LOST BOYS – FARQUHAR FLY FISHING GUIDES: A VISUAL DIARY

LOST BOYS – FARQUHAR FLY FISHING GUIDES: A VISUAL DIARY

Fly fishing guides in remote destinations experience pressures and challenges a little different to your average First World working schlub. For all intents and purposes, they are marooned, lost for months on end to the modern world and the social lives they left behind. The video below gives a rare behind-the-scenes look at paradise on Farquhar around 2013. Warning: Profanity, nudity, and very little fishing follows.

Footage courtesy: Jako Lucas , Brad Hyman and Kyle Reed archive.

LOST BOYS

The idea for this story/confessional/group therapy session came about after I interviewed Texas-based Seffrican guide and filmmaker Jako Lucas about something completely unrelated. He mentioned in passing that while on Farquhar in the early days of his career, he and the other guides would play table tennis and, on the table, they would write down their frustrations about the job, the clients, and life on a remote island. Jako then dug up videos and photos that gave me a glimpse into this window in time. Once I roped in all the other guides from that intake, what followed was the most chaotic Zoom call ever.  

“Then the rat poison came out.”

Comparing each of them to the footage I had on file, the 10 years that had passed showed as you would expect. There were a few moustaches and receding hairlines, some wrinkles, and plenty of panda tans from long hours in the sun. All of them had filled out from the scrawny kids they were. Most, surprisingly given the attrition rate, had stayed in fly fishing.

Jako has established himself in Texas as a guide and still hosts trips all over the world and makes films. Kyle Reed and his wife run a prestigious bonefish lodge in the Bahamas, James Topham (Jamo) has been working in Norway guiding for salmon for years, Scoty de Bruyn bounces between guiding in the Seychelles and Norway, and Cameron Musgrave does the same, freelancing between the Seychelles and Iceland. Brad (teaching in China) and Rhett (Underberg farmer) got out of the fly fishing industry years back.

A Pandora’s box of pain, humour, and friendship poured out. Think Lord of the Flies meets Lost meets Old School meets Reality Bites, but with no Winona Ryder in sight. Most people who have worked menial service-oriented jobs will have tasted something similar to what the Farquhar guides circa 2013 experienced. Whether it’s working in a kitchen, working a bar, a ski resort or setting up operations on a remote Indian ocean atoll, these environments stoke a frenetic energy among the seasonal denizens. They also tend to weed out the weak, hone the talent, and forge lasting friendships among those who remain.

DISCLAIMER

To be clear, this is not about Farquhar itself. This could have been anywhere in the world with almost any group of young 20-something guides. Remote destinations are tough places to work, full stop. In the early stages, before the systems and support evolve into slick, seamless machines, it’s even tougher. What follows is just the truth of what guide life can be like in those circumstances. What it’s not is a criticism of the destination or the operators of these remote slices of paradise, most of whom do a bloody good job in trying conditions.

THE GRIND

Once the pleasantries were out the way, the Lost Boys immediately began to reminisce about the good/bad old days with vague echoes of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch (“When I was young”). One of the first things they covered was the difference between how things were in those early days on Farquhar and how things are now for young guides. Guides today mostly have it easy in comparison.

Jako: At that stage, there was no replacement guide, so there were no off days. You were on for the season. You were literally on all the time.

Kyle: Now a lot of destinations have rotational guides. Guys have off days. It’s very lekker. When we first started out there, no matter what, the show had to go on.

The problem with being in the middle of nowhere is that when stuff breaks (and stuff always breaks), you need to make a plan. For a guide team working with boats day in and day out, that meant many sleepless nights fixing their vessels and engines, their clients blissfully unaware of the immense all-nighter behind-the-scenes slog that went into making their boats run.  

Jamo: Boats are always a constant nightmare, but it seemed like there were ghosts on that island that could not stop fucking us over. We had very few spares and no spare boats, so it just added extra stress.

“Thunder and lightning, the guests were ready to go.”

Jako: If your boat broke, you had to work on it all night or the next day you go out with a broken boat.

Jamo: By the end of the season all of our steering cables seized. I had chronic tennis elbow and T-rex arms from steering. I just couldn’t get anything done. Kyle helped me out. We ended up doing many 4am sessions sorting out steering cables.

Kyle: If we were swinging spanners and greasing cables all night it didn’t matter, we had to be there. Thunder and lightning, the guests were ready to go.

Jamo: I remember towing guys back from out at sea a few times. I had to fetch Scoty once. He had broken down offshore and was slowly drifting towards Providence. It might have been his plan in the first place.

Scoty: I had a client and her daughter on my boat when I snapped a steering cable 12 to 14km from the lodge going through one of the gnarliest coral gardens. After we caught a fish I said, “Listen the steering cable on the boat is buggered and I don’t have an auxiliary pipe to mount to the hydraulic washer on the back of the 90. You can use the throttle and I will steer the motor with my hands.” By holding the outboard and with the client navigating, I managed to drive that boat all the way back to the harbour – facing the wrong way – without hitting anything.

FAUNA: RATS AND CATS

Farquhar Fight Club. Part 1. The Battle of Waterloo

Humans equal food and food equals vermin. The guides had an ongoing battle with rats.

Cameron: We had a massive infestation of rats in our rotten Leaning Tower of Pisa accommodation. We were getting chowed by them. Everything from our   food to our sunglass lanyards, even my toes got chowed at night.

Jamo: I still remember after a particularly evil fines session where Scoty partied like a rockstar. Nick Clewlow woke up in the middle of the night and there was a capybara-sized rat sitting on Scoty’s chest.

Jako: It was a huge, seasonal problem. We all had a rat running over us at some stage. There was no air conditioning, no windows, no nothing. So you made your own little mosquito net perimeter around your bed. And the rats would still come in to spoon with you at night. Literally one night, between Scoty and me we killed about six with wading boots and any other weapons we could find.

“I remember the night the massacre started.”

Brad: I remember the night the massacre started. We brought chocolates which were like gold on that side. And we thought one of the other guys were skoffeling [eating] our chocolates. We think that’s what herded the rats into the house.

Cameron: We definitely developed a personal vendetta against these fuckers. Then the rat poison came out.

Rhett: We heard them, scratching around in the middle room between all the bedrooms where we kept all our kit. Then one of them broke cover.

Cameron: Our caveman instincts kicked in and the rat ended up in the toilet bowl. The bumpy net was the only thing we could find at that time in the morning to finish him off. Rhett was first in and ended up cracking the toilet bowl. 

Read the rest of “Lost Boys” in The Mission Issue 43 below.

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