Day 5 – Destruction & Mayhem
One of the most enjoyable days I have had at Providence last year was fishing for bonefish on the huge sand flats on the east side of the atoll and I was very keen to repeat the experience. Big bones in skinny water over white sand.. it does not get any better. Justin was to guide myself, James and David and as it had been Justin that I had experienced this with last time I sidled up to him and asked if the tides might fit. He agreed so the three of us set out to check it out.
We scooted over the middle lagoon and dropped into the finger flats and hopped out. The water was still waist depth at this point, too deep for bones, but we fanned out and started looking for GTs. Its amazing that even over white sand in deep water it’s hard to spot fish… except that large shark over there… which is headed towards us… Justin was with David and I was with James about 20 yards apart. Justin moved out ahead of David, his teasing stick at the ready.
I also took up position in front of James and turned my rod around in case I had to feed it the reel. The shark had heard us moving across the flat and was coming to investigate. Justin indicated he thought it was a bull shark and it suddenly picked up speed coming straight in toward them as we watched. At the last minute it stopped some five yards away and Justin laughed…”it’s a guitar shark!” we all relaxed as they walked right past it.. okay, awake now!
We walked a big loop for about an hour as the water dropped significantly and saw nothing of consequence. James and David I could see were feeling mildly despondent as we neared the boat, the promise of large bones hollow in their ears. Just then out from the right I spotted a green back slipping down the flats towards us. I popped the Itchy Trigger fly off the ring, flicked the line off the 9# Zephrus and cast at the incoming bone, dropping the fly about three feet ahead of it. As it sank I saw the bone tail and munch something it had spotted.
As it turned around I gave the fly one short strip so it made little puff in the sand. It flew over and hoovered it as I simultaneously set the hook. A moment of confusion was followed by the self preservation instinct and it tore off like only a bonefish can. Within 15 seconds I was well into the backing as the others looked round to see what the commotion was about. It never ceases to amaze me that you can’t horse in these bonefish as they are all over 5 lbs. as I tried to bring it to hand it kept swimming around me in circles. Finally I grabbed the tail, lovely fish I would put at about 6 lbs.
I then spotted another coming towards me and what ensued was a fantastic session as the bones began to drift down from the apex of the flat to the inner lagoon on the dropping tide. It made the long wade before hand all worth while as we had dropped into the right spot at just the right moment. Finally the main sand flat began to stick out of the water and Justin moved us down the finger flats with the deep lagoon on either side. Triggers abounded along the edge of which I hooked two and both fell off.. yellow margins, so no surprise there. David caught a lovely yellow lipped emperor grabbing a last meal off the edge, and James landed another lovely bone.
As David and Justin moved down the right of the finger flat, James and I took the right. We agreed that he would carry the 12# and I would take the 9#, taking shots as they arose. After I had a further couple of trigger run ins James was wading ahead of me. I saw a big commotion a little way ahead next to a coral head with its top out of the water. That looked like a GT low tide house if ever I saw one so I pointed it out to James and we made our way towards it. He came up level to it as I hung back and he made some casts in between the two heads, but nothing home. I was scanning for triggers at the same time and just in front of me in a small white hole I saw the flicker of a tail which then materialised into the body of a beast. I beckoned James over and pointed the hole in front of me. The fish was just sitting there static.
James began to cast and dropped the fly just on the edge of the hole. He gave one strip and the fish turned and began to move toward it.. you always know it’s a really big fish when they start slow and then big to slowly accelerate as the speed of the retrieve increases. They know they can outrun anything with minimum effort. As it came out of the deeper water the whole head broke the surface as it smashed the fly and immediately charged off into the lagoon like a small tank.
James’s reel gave a tortured squeal as the slack line hit the spool and then a long wail as the backing sung out of the rings. It quickly became apparent to me that the line was going to go around the coral head so I ran through the shallows and plunged into the deeper water until I could safely guide James’s fly line over the top and he was clear. After what seemed like an age the back end of the fly line finally made an appearance and continued over my head to the rod tip and back down to the reel. At that point the GT decided he had other ideas and began to rip line off again but just then I heard what sounded like a gun shot go off behind me. I whirled around to see the fly line vanishing and James staring at me in shock. It transpired the loop on the backing had got caught before ripping through the bottom two titanium recoil rings and bending them before then unseating the the next three rings on the blank. It was a mess and I think we were all in shock for a bit. It was an angry beast that fish and estimated it nicely over a metre, perhaps 110cm. Ah, the one that got away… David picked up a nice bohar off one of the coral heads and we headed or home.
