Finding kit, trying to decide what to take and what to leave behind and hoping the weather wasn’t going to affect my trip up to Heathrow, I finally zipped the bag shut as the taxi pulled into the drive and Alphonse I was bound.
With everyone travelling to Dubai from varying parts of the UK and Ireland, the group took the early flight from Dubai, arriving into Mahe very early morning. Luggage all collected, some of which looked to a very generous 15 kg, and we piled into three taxis and headed to The Boardwalk for breakfast and a beer or two. We spent the next few hours getting to know one another and renewing old acquaintances, fitting in a quick nap and raising the question of whether the art of conversation is indeed dead …….
Returning (in plenty of time) to the airport to offload our bags, we sat in the air-conditioned splendour of the domestic lounge, eagerly awaiting our flight out to Alphonse. For some of us, that came sooner rather than later ………. a wee incident on the part of a driver on Desroches ended up in the truck hitting the plane and putting it out of action. Our party had 12 rods and we were joined by 2 Swiss couples plus one member of staff and Serge’s little boy, SergeJoe, who was heading out to see Papa. As time was flying (and we were not) it was imperative to get as many out to Alphonse as possible. After a trip down to the IDC hanger, and a fair amount of weighing of people and luggage, Phil, Peter, Geoff and John and the 2 Swiss couples flew down to Alphonse. For the rest of us, it was a night on Mahé at Fishermans Cove and while we lost Alistair, Kirsty, Mike, Graham and Ian early on in the evening, Matt, Ty and I managed some quality control testing on the beer, G&T’s and tequila before being shunted into the library, out of sight of the other guests, to eat the snacks we had persuaded the Chef to provide. It was a little like being put in a naughty corner …………. and at that point we were still on our best behaviour.
Those of us on Mahé had an early start (and a late pickup), heading to the IDC hanger for the flight to Alphonse. No woman enjoys getting on the scales and doing so in public really isn’t great. There was a absence of gentlemanly discretion when our turn came around and Kirsty had to contend with Alistair sneakily adding to her payload when she wasn’t looking. Tarpon Timsie very kindly offered to help me lighten my own payload load – an offer I had to decline on several grounds but we all made it on, including SergeJoe who entertained Kirsty, Ian and I with his handkerchief exploits while Alistair and Graham snoozed their way through the flight.
Meanwhile, the lucky four who had made it to Alphonse met their guides and tackled up, heading out onto the flats on Alphonse for the mornings fishing where all of them bent their rods to the Alphonse bonefish. It was great to see Devan, Shawn and Mandy waiting for us at the airstrip – definitely a homecoming of sorts. With the fastest drop offs at the rooms possible, we all leapt into our fishing gear and got down to the fishing centre as quickly as possible to tackle up and meet up with the rest of the group as they finished their mornings fishing. Tam Tam was waiting for us and in short order, we were all aboard the ferry and St Francois we were bound.
Conditions weren’t great, it was quite overcast and windy but it was still wonderful to be out on the flats – for me, any day out there is a good day regardless of weather. Peter and I were fishing with James and every time I looked across at Peter, he had a bend in his rod. We spent a while stalking triggers (not lumps of coral this time), and to be fair, had a good number of shots at them but they really didn’t want to know. As soon as James uttered the immortal words of ‘It’s a good shot Charlotte, try not to stuff it up’ …. I knew I was fated and, 2 seconds later, rather chastened, saw the trigger two fin salute go up as it shot off into deep water. Peter had more luck in hooking his trigger but it toyed with him briefly before shaking off the hook and returning his fly to him.
The afternoon passed way too quickly and it didn’t seem to long before we were heading back to Tam Tam. Happily catching up with everyone about their day, we tootled home with Captain King making the most of the opportunities presented to cool down those passengers travelling in the cheap outside seats.
Massive rain and wind overnight saw the morning dawn dull and overcast with rain clouds gathering both on the horizon and on the faces of the Famous Five who had an exceptionally convivial (and late) evening than the rest of us. Peter arrived just before 0700 looking rather wide eyed but very calm: he later admitted to having woken to his alarm call, thanked Miriam for the call and promptly gone back to bed and fallen asleep. All credit where it is due: Peter was up, dressed and down to the fishing centre inside 15 minutes although minus breakfast. It was to be the first of his timekeeping encounters but more of that later. The fact that Tam Tam leaves at 0700 had totally eluded two of our merry band and some dark mutterings, and two phone calls later, all were finally assembled and out we headed.
