For Paulo Hoffmann, getting to grips with GTs for the first time at Cosmo was a baptism of fire. Fortunately, he was in good hands.
“Paulo, I’ve got a goodie for you.”
That’s what Cosmoledo guide Alex Quatre said when the fish we had been waiting for made an appearance. A well-known figure to most GT anglers, Alex is the guy from the Yeti film Cosmo. I had a cool connection with him from the very beginning because he immediately got me into my first smaller GT at Cosmo. I loved the way he was guiding, from his energy and intuition, to the way he was dialled into the place and also his way of communicating.
This Seychelles trip was actually my first time fishing for giant trevally (GT). I have fly fished in the salt a bunch, but never in the Indian Ocean and never for GT so going to Cosmo, the most famous GT destination on the planet. It was very humbling and a little overwhelming at first.
The first three days were all from the boat because weather conditions were not ideal – the tides weren’t pushing in quite as fast and, most importantly, we had a lot of clouds so sight fishing in the reef wasn’t really happening. The fourth day was the first day with clear skies and really good visibility so Stephan and I went out with Alex.
The plan was to wade the reef. It was an outgoing spring tide, pushing out fast so we anchored the boat and started wading out, patrolling the reef line, looking for GTs. We didn’t see many fish on the outgoing tide so we went back to the boat, had lunch and then saw the water coming back in on the incoming tide. We went out again and, with the tide pushing in quickly now, we started walking to a favourite spot of Alex’s where we could patrol the reef line.
All of a sudden, Alex stopped and started scanning the water, waiting for something. It was an interesting change in energy. He knew there were a couple of fish patrolling on this particular tide every time. So, every few weeks he would see the same few fish, coming along the same edges of that exact reef. It was interesting to see him getting a little nervous with anticipation, inspecting the same spots. I stood with him while Stephan fished on. Sight-fishing, we caught a couple of smaller fish but, for the first time, it started to feel like what most people had spoken about before, when describing GT fishing – patrolling the reef, waiting, wading, sight-casting, being one-on-one with the fish. Alex wanted to wait for a while for one or two fish that he predicted would come along the edge of the reef … “like old friends” was his description. That’s when “the goodie” appeared.
Alex was pointing in the direction of the fish but, initially, I could not see it because I was not looking far enough. When he told me it was 200-250m out, I saw the fish in the waves, basically just sitting there. Every time the waves came in, the fish would ride them, visible in the surf, swimming in a couple of metres and then dropping back again. We started running with the rods, trying to get there before we lost it. Just as we got close enough to cast, the fish actually started surfing in on the waves pushing over a very shallow ridge. It seemed to know exactly what it was doing, waiting till the water was just high enough to get it over a shallow weed bed and into the lagoon. On the lagoon side, we lost him for a moment because he was now in slightly deeper water. We didn’t want to blind cast and spook him. There was a little white spot of sand where all of a sudden, we saw a fish over it, but that wasn’t the one. Then a bigger fish went over it. That was him.
It was tough because I didn’t want to put out a cast and have the small fish eat it and lose my shot at the big fish, but that was the only shot we had. I just had to hope that the bigger one would eat. I was very, fucking nervous and everything happened so fast. I made two strips, the fish flew out of the water and in the most brutal GT take I have seen so far, it obliterated my fly. The fish flew completely out of the water, its massive bucket mouth engulfing everything. I wasn’t even sure if it was eating my fly because it was so violent. I was in such shock I couldn’t even strike, I just ran backwards trying to keep tension. The fish ate the fly, turned around and tried to get out of the lagoon, but there was this ridge in the way that he had used the waves to get over before. He beached himself on that grass bed, flapping around. It looked like a shark attack. It took him about 15-20 seconds flapping around on that ridge before he could get washed out on the next wave. It was lucky for me because it was a 110cm fish and, because the fish tired itself out on the grass bed, it gave me time to get the tension on my line sorted. By the time the GT got into the deep and ran off, I had my line on the reel and it was safe. For a first time GT experience with the biggest fish by far, it was very helpful. After that the fight was pretty much done and I could just pump the fish in.
The whole experience was amazing – seeing the fish from 250m away, in every wave, passing over the ridge, into the lagoon pool, the violent smashing of the fly – I have never seen anything like it. It was humbling. I was done. After that I did not really fish much from the boat again, because this was the only thing I wanted to do. Sight-fishing for GTs in the waves is the best thing out there.”
Get the other stories from Fly Fishing Nation’s three and a half week trip to Cosmo, Alphonse and Farquhar in issue 28 of The Mission below. As always, it’s free.