BEHIND THE COVER: CULLAN ASHBY

BEHIND THE COVER: CULLAN ASHBY

Milkfish hold a special place in the tropical species hall of fame. Kind of like a pseudo-legendary Pokémon. They aren’t on the Atlantic Ocean flats triple slam menu (bonefish, tarpon and permit) but they are on the Indian Ocean big 5 plaque (along side giant trevally, triggerfish, bonefish and permit). To put it mildly, they should be up there on your bucket list.

To make things more extraordinary, they aren’t even piscivores. So equipped with Arno Mathee’s algae-like fly “Milky Dream“, you have to hope a vegetarian fish will bite onto the other end of your fly line. And then they box like hell too. Expect many minutes in the ring. A fish like that, once landed, deserves its own photoshoot, and in this case to Brian “Chucky” Chakanyuka’s favour, involved keeping the fish wet.

Behind the cover of issue 43 lies all of this detail and more, as explained by angler, cover model and Alphonse Fishing Co. fishing guide Cullan Ashby, and photographer Chucky.

MR. ASHBY, WHAT LED UP TO THAT RELEASE SHOT?

It was the first day of our final week on Providence last year. I had the pleasure of guiding not one but two fellow guides Cam Musgrave and Stu Webb. The Chuckster (Brian) was also on board to document through the lens of a camera and have a sneaky little cast here and there. It really was the dream team!

The weather was pretty damn terrible. Wind, rain, you name it, but long story short we ended up having a biblical day. Old Testament stuff. Metre plus GTs, triggers, bones and of course the money shot milkfish. Both my guests for the day had managed to get a milk in the net despite Cam hooking and losing far too many – wasting a good two hours of our fishing. The rod was eventually handed to myself with the responsibility of making it three. 

After a couple drifts through a nice group I was hooked up. A hard but short lived fight ensued and milkfish number three was in the net. High fives all round, our mission for the day was beyond complete. Upon taking a handful of your average grip and grins, Chucky looked at me with a little twinkle in his eye as he reached back behind the skiff seat and pulled out his second camera which was in the big underwater housing. 

“Would you be keen to jump in Cashby?” were the words that came out his mouth.

“The rod was eventually handed to myself with the responsibility of making it 3.”

fly fishing photographer seychelles triggerfish
Chuckster in action with his dome rig, shooting Keith Rose-Innes’s 456th triggerfish.

MR. CHAKANYUKA, ARE YOU USED TO SHOOTING BANGERS LIKE THIS COVER?

Photography is 100% passion for me. I feel like I stumbled into it. Keith (Rose-Innes) was willing to give me an opportunity without much experience or gear and trained me up to where we are today. My previous job was dedicated towards video and it took us to these amazing places in Africa and I just kept taking stills as well. I also developed a healthy obsession for birds in the process, haha.

Shooting in the salt is both beautiful and terrifying. It’s a highly challenging environment for the gear. I’ve heard many people say the salt is where cameras come to die and I’ve seen it happen many times, to myself included. From a cinema camera in the Transkei to a drone recently on Cosmoledo.

The Seychelles are a beautiful environment though, with hectic contrasts and stunning vibrant colours both above and below the water. I love trying to tell a story of a moment, to capture the beauty of a scene or an animal, to puzzle a frame for weeks until I can mentally plan the shot and then get it. There a lot of facets to it and many things I love about the environment.

Gear wise I was shooting with the Sony A7R3 in an Aquatech housing with a 16-35mm lens to take that shot. I do enjoy fishing and on a day off I’ll go for a walk or join one of the boys for a mission. I don’t fish much, if at all, when I’m shooting. I’m more than happy to hang back and try and capture the action from behind my lens. 

“I love trying to tell a story of a moment, to capture the beauty of a scene or an animal”

A good splitshot for me clearly shows the subject be it the fish or the water or the angler – whatever the photographer is pointing our attention towards. A clean dome is essential, unless it’s intentional to have the spatter and you can see when there’s a stray drop, especially over someones face, you get that “smile-by-force” effect. lol. 

If you haven’t yet (and I don’t know why you haven’t), then you should read issue 43. It’s free bro.

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