Depending where you were on the atoll, some experienced more rain than others and the cloud cover and wind combined to make to for some pretty tough fishing with poor light. It did improve in the latter part of the afternoon but it wasn’t an easy day for anyone. That said, Peter’s rod once again seemed to have a permanent bend in it (including with a nice 4 lbs grouper) and on the whole, we managed a respectable haul for the day despite the conditions. Of particular note was Graham’s giant trigger fish weighing in at a hefty 7 lbs, my bonefish in the 7½+ lbs region (having shown Mr McLeod the proof, he reckons it was actually bigger than his Venezuelan monster – sweet), Matt’s brassy trevally – a rare addition to the landed list and one which should keep him smiling for a while.
Peter had another close encounter with a giant trigger fish: everything was going well – a perfectly placed fly and an interested trigger – all thrown into disarray by a cheeky Picasso trigger which shot in from stage right, mugged the giant trigger and pinched the fly it was contemplating eating! A trigger non-the-less but not quite what Peter had had in mind.
In addition to the triggers and Matt’s awesome brassy trevally, we ended the day with varied count including puffer fish (Alistair), tomato groupers, blue fin trevally of varying sizes, blue spangled emperors, boha snapper, pouter bream, thumbprint snappers, peacock groupers, sweet lipped emperor, a 3 lbs honeycomb grouper and roughly 170 bonefish. Arnold and Albert (with Scott) had an incredible bonefish day (approx 85) with 20 blue fin trevally to round off their day – mildly incapacitated after their previous evening session, Ty and Ian had a relatively quiet day, landing an obligatory bonefish each before heading off to spend the rest of the day looking for GT’s (and praying the swell would subside).
It was an earlier, and quieter, evening than the night before and, with our two errant timekeepers chastised once again, we went off to bed, hoping for better weather in the morning.
Thankfully no rain overnight and we woke to a lovely morning: the rain clouds had vanished and although the wind was still an issue, visibility was much improved on the day before and while the fishing is never easy, it was a vast improvement on Monday … and not a hangover or a late arrival in sight.
Geoffrey Bumble and I were paired together and headed out: the banter wasn’t hindered after lunch when Geoff’s hearing aid battery ran out, it just got louder …. and harsher. We were in trigger heaven but nothing we offered was acceptable: we tried everything we had including some clandestine trigger pro-types but despite much interest, nothing was taken. By the time Andrew’s watch (thankfully not alarm on the new remote control nuclear sub watch or who knows what might have happened in Taiwan) sounded the retreat there were triggers galore everywhere and Geoff and I were dancing the ‘cast, retreat, cast’ fandango before being frog marched back to the skiff …. we weren’t the last in, but it was close!
Matt scored again with a beautiful 6 lbs giant trigger fish, Model Mellor landed a 30 lbs milk fish and returned to Tam Tam looking as neatly pressed in his snowy white shirt as when he had appeared for breakfast. Rumour has it that his boat bag contains a solar powered travel iron – certainly, never a wrinkle dared grace his colour co-ordinated outfits (with matching belts and buffs) throughout the week. Graham and Mike warmed up on bonefish and blue fin trevally but spent the bulk of the day looking for triggers and milkfish, Ian and Matt (James) also spent the bulk of the day looking for milks and triggers while the Swiss boat (Brandon) landed a lovely 10 lbs brassy trevally, 2 x 8 lbs yellow dot trevally and a 6 lbs yellow lipped emperor. John and Peter (Wayne) spent a lot of time on bones, including a nice 4 ½ lbs fish, but still managing to land a variety of other species.
All in all, the days catch included bonito, 2 picasso trigger fish (Alistair and Kirsty), yellow lipped emperors, pouter bream, blue fin trevally, blue spangled emperors, thumbprint snapper, sweetlips, bumpbhead snappers, queen fish and approx 80 bonefish including a 6 lbs beauty landed by Geoffrey Bumble.
