It was November while fishing a yellowfish river in Lesotho that Gerhard Laubscher asked me if I was available this coming April. With most people you first ask, “Why?”, but with Gerhard, you just say “Yes”. “Yes”, because with Gerhard chances are something good is brewing other than the coffee.
Being available in April was fortunate alright. Gerhard had plans to head to his own FlyCastaway destination of St Brandon’s Atoll to see the opening week of the season and spend some time with his friends and guides. I got the invite and here we are. Today Gerhard and I fished with guide Craig Richardson.
Lucky for me I’m pretty good friends with many of the FlyCastaway guides and it so happens that Craig Richardson spent last summer in my home town of Victor, Idaho. I took him for his first trip on the Rizzo River and had the pleasure of watching him catch his first big cutthroat trout.
Both mornings so far started out looking like bad weather is coming. Fortunately as the sun rises the clouds break up. It was another mostly sunny day with 15 mph wind and hot temperatures between 85° and 90°. We took a 45 minute boat ride to the first flat.
This was another massive flat but upon arrival it was lower than Craig anticipated. Low tide was at around 9 AM but this was so low there weren’t any fish yet. We had to kick back and wait an hour before bothering to fish. Once the slack between low and high ended in came the rush of water – exactly what bonefish love.
But it wasn’t a bonefish that came first. We spent at least another hour looking for them before along came a lone fish. The fish was colored like a bonefish from a distance but moved much differently. More erratically. As you know, different when it comes to fish always excites me. It could be a new species for my list. The fact that this fish was moving unpredictably meant I needed to move fast before the fish got out of range.
Off I went crossing the flat as fast as I could yet remaining stealthy at the same time. Eventually I had to give the stealth part up or not get close enough for a cast. So I ran and launched a sloppy 80-footer that luckily landed close enough.
Close enough is a loose statement. For bonefish I’d have been too far off. The fish however turned out to be the aggressive brassy trevally (Caranx papuensis), also known as the green spot trevally. No doubt this fish heard the splat of my crab fly and ran there and found it. Despite his size, the brassy gave a great fight running me three times in the backing. I landed my first new species of the trip!
We thought the green spot was the start to good things to come. I released the pretty fish and stood up for more. But this flat was sparse of fish. We walked slowly searching but it was another hour before the next fish came. Patience always pays off though in fishing. I landed this beautiful bonefish that St Brandon’s is famous for.
I was releasing the bone when Craig shouted here come goldens! I spun around stripping line off my Bauer. Sure enough there were twenty flashing tails. They went down and we could see the school of fish moving quickly to the next grassy area. Tails up again then gone again. Just like the green spot and most trevally for that matter, the goldens feed erratically and there was no time to waste. I jumped out of the gates in full sprint.
It turns out there’s another trevally here that feeds and moves just like a golden trevally. He has bluefin trevally-like fins, faint bars similar to the golden and yellow dots. Craig yelled, “Yellow dots!”
I’ve never caught a yellow dot, better known as the island trevally (Carangoides orthogrammus) and I picked up the pace. This school was fast moving and changed their travel direction completely at least five times sending me twisting and nearly falling several times. There’s no doubt they were escaping when by pure luck they turned and charged me. I landed my crab on the grass and first strip a yellow dot was on.
The yellow dot was no slouch on the 9-weight Winston either. He hesitated at first as if he didn’t know he was hooked. It’s believed that they may not have much feeling in their proboscis mouth which helps them when snuffing out crabs but after I pulled for a few seconds it dawned on him that something was wrong. Another wild trevally battle ensued before I landed my second new species of the day!
The full moon was two days ago and the tides are still fluctuating fast. It wasn’t long after I landed the yellow dot when there was then too much water on the flat. Gerhard and I picked up a couple more bonefish then watched for Indo-Pacific permit while Craig retrieved the boat. We had no luck and by the time Craig returned it was time to move to the afternoon flats and search for permit.
I mentioned yesterday that my permit luck could use a lift. Gerhard and I chased permit with Craig all afternoon with only two legitimate shots. The first was barely legit. We saw a big permit while we were driving in the boat. He was close and coming straight at us. Craig cut the motor and I leapt over the side in thigh deep water with my 9-weight and yanked off line as fast as I could. I made one of my better permit casts dropping my fly a foot in front of him but he sensed the boat and turned at the same time and that was my only shot.
Two hours later after Craig and I walked together on one the favorite permit flats I had a second shot. This one I wish I had over. We were looking upwind only because of the angle of the light and spotted an aggressively feeding permit. We could only see him when he tailed but that happened consistently about every 20 seconds or so. Problem is each time I anticipated his next appearance I was wrong and never got a cast close to him. I must admit, the wind shortened my cast more than it should have.
While my fishing was going on Gerhard was on another popular flat and never saw a single permit. For some reason they simply aren’t around as much as they normally are here at St Brandon’s. At 4 we headed back to the lodge.
While Gerhard and I had a less than average fishing day I was stoked with my two new species. Better yet, the other guys in our group had superb bonefishing. In fact, Ben landed this magnificent 9lb bonefish that makes his trip.