A little report from my 2013 Reef Raiders trip to Southern Oman…. I returned again this year for Reef Raiders 2014… which I’ll add soon… but here is the 2013 write up….

*** CAUTION – Conventional Tackle Fishing Ahead ***

I’m guessing the words “ Middle East” , “Arabian Gulf” and “Oman” probably don’t immediately make one think “ Big fish Country”… I would imagine politics, oil, foreign policies, sand, Dubai, deserts and camels is probably more likely to be at the front of your thoughts if someone where to ask what your thoughts on Oman were…

About 2.5 years ago, I got a message on one of the interweb fishing forums from someone named Ed Nicholas…. Ed is an English born, raised in Dubai, rugby playing fishing obsessed nutter who after spending many years exploring and fishing the entire coast line of the United Arab Emirates and Oman, was planning on setting up a fishing operation in the Southern area of Oman… This area at the time was virtually unexplored from a sport fishing perspective, with just mere rumours and whispers of MONSTER Giant Trevally, the holy grail of many anglers, as well as playing host to massive numbers and variety of all manner of other hard fighting, lure smashing creatures, all in a completely deserted and mostly unfished couple hundred mile stretch of coastline… in other words, paradise…

Fast forward 2 years, and Ed has established an incredible operation, No Boundaries Oman ( www.noboundariesoman.com ) down on the Southern Oman coast in the town of Shwaymiyah, a couple hours north of the Oman/Yemen border.. The logistics of setting up an operation of this nature in a place like Shwaymiyah is staggering… isolated doesn’t even begin to describe this place…. But 2 years of hard graft, rebuilding, planning, blood sweat and tears, with a ton of fishing in between, Ed and his team have built up something incredible… Ed and his team converted 2 wrecked old houses into perfectly appointed, and incredibly comfortable lodges, to cater for every possible need of the serious angler making the long trip to these hallowed grounds to chase big fish… Air conditioning, comfortable beds, western style toilets!, fantastic tackle prep areas, superb food, and great entertainment/chill areas make the lodges the perfect place to chill and unwind after an epic day on the water….

No Boundaries runs two perfectly suited 33 ft centre consoles, both running twin 150 ponies on the ass end, with a ton of real estate up front making perfect casting decks for 2, 3 or 4 anglers swinging heavy poppers and stickbaits for monster GT’s, or lighter gear on the inshore front… simply put, these are superb fishing platforms, and incredibly well maintained and set up…. A lot of remote places one fishes round the world one has to make do with sub par vessels to fish from, or ill suited slow local craft… Not the case here…

Anyway, to avoid carrying on about how great the set up is here, I will just ask you to take my word for it, these guys have done it properly, across the board… this is a bad ass operation…. But still retains that almost otherworldly charm and mystique about it that one feels so strongly when visiting such a foreign, and incredibly beautiful place like Southern Oman….

So now lets talk about the shit you all came here for, the fishing… Well, where to begin?

A brief intro to the area… Shwaymiyah is a tiny little isolated village, situated in a huge natural bay, and is flanked by hundreds of miles of MASSIVE sandstone cliffs and deserted beaches on either side for hundreds of miles… it has one tiny little breakwater with a slipway only just as wide as the trailers that carry the 33ft boats to be launched expertly every morning… the fishery is pretty much split into two main areas, Inshore and the Islands…

Southern Oman has had a fair amount of press in a lot of Vertical Jigging and Popping circles over the last 2 years, mainly because of the insane Giant Trevally fishery… this truly is the land of giants, and the numbers of huge fish that this area has produced over the last 2 seasons is staggering… we are talking of GT’s on topwater, in less than 10 metres of water, to the 65 kilo mark!!!! Yeah I said 65 kilos…. So imagine a Jack Crevalle that went on a steroid diet for 10 years, then got hopped up on PCP for a week, now grow it to 130 lbs and you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about… There is nowhere in the world that has produced even remotely the numbers of big fish that this area has… 40 kilo fish are common, 50’s are common and one can expect to at least see a fish in the 55 kilo plus range at least once on a trip…. This fishery is concentrated around the Kuria Muriyah Islands, a group of barren and massively rocky islands sitting about 28 miles off shore of Shwaymiyah, about a 30 minute to 1.30 hour  run, depending on which islands you’re running to, and of course weather conditions… Out at the islands, its all about the GT’s… heavy popping gear and UFC style fishing… 100lb braid minimum, 30lbs of drag on big spinners…. 200lb plus leaders, 150gram plus poppers and stickbaits, casting into shallow, gnarly current ripped waters…

The Inshore fishery is perhaps often over shadowed by the GT fishery around the islands, but in my opinion is no less spectacular, and to be honest, probably the most entertaining fishery I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in my short life…. Everything in this part of Oman just seems to grow bugger than anywhere else I’ve seen, and everything and I mean EVERYTHING eats topwaters and lures… fish I would never have expected to rise more than a foot off the bottom to feed are swimming up to the surface to smash lures off the top… Snapper on topwaters, all the trevallies on topwaters, Permit on topwaters…. Yes you heard me, PERMIT on topwaters… Although we didn’t land any on our recent trip, Ed has had days of taking 3 plus Permit on topwaters, and numerous others on sinking stickbaits fishing around bait balls…

Couple all of this with scenery that has to be seen to be believed, and you have, to me, one of the finest adventure angling destinations on the planet….