Day 6 – Salvaged Honour
By this stage in the trip you wake up feeling a bit battered and bruised. Bangs, bruising, nicks and cuts have had time to half heel, but the fish keep calling. I was fishing with Gordon and George with Justin as our guide and we were going to look at some other drainages. There are always some days when things don’t go according to plan and this was to be one of them. We waded a very long way across some stunning flats, but sadly just did not see many fish. Toward the end of the day we had pushed all the way to the bottom edge of the flats up to some white holes on the edge before it dropped into deeper water. This was a perfect spot to find fish dropping off as the tide slipped away. Sure enough as I waded up the edge I saw two big blue fish dropping out across the white sand.
It was a perfect shot, fish cruising leisurely towards me and I threw a relatively short line dropping the fly a few feet in front of them. One broke off and gave chase immediately but the fly was coming straight at me and the fish’s the bucket mouth closed around the fly while the GT kept coming at full pace and over ran the strip with no way for me to set the hook. It spat the fly out and headed off to join its mate as they continued on their way into the deeper water. Arrgghh! So frustrating! I pulled the slack line and got ready for the next opportunity, hoping it might come.
No more than five minutes passed as we continued up that edge when low and behold another long blue shape came cruising down the edge. I shouted at the others, but as I was closest and the other two could not get there in time I had another chance. I took a deep breath, wound up the 12# Zephrus and fired a cast well out in front of the fish and took in some slack. When it was five feet or so away I gave the fly a long slow strip. The GT lit up like a Christmas tree, immediately flipping from cruising to attack mode. I held the rod out in front in case I missed a strip and began to accelerate the Gym Sock fly. The fish charged and hit the fly hard before turning off and I strip set equally hard back. This one was not getting away and as the slack line hit the Hardy Fortuna XDS I cranked the drag with one twist and just hung on. As the fish tore away it suddenly did a somersault tail over head and I raised the blank in a long curve and started using my knees.. after a couple more attempts to run I brought that fish straight to Justin’s waiting hand. It never even made it onto the running line. A lovely fish of 86 cm, honour was restored.
The tide had dropped right off the flat now with segments appearing like the raising of Atlantis. As Justin could not run across the atoll now we had to run north and right round the north point of Providence Island. We would have to check out the white sand surf area for sure. As the tender boat motored up along the east side of the island the water was pretty green and hot, not appealing. As soon as the point was cleared the stunning clean blue ocean water greeted us. On arrival the anchor was dropped and all eyes started scanning the waves as they lifted and subsided. A few bluefins came charging from the island side and George was up. He cast a long line and began to strip as fast as he could. Bluefins move like greased lightening and trying to entice them to actually take can be infuriating as they zig zag behind the fly. Just then a shape appears from the left and smashed the fly and he was bent into a strong fish. We thought bluefin, but as it neared the boat it transpired it was a small GT and put up a great battle. We cruised on back south towards Maya’s Dugong, but although we searched we did not find. Time to turn for home and a cold beer.
Day 7 – Slams and Bumpys
The last day was grey and overcast to begin with and the light was very flat. I was to fish with Joern, Brummy and Wes for the last day. The plan was to fish the west to begin with and then cross over to the east before again having to run round the top of Providence Island. The first flat looked perfect as the tide was pushing. Flat calm on the edge of one of the channels that intersects the atoll just south of Midway. Our small band was greeted by trigger tails everywhere waving at us. The issue was the light being so flat as it was not possible to judge the reaction of the triggers to the fly. I made the cast at the tail, striped slow and then if the fish did not tail again it was anyone’s guess if it was still there until you stepped on it. Infuriating. I was higher up the flat playing with triggers while the other were nearer the channel hunting for GTs. Brummy hung behind as he found a deep depression that opened to the channel and he thought he had seen some movement. We moved on, but shortly afterwards heard him yell as his prospective casts and proved fruitful and he hooked up to an angry GT. When the light is flat you have to prospect more than you would normally. Look for the areas you think a fish should be and put some blind casts in. He battled it hard and soon Wes had it to hand, a respectable mid 80 cm fish.
