Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Behind the Photo - 20.08.2012

My first ever trip to the remote, outer atolls of the Seychelles. I am there purely as a photographer and the whole thing is one serious overload of an experience almost unlike anything I had ever come across in fishing. Hotter than hell, humidity like I had never felt before, insane light levels, and saltwater fly fishing so good that I think I spent most of the two weeks in a state of shock. I honestly could not believe that little old me was actually on a trip like this in the middle of nowhere.

20mm lens, ISO 200, f11, 1/100th, polarising filter

Not a very special photo I grant you that, but it's the story behind how this unfortunate bonefish came to be chomped like this that makes it for me. There is a chance that we might have been the first people ever to have walked and fished this particular flat on the remote Providence atoll. Quite some feeling to see fish that most likely have never even seen another angler before, and these flats seemed to stretch for miles and miles. Montana in the US might well be the official Big Sky Country, but I would argue that these remote Seychelles flats have almost stupidly big skies that never seem to end. No photograph is ever going to show the vast sense of scale to a place like the Indian Ocean.

Almost everywhere you looked there were big bonefish, plus the odd milkfish and one serious amount of sharks. The sharks were not particularly big and I never felt we were in any kind of danger, but there were lots and lots. Big enough though to be interesting I suppose. There was not a breath of wind and the bones were in a hungry mood. My friend James went and hooked a horse of a bonefish right in front of me and from the off we could both see how big it was. Now James can fish, and after a while you could sense that the bonefish was beginning to tire and surely it was not long until it could be safely landed, unhooked, photographed and released. I was thinking all about shots of a 10lb plus bonefish in perfect light from a flat that had never seen another angler. Perfection.........

Or at least it could have been perfect. There was suddenly one hell of a commotion in the water as a shark charged in and hit the tiring bonefish. I remember hearing James cry out at seeing his fish getting hit by the shark and I suddenly saw red and literally ran/speed-waded through the shallow water and without thinking I kicked the shark in the head to try and stop it damaging the bonefish. Would I advise anybody to go and kick a shark in the head ? No, but you must understand that it was an instantaneous reaction to try and save the fish and of course get the photographs of such a magnificent fish. I do remember making contact with the shark's head in a cloud of red blood, but I was just too late. One dead bonefish as you see here. You can not believe how quickly that shark took those chunks out of this bonefish, and as much as my kick scared it away, later on I did think how easily the shark might have turned around and taken a chunk out of my leg. But would I do it again ? Damn right. There is something incredibly exciting about being in the water with sharks all around you. I don't photograph dead fish, but I had to make an exception here..............

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