally. Unfortunately other than one gigantic unknown fish that followed all the way to the boat those were the only two fish I caught.
We teased for sailfish the last 45 minutes of the day but to no avail. We returned to camp at 5:30 and settled on the porch for stories and cocktail hour. What a great day with Tom and Wesley. Bring on tomorrow!