I’ll let the pics do most of the talking here, as my words could never really do the place justice, but a brief summary and some highlights from our trip….

This trip is part of a series of trips Ed does each season, as a sort of “season Opener” , which he has dubbed the “Reef Raiders” trips.. he invites a group of fisherman/friends from round the world to join him on a early pre season trip, in which he gets to fish alongside them… with a long busy guiding season ahead, he revels in the chance of actually spending some time fishing with mates rather than always being the guide at the helm… I was fortunate enough to included in this group of anglers, and humbled to be a part of the best group of fisherman I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with… on this trip were:

Lars Nielsen – Danish fishing nut, and one of the head honchos of Garmin Scandinavia

Bertrand Picarda – French GT fishing pioneer and all round obsessed fisherman. Bertie has been popping for GT’s for longer than most of us have known about GT’s… He’s also been involved with the fishing industry for many years with both Lowrance, and now Airmar, the guys who make all the best trasnducers etc for all your snazzy electronics..

Kil Song – Owner Jig n Pop Tackle: Kil is probably one of the most well travelled anglers on the planet, spending 11 months of the year abroad chasing fish and testing tackle all over the world.

Yoshitaka Tsurasaki – Owner and Chief designer of FCL Labo Tackle Japan: Probably the finest angler I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and fishing alongside… the word “Guru” gets bandied about often these days, but this man is the true essence of the word… Just watching him fish and learning from him would have made the trip worth it!

Andre van Wyk ( Me ) – Fishing addict who doesn’t get to fish enough, and somehow scored an invite to join these luminaries…

Ed Nicholas – Owner of No Boundaries and complete GT Fishing Powerhouse, and all round brilliant angler…

I landed in Salalah in Southern Oman after a long trip from Cape Town, 2 days before the others… Ed grabbed me from the airport and we immediately hit it off, and headed to a friend of Ed’s who runs the Ex Pat club in Salalah’s house on the cliffs for a BBQ… bunch of ex and current army/airforce/navy crew and their wives and kids, all chilling on the cliffs overlooking miles and miles of deserted coastline, while enjoying a massive BBQ … not a bad way to kick off a trip!

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Kickin it with my boy Ed with an amazing view of the Salalah coastline in the background

The next day, Lars, Kil Song and Tsurasaki-San arrived, and bundled into one of the transport vehicles for the 4 hour drive through the desert to the Lodge in the tiny fishing village of Shwaymiyah…

Bertrand was only arriving a little later in the day, so Ed and I spent the morning packing the truck with supplies ( well Ed packed, I watched while acclimatizing to the 40 plus degree heat ) and once we were loaded up, we swung by the Airport, picked up the French GT slayer, and hit the road…

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2 - Ed

Ed at the helm of his new F150, flying across the desert..

3- Bertie

The Frenchman getting cosy in the back…

The drive through the Omani countryside is an experience in itself… nothing but dry open landscapes, with nothing remotely resembling civilization… the only life forms breaking the horizon being the Camels and the odd scubby tree… harsh and barren, but hauntingly beautiful..

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Some local Wildlife…

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Last pass before defending into Shwaymiyah…

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..somewhere in that fog lies fishing Nirvana…

During our drive down, of course all talk ion the truck between the 3 of us quickly turned from beer, to woman, to fish, to tackle… this of course being the universal language of fisherman, we got down to it pretty quick…

GT fishing is all about stopping, turning and landing a fish that wants nothing more in its life than to kick the shit out of you, preferably in the nastiest currents and coral it can find… so heavy drags are a huge talking point… Bertie , Ed and I were discussing drag settings, and the scientific approach, using a scale, vs the more “hey shoowow” approach of going by feel…. We went back and forth a couple times, with Ed leaning more to the by feel method, and Bertie to the Scale method… Bertie than asked Ed “ But how the hell do you know how much drag you are actually putting on a fish and how tight your drag should be? “

To which Ed’s reply, which would become the motto of our trip from then on, was “ Dude, I just tighten it all the way till it can’t go anymore, and then turn it 2 clicks back…”…. Hence forth the trip became known as “ The 2 Clicks Back Tour”….

Bearing in mind we fishing 100lb braid, on Stella 14000 and 18000’s and Saltiga Dogfights, so “2 Clicks Back” amounts to around 40lbs plus of drag pressure!!!! I was in for a rude awakening!!

*** TO BE CONTINUED ***

TEASER PIC – Just to give you a taste of whats to come…

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Bertie and his Black Betty