St Brandon’s atoll, Mauritius … looking back

November 24th, 2015

Ever since we heard the first report about St Brandon’s atoll in Mauritius, I had been itching to go and in the back end of 2014, having met Gordon at Heathrow, we arrived in Mauritius, all geared up and ready to go.

The Gryphon, although not in the first bloom of her nautical youth, was a great boat to spend time on; there was plenty of room, the cabins were roomy and the beds surprisingly big. Flushing loos and hot water in the shower - perfect. Yes, the crossing is long but that is unavoidable and, for me, it only added to the sense of adventure. This atoll is something else and if it was easy to get to, it would very quickly lose its uniqueness. There is no fishing pressure as it is fished for two very short seasons in a year and local fishing is restricted and enforced.  The hard, white sand flats are easy wading and they are vast.  Almost everything about St Brandon’s is big (including my G&T glass).

The bait is big and the predators are bigger. Its GTs are not as commonplace as they are in Cosmoledo but they are seldom under one metre and one cruised right in front of me the size of an original Mini Cooper. All I had to hand at the time was my 7# and an orange Christmas Island Special and while Hardy are rightly confident about the Proaxis’ abilities, that the enormous lump of gunmetal trevally would have been a pound or five above its maximum load.  Gordon cast and stripped and cast and stripped only to be completely ignored; my quip about it being female was met with aloof indifference by both James Christmas and Gordon in a moment of male solidarity.

The schools of permit were the biggest I have seen yet and while I have seen vast schools of bonefish on Alphonse, what makes St Brandon’s stand out from other Indian Ocean destinations is the size of its bonefish.  Here double digit fish are a very real opportunity; casting to these enormous bonefish as they feed with their backs exposed in super skinny water is mind blowing. I have seen bow waves off the snouts of crocodiles but never off the nose of a running bonefish with half of its body out of the water; between the size of the fish and the shallowness of the water, it was a breath taking sight.

Would I go back? Absolutely.  This is an incredible fishery and a true adventure. If you haven’t ventured forth to St Brandon’s yet, please put it on your bucket list - at the top. It is worth it. Don’t be put off by the long sail, where’s your sense of adventure? Make use of the downtime to recharge your batteries, sort out your fly boxes, tie flies, talk fishing rubbish with your fellow anglers, watch movies with the guides … just enjoy the whole experience and arrive on St Brandon’s fully charged and ready to cast.

My memories though are as much about ‘the other things’.  James rashly picking up a floating dead turtle; and Christiaan and Eugene drowning their lost GT sorrows only to celebrate another day.

For more details about fishing St Brandon’s atoll, Mauritius please contact Charlotte Chilcott or call the office on ++44 1980 847389.

Last, but not least, Willem proving that big isn’t always better as the markings on this little golden trevally are beautiful and will fade with growth.

The most recent fishing updated from Alphonse Island click HERE or for the most recent Alphonse diving update, click HERE

For the most recent blog from St Brandon’s, Mauritus please click HERE

For the most recent blog from Farquhar please click HERE

Alphonse Island, Seychelles; 7–14 November 2015

November 23rd, 2015

The start of week 7 brought bad weather to Alphonse, with a tropical depression sitting over the islands on day one. The high winds and intense rain made for challenging fly fishing, however our guests were up to the task and the Alphonse flats delivered with a beautiful moustache trigger being caught in the surf by Johannes Viljoen, his first saltwater fish on fly. Andrey Malshakov tried his luck casting a classic NYAP over a coral head and was richly rewarded with the first GT of the week, a monster fish measuring 107cm.

As the week progressed and conditions became much more fishing friendly, a clear GT champion of the group emerged. Vadim Velachko caught a GT on 4 consecutive days. His hat trick fish on day four was the biggest GT of the season so far measuring a whopping 111cm! Also on day four Johannes Viljoen continued the great start to his saltwater fly fishing career by catching his first ever GT. For Johannes the day just got better and better, in the afternoon he was picked up off the flats by the bluewater team and caught a magnificent sailfish on fly to go with the bonefish and GT in the morning to complete a spectacular “Bills and Bones Slam”plus GT. To top the day off his boat partner Mark Holmes also caught his first sailfish on fly to complete the second “Bills and Bones Slam” of the week. As the week came to an end it was noted that there were many firsts for the guests this week.  Evgenii Matiunin who was on his first ever saltwater fly fishing trip rounded the week off nicely by catching his first triggerfish, a tricky moustache trigger in the surf.

