When hosting trips, I prefer my guests fish with as many different guides as possible. All Farquhar guides are excellent but each has a unique personality, unalike favorite fish, skills and ideas. This variety of guides allows you to try new things and learn, keeping the week interesting. Today I went with Nick Isabelle and partnered with friend Steve Fitzsimons. Sammy went solo.
Skip Brittenham went alone with my guide of yesterday, Matthieu Cosson. They went straight for the milkfish. Skip had seven take his fly, fought two to the boat and landed one. Despite my long desire to catch one of these remarkable fish, my luck with them hasn’t been good. This is an incredible accomplishment and I am stoked for Skip!
Steve Fitzsimons and I met in 2013 when he was a guest on one of my hosted Amazon trips. Steve’s been enjoying catching the weird fish this week so today we went on a hardcore species hunt. My favorite thing to do.
Species hunts at Farquhar start with a dredge (a heavy fly on bottom in deep water). I dredge with my Winston Boron III 12-weight matched with the line I helped design for Scientific Anglers, the Sonar Big Water Taper Max Sink. This line sinks faster than a bowling ball and most importantly has a 100lb core. Attached I use a straight piece of 100lb mono for leader. Grouper, snapper and giant wrasse (to mention a few) pull so hard it’s ridiculous. Yet if you let them run they bury you in the rocks and coral leaving you with weak knees. Instead I bare down with brute “Currier” strength and don’t allow them an inch.
We dredged a few more spots and I picked up two brown colored African grouper but all in all the bottom feeders of the sea weren’t feeding heavily. Nick suggested we move to the deeper flats to look for giant trevally and perhaps a Napoleon wrasse – a fish not yet on my list.
The flat is called Napoleon Dynamite. The depth is about six feet and mostly covered in sand. The area is dotted with coral heads and turtle grass attracting many species of fish. Steve got a quick but unsuccessful shot at a nice size GT. I smashed up this honker of a blue spangled emperor along with a few humphead snappers.
Next, a life fact of an aging body, I sprained my stripping shoulder. Basically, if you ever sprained your ankle and thought you were doomed only to walk it back to normal ten minutes later, this is what happened to my left shoulder. I was still casting but striping like a gimp. Naturally a Napoleon wrasse of Volkswagen proportions engulfed my fly. I hooked him good but when it came to putting a halt to his run, my shoulder gave in. The Napoleon buried me in the coral and broke my 100lb leader like it was 7X. Redemption however came in the form of this pouty faced African marbled grouper.
The drift across Napoleon Dynamite went for an hour and Steve and I caught bohar snappers, yellowlip emperor, longnose emperor, bigeye trevally and probably more I can’t think of. It was a sensational session and the species were racking up.
After lunch the ocean flats were perfect to hunt big trevally, bumphead parrots and triggerfish. The area wasn’t huge so I hung back and let Steve wade with Nick. Soon I found myself wading away from the breaking waves of the ocean to the dead calm heated waters on a waist deep flat. I added a bluefin trevally, honeycomb grouper, needle scale queenfish and a bluespotted grouper to the day’s list.
I caught a heap of cool fish. They never stopped coming. The highlight was casting to Titan triggerfish (also known as mustache triggers). These guys have proved to be the most finicky fish this week and when you do get one to eat your fly they’re hard to hook. But persistence always prevails and I landed this dazzling one just for fun.
My highlight was a lemon shark I had no business casting too while wading, especially by myself. I was just wrapping things up. My fishing had slowed and in the distance I could see Steve and Nick returning to the boat. I was about a ¼ of a mile away. Then I saw a shark dorsal coming down the flat toward me.
“Sweet”, I thought to myself. I’ll hook this shark and the boys will arrive to help me land it. The shark reached my casting range and I launched. I stripped my fly to scurry away from him as he approached and in a scary-effortless move he devoured it and he was on. When he felt the hook he exploded and the once thought to be 4ft long shark was closer to 6ft.
Sharks fight you on the flats like in a heavyweight match. They put on an awesome fight. So much that it annoys me when anglers avoid them rather than cast. By now I had my hands full and I began hollering and waving my hat to the guys.
They were to me in less than five minutes like the fire department getting to a fire. Nick was hoping I had my big Napoleon but soon realized it was a shark big enough to cause some grief.
An intense battle went on between me and the shark while Nick collected tools to handle the big fish. This is not a common occurrence for the guides here but one they are trained to handle. Soon Nick was with me and I hoisted the now tired shark on to the flat.
Things were looking good. Nick approached the shark with caution. I had his belly dragging on the turtle grass. But in one quick swoosh he thrashed and showed his teeth and bit through my 100lb leader. I was bummed but I believe there was some relief in Nick!
It was an insane day of species bashing. Steve and I racked up a spectacular list of fish somewhere between 12 and 15. I’d caught all before but one I don’t have on my list because when I caught one last trip I never got the photo to identify him later down the road. This is the one. He’s some sort of emperor but not sure which yet. If anyone can figure it out, please contact me.
Matt Cosson identified it as a dark colored yellowlip emperor.
Other than Skips outstanding milkfish the rest of the group caught an array of oddball stuff but not one giant trevally. This is a very strange week for these fish. This one that I drew with my sharpies on Justin’s shirt tonight is as close as we’ve got so far.
The Seychelles are truly one of the great saltwater fly fishing destinations left in the world. To learn more or even better, join me on my next trip here, contact me or Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures!