When the Fly Fishing Nation crew went on an extended trip of Cosmoledo, Alphonse and Farquhar in the Seychelles, we knew they were literally in for the mission of their lives. We also knew it would be impossible to get one of them to sum it all up in a single story. So for this issue 28 Seychelles Smorgasbord, we went all in with five top moments from five anglers who had the all-you-can-eat saltwater fly fishing buffet. Actor Jasper Pääkkönen’s highlight revolved around a lost behemoth of a fish and the relief that he would go home with his digits intact.

Jasper Pääkkönen fly fishing in the Seychelles
Jasper Pääkkönen getting stuck into the saltwater buffet

“For me, this trip was a lifesaver because I had just been shooting a film in Finland from October to February, almost half a year. It turned out to be the most horrendous, most exhausting film production I have ever been involved in.  I was a complete wreck by the time I flew to the Seychelles. To be able to spend five weeks there and experience Cosmo and then Farquhar where I enjoyed one of the most incredible week’s fishing I have ever had in my life, anywhere.   The timing could not have been better for me or my mental health, to recharge the batteries.

The highlight of the trip was a fish that got away. I was with Brad Simpson, the head guide of Cosmoledo, and we were fishing in these deep channels around coral bommies, fishing and fishing, blind casting. During the day, Brad and I had talked about tarpon fishing and, specifically, what it’s like when a tarpon rolls and eats the fly. I’ve fished for tarpon mainly in Cuba, Jardines de la Reina, but also in Key West and Belize so I have experienced these eats.

Marina Gibson on the flats.

I was casting a big, black, huge profile fly over deep water when out of nowhere this fish ate the fly in a way that resembled a tarpon eat, so much that I went, “What the fuck is that!?” It was this slow-motion roll, like a tarpon eats, almost sideways and, as it happened, it seemed like this silver fish continued and continued forever. The length of the fish seemed so freaking massive that in my mind I could not help thinking, ‘That’s a big fucking tarpon.’ Even though that was impossible, in that split second, that eat was so different to any GT eat I have experienced before and the fish just seemed so massive, that my expletive question referred both to the fact that there are no tarpon in the Seychelles, and, simply, “What the hell is that? What is that fish…really?”

Bringing me back to reality, Brad shouted, “It’s a Geet! It’s a massive Geet!”

I struck. The line I was using was the Cortland GT/Tuna line which has a lot more stretch than your average GT line. As the fish took off, the line got all these rings and bounds in it, so I had this big ball of fly line flying in at me fast. I almost managed to clear all of it, until the last two metres shot up and wrapped around my hand. I’m right-handed so, naturally, I was holding the rod in my right hand trying to clear the line with my left hand. As the ball of line got tighter and tighter, I was trying to shake it off my hand. Eventually, it was just the last loop that I could not quite shake off, because it was wrapped around my left pinky finger. In the meantime, this massive fish had just taken off and was swimming in the opposite direction.

Brad could see what was happening and shouted at me, “Jump!” as loud as he could.

Keep in mind that all of this was happening in a few split seconds. With all of that adrenaline your mind goes into overdrive and you process a whole lot more things in a shorter period of time than you usually would. It was probably eight metres deep where we were, so when Brad shouted “Jump”, I looked down and saw the water was way too deep, in my opinion, to jump.

I was thinking, ‘If I jump and try to unwrap it from around my pinky finger but fail to pull it off, this fish is going to pull me under and I will die.’ It was such a massive fish that there was nothing I’d be able to do. I had to make a decision – choose to save my life and lose my pinky or lose my life. I naturally chose losing the pinky. I remember looking at it for a split second, going ‘bye bye left hand pinky, it was nice knowing you.’ I even had time to think about coming back to the set I was shooting on with this missing finger. I was already in trouble with the make-up artist because, when I left Finland I was pale from the winter and I knew, when I got back, I would, naturally, be tanned as a person is after spending five weeks in the Seychelles. If I showed up with a tan and without a pinky finger, that would have been a problem.

Fortunately for me, the fly line exploded.

Jasper Pääkkönen fly tying with a heavily strapped left pinky
Jasper Pääkkönen fly tying with a heavily strapped left pinky

The Cortland’s core has a breaking strain of 50lb – whereas other GT lines can go to 70lb to 100lb. Had I been using one of those other lines, I would probably have lost the finger, as it would have cut all the way to the bone and then stripped all the meat out leaving me with a bare bone finger like in a Loony Tunes cartoon. What happened was that the line went tight around the pinky right below my first joint and then it cut straight in, through the skin diagonally for about two and half centimeters towards my finger nail, going deeper and deeper, almost to the bone, but not quite. It was a big enough cut for me to be concerned that if it got infected I would have to cut my trip short. Luckily, that did not happen. As digits go, the left hand pinky would have been by far the easiest finger to lose. In my career, I don’t think it’s ever done anything important and I don’t think it ever will. That said I am happier to still have it attached.

We were speculating about the size of the fish – as you do – and on the day Brad said it was one of the biggest fish he has ever seen in the atoll. To put it into perspective, a few days later I went out fishing with Brad again and we caught what turned out to be my biggest GT so far, a 116cm fish. When we landed it, I was in the water with the fish in my lap, taking some photos. Luckily I did not have to say it, because Brad said it first.

“Now that we see this fish and we have measured it, I can tell you that the one we lost was 130cm plus plus.”

I had never held a GT of 116cm before so while it was huge, at the same time I realised that the one we lost was just a whole different creature in a totally different size category.

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.

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