Another great week on Alphonse Island with some spectacular highlights.

For more details about fishing on Alphonse, please contact Charlotte Chilcott or call the office on ++44 1980 847389.

Alphonse Island Diving Report; 7- 21 November 2015

November 23rd, 2015

The blustery start to the usually-calm North-West monsoon has not affected the diving on Alphonse at all. In fact, we have had such unbelievable diving one could almost think to credit the unpredictable weather for making our waters so alive with fish activity.

Dive site Arcade has been teeming with life with mind-blowing numbers of schooling fish. At the end-point of one dive, hundreds of Big-eye Trevally fish-balled around divers in a confusing mass of writhing silver which momentarily and suddenly opened up to escape the charging Giant Trevally. At least one hundred of these predatory beasts were involved in the chaos whilst a large docile Green Turtle hung motionless as though it was nothing out-of-the-ordinary. This, Chris Strahl exclaimed whilst bellowing in delight upon surfacing, was the best reef dive of his life!

Wonderland, as always, has provided great diving opportunities with superb vivid colours on the shallow plateau, swarms of electric blue fusiliers above the drop off and, this week, curious Dogtooth Tuna coming in from the pelagic realm to accompany divers. Anne George, was enthralled to watch a large male Hawksbill turtle swim over to Tarryn Herschel and high-five her with his extended flipper!

For a closer look at macro-life, eager divers Anne George and Chris Strahl waded out to the House Reef under a purple Frigate-filled sky for a spectacular night dive. The zooplankton-rich water was the highlight of the dive as we saw these tiny creatures caught in the feeding tentacles of the corals. This amazing spectacle was seen again with the translucent tube worms that spread like spiders across the sand’s surface. Other species of shrimp, crab, cowrie, sea cucumber and sea urchin also joined in the night time feasts.

The dive team have also been making many snorkel excursions with the best moments being: when Anne Leigh swam with a turtle on the House Reef and a Marbled Ray at Blue Roundabout, when Anne George spotted a gigantic Napoleon Wrasse and many Permit on the Channel Reef and when Stuart Petrie could not stop smiling in the crystal clear waters of God’s Aquarium - a psychedelic rainbow of Turtles, Snapper, Goatfish, Emperor, Tang and Needlefish.

For more details about fishing on Alphonse, please contact Charlotte Chilcott or call the office on ++44 1980 847389.

Alphonse Island news; 31 October-6 November 2015

November 23rd, 2015

The start of week six brought us some spectacular weather and another full complement of familiar faces and experienced anglers. The tidal cycle looked fishy with large spring tides at the start and a slow neap cycle at the end of the week. Sunday started in true Alphonse fashion with super calm conditions, cool, gin clear water and some awesome bonefishing to iron out the kinks. Timothy Marks was the first to get stuck into a magnificent 106 cm GT, which he sight cast to with a NYAP popper, off the edge of a finger flat. Instinctive in GT fashion the take was explosive and as exhilarating as you can get, with the fight long and hard and including a chase in the boat.

The milkfish made an appearance but didn’t feed consistently to make it happen for our guests this week.  A large number of GT encounters were had, with some nice catches made mostly on the flats. As with triggerfish, there where way too many stories of triggers hooked and lost through various crafty methods that make them so tricky. Susan Conway landed her first ever indo pacific permit, which was by no means a monster but never the less a permit. As always the bonefishing was spectacular, with consistent impressive numbers of fish seen tailing in super skinny water.  At the end of the week 547 bonefish had been landed and released between 12 anglers.

The most remarkable period of the week was when the neap tides offered us some of the best possible sailfishing to be had. Father and son team Gene and Peter Pawlik went out to catch a “Bills and Bones Slam”. Straight off the bat they had a double hook up on Sailfish, landing two fish and then proceeding to double up on a large number of bonefish to complete the first father and son double up “Bills and Bones Slam”.

An awesome group of guests, which made for a fantastic week at Alphonse Island.

For more details about fishing on Alphonse, please contact Charlotte Chilcott or call the office on ++44 1980 847389.

Farquhar atoll, Seychelles; News 21–28 October 2015

November 23rd, 2015

We welcomed 9 guests from the USA for the start of our 4th week of the season, including brothers Bill & John, Dan and Dianne, Steve, Scott, Jackson and Pat. Tim Youngkin who was fresh from a weeks fishing on St. Brandon’s just a few days prior to his arrival on Farquhar making up the group. It was everyone’s first time out on the atoll with us and as such we wanted to put in every effort to show them the great fishing Farquhar offers.

