A year is a very long time to have to wait for a fishing trip. For the last four years Providence Atoll in the Seychelles has very much captured my heart. Many ask me why – is it the fact that it is an enormous area at 55 km x 14 km? Is it because it is covered in marauding giant trevally, bumphead parrotfish, triggers and bones?  Perhaps it’s down to knowing the guide team so well and their continued passion for the environment and the fish that inhabit it. I think the answer is that it’s a true saltwater wilderness with huge areas of totally unexplored flats, channels and lagoons. After four trips every experience has been different. Each time we have focused on different areas and often species. Although the GTs that I am so passionate about continue to be the star of the show, each trip has had different conditions and tidal variations that have brought a particular species to the fore.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodArriving on Mayas Dugong is akin to coming home, after a few hours it feels like you have never left. Boat life takes over, shoes are thrown in a corner to be forgotten and as the six hour sail begins Tim briefs everyone on mothership rules, life at sea, safety on the flats and emergency procedures before getting into to the nitty gritty of fishing prospects for the weeks ahead. Then begins one of the best parts of the trip, the explosion of tackle on deck, kitting up and rekindling old friendships over cold Seybrew. The number of Hardy Fortuna XDS that spewed forth was telling as even the revered Charlton Mako had been forsaken by a few for this trip. The guides implemented a brilliant system of using a label gun to tag rods with names for this season which speeds up the morning process dramatically. However someone left it unattended for a while which was unwise and silliness ensued.

Day 1 – Learning Curve
The first day was a bit of a blur as it often is. Easing back into the swing of kit organisation and working out the stiffness of several days travel combined with lack of sleep and a massive adrenaline rushes always tends to do that. I went out with David and John with Justin Rowland as our guide and we were to concentrating on home flat, a large area on the south west of Providence Island. It’s a big turtle grass flat, but we were faced with strong westerly winds that had beaten up the edge and made visibility tricky.

Day 2 – Trigger Time
Many of you who have read my trip reports in the past know I have a bit of a thing about triggerfish. I love to fish for them, and after GTs they are probably my next favourite species – the Jack Russell of the flats. Hooking and landing titans has always been fine for me, but the yellow margin has always been a nemesis.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodWhile fishing with Brummy on another occasion we were moving down the middle of a flat pock marked with small depressions and holes. On the outer edge a big yellow margin had ventured out of the comparative safety of the deeper water to feed on the edge. Steve had gone ahead with Tim, who was guiding us that day, scouting for GTs. Brummy and I brought up the rear with the boat. Brummy is fully aware of my obsession with the coral biters and kindly let me have the shot.

As the atoll had been experiencing some strong westerly winds for the first few days we were anchored on the east side and fishing mostly the north east. The vast open turtle grass flats were our playground, but not many bumpies were around to this point. They tend to arrive with the spring tides. We therefore searched these areas for GTs on rays, but flat light made spotting tough. As a group we would often therefore put the guy with the best eyes (the guide) up on the front of the deck and then one of us pull the boat around with a fisherman on either flank. Although the guides protested to this it made the most sense to us and resulted in hitting fish we would otherwise not have seen. There is nothing more frustrating than wading flats you know have GTs on and then spook them by nearly stepping on them. While Tim and I were near the boat with Steve a shout went up and Brummy hooked a nice GT off the back of a ray. The fish was jet black and charged the fly down. In short order Tim had it to hand, a lovely fish about 85 cm.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodWe spent the rest of the afternoon moving down the flat with the tide, but apart from a few brief encounters that did not materialise into hook ups we did not see too much. The light was against us and soon our little party was wandering along the edge of the flat. Brummy managed a lovely bluefin trevally before the end of the session and then we headed back to Mayas Dugong for the evening. Some groups came back having got amongst good numbers of fish which was great to hear. Peter O, Fred and Tom had got over the apex of the flat on the east side sand flats near Providence Island to the ocean side. They had found the bonefish, hungry and aggressive. The smallest was about 6 lbs and largest, a monster that Fred had spotted and hooked all by himself. The fish was 70 cm in length, a real tank.

