19 April 2017

Cosmoledo's Cemetery Point and Sand Flats

Day three turned out to be a bit of a difficult day, because we couldn’t find fish.  Tommy typically guides on Alphonse and was serving as a substitute guide on Cosmoledo.  We ended up fishing Cemetery Point, an area Tommy had never guided previously.  We covered a large amount of coastline before the tide started producing fish on the flats, and we did get to see Cosmoledo’s cemetery, though we didn’t go ashore.  We could see crosses marking gravesites even though those graves were from the 1700s, so the archivist and historian in me was at least occupied while we waited for the fish.  Cody eventually went ashore to take photos and film, especially the turtle tracks from their previous night's nesting.

Cemetery Point lies in the background
Green Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles nest on Cosmoledo
Finally, some sharks started to appear, and I have always wanted to catch a Lemon Shark, a Nurse Shark, or a Black Tip Shark, as long as they were about a meter or less.  I casted to several, but none were in a feeding mode, just more cruising the flats than anything.  While Cody was wanting to take some shoreline videos of us on the flats, a GT came inshore off the surf.  He promptly headed back out, but signs of life started to appear.  Since we were not wading or walking, I sat down to take my boots off, because my feet were hot.  Tommy called out that there was a Jeet, get ready to cast.  I stood back up on the casting platform—right in the middle of my fly line.  I casted, stripped, and hooked a Jeet, who promptly made a run before I could completely remove my foot from the line.  I did use my foot to strip set the hook tightly in the Jeet's scissors, but Tommy hears my hopping on the casting platform.  Turning to see that my foot is wrapped, he helped me untangle myself and keep the fish on my line.  Fortunately, I was only wrapped once, and this Jeet didn’t feel like running too fast. Cody was much farther down the shoreline, so he had a bit of a walk, but he made it back and took some nice photos and videos.  Jeets grunt like little piglest, so that was fun to hear.

After we let him go, we decided to stay in the water.  Cody saw another Jeet coming in on the tide, so he grabbed his 12# rod, and began casting.  Cody casted his fly about 75 feet, and that GT pounced on his tan, 8/0 Brush Fly.  While Cody’s fighting his fish, I saw some nice Bonefish cruising the flat coming towards Cody’s Jeet, so I cast to them.  We did a pretty good job keeping the fish disentangled from one another, in spite of their long runs, and we produced a nice Cosmo FishOn! Double!  I had hoped our splashing fish would attract a small shark or two, but no such luck.  After releasing, we continued covering the flats until the dropping tide demanded we move off or get stranded.  We headed into the lagoon, where a lesson in patience would be required.

Chalk it up to being tired or thinking about it being the last day on Cosmo or thinking ahead to Alphonse or thinking about slamming a third day in a row, my casting fell apart, and I couldn’t strip well, get the rod to load, hit a target, or spot fish.  I just sat down for a while to gather my thoughts.  We came across nice Milkfish schools on the flats, but they weren’t feeding.  Then, we saw nothing but white sandy flats and no fish, not even mullet.  Cody tired of standing.  We got out and walked over the shallowest areas, because the water was too skinny.  We weren’t seeing fish, and we later learned, the Jeets had stacked up in the lagoon near the Lonestar, because Randy and David landed 32!

David Adams and Randy Cupp with two of their 32 landed Jeets
When targeting Cosmo’s GTs, especially on the flats, mudding rays typically have GTs in tow.  It is an interesting relationship to observe, and I like rays.  Tommy was very good pointing out the different species of rays, the length of their tails, which species had stingers, which did not.  We spotted several Thornback Rays, which have thorns or spines along their back and tail, but Tommy let us know that Jeets don’t follow these rays.  I became proficient at identifying these rays.  Cody let me up on the casting platform as we headed off, trying to go some where that might have fish.  Tommy was cruising to a ledge drop off, when he stops the boat immediately still on the flat, and yells, “Backcast, quickly, NOW!”  I backcasted, never seeing exactly where I was to place my fly, when Cody and Tommy are yelling, “STRIP!  STRIP!  STRIP!  STRIP!”  Suddenly, my line goes tight, and the fish heads back towards the sand flat, thankfully, and not to the coral ledge.  After a good fight, we get this Geet landed—incident-free, I might add—and we decided to measure him.  Spot on the nose, I caught an 80 cm GT that was cruising on the back of a Thronback Ray using a back cast to a fish I never saw while trying to maintain my balance to keep from flying off the bow due to the sudden stop.  Definitely a memorable fish.