Sadly for the group, our week was plagued by the unseasonal weather that continues to affect all of the Seychelles atolls. Strong winds, cloudy skies and the occasional bout of rain were the norm for the duration of the week so we had to pull out all the stops to get them into some fish.

The GT’s were subsequently tough to come by this week with only a few fish being hooked. Steve and Scott however each got a fish, Scot’s 80 cm fish being the largest for the week. Some bigger fish were seen on stingrays, but tough conditions made getting the fly in front of them a challenge.

The Bumphead Parrotfish were however out in full force this week, shoals of the giant blue fish being seen across all parts of the atoll. A   total of 15 specimens were hooked….sadly though we enjoyed zero fortune here either as every fish was lost before a picture could be taken. Fish were lost to coral; hooks pulling free and one fish snapping a 10wt fly line clean in half after a scorching first run. So although Bumpies managed to get the better of us this week, they provided consistent action for our guests who I’m sure now have the fever!

Farquhar however proved once again why it such a superb fishery, some great Bonefishing coming to the rescue. Consistently providing our guests with the sort of shallow water fishing that is often overlooked in the Seychelles, it highlighted the atoll’s incredible diversity. Some really big fish were spotted during the trip, the largest landed being a good fish of 21 inches!

Offshore wise the Sailfish continued to be abundant with large numbers of fish raised to the back of the boats during the course of the trip. John Dory capitalized on this and was exceptionally pleased with his first Sailfish ever caught on fly.

His brother Bill managed to land a 5kg Yellowfin Tuna on fly a short while later, so too Scott which provided the guest house with fresh Tuna Sashimi for the remainder of the week.

So despite some really tough weather conditions, we stuck to our guns and ensured the week was enjoyable for all iinvolved!

Until next week

The Farquhar Guide Team

For more details about fishing on Farquhar, please contact Charlotte Chilcott or Peter McLeod Alternatively, please call the office on ++44 1980 847389 to discuss your plans.

St Brandon’s blog, Mauritius - 20-29 October 2015

November 23rd, 2015

A pretty solid but extremely enjoyable week was had by all out on St Brandon’s this week. Our friends from Russia and South Africa enjoying a smoothing crossing over to the atoll which ensured everyone was well rested and eager to get stuck into the action on arrival.

Day one saw an early morning low tide albeit with very little tidal action. This sort of scenario tends to produce large concentrations in certain areas and our group climbed in. The fish, which were either founding mudding or packed up against the sandbanks weighed between 5lb-8lb. As far as variety is concerned Peter managed to get a get good Golden Trevally after a good presentation was made. No fireworks but a solid start.

Despite some rain being around, the second day and third day followed suit on the Bonefish front with our guests enjoying steady action. Andre however put a stamp on his week by landing a gorgeous Yellow-dot Trevally that had some unusual markings over the head and tail. He subsequently made a further statement the following day when he landed our first Permit and a 10lb Bonefish for the trip. Congrats Andre!

The fourth and fifth day saw most of the anglers getting good shots at big GT’s and Bluefin trevally, which were either free-swimming or located on the back of large Lemon and Nurse Sharks. Sadly however non managed to come to hand but no doubt witnessing these impressive predators do their thing on the flats will sty with our guests for along time to come!

The final day brought with it some truly world-class fishing. With the water at a desirable depth early in the morning we were able to access some notorious skinny hotspots. Great Bonefishing was had by all and to top it off Ivan managed to land a beautiful 11lb Indo-Pacific Permit. In addition Oleg had a GT explode on the fly but despite setting the hook, it pulled moments later. We were gutted but that’s the way it goes with GT fishing!

All in all we had a great week with some great people!

Until next week
The St Brandon’s Guide Team

For more details about fishing St Brandon’s atoll, please contact Charlotte Chilcott or call the office on ++44 1980 847389.

The Bahamas; Swimming Pigs and Bonefishing

November 23rd, 2015

Frosts, sleety-rain and grey skies is just some of what the UK will offer us this winter, but why not escape it all and head to sun, sea and sand? The Bahamas is a great option from the UK and Europe with direct flights to Nassau from London Heathrow and a great network of internal island hopper flights making it is possible to explore many of the 700 plus islands that make up the country easily.

