OUTER ISLANDS WITH ASLPHONSE FISHING CO.
Part I - Alphonse Island - The plane banked through some light clouds as it descended sharply to Alphonse Island, the turquoise flats and coral heads of the lagoon sprang into focus. We dropped onto the runway that runs almost the full width of the island flanked by tall coconut palms. The plane door opened and the smells of tropical plants, flowers, and the Indian Ocean flooded in. The sound of a light breeze in the palm fronds filled the warm, humid air.
We knew before we arrived that Alphonse Island was not only an incredible fishing destination, but also a world class resort. That knowledge did not prepare us for the level of beauty, service, food and comfort we experienced during our stay on the island. We savored cold drinks at the beach side bar in the evenings, and then relaxed in our private, detached, beachside cabana. Every night dinner was served beachside at our private table under the moon, and it was delicious.
If you are like us, all of that is awesome, but the fishing is what drew us to this far side of the world, and it did not disappoint. St Francois atoll is almost joined to Alphonse Island, providing a huge and complex lagoon and reef system to explore. The bonefish were plentiful and there were some big ones, there were triggerfish to play with on the finger reefs of the lagoon, and of course Giant Trevally (GTs). Corinne was up on the front of the skiff as we explored a section of the inner lagoon that had scattered, very large coral heads in it, commonly referred to as “bommies”. There were two rays jumping from bommie to bommie feeding, and with them was a school of GTs on the hunt. They came off of one of these coral heads and we could see a few fish suspended as they moved onto the next one. A well placed cast, a long strip and boom! Corinne was tight to her first ever GT. It was not a giant as far as GTs go, but a very strong fish nonetheless and a GT on the fly. We celebrated with an ice cold Seybrew beer and got back at it.
Part II - Blue Water - We took a morning and went out on a blue water mission to attempt to catch some pelagic species on the fly. Frankly, our expectations were low for this mission, after all, we only had a half day to get it done and it is a big blue ocean. Early on we just enjoyed the smooth ride of the big, deep sea rigged boat as it eased over gentle swells. The teasers were out almost immediately as you are in blue water very fast off of Alphonse. There is no need to “run” to a spot far off of the coast, which makes a half day in blue water there very doable.
The goal was to get a wahoo or sailfish fired up on one of the hookless teasers, tease them to the boat, and then “cast” out a giant blue water, tube rigged, popper. It all seemed a little far fetched. All of the sudden, our captain was yelling “WAHOO!” and Corinne sprang into action - a quick flick cast, a big strip and chug of the popper and wham, game on! The strength of pelagic fish in the open ocean is something else, and this wahoo certainly pulled, however on good tackle Corinne was able to land it quickly, snap a few photos and send it back into the blue. The markings and colors on this fish were truly spectacular to see up close.
Not long after releasing the wahoo, we saw color and then the bill of a sailfish on the teaser. This fish was hot and followed the teasers all of the way into the boat as Captain Matt cut the engines. Garrison cast out the same big popper, chugged it with a big strip and the sailfish came from underneath the boat at full speed to engulf the popper as it was going away from the boat. The direction of the take made for an easy hookset and the fight began. The opening run was blistering and of course peppered with extraordinary acrobatic jumps and tail walks that only a sailfish can execute. The smooth drag of my Seigler reel eventually slowed and turned the fish, and then the real work of getting all of that backing back on the reel began. We wanted to maximize the survival potential of the sailfish, so instead of somehow lifting it by the boat for a photo, Garrison jumped in with it and went for a quick swim and release. It was pretty special to watch as that sailfish, still flashing purples and bright turquoises, swam gracefully back into the deep blue.
Corinne topped off what had quickly turned into an amazing morning session with a larger sailfish of her own. We were focused on a different, smaller fish that had come up on the teasers when this fish ate, so it surprised everyone with an aggressive, high speed take! The line burn was quickly forgotten and the fight commenced. Corinne handled the big sail with tenacity and soon went for a blue water swim and release of her own. Back on deck, the cool breeze on our wet sun hoodies felt amazing, especially paired with a couple of cold Seybrews.
Part III - Astove Island - After our short stay on Alphonse, the inter-island flight with our hosted group aboard arrived to “pick us up” and refuel before we all took off to Astove. Prior to being in the Seychelles, we had pictured a group of islands that were relatively tight together, but this is not the case! Astove Island was an hour and forty five minute flight fr om Alphonse Island, which was an hour from the “main” island of Mahé. This little atoll is part of the Aldabra group, actually closer to Madagascar than anything else, and very wild. Astove is a true atoll, formed as coral grows on an old volcanic peak that is slowly sinking back into the ocean. The result is the classic ring island with an outer reef and a large central lagoon. It was a strange, beautiful and harsh landscape. Much of the outer ring of the island is not the soft sand found on Alphonse, but rocks made of fossilized coral that can be treacherous to navigate. And we loved every rock of it.
The guides and staff at Astove are top notch and the Coral House accommodation is very comfortable with full AC, a great dining room, a comfortable lounge area and a sweet central courtyard where baby Aldabra Giant Tortoises are kept safe, but this is not a honeymoon location. You come to Astove to fish your ass off, and we did. Unlike our experience fishing at Alphonse, where a good portion of our days were spent on a skiff, on Astove, we mostly spent our days walking the shallow flats and surf breaks searching for GTs. Successfully landing a Giant Trevally from foot was not an easy game to play, but when it happened and you were in the water with them, it was incredible. The speed and visual acuity of this species was unlike anything we have ever fished for. These Giant Trevally tracked a fly cast to them on a shallow flat from 20-30’ away at full speed and came in hot. This resulted in multiple eats where the fish got to the fly right as we ran out of fly line, so the fish engulfed it at full velocity, eyes out of the water, just feet away. If you are looking for the highest adrenaline game in fly fishing, this has to be it.
One thing that makes landing GT’s challenging besides their pure strength, speed and bad attitude, is there are coral bommies, ledges and small islands in play. Unlike most other large saltwater flats species, you MUST stop a hooked GT and turn it, or you will lose it and very likely your fly line with it! In contrast, when you hook a large tarpon in shallow water, it may jump you off, it will fight like hell, but typically going to structure is not an issue. With GT’s it is a different story. This makes the fight very physical and combative, in short, it was a shit ton of fun.
The interior lagoon at Astove was a bonefishing paradise. They came at us in waves, pure silver mirrors reflecting the surreal turquoise water. Yes, we did see permit in the lagoon, f*&!k permit. Garrison did land a great Mustache or “Titan” Triggerfish to complete a slam one day, and it was one of the coolest fish once we could see it in hand. The Triggers were just as smart, finicky and devious as advertised. They are one of those species that toy with your emotions and leave you wanting more!
As with most fishing trips, the time we spent with an incredible group of people, in a place where we were truly away and separated from daily stresses, demands and screen time, made for deep connections, a million laughs, and an experience we will treasure forever. Astove Atoll was a stunningly wild and alive place, we are already working on plans to return...
For more information on fishing the Seychelles check out Alphonse Fishing Co
GARRISON DOCTOR - RepYourWater Co-Founder and Designer