Eventually, it was time to return to Lonestar, which was being prepped for an eight hour, nighttime sail due west to Assumption Island, from where we would fly out back east to Alphonse the next day. Cosmo, you taught me much, and I will miss you!

18 April 2017

Milk Moustache and Jeets on Cosmoledo

Cody’s dream fish has been the Milkfish.  In 2011 on Alphonse, I watched Cody cast to feeding Milkfish, casting the fly directly in a Milk’s mouth, which is about the size of a Solo Cup’s mouth, only to see it not eat.  Timing is key to catching a Milkfish.  If they are not feeding on the surface or
on the flats, Milks are uncatchable.  Since Cody had enjoyed such a successful day the previous day, we decided to hit the surf for Milkfish.  Cody casted to several schools cruising by feeding on the surface, but our fly just wasn’t getting to the right depth in the water column.  The fibers were trapping air, keeping it floating on top, instead of the needed four to six inches below the surface.  Tommy tied on one of the early Milkfish fly patterns, and Cody casting to the third school, it was MilkfishOn!

Cody and I have affectionately dubbed Milkfish as Popeyes of the Sea.  These beasts eat only algae and the tiny zooplankton and other microscopic bugs that attach to the algae—That’s It! However, their vegan diet in no way diminishes their size, strength, and ability to put up a fight of a lifetime.  Milkfish are unique and beautiful, especially with that turquoise stripe along its back, light maroon lateral line, silver sides, oval mouth, big eyes, and strong, forked tail.  As tough as Milkfish fight, a fly fisher must handle the fight delicately even though a 10# rod is the typical fisherman’s arsenal. 

Cody’s hooked Milk decided to stay with a group of other Milkfish, and then a second group, and a third group before Cody fought it out of the schools.  Milkfish take a lot of line, easily going into the backing, and letting the Milk run is just something that has to be done and without cranking down on the drag.  Pumping and winding and pumping and winding is the strategy to first slow down their runs.  In all, Cody’s fight took 23 minutes.  It was both fun and worrisome to watch this fight, as I wanted Code to land his dream fish. 

After saying goodbye, we headed to the Flats to see if my luck catching GTs could improve.  Thank goodness, Tommy really enjoys guiding, because I wouldn’t have caught my first hooked Jeet without his help.  Hooking the fish in the scissors and a hard strip set created the run reaction, and even though I wear great Patagonia fishing gloves, I still got a finger burn.  That prompted me to quickly let go of the slack line, which then popped back and wrapped around the bottom stripping guide.  Needless to say, incident-free fishing wasn’t going to happen for me today, which meant Tommy had to work really hard. 

My first Giant Trevally was not the biggest, the fastest, nor did it light-up the brightest, but it was a fun fish and a lifetime memory.  I loved catching it; it made me want to catch more Jeets, and I learned that I preferred catching them on the flats versus teasing them or dredging for them.  Stalking them over a beautiful white sand flat or turtlegrass, timing the cast, placing the fly properly, and then stripping successfully is an indescribable thrill; work, yes, but equally as thrilling, especially when that line goes tight. 

Cody wanted in on the fun, so catching a bigger Jeet than the previous day’s catch was next on his agenda.  Still stalking the white sand flats for these cruising beasts, Cody landed a really nice GT
—on his first cast, no less.  Cody made catching these monsters look effortless.  It also meant that Cody was on target for a slam of some type, and it wasn’t even lunch time!

After lunch, Tommy put us on turtlegrass flats to target Triggerfish.  One of my goals in coming to the Seychelles was to reach the Triggerfish Trifecta—Moustache, Picasso, and Yellowmargin.  I loved Cody’s Moustache Trigger from the previous day, and in 2011, I had caught a Picasso.  I hooked up with two Picasso’s on Astove, but they broke me off on coral, so I was a little determined.  We came upon a little Moustache, who was both happy and hungry.  I casted my size 2 Shrimp pattern to this little fellow, and he nip-nip-nipped it.  However, after four different casts and repeat eating behavior and NOT spooking this little guy, we decided the fly was just too big for him to inhale.  Cody and I packed many of our Bonefish Bitters, and Tommy decided that an amber-colored one might work.  Lo and behold, this little guy inhaled the Bitter, and then promptly hid in a coral hidey-hole.  In spite of my high rod angle, there was no teasing, pulling, or getting that fish out of his coral home.  Bless Tommy’s heart, he braved a Trigger’s teeth, which can cleanly sever a human finger in one chomp, and worked that little fellow out of his hole.  As a result, I reeled it in, we landed him, and I now had caught two of the three desired Trigger species.

