Waking up in an ‘eco-lodge’ converted shipping container to white beaches, blue skies and the clearest, bluest ocean you could dream of doesn’t get old – particularly when that sea is a fisherman’s paradise that is the Seychelles. It’s worth every minute of the three flights and the boat ride that it had taken to get here, and we were in the middle of nowhere, on an uninhabited island, feeling like we had stepped into the pages of a National Geographic article. I’d been lucky enough to be included in the Gordy & Son’s fishing expedition, along with Garrett Gordy, Kenton Thompson, Brandon Smith, Alan Jacobson, Paul Puckett, Chance Yarbrough, Jeff Harris, Baron Boyette and Daniel “Rooster” Leavens. Now I’ve spent a week fishing with a Gordy gang before, and it is, without question, a blast – the fishing during the day and evening jollity are approached in an equally serious manner, no half measures on either front.
We were booked in with the Alphonse Fishing Company, started by the legendary fisherman and explorer Keith Rose-Innes, whose team runs a smooth operation on various atolls in the Seychelles. Renowned for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, the Seychelles is now firmly established as one of the top destinations for salt water fly fishing the world over – hardly surprising: fighting fish and, other than monsoon season, fantastically stable weather.
We were fishing the Cosmoledo Atoll, part of the Aldabra Group and one of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles, which has only recently had a handful of eco cabins built on it. The Seychelles, incidentally, is made up of 115 islands, and the waters cover a staggering 1.4million km2, so the ocean is your oyster when it comes to a fishing trip there. Cosmoledo is 1,030km south west of Mahé, the main island of the Seychelles, and the Aldabra has been nicknamed the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, thanks to the staggering richness of the fauna. The Atoll (meaning ring-shaped reef) consists of several islands, and measures 17km from north to south, with vast sand flats dotted with islands, much of which is ideal for wading and the perfect habitat for a fantastic variety of fish.
And the fish of the Seychelles aren’t just any fish – these are some of the toughest, most hard-core fish you’ll find anywhere in the world, the bare-knuckle fighters of the oceans that will not give up. One of the most renowned is the giant trevally. This gangster of the flats is fierce and powerful, and will predate anything that moves, from crabs to eels and everything in between.
We were on Cosmoledo in the middle of March – and big tides were expected. For those of you who haven’t fished in the Seychelles, it’s a remarkable place. Miles upon miles of hard, white sand means the wading is a pleasure, you are never stuck for somewhere to go, and you’ll never crowd your fellow fisherman. The fishing here is all about the tides and we were lucky enough to be booked in for a week of serious spring tides. The push of the tide brings the GTs, the apex predators of this watery world, in from the deep blue – amazing, volcanic areas just outside the atoll. We used the boats when the tides weren’t timed right, but the best, by far, and most exciting fishing was wading the “push”. The “push” was the moment the tide poured into the atoll, bringing with it these aggressive animals. The first morning that I saw them, I don’t mind admitting, I felt a little intimidated. These beasts of the deep don’t take any prisoners – they’ll smash up your equipment, and facing off against them, I felt like a gladiator being thrown to the lions. These are, after all, the fish that on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, were filmed hunting birds in flight!
What makes these creatures even more exciting to fish is that you hunt an individual fish – so you watch the waves, and, there, under the surf, you’ll see the GT, surfing the wave. Often enough, they’ll shadow rays or sharks, hoovering up whatever smaller prey animals are flicked up, and, as I soon learned, it is worth watch out for the rays – to see if they are “full”, ie have a GT shadowing them, or “empty” and don’t.
The very first day set the pace of the week for me – I had been sent out on one of the boats with wildlife artist Paul Puckett and as we cruised the atoll, we saw a monster GT. It was Paul’s turn to cast. The first cast brought the GT to the surface, and gave us a proper eyeball of it – it was huge, it’s mouth gaping towards the fly, but missing by a whisker. Paul showed a huge amount of skill, and, as the GT swooped under out bow, he flicked his line, casting on the other side of the boat, and this time the fly found its mark. He worked the fish for a full 20 minutes, the lactic acid building up, and our guide, Cameron Musgrove, skilfully manoeuvring the boat to help Paul, until, to our dismay, with 400 yards of line taut, we realised the beast had got under coral. Cameron carefully guided us in as close as he could to give Paul some slack, but no matter what he did, the line remained taught, caught on coral.
Cameron didn’t hesitate – he stripped, deep filled his lungs, and dove straight in. We waited, our breath held – and he reappeared, only to tell us that while he’d managed to get one snag out, it looked like there were a couple more. He deep filled his lungs once more, and dove, keeping us anxiously waiting for a minute this time, our nerves building with every second. The line jumped, and loosened a little, but still not free, clearly. Cameron’s head bobbed above water once more, and he once again deep filled his lungs. This time, he disappeared for what seemed like an age, Paul and I increasingly thinking we’d lost our guide – what was two minutes felt much much longer. The fish appeared almost before Cameron – he bobbed to the surface, with the catch of the week: a 128cm GT – definitely one for the record books!
Overall that week, we caught 125 GTs – as well as 27 bonefish and seven triggerfish, making it a week that was as adrenalin-filled as any big-game hunt I’ve been on. The pristine beauty, the emptiness of the place, along with being surrounded by a group of people who are as serious about partying as they are about fishing made it a week to remember – and without question the most intense, exciting, explosive fishing trip I’ve ever had.