“Down to the core of every fisherman’s heart is the belief that on any day something wonderful and unlikely could be made to happen, and that if you’re careful and patient enough it could happen to you.” – John Gierach
It had not been an entirely happy weekend. The planned dropoff trip to hunt big dogtooth tuna and sailies had been, from Wednesday, slowly downgraded and degraded to a free dive on the south coast of Mahe. Not a terrible way of spending an afternoon but just not the same as screaming reels and bent rods. I had fought with ferry ticket sales queues and cashiers, elbowed and pushed onto a boat packed with humanity who were all brimming with beer and anticipation for the Seychelles Carnival. I wanted nothing to do with this excuse to throw name away and went to play poker at the Eish Bar. I lost.
Saturday was slow and frustrating. I could literally scoop the same irritation oozing off JD. To make it worse he had to work on Sunday. The dive was good. A Combi door of a Napoleon Wrasse came to say hi. But it was still a ‘just kissed your cousin’ feeling in comparison to the fact that the sea was very fishable and the trip had been bailed upon at the last minute. So Saturday blurred into Sunday with the Sharks losing their rugby game and rum disappearing at an almost alarming rate. Francois Botha had arrived for a visit and there was much scheming and story telling at the bar.
Sunday arrived mildly hungover. JD headed to work – rightly unhappy – and Fab, Francois and myself contemplated what to do with the day as we half heartedly nosed fishing gear around the ‘Fishing Shack’. It seemed that Kai, Francois’ girlfriend, wasn’t arriving as planned so we went fishing. I was beyond keen to wet a line; my combination of ADD-and-lack-of-fishing-twitches was making people nervous. In the car Fab and I got talking about Gnathanodon speciosus – the Golden Trevally. This fish was my unicorn.
I had yet to have caught a half decent one on fly and I had been starting to take it personally. But anyway, there’s a certain spot somewhere on the northern side of Mahe that we’ve seen good numbers of the “other GT”. I’ve been wanting to approach this spot from a certain, different angle for a while now. And today was that day. As Francois and Fab moved down the flat, I circled up and around. The feeling I had that something had to go my way was still more hope than concrete belief.
It was this half belief that led me to tie on a Charlie instead of an Ugly Crab. It was this half-belief that would cost me my first shot that day.
As mentioned, I’ve been craving a Golden for ages now. They’re stunning fish; whitish silver, with dark gun-metal bars over a light shading over golden-yellow shading darkening to fin tips And those tattooed spots on the flank, unique to fish. Those hover-like mouths coupled with the attitude of a trevally make for a tailing flats fish that can still beat the hell out of an unsuspecting flyfisherman. My craving has been so much recently that I’d happily walk straight past tailing bonefish in order to have a crack at a small Golden.
As I had tied on that Charlie, Murphy started laughing and sent the first shoal of Goldens straight past me. I ducked and tore off in wide running arc to try and intercept them.
When Golden’s are happy and feeding they move in slightly unpredictable patterns at a pace that make them seem almost spooked. As they mission around the flats reeking havoc on the local crustaceans, single or double fish will break off the pack and put some extra effort into tailing up a few prized morsels. Its these tails that one often uses as a pointer to find the shoal. And when the whole shoal decides to have a dig around in a single, respect to the fisherman who keeps his knees still.
And this really is the spot you want to land your fly. Their unpredictable movement makes it difficulty to cut the shoals path – don’t even try imagine the frustration of chasing a single fish – but sometimes it all comes together. Fab and JD have both got Goldens; JD in particular has a knack for finding and landing these beautiful fish. This had to be my turn. I cut their path, put my cast out, strip… strip…
My Charlie obviously wasn’t heavy enough, light enough, big enough, whatever! The weekend wasn’t improving. I was negative.
Yet something, as it does, kept me there; hoping. Change fly. Ugly crab on. Pick my channel and wait.
And it all came together. The patience paid off. Another shoal pulled in, stayed on my course. Cast, present.
For me the hardest part about fishing a crab is leaving it dead still. Have you ever realised how arrogant a crab is? He’ll square up to you and give you a middle pincer. It takes me him awhile to admit that you’ll probably win and only then does he scuttle away.
Fish arriving. Wait, strip, strip, wait A small fish showed serious interest. Twitch crab. And to my delight King Rat muscled his way onto the scene, the little Golden gave and I was left with the realisation that THIS fish had sucked up the Ugly Crab.
INSIDE! Strip strike! Fish on!!!!
Everything blurred after that. I let him run, then got nervous when he turned towards the moorings and fishing boats so I chased him and some line back on the reel. I remember flashes of silver, excited gesturing and being told to concentrate on the fish! I eventually started breathing when Francois, who’d come across to get some photos, deftly tailed the beaut for me.
I must admit that I air punched. Twice.
Photos. Smiles. Banter. Friends.
The weekend was good again. It was wonderful and unlikely. And it had happened to me.
A big thanks to Francois Botha for not only taking the epic photos but for providing the beers and a lot of laughs that were enjoyed afterwards.
Hi Fred, I have been reading your posts with interest. I am traveling to Mahe for 2 weeks in November and am going to try catch some flats species on fly. Could you recommend a few spots to start? I am obviously interested in where you caught those Goldens, but any spots and advice would be much appreciated.
Hi Fred, I have been reading your posts with interest! I am traveling to Mahe for 2 weeks in November and would really like to catch a few flats species on fly. Could you recommend a few spots for me to start? Obviously I would love to know where you caught those Goldens, but any spots/advice would be much appreciated.