No sooner had we released my Trigger, when Tommy spotted another feeding Trigger, and this one
was a hoss!  Cody casted and as the Trigger was chasing the fly, another Trigger came up.  When two Triggers are present, they are in essence squabbling over territory and are thus NOT feeding.  These two chased one another for a while, but amazingly, the bigger of the two returned.  Cody casted again, and the second, pesky Trigger reappeared.  They fussed and chased one another, and finally the intruder left.  Cody casted a third time, and this fella inhaled and crushed Cody’s fly and made a run straight for a coral balmy head.  Cody fought and played the fish quite nicely, but it just kept running for that coral, and since Cody’s Trigger was much bigger, if it went into the coral,
it was staying.  Cody fought it, standing the Trigger on its head, while Tommy chased after it to keep it away from the coral head.  It was a long run, but between the two, Cody landed a 54 cm Yellowmargin Trigger, which was absolutely the most beautiful Trigger I had ever seen.   Cody was now on for a Flats Grand Slam; all he needed was a Bonefish.

We had a couple of hours left in the day, so I wanted the chance to catch a Yellowmargin myself.  The Triggers had been appearing in abundance, and it didn’t take long before we found another one happily feeding in turtlegrass.  The bow of the boat is known as 12 o’clock.  We were fishing at the 4 o’clock position.  This fish was feeding so happily that he missed my fly as it passed him by, twice!  Still actively feeding, I cast a third time, garnered his attention, and he was chasing my fly, when he quit, just quit.  Tommy starts yelling, STRIP!  STRIP! STRIP! so I continued stripping.  From our 8 o’clock, unbeknownst to us, a Jeet had seen that size 2 Shrimp fly and came zooming in to steal the meal from the Trigger.  Chaos ensued!  I hooked him, but I had a 10# rod rigged with 25 pound test tippet and a size 2 fly, not a 12# rod rigged with 130 pound test and a size 8/0 fly, and this guy was headed straight for a balmy coral head with a knotted loop in my fly line running through my guides. 

Believing that I really wouldn’t land this fellow, as I could exert little pressure, I listened to Tommy, who was standing in the water shouting instructions as to how to play him.  Rod up; reel; rod tip down; reel quickly; rod up; not too much pressure; let him run; don’t let him run.  Tommy hopped in the boat and moved us first closer to the Jeet, so I could reel in a large amount of line, then putted us backwards away from the coral head, and hopped back into the water while Cody used the push pole to hold us into place.  Somehow, we had applied enough pressure on the fish, that he stopped running.  Turning my rod guides-side up, so I could reel the knot through much easier, Tommy followed the fly line to the leader.  Oh my word, we landed that fish!

Now, it was time to find Cody a Bonefish, and the tide was rising. Tommy called to the other guides to see if anyone else had seen any Bones, but nobody was within radio distance. Near the lagoon where the Lonestar was moored was a nice sand flat where many species of fish cruise the flats line on a significantly changing tide. We rolled up on herds of mullet and Milkfish, whose forked tails protrude the water surface similar to Bonefish. Finally, after searching, hoping, and waiting, a small school of Bones came cruising down the flat. Cody casted, stripped, and it was BonefishOn! Cody continued stripping, set the hook nicely, and that Bone began an epic Bonefish run. Cody reeled, and as the fish turned to make his second run, POP! The line came zinging back at the boat, Fast; BonefishOff! We all had forgotten that Cody’s Trigger had bent the hook on his fly, and when the Bonefish turned to run, the fly just slipped out of its soft, rubbery mouth. After tying on a new Shrimp pattern, we boated twenty minutes back to Southwest where Cody caught his Bonefish the previous day, and we waited, and we waited, and we waited some more. Waves of Milks came cruising by, and we waited even more. The tide had risen significantly, making the area too deep for Bonefish. For fear of being eaten, Bonefish stay in shallow water to keep GTs and sharks at bay. We headed back to Lonestar, but before calling it a day, we tried to find one last school of Bones cruising the same area where Cody had lost his earlier Bone. We searched, we looked, we hoped, but this isn’t Alphonse; it’s Cosmoledo, where the Bones are bigger but less plentiful. Regrettably, we had to give up. Cody got his second Slam for his Milk, Jeet, and Trigger, but it wasn’t the Grand Slam he’d wanted. It was an EPIC day of fishing, though.

17 April 2017

Cosmoledo Atoll, Seychelles

S 9º 44.483’ E 47º 38.644’

2017 DigitalGlobe Google Earth Image
If Astove was the steep learning curve, Cosmoledo proved to be a viable testing ground.  Arriving on Cosmoledo meant boarding the Lonestar live-aboard catamaran and traveling northwesterly overnight for four hours from Astove.  When dawn arrived, Jude captained us into Cosmoledo’s lagoon, where we ate breakfast, met our guides, and prepared for three days of incredible flats fly fishing.