As John and I were fishing on Alphonse the following day, we offloaded our kit ready for the following morning. John, rather unbalanced by his boat bag (and not beer so he said), closely inspected the fishing centre sign and was able to confirm that is it quite well planted – if not quite as straight as it was before he rode into it!
You couldn’t have asked for a better day – non-threatening while fluffy clouds, barely a whisper of a breeze, the sea was like a mill pond and visibility looking fantastic. On Alphonse, John and I could only hope that the weather out on St Francois was as good as were certainly experiencing the ‘fish bowl’ effect and Bjouitier at one point in the morning was perfectly reflected in the water and looked like a floating island. There were bonefish galore: great pods of them swirling around but not stopping to feed. Those that did slow down got ambushed and John had a great morning before we repaired to the shade of the fishing centre for lunch. Our afternoon was slower, having cycled up to the point, the water was so warm that, after a brief chat, we agreed to call it a day. John left the fishing centre without incident this time – avoiding any further collisions with the signpost.
Conditions out on St Francois had been pretty much the same as we had experienced: and team Swiss again had a great variety day with Wayne, Peter landed a 7lbs blue fin trevally and 4 snappers up to 6 lbs, Alistair landed another puffer fish and Mike and Graham spent the bulk of the day looking for milks and casting at triggers – the two fin salute still very much in evidence. Ty landed a Picasso trigger fish and Ian’s 25 lbs milk fish was a beauty.
The tally for the day included pouter bream, yellow lipped emperors, blue spangled emperors, humphead snapper, needlefish, bonito, 2 lost triggers, groupers, various other snappers and a barrowful of bonefish.
Obviously perked up by a full day in the sun, solar panels recharged, Alonso Timms and Sterling Birkett, whilst warming up their tyres en-route to their first pit stop at the bar, and trying to do an illegal dual overtaking manouver, forced Geoffrey Bumble to tumble – landing him into the bushes, ripping his trousers and leaving him in need of a stiff drink.
It wasn’t a promising start and heading out to St Francois, black clouds were looming and rain, heavy for some and not so bad for others, was the order of the day with poor light generally and quite strong winds so a tough day fishing for everyone. Tarpon Timsie had a wee bit of problem with his rain jacket – truly not every cloud brings a silver lining as Mike found out. The silver lining on his new rain coat came off all over him leaving him looking rather more like Tin Man Timsie than anything else!
Despite it being so tough, and most of us being rained off for at least a period of the day, we still managed a respectable catch: blue spangled emperors, blue fin trevally, humphead snappers, 4lbs giant trigger for Matt, pouter bream, a lovely 6 lbs bonefish for John, white spotted grouper and brown spotted grouper. Less time spent on bonefish generally as many decided to spend the day looking for milks, triggers and GT’s – frustratingly with little success.
Dawned beautifully clear and still – rain on Alphonse and on St Francois and although I had the day on Alphonse, rain prevented play.
Out on St Francois, the rain seemed to be a bit patchy but heavy where it was falling. It didn’t prevent Alistair from landing a 15 lbs boho snapper and Kirsty a 4 lbs blue spangled emperor.
Catch of the day went to Peter: an 80 lbs GT caught on his 12# (not the much commented on 11#), Model Mellor lost a milk causing much angst and it seemed that most boats spend the bulk of the day looking for GT’s and milks – few bones were landed than earlier in week as the hunt moved away from the flats and further afield for the big boys. The triggers were still in evidence but still as frustrating as they had been at the beginning of the week and the days tally included another 12 blue spangled emperors, groupers and approx 80 bonefish.
Seeing the rods come back off Tam Tam on Friday night is always rather poignant as it signals the end of the week. No doubt about it, it was a tough week weather wise and the triggers, milks and GT’s were variously playing hard to get or hide and seek.
That said, it was still a fantastic week: great company and some memorable moments – not least of which was Peter admitting to not only going back to sleep on Monday and nearly missing the boat but subsequently falling asleep post fishing, waking at 7.00 and thinking he’d missed the boat when he’ only missed the pre-dinner snacks. A massive thank you to everyone for making it such an enjoyable week and just to prove that Alphonse always has something to surprise you, enjoy the following clip.