I continued my quest of the irritating triggers, but saw a big splash up ahead which I thought might be a ray. I switched my 9# rig for the 12# rig and cast in the vicinity of where the disturbance had been. On the second cast a fish charged from some 10 feet away, planeing across the surface before it hit the fly hard. It’s always satisfying to pick up a fish like that in tough conditions. The flat gave way to a huge white sand channel and the sun finally came out to play. Joern was wading deep, right out in the middle, and got some shots at fish a GT that was cruising down the highway. That fish was on a mission to get somewhere and did not look left or right, but kept going. We continued our drift across to the middle lagoon.
At this point the sandy highway dropped off into the aquamarine water, but along the edge Wes spotted a school of bones. It was Brummy’s shot, he and Wes slipped over the gunnel and pursued them. They were nervous, probably of predators from the lagoon, but hungry. In a short space of time Brummy hooked a good sized bone. Joern and I chased the rest of the school a little way, but they were spooked and moving fast.
We continued drifting across the atoll, allowing the tide to take us to our next spot. Just as we came over the deeper water to a finger flat Wes spotted movement. I grabbed my 9# and jumped over and waded after it fast, not entirely knowing what I was casting at, just a grey shape moving quickly. I began casting as I stripped off line ad dropped the Itchy Trigger shrimp and rather than letting it settle stripped it back fast. The fish did a 180 degree turn and hoovered it. I still did not really know what it was, but it was pulling hard. Finally I got it under control and it turned out to be a really nice sized yellowspot trevally. Closely related to the golden trevally these fish have the same protruding mouth parts they use for munching crustaceans and not seen on Providence often. I have only caught a couple over the years, so I was really pleased.
With the tide rising we were now over on the east side and right at the bottom of the giant sand flat where the big bonefish live. The water was probably higher than we would have liked, but we waded towards the apex looking for hungry GTs. As the water shallowed a little I silver a silver shape coming in from the right. I quickly changed rods off my shoulder pulled some line off and made a short cast and let it sink. As the bonefish came towards me I gave the Itchy Trigger a short strip and the fish pounced on it immediately. I was beginning to love this fly, everything I cast it at tried to eat it. After some screaming runs I landed it and we added another species to my tally.
Joern had had a fantastic week at this point with some real specimen fish, but the one species that had eluded both him and Brummy was a bumpy. Wes had it in his head that we were going to resolve this situation, especially with the numbers we have been seeing on the east side turtle grass flats. Sure enough, as soon as soon as we putted over there along the channel we could see the flash of their tails some 500 yards away. There were at least three specific schools, but as the tide was dropping Wes moored the boat in a small bay on the edge of the flat. The four of us began the long wade across and within no time each of us had fish to cast at.
Joern hooked one, but after a short battle came unstuck. The white Flexo Crab had actually fractured in the middle. I turned around to see a school heading in my direction. I tied on a fairly large Velcro Crab and cast it out a way ahead in the direction the school was travelling and let it sink. I then pulled in the slack so I could feel the crab and waited.. The school came over and as they passed over my fly the third fish rolled over and tailed and immediately I was hooked up. I set the hook hard and the enraged bumpy took off like a scalded cat which spooked the rest of the school. They charged up the flat to a series of holes and despite applying a serious amount of pressure there was nothing I could do to stop it following the school. As I began to run and wind and Wes tried to hold the line up above the edge the line went slack and he cut me off on the coral… gutted. Wes and I stood dejected, peering into the hole as we could still see the school moving around.
“We may as well complete the trevally slam,” he said, and proceeded to tie on another crab fly for me. These holes in the middle of the flats are home to all sorts of species, from grouper to GTs, so I began to blind cast towards a coral head. After about five casts a blue streak flashed in from left field and hit the crab, a nice bluefin to complete the trevally slam. Job done, we turned back to the other two as they continued to chase the bumpy schools across the flats. Brummy hooked up, and the same thing happened to him, trashed straight into the hole. I actually lost count of the number of hook ups we had, but the next one I hooked I decided that it was either going to break me off or I was going to land it. I began to fight it like a GT on the 9# Zephrus, constantly knocking the fish off balance and pulling its head into the flat. To begin with I seemed to be having little effect, just bending the rod further, but then it was left behind by the school and I entered phase two of the battle. It never ceases to amaze me how strong they are and I always say it’s like being attached to an angry bison. Wes moved out with the net as often it works best to try and net them a long way out before they can bite, break or cut through the leader or fly. He began to sneak up in it like a dog catcher with the net extended, and then it was over as he expertly scooped it up. The feeling of elation was tangible.