Lonestar approaching Astove's leeward shore
Cody showed off our first two days on Cosmoledo by slamming the fish species.  Fishing a flats area known as Southwest required us to fish overhangs similar to fishing for Bass under ledges along the Colorado River, except that Cosmoledo meant we were sight casting to fish.  Our guide, Tommy Hradecky, spotted a Giant Trevally hugging tight under the rocky shoreline.  Cody casted and hooked up with a small but aggressive Giant Trevally.  Strip setting nicely, Cody played that fish well, keeping that Jeet from hiding in the craggy, coral shoreline. I also tried my hand at fishing the coastline, but the dropping tide pushed the GTs to other areas.

We moved off to other flats areas, and I got to cast to some GTs, but regrettably many turned off my moving fly.  With the exception of the one time I watched my retrieve, which caused me to miss the strip, which stopped the fly, which made the GT turn off, we couldn’t figure out why they were turning off as quickly as they turned on.  Jeets just weren’t going to be on my menu, the first day.

Heading to a nice turtlegrass area, Cody caught his first Moustache Trigger.  It was fun watching that fish tail, then flop over, and go nose down on Cody’s shrimp-pattern fly.  It took several of those teeth nip-nip-nips before the Trigger inhaled, but once he did, it was MoustacheOn! 

After lunch, we headed out to the surf to cast to feeding Milkfish and tease up some GTs from the deeper waters.  Cody casted to several schools of Milks, but they just weren’t taking the fly.  Teasing Jeets is definitely a team effort between Guide and Fly Caster.  I worked on timing and targeting, and even though I didn’t manage to catch a Jeet, I did catch a beautiful Bluefin Trevally.  I LOVE Bluefins, even though they aren’t quite the fighters that GTs are, they are still a fun species to target and catch.

Time was drawing near to end our first day, and we decided that we wanted Cody to have a good opportunity for getting a Flats Slam, so Tommy headed off to search for Bonefish.  Unlike Alphonse, where the Bonefish are plentiful, Cosmo’s Bones are not present in large numbers, but once found, their sizes are larger than Alphonse.  Tommy boated us on a nice flat with a good pushing tide.  We waited about ten minutes, and three Bones came cruising down the sand flat.  Casting beautifully, Cody waited for the Bones to near, and then with three nice strips, it was BonefishOn! and a Flats Slam!  It was nice to shake the frustration of Astove’s fishing, to see fish, avoid surf trekking, and watch Cody species slam.

13 April 2017

Astove Island, Seychelles

Indian Ocean S 10 3.527' E 47 44.818'
2017 DigitalGlobe Google Earth Image
Head guide Kyle Reed tying a Bimini Twist knot
Joining Tailwaters on another trip to the Seychelles, Cody and I chose to fish the Astove/Cosmoledo/Alphonse itinerary, new to Tailwaters' customers in 2017.  We flew from Mahe to Alphonse, where some passengers disembarked and our plane refueled before continuing southwesterly to Astove.  The Alphonse Fishing Company constructed Astove's new lodge on the existing foundation of the home belonging to a family who once inhabited the island in the early part of the 19th century.  We enjoyed outstanding hospitality from the staff and chefs, and the guides set to work helping us rig our rods, because two-and-a-half days of fishing would come and go quickly.

My first cast of the whole trip was to a Giant Trevally, aka Jeet or GT.  While guide Dave Marshall explained many aspects of GT fishing, I still failed to completely grasp what it meant to fish for GTs.  Failing to keep the fly moving, I missed my only opportunity at an Astove GT.  We fished the lagoon, blind-casted in the channel, walked the surf, where a few opportunities arose to cast to Bluefin Trevally, my favorite Trevally species, and attempted some dredging.  However, I was utterly unprepared to fish the surf, as I had no experience punching a 12# cast into the wind.  We caught nice Bonefish and other species, Tomato and Honeycomb Groupers, and had Triggerfish chase and then turn off our flies.

Astove demands that anglers be in good shape physically, to hike the island's perimeters searching for Permit and GTs, as well as superior casting shape to fish the surf well.  It is a beautiful island full of Giant Tortoises, many different bird species, and a rich and varied history, even if limestone pools attract and hold pesky mosquitoes, whose bites are minimal.

Pauley's Island at low tide

Pauley's Island at high tide

Giant Tortoise among the palms

Grey Heron (leeward side)

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