Day 3 – Backcast of Wonder
The following day the weather took a turn for the worse. The westerly that had been hammering the west side of the atoll was now joined with grey and overcast skies making spotting very tough. This was my day to fish with Joern and Maria with Wesley as our guide and mentor. The day began by heading over to the west side to check the turtle grass flats for rays before heading up to the sand banks. We saw a few GTs here and there, but with the tough light getting a shot at them before they saw us was challenging. Wesley motored us up to the sand bar as we watched white caps rolling in… As we were there we opted to give it a go and after a good dunking managed to get up on to the bar. Normally standing in the surfline is one of the most phenomenal experiences and one I relish. There is nothing quite like watching GTs surf down the inside of waves, and this particular spot over white sand is one of the best I have ever fished. However today, not only was the surf coming in hard, but we were also dealing with a perpendicular crossing wave. Normally with the surf you have three larger waves followed by seven smaller sets. Today there was no respite to actually look over the wave form onto to the water behind. Every so often your body was caught between the oncoming and crossing wave which actually lifted you off your feet and dumped you in the turmoil. Maria stood her ground using Wesley as an anchor while Joern and I moved out further. After 20 minutes of being hammered we finally gave in as there was no point at which we could actually see anything, so the four if us headed back to the respite of the boat.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeod
Peter O, Fred and Tom had had a very different day. They had come across an area of higher ground on one of the flats offering refuge to a huge amount of baitfish. There were a couple of white tip sharks in the vicinity as well as a good number of GTs making the most of the snack bar. Peter had been casting at a smaller GT in a white depression while Brendon Becker stayed on the boat up high to keep an eye on the sharks. As Peter O was casting, Brendon had suddenly yelled at him that it was coming… Peter had not seen movement from the GT in front and it transpired that a much large GT had seen his fly on the back cast and moved around him to chase it. As it circled round to the white depression in water it could swim in, it then chased his fly up into the shallows and smashed it half out of the water. The big fish then headed off, but attracted the attention of one of the white tip sharks than then chased it up into the shallows before it escaped back into deeper water. Finally he brought it under control and Brendon grabbed it, stunning fish of 108 cm.

Day 4 – Bow Waves
The beginning of day four is always the day that the previous three days impact you physically. The miles waded and habitual casting of 12 weights, not to mention the hammering in the surf had me feeling a little stiff and marginally slower to spring out of bed in the morning. Or it was the Takamaka. One of the two. Peering out of the porthole revealed similar conditions to the previous day, a bit overcast, but no rain. I was out with David, Tim and Brendon as our guide. Time for a bit more boat pulling on the eastern side. With Brendon on the front and me pulling, with the better visibility he quickly put David onto a couple of fish on rays. A huge fish charged the fly and hit it, but sadly came unpinned, but he also landed a smaller one. We were finding a number of GTs dropping off the flats on the dropping tide by intercepting them along the edge with lots of opportunities. Tim quickly followed suit and the morning was shaping up nicely. I found myself wading along the edge on the left flank and landed a lovely bluefin I intercepted cruising just in the depths.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodA much larger fish hove into view, but simultaneously Brendon and Tim yelled at me from the boat to warn of a shark that had found me interesting and was coming at me fast. I looked at the GT, looked at the shark which was coming quick, and was just wondering if I had time to make a cast first before dealing with the shark. Time was not on my side and Brendon yelled “prepare to defend yourself!” I took one step forward, turned the rod around reel first and as the gap closed fast I identified it as a big lemon shark and braced to whack it in the face with the rod butt. In a couple of seconds the gap closed to a couple of feet and as I drew the rod back the shark saw the rest of my body above the water and spooked off to the deep water. Immediately I began scanning for the GT I had seen but it had already moved off… shame.


That evening fresh sashimi was on the menu from the yellowfin caught the day before… oh yes! But watch out for that Wasabi.. It’s mighty strong! That evening the motley crew were treated to an extraordinary sunset, even for the Seychelles.

John cast beautifully to the school as it milled around a coral head over some white sand. The fly sunk and as he kept tension I saw one fish move over and tilt down on the fly. John set the hook and then all hell broke loose. We were already standing up to our chests, so I began to back him slowly up and out of the area as the fish piled off into the deep channel with the school. I have to say I was somewhat crossing my fingers as I was thinking the chances of this battle going well were slim. At the same time I heard a yell from Tim and saw that Jim was also hooked up. It transpired that they had indeed found the squadron of some 15 large rays and all around them were GTs hoovering up any fleeing crustaceans or baitfish. Jim had cast at one particular fish which had peeled off and slammed the fly.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodBy this stage John and I had backed up some 20 yards from the lip of the channel and his bumpy had separated from the school. Shortly after that he managed to persuade it to come back up on to the flat by applying as much pressure as he dared. It was now or never, so I dropped my rod and began smashing my way through the thigh depth water back to the boat to get the net. Landing bumpies without a net is tough and I really wanted to get John this first fish. I finally made it back to the boat, glancing over my shoulder every few minutes to gauge how he was getting on. I scrabbled around the focsle and emerged triumphant with the net before jumping over the side and heading back to the battling John. At the same time Jim had nearly beaten his GT and Tim was moving out to intercept it. John by this stage finally had some semblance of control on the flats bison he was attached to and I moved out towards the fish. As it came towards me I dropped the net into the water and gently raised it as the fish came over it. In the bag! John looked at me ecstatic but completely knackered. Tim by this stage had got a hold of Jim’s GT and brought it down towards us. I went for the camera. This is the first time I have ever experienced two anglers doubling up on a bumpy and a GT. What an experience!