As we set up to take a quick picture Joern yelled from across the flat as his line arced away and he too was in. Joern was currently 14 hooked to 0 landed on bumpys and so we both knew how much this meant. We headed over, Wes with the net, me with the camera. After 10 minutes of strain the fish was still attached which was a good sign. I could see the concentration etched across Joern’s face and as the runs decreased in length Wes began to edge out with the net. He caught up with the tiring bumpy and after a further five minutes scooped it up and Joern let out a bellow of sheer joy. At last! And what a fish! We estimated it at 70 lbs or so, a real bruiser and a massive achievement.
Wes needed to go and move the boat a little lower, so Joern, Brummy and I continued our Bumpy walk. Joern and I were done, so the focus was on Brummy and he went ahead chasing the school in front, but another school came in from behind. Joern was changing his leader so I took another shot. I hooked up almost immediately, but this battle was short lived and the fly was cut off, probably in those big bolt croppers on its face. Brummy hooked another… and broke off. I had changed my fly by then so handed over my rod and took his to re rig as I followed along. He hooked another… and it cut the fly off. I passed him his rod back and started the process again. We carried on like this, hooking fish, busting off/ bitten off, passing the rod forwards again and to be honest I lost track of the numbers but knew we were running out of crabs!
Wes joined us again as the tide was dropping and time was running out. We began to head down the flat to the edge. A couple of GTs did pass us by, but we were so focussed on the bumpys no one was quick enough to get a shot off. Finally the boat was in front of us.. but low and behold there was one last school of bumpys in the hole and the finger flat in front. One final chance for Brummy.. Joern and took up position … in the comfort of the boat with a cold beer while we watched the scene unfold in front of us. Wes and Brummy followed them out as the water became deeper and deeper. Suddenly his rod bucked and he was in. We shouted our support from the boat and looked on as the battle continued and Wes was nearly up to his neck with the net. Finally he scooped and Brummy landed his bumpy! What a way to finish the trip! The ride home was full of excited chatter about how the day had panned out and for me personally it had been a red letter day. A trevally slam and flats slam in the same day was the culmination of a fantastic week.
To sum up the week as a whole, it was phenomenal. It had begun with some very high tides first thing in the morning and a couple of days of tough sight fishing conditions, but everyone worked really hard and the guides pulled the stops out as always. Being able to spend so much time on the east side of the atoll was a joy and I really enjoyed exploring whole new areas I had not seen over the last three years. Although this is written very much from my own perspective and who I fished with personally, there were some notable catches including Peter, Mark and Igor all landing trigger slams.
The skinny water bones made for fantastic fun coming into the bigger neap tides late in the week and the group managed to get a few solid fish to hand with Mark killing it with a fish of 10 lbs. Alex caught the first GT over a metre at 108 cm and Joern then hit a beast later at 123 cm. Two sailfish were landed by Joern and Gordon, although others were hooked. The milkies were just building in numbers and Fred finally landed his first after some six years of trying.
Joern landed a monster saddleback grouper over a metre and Alex also landed a scary barracuda on the flats. I think we landed just over 70 GTs for the week, but there were some incredible battles that sadly were lost. Finally the bumpy fishing this week was nothing short of exceptional with well over 25 fish hooked and six landed.
I will of course be returning next year in 26 March – 2 April 2019. The tides look awesome with a neap to a spring building over the course of the week and lows at the beginning of the day which is pretty much my ideal tide. I have two rods left on my hosted week so if you would like to join me then please let me know.
Providence 2018/2019 Season Openings
With fishing of that calibre and limited trips on offer each season, it’s understandable why spots on Providence are so highly sought after. We do however have a few openings during 2018 & 2019 still up for grabs:
- 13 – 20 November 2018: 4 rods open
- 27 November – 4 December 2018: 6 rods open
- 26 March – 2 April 2019: 2 rods open, Peter’s Hosted Trip
- 9 – 16 April 2019: 10 rods open
- 16 – 23 April 2019: 4 rods open
If you would like discuss Providence or receive further information, please contact Peter McLeod. Alternatively, please contact the office on +44(0)1980 847389.