Fly fishing for Black Head Sea Bream on the Doha flats with Fred Davis.
A few weeks before 2020 stuck its middle finger at us and the world turned to poo, I walked out onto a sand flat for the first time. It’s also very likely that no one has waved a fly rod out here before either. And it was teaming with fish. But this is not some far flung tropical flat, the type we find at the back of daily daydreams and doodles, palm fringed with cruising gets… This particular sand flat lies a short 40 min SUP from my from door. It’s attached to an island in a bay that is flanked by one of the busiest – well, not right now – airports in the world, the city of Doha and a man-made island known as ‘The Pearl’.
Over the past few years, I’ve fished the deeper waters on Doha bay from SUP and boat with casting and fly rods. We’ve caught great fish – big queenfish, golden and diamond trevally, orange spot grouper and others. But not once did I ever think that the vast flats on the island next door would hold such delight! It all just seemed too busy for fish to happily live on a shallow expanse of exposed sand.
On this particular day I was joined by Dave Purchase and Fred Styles – yes, out of the known 6 fly fishermen in Doha, two are Freds. I had been clear on my want to explore the flats – something had began to nag me about not having checked out these flats yet. But I was convinced that we would find nothing more than a few small purse mouths up on top and this mission was more to put my wonderings to bed. The consolation would be fishing into the deep water of the dredged drop-off running along the boating channel on the north side of the island.
I was quite taken aback when within a moment or two of wading onto a corner of the flat, I saw those unmistakable greeny shadows that don’t move like shadows drifting over the shallow sand. They plenty and they moved slowly, slower even than a bonefish that is methodically digging for crustaceans.
On went the Charlie and out went the cast. A shadow purposefully detached itself from its position and followed the fly almost to my rod tip before high tailing it for the deeper water. This was repeated twice more times in five casts. Change down a size. Next cast fish on!
A beautiful silver bream with a black blotch behind the eye and subtle bars came to hand. At first I thought it was juvenile Sobriety Bream – but after much discussion with Dale and pouring over fishbone.org, I figured out that this was a Black Head Sea Bream (Acanthropagrus Randalli). Interestingly, this fish is only found in the Gulf and was first described in 2009.
Since we’re not on lockdown here, only self-isolation protocols, getting onto the flats recently has been a fantastic distraction from the world of corona. These Black Heads have provided me with a very cool palette on which to play. After leaving the Seychelles, I found myself wishing I had experimented more instead of sticking to the tried and tested methods of catching fish. I’m getting to do that now! Worm flies, mini hermits and other impersonations of invertebrates found on the flats has kept me busy… They’re not big fish, but they eat flies in shallow water and are fussy; at the very least its amazing practice for when I do get back to one of those tropical flats that we’re always day dreaming about!
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