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodAfter this the guys pressed me to fish, so I dutifully took the front of the bow and Tim putted us back along the inside lagoon edge. With the light falling from the left the entire flat to the right was lit up and we could see for hundreds of yards. Twice we stopped to jump out and chase GTs on the back of rays and twice I had fish give chase and come short or miss the fly. There are days when this just happens and I was having one of them. As we resumed our trajectory, coming straight at me was a huge bow wave and at first I thought it must be another monster turtle. As it got closer Tim yelled from the back that it was a GT and I needed to get ready. I stripped line off, checked the line on the deck and waited… closer.. closer.. I lifted the Zephrus 12# rod and began to cast. The line flowed out of the rings and the fly sang to target and dropped. I gave one extra hard strip to counter act the motion of the boat and the fish charged, planed, eyeballed me, and smashed the Olive Semper. I set the hook and cleared the line which took seconds before the reel began to sing… loudly. That fish was well over a metre – my unicorn moment had arrived. As I desperately tried to gain some control the fish veered off the flat and dived for the lagoon that was littered with coral heads. I watched in resignation as it threaded its way through them like knitting. Before I even a chance to slack off the drag everything went solid and I knew the battle was over. A silence lingered over the boat. There really is nothing you can say or do other than pick yourself up and go again.

Day 6 – Cerf Island
The last day dawned, clear and bright and there was a real feeling of excitement in the air. Until Brummy and Steve turned up on deck wearing camo morph suits… I have no words.

This is possibly one of the most stunning places to fish in the whole world and with the light the way it was I put down the rod and picked up the camera. There is a time and a place and this had to be recorded. The channel at the south western end comes off the white sand and at the right stage of tide it’s possible to wade out on the sand and station yourself on the edge to intercept sharks and GTs coming in from the ocean to access the flats. This channel leads down to the coral heads and drop off of South Point – where beasts live. David was further out and I took station looking due south in case a fish came up that way. Tim spotted a big GT coming up the channel and David began to cast. Not an easy feat as he was already at chest level. The cast was solid, the fly landed and the GT spurred itself to attack mode and devoured the fly. David’s reel was throwing up spray as the handle spun through the water like a small propeller.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeodAgain I found myself on the front deck, scanning. The water was crystal clear and visibility was awesome. A big fish appeared to the right heading in our direction, obviously attracted by the noise. At first I thought it was a big GT but the shape and movement was wrong. It was a monster barracuda, about five feet long. Love those things. I cast the black hollow fly at it and twitched. It turned to investigate and as I stripped it kept pace, eventually almost balancing the fly on its nose. I gave it one more fast strip and…… it turned away and sidled off like a disgruntled cat. Real shame, I really thought it was going to eat! Tim and I looked at each other scratching our heads. We spent the remainder of the afternoon hunting in and out of the channels of surf and although we saw a few more GTs could not tempt them. Time to motor across the inside of the lagoon and headed back for the last time. That evening while having a few beers and uploading images to my Ipad I had a request from Jim to Airdrop a pic. I accepted and then was face to face with a total behemoth. On their way home they had stopped at one area for one last cast. After three drifts a monster from the deep appeared and attached itself to Jim. The swell had been tough, but with Wesley’s excellent skills along with Joern and Maria’s encouragement Jim had brought to the boat a 128 cm fish, trumping his previous 105 cm. Wow.  It had been a special day to finish on and the last night party was a good one.

It’s very hard when writing a report for this destination to include everything as there are so many elements that happen. Other fish that must be mention were a cracking 110 cm GT from Brummy in the surf on the first day, countless GTs and other species by Steve who also landed a massive fish on his birthday, another 102 cm GT and some huge grouper from Joern, Tim’s first trigger, and Fred’s dogtoothed tuna that made is reel smoke. A mention should also be made of Peter O’s son Tom, thrown in the deep end. He nailed it, landing a good number of GTs, big bonefish and a huge boha. He also put up with all of us with good grace! With some many experiences where do you draw the line? We landed 65 GTs that week with five over one metre. We lost a lot and also tangled with many other species, each one with its own story. As always a huge thank you to the guides of FlyCastaway, Kevin, Nella and crew on the Mayas Dugong for looking after us so well.

If you would like more information please contact Peter McLeod or Charlotte Chilcott or call us on ++44 1980 847389. Alternatively click HERE if you would like us to contact you.

Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeod
Providence Atoll, Seychelles, Aardvark McLeod