Finding that balance between family holiday and fishing trip can be a tough one but we have found that the Bahamas can offer some wonderful combination holiday options. Here is just suggestion for this coming winter.

Whenever travelling abroad it is always nice to see something unique and unusual, and nothing ticks this box more than the wonderful swimming pigs of Exuma. Located on the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay, this family of pigs can be found basking in the sun on ‘Pig Beach’ or paddling out for a cooling swim in the crystal clear turquoise waters.

It is not known how the pigs originally came to live on Big Major Cay, as they are not native and the island itself is uninhabited. However, popular lore suggests that the pigs were dropped off by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them, or that there was a nearby shipwreck and the pigs swam to safety.

Day trips run daily to ‘Pig Beach’ from many of the Exuma hotels and resorts, offering guests a chance to witness the swimming pigs and even have a cooling paddle with them.

Several days in Exuma can be combined easily with the family-friendly bonefish paradise of Andros. Several lodges offer access to endless sandflats perfect for hunting bonefish with the fly. You will have chances to target large schools of fish or much larger single fish in the crystal clear waters whilst your other half or family enjoy some of the many non-fishing activities and experiences on offer.

For more information on combination trips and fishing holidays to the Bahamas please do not hesitate to contact Alex Jardine or call our office on +44(0)1980 847389.

Iceland; Great Combinations for 2016

November 17th, 2015

With rivers flowing on all sides of Iceland there is great diversity to be found, some small rivers, some big, others offering one species and some offering them all. If you want to try something different in 2016 then take a look at a few of the combination options below:

Laxa I Kjos
The river has one of the prettiest and most comfortable lodges in Iceland and sits overlooking the lower section of the river. The river itself is intimate and the fishing is more akin to trout fishing for salmon, a true hitchers’ dream. Small rock pockets, canyons and open meadows are perfect for single handed fishing with tiny flies. The river also has some huge sea trout which run throughout August and add to the excitement, a small tributary called Bugda boasts good numbers of brown trout. Laxá I Kjos offers some very exciting sight fishing and hitch fishing opportunities for salmon.

17 – 20 August - £2,640 per rod (Hosted by Alex Jardine; a great week to target salmon and sea trout)

Laxa I Kjos / Grímsá
This is a great combination of little and large, Laxa I Kjos offers some wonderful technical small river fishing for both salmon and sea trout, whilst Grímsá offers a bigger river and often bigger salmon and some sea trout. Both lodges are extremely comfortable and are suitable for rod sharing and non-fishers.

10 – 16 September - £4,490 per rod

A very interesting river offering traditional pool and riffle water in the upper section, a canyon through the middle and meandering slow flows at the bottom. You can target good numbers of trout averaging 2 lbs with a few between 4-6 lbs. Dry flies and traditional nymphs work well and as the season progresses the chances of encountering salmon increase. Along with the river you also have access to a lake that has a good head of Arctic char (delicious eating if you want to take one or two for dinner). The river is limited to just four anglers, the lodging is in a basic converted farm house and is taken on a self-catered basis.

2-9 July - £1,620 for 4 rods (prime trout fishing with a chance of a salmon)
13-16 August - £3,640 for 4 rods (prime salmon dates and great for trout)
3-6 September - £2,840 for 4 rods (resident salmon and good trout fishing)

Mýrarkvísl / Lónsá
The Mýrarkvísl as above can be combined well with the Lónsá; the river is situated in North East Iceland on the Langanes Peninsula. It has a healthy population of resident brown trout throughout the season and sea trout and sea run Arctic char coming in and out of the estuary with the tides. Around the middle of July the runs of Arctic char start coming in and are usually running at their strongest throughout August & September, offering some really exciting fishing.

10 – 16 August - £2,780 per person (prime time for all species)

Already booked? If you are looking to add on a few days to your existing trip to Iceland just let us know where you’re going and we will make suggestions for you to target your chosen species.

For more details on fishing in Iceland please do not hesitate to contact Alex Jardine or call our office on +44(0)1980 847389.

Alaska; Hopeful News for Kanektok King Salmon

November 17th, 2015

As some of you will be aware, sport fishing for king salmon on the Kanektok River in Alaska, where Alaska West Lodge is based, has been closed for the past two seasons due to low escapement numbers.

However, last season we were excited to learn that according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, commercial harvests were considered to be above average. That was really good news.

Recently the news got better still; according to sources, sport fishing for king salmon on the Kanektok River will be open for the 2016 season. The current plan is to open the fishery to catch and release for king salmon, with the potential for a limit of one chinook per day.

