- The fact that I get to call this trip work is way beyond where I imagined that working in fishing might sometimes take me, and as I drove back to Cornwall from Heathrow yesterday afternoon, I started to almost mentally pick apart the last couple of weeks and file the experience in my head. To spend that time in such a pristine and unspoilt environment is on the one hand an incredible experience and privilege that will stay with me forever, but on the flipside it’s also like a mental snapshot of how things can be when we aren’t around in numbers to mess things up……….
- This was my fifth trip to the Seychelles to shoot fishing photos, and this time around we got pretty unlucky with the weather. We had everything from massive blue sky days when the sun beats down relentlessly (perfect), to the heaviest rain I have ever seen, with thunder and lightning in between - plus a wind that for most of the week was on the pretty damn fresh side. Sight fishing of course is based around seeing fish, and whilst there are a lot of fish on Astove, you need decent light to be able to see them - overcast skies make life very hard, but overall we got enough good weather for the clients to smash a heap of fish, and also for me to get what I needed.
- I don’t really see how anything in fishing is ever going to get madder than seeing an angry GT chasing a fly down in crystal clear water. We have what we have here in the UK and we love it, but we have nothing even remotely close to giant trevally coming at you with their backs out of the water at such a ridiculous speed it leaves me utterly in awe every single time I see it. At times it’s almost scary how aggressively these insane fish come at your fly, and as much as the world’s largest GTs are generally taken via popping and jigging techniques, to me I can’t help but love how somewhere like Astove offers the angler the opportunity to sight fish to them. That’s where GT fishing is at for me.
Photo courtesy Alphone Fishing Company
- The biggest GT of the week was landed on the first morning, a 124cm forklength fish as you can see above - we spilt up into groups each day and I did not get to see this particular GT (good guiding Jako, his guys landed eight 1m plus GTs on that day), but on one of the days I did witness the largest GT I have ever seen hooked in the Seychelles smash into a fly so hard and so fast it was downright freaky, and this thing was not stopping. The angler’s drag was done up as tight as it would go yet this fish just kept on motoring out to sea at a horrible speed until the braided loop broke open. When you see a good angler standing there and holding on for dear life to a 12-weight fly rod that has completely flattened out and there isn’t a damn thing he can do about it, that there is some serious stuff in my book. We all saw the fish, and without any shadow of a doubt it was over 100lbs. It might be fly fishing, but the gentle art it ain’t.
- If you know a bit about saltwater fly fishing, you will know that permit are one of the holy grails, and I saw a double hookup of Indo-Pacific permit one afternoon with both fish landed - the light wasn’t great, but that aside I must imagine this is a pretty rare occurrence. Two very happy anglers and a seriously over the moon guide!! There are almost a silly number of bonefish in the lagoon at Astove, with some seriously big bones moving around the surf zone on the outside as the tide strips away and they feel safe moving into the shallow water to feed - and yes, there are a lot of sharks out there, and yes, I had a couple come at me properly. You have to stand there, let them come pretty close, and then stamp your feet and hope they turn away. Fear and excitement in equal measures, and I love it.
- All the incredible fishing and numbers of fish aside though, Astove feels like a place that time forgot. You see hawksbill and green turtles almost everywhere you look, and sometimes you get really close to them before they see you and scarper. Astove is a very important nesting site for these turtles, indeed one morning guys were picking up baby turtles that had got confused and wandered into camp and let them go in the sea. Stingrays are abundant, and they often have a GT or a bunch of bluefin trevally swimming with them. Wandering around on the atoll are a bunch of Aldabra giant tortoises that look really mellow until you walk past and they often hiss at you and retreat into their huge shells.
- And then you have The Wall as it is known. Maybe a couple of hundred metres from where you have breakfast and supper is one of the most awesome things I have ever been lucky enough to have seen - on the last morning a few of us snorkelled out over the shallow reef to where The Wall drops away, and it’s awesome. From being able to stand up and touch the bottom, there is suddenly this inky blackness right there, and it drops away like a wall. No gently sloping from shallow to deep - you’re on a shallow reef, and then you are looking down into an abyss, just like that, and it’s one eerie feeling to snorkel over it. Apparently in some places The Wall drops away vertically to over 1000m deep (yes, a thousand). You hang there in the water, looking at shallow reef in one eye, and in the other is the abyss (with fish, turtles, sharks etc. everywhere) - the line of black you can see just behind the anglers in the photo above is that dropoff. It’s so good to be back home, but wow was that some experience.