20mm, 1/100th, f16, ISO 200, circular polarising filter turned to max
As you can see, there is nothing remotely complicated about this photograph, but for me it's always going to represent one of the best and most remote day's fishing I have ever had the fortune to be around. It's a somewhat sad fact these days that for the most part you need to get far, far away from human influence to really see how fishing and fish stocks can really be if they are essentially left alone. And yes, I always then try to imagine how good our fishing here in the UK might be if "our" stocks of sea fish were not systematically raped and pillaged with a disregard that in my opinion borders upon evil..........best stop before I get myself into a rant !!
I can't find a way of proving if I am right or wrong, but I believe we might have been the first people ever to go and fish this particular flat. I am also pretty sure that nobody had trod on there with cameras before. OK, so I was not fishing, but I was there with my camera gear to photograph two frighteningly competent South African fly fishing guides on their one day off in the Seychelles season. We are on the remote Providence atoll which is hundreds and hundreds of miles from anywhere that we might call civilisation. This was before the piracy issues became a problem in this part of the Indian Ocean and the Seychelles government closed down mothership operations for the time being. It's quite an ominous feeling to be walking in such shallow waters in the middle of the vast, hot and humid Indian Ocean, but Providence atoll is awash with pristine flats that can at times literally crawl with fish. And I can't tell you how I love it when that hot sun climbs high in the sky and then literally lights up the shallow sand flats. Strap a wide angle lens on, rotate that circular polarising filter to the max and fire away. I hope that some my photographs might elicit a "feeling" within the viewer, and I intend that this simple composition of that lone fly fisherman wandering along in the middle of nowhere gives the impression of scale. I tried to frame it so that you almost don't even notice the fisherman at first. You are drawn to the huge blue sky and those waspish white clouds that were in fact ripping along in front of a strong breeze. Then I hope those wonderfully yellow sand flats leading off into the horizon bring your eye to that lone fisherman striding along. It's that sheer sense of vastness or scale to me that makes the overall experience so memorable.
I suppose that I so enjoy photographing on tropical flats systems because it's just so unlike anything I might do from day to day, either in my fishing or my work. It's like an alien environment to me that I know I am going to very rarely visit for my work. Just the fact that such shallow warm water can be so insanely good for fishing is reason enough to love the flats, but from a photography point of view I love the fact that you need to forget all about the supposed "rules" of the medium and do things a bit differently (and yes, when you get dull grey skies it's about as rubbish to photograph as you can possibly imagine !!). I have rarely seen a decent sunrise or sunset out on the flats myself, so to me the absolute best time for photography is exactly when it's actually meant to be at its worst. A high midday sun makes things really harsh, but to my eye you need those flats to be lit up to make your photos come alive. Look at that yellow strip at the bottom of my photo. The flats don't really light up until the sun is directly above them, and this also ties in with the best time for sight fishing. Flats systems seem to be such an almost otherworldly place if you like, a kind of alien location stuck in the middle of an ocean. And especially somewhere as remote as this atoll. Rarely have I felt so wonderfully removed from the outside world, indeed the lack of internet access and mobile phone coverage without doubt helps to restore the soul a bit.
As for the fishing that day, it was about as insane as bonefishing is ever going to get. On the way to this particular flat that seemed to stretch to the ends of the earth the guys smashed a few nice triggerfish on little crab flies, but then they literally fell upon the bonefish population like men possessed. One day off in the middle of nowhere and of course they go fishing, but almost every bonefish I saw that day was easily over 5lbs, indeed I reckon I saw fish caught around the 10lb mark. Some of the bones were literally taking the fly not a couple of metres off the rod tips, and in some properly skinny water. I am talking ankle deep at times. Everywhere you looked you saw big bonefish, and one of the guides even hooked and landed a decent milkfish. Talk about a day to rattle off some serious photos and then store the whole experience in one's head to draw upon when required. On a photo trip like this I have to pinch myself that I can really call it my job, but then I also know that this kind of thing does come along that often. What I do means that I quite simply have to take photographs which I can sell, but what no magazine article, book or indeed film can ever get across is the sheer sense of amazement that such a simple thing as fishing can take us to places on this magnificent earth like this. I love to feel completely humbled by my surroundings, and I can but hope that this simple photograph goes some way towards translating my feelings about it all. We fish, we live, we move on, but we are but nothing in the grand scale of things. Or is that way too deep and meaningful for a little fishing blog ? Working for long hours on my own is perhaps not always that good for me !!