We stand by Alaska West and our vote is for an entirely catch and release regulation on Kanektok king salmon. However, if the regulation to retain one chinook per day comes into effect, Alaska West will remain catch and release only for king salmon.

The king salmon, or chinook, really does live up to its name amongst the Pacific salmon species. It can grow to weights in excess of 80 lbs and can be target in both fresh and saltwater.

Learn more about Alaska West HERE or CONTACT US to find out more about our king salmon operations throughout British Colombia and Alaska.

Farquhar Atoll, Seychelles - some reflections

November 16th, 2015

Farquhar Atoll remains one of the Indian Oceans’ top land based GT spots. There is something truly unique about the wide open turtle grass flats intersected by channels, the rocky islands, hard and flats and the bird eating GTs of Goulette. If you are looking to focus on wading for GTs and perhaps throw a bumphead parrot fish and some triggers into the mix then Farquhar should be at the top of your list.

The isolated atoll of Farquhar in the Indian Ocean has been a favourite spot of mine for several years. At first I started going as I was looking for a land based GT fishery that I could go to while the outer islands were all shut down, but soon I began to love it for the wild fishing experiences I had there. Farquhar will challenge you as a fisherman, teach you a huge amount about giant trevally behaviour along with numerous other species and offer you some unique experiences not to be found anywhere else. Although the GTs may not be as numerous as Cosmoledo, Astove or Providence, I have always seen some of the largest specimens here. It is a technical fishery and under the expert tutelage of the guides the results can be hugely rewarding.

When I think back I remember an instance that even now keeps me awake. I had waded out from Depose Island and there was not much going on as we came off the edge. Three of us came to the “three lines of defence”. Three strips of turtle grass coloured coral heads that made perfect watch towers across rollers. It does not get any more perfect. As we neared the reef, Scotty pointed out a shark in the waves and sent me off in hot pursuit while he and Jules made their way to the edge. Everywhere you looked were the tails of surgeon fish feeding on the crustaceans in the turtle grass. I was scanning for the shark hoping he might have a friend tagging along when I saw Scotty pointing and yelling as he launched a bewildered Jules through the surf to the outer edge. Sometimes I could only make out their caps and back packs festooned with rods bobbing in between the coral heads. Finally they made it up onto the outer heads and Jules began casting frantically before dropping the fly and almost immediately lifting into a fish.

While this had been taking place I too had been making my way to the edge, albeit the coral heads I was standing on where nearer the flat than theirs. In front of me I could see the waves lift as I scanned for movement. I kept an eye on the battle happening, but just then out of the corner of my vision a dark shape lumbered into view. My first instinct was that it was a large ray, and there might be a fish riding shotgun. As it got closer I suddenly realized that the whole dark object was one massive GT. I quickly began stripping off line, popped the 6/0 poodle out of the ring and began to wave it around my head like some kind of demented conjurer. I slapped the fly down in front of the fish and it turned towards it, very casually and decided to follow although it looked like the beast barely cared. It ambled passively behind the fly as I gave it long strips. Suddenly it was if a light bulb come on inside its head, it suddenly identified the floaty thing in front of it as food. The fish accelerated into attack mode, pectoral fins out, mouth agape as it charged through the surf towards me. I took several involuntary steps backwards as this massive fish smacked into my coral bommie, so large it could only manage to rest its chin on the edge as it tried to smash the fly. I can only assume that beaching itself like some disorientated pilot whale made the fish forget its snack and spook in a massive fountain of spray as I stood there contemplating whether it was after the fly …or me. Either way the exchange was over and I was left somewhat disoriented. To this day that encounter still haunts me.

Farquhar is by no means for everyone and if you are thinking that catching GTs in the fly is relatively easy, it is not. You need to hunt them in their own environment and understand what motivates them to put yourself into the right place at the right time to maximise your chances. We saw a huge number of fish over the course of that week, but it was not always possible to present a fly.  It is a wild fishery which changes on a daily basis, and hunting big GTs around this atoll will teach you a huge amount about how they behave, some of the idiosyncrasies they display and why I have grown to love them so much. It is a technical fishery and the more you put in the more you will get out. I also know of few places that can offer the species variety including the truly unique bumphead parrot fishery and an excellent bluewater fishery 300 yards from the flats.

For more information on Farquhar Atoll or to check availability for next season please contact Peter McLeod or call +44 1980 847389.