Sep 18

Chasing GTs with a factory loop

There’s lots of advice out there about how to rig up for GT fishing. There are strong, educated opinions.

I’m told before I go GT fishing I should cut the front loop off my brand-new ~$100 fly line and build my own loop.

It is even talked about in the book “GT, A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Giant Trevally.” In the book, Peter McLeod talks about how he builds his own loops out of 50lb hollow braid.

I can see how, when GTs first became a species chased with a fly rod, fly lines might not have been up for the challenge. What I can’t see is how that’s still the case in 2018.

I mean… is RIO, for example, really selling a fly line that requires you to first cut part of it off and refashion a loop in order for it to be fished effectively? That can’t be the case, right?

What do I know about fishing for GTs? Pretty much nothing. I’ve caught one adult tarpon and lost a few more, but those are my big fish. In those cases I trusted to the manufacturer’s loops. Can’t I just trust the line maker for GTs?

I decided to ask RIO. Here’s what they said:

He shouldn’t be worried about loops. Lots of people use this line successfully for GTs with the factory loop. People do ruin lines, but the majority of those occur when a fish drags the line over something sharp like rocks or coral. That can strip the coating off or even cut through the core.


The loops on the GT line are manufactured a little differently than a loop on say a trout line. In addition to welding the coating together, we add a reinforcing PVC sleeve around the weld. As a result the welded loop is typically stronger than the line’s core break strength.


The one piece of information I’d add is that the loop knot in the end of the leader may end up being a weak point. A perfection loop, like on a typical trout leader, decreases the break strength of the mono by about 20%. That doesn’t matter if the tippet is significantly weaker than the leader butt, but for a level leader a figure-8 loop is a better option.

So… I’m going to NOT open my GT fly line from the box and cut the tip off. I’m betting the possibility of my operator error is higher than the likelihood of a manufacturing defect.

Yup… I’m going to put my faith in the company.

Aug 17

So… Sudan?

Sounds like a great place to go, right? I’m sure Sudan is on your bucket list.

The Drake had a great podcast on fly fishing in Sudan. It sounds, really, pretty damn awesome.

Map of Sudan

Also, there is this…

May 17

There is a lot of water out there – 9 degrees south

Yeah… this looks pretty frigging awesome.

Oct 16

Interview with Camille Egdorf from the film Providence

The Seychelles are one of those epic destinations most saltwater fly anglers dream of, pirates and all. The Seychelles are back in business and one of the people who got to go there when it re-opened was Camille Egdorf. The story of the Seychelles fishery, the pirates and the re-opening was captured in film format by Confluence Films, the same folks who brought us Waypoints and Rise (among others). This film, called Providence, is visually stunning, with more of a narrative arc than we might have seen before. The film focuses on this one place and it is utterly worth watching.

I got to do an email interview with Camille Egdorf, who works for Yellow Dog Fly Fishing. Here are her answers.


Camille in Christmas Island

Spending so much time in the wilderness in Alaska and then going out to the Seychelles, a different kind of wilderness, what were the similarities and most glaring differences in those two types of wilderness?

I’m no stranger to being in the middle of nowhere and I’m really quite comfortable with it. Being totally immersed in nature is a great way to completely lose your mind and also find your soul. You can find the feeling of solitude, inferiority, adventure and mystery both in Alaska and in the Seychelles. They’re both surrounded by nothing more than what Mother Nature put there eons ago and you’re completely at the mercy of it. It’s humbling.

Of course, there are some major differences between the two. The biggest most obvious difference is you’re surrounded by hundreds of miles of water in the Seychelles. Of all the things that intimidated me, the ocean intimidated me most. I’ve never in my life felt so belittled and insignificant. The fishing there is like fishing on a foreign planet where the various species are colorful, weird, fast, deadly and completely alien to a trout fisherman.

You caught a lot of different species in the Seychelles. Which was your favorite and why?

It’s tough to pick a favorite. As you know, everything in the ocean is bigger, faster, stronger has more teeth, tougher scales and bipolar attitudes. And if they don’t they inevitably get eaten. So everything brought it’s A game and fought harder than anything I had ever tangoed with before and I loved every second. If I had to choose though, I’d say GT’s were the highlight. They’re intense on so many levels and no matter how many you catch, they always leave you either completely demoralized and defeated or triumphant and accomplished. They’re fast, aggressive and are so visual that there truly isn’t anything that can compare.

How do you prepare, gear-wise, for a trip like that where you are going to be fishing for everything from bonefish to GT’s?

Most times it’s organized chaos when trying to compile the right gear for a trip of this magnitude. But I try to keep it simple and avoid bringing copious amounts of rods and reels that I probably won’t even use. I’ve seen anglers pack 10 rods for a week-long trip and to me that’s excessive and just a headache. They’ll pack an 8wt, a 9wt, a 10wt and on and on which will leave them with enough rods to outfit 5 people. For this particular trip I had two 8wt’s and two 12wt’s which kept me fishing all the time and allowed me some insurance if I broke a rod. My best advice is to pick two rods of a different weight that are capable of handling several different species. This will allow you to pack light but also keep you covered for a variety of species and in the unlikely event a rod is busted.

When you are on the water a lot you tend to see things that other people have never seen and would never believe. Is there something like that you’ve seen on your time in the water? 

There are certainly moments that come to mind where I couldn’t believe my eyes. But there is one situation I continuously look back on and laugh. I guided in Alaska for about 7 years at my parents fish camp, Western Alaska Sportfishing, on the upper Nushagak River. It is very remote and the only other fishermen you see on the river are bears. One day I was guiding a couple fishermen through a section of river that was full of salmon. We were having a blast catching fish when we rounded a corner and startled a young grizzly about 30 yards away. It was so surprised by the boat full of yelling fishermen that it got mad and started taking all of its anger out on a small willow tree. The sight of a roaring bear mauling a little tree will stick with me for life. We laughed about that for hours.

What were the rods/reels your brought with you?

For rods I used the Echo 3 Salt the entire time. I mostly stuck to using the 8 and 12wt which I’d swap out when I either saw a bonefish or GT. The 12wt is a great big game rod, mostly because of the added grip above the reel so you can really put some leverage on bigger fish. I put those rods through hell and truthfully, they should have busted but never did.

For reels I used Hatch. I’ve used Hatch Reels before and knew they were nearly bulletproof so I went into this trip knowing I was in good hands. They’re sealed which makes them great for saltwater fishing and keeping salt out of the gears. They’re simple to take apart and if you need to clean any sand or grit out, you can open them up without having to worry about springs or screws flying everywhere.

With a bumpy from the Seychelles

Do you think it makes more sense to spend money on a premium rod or a premium reel for this sort of trip, assuming you could only go one of those directions?

Absolutely. The saltwater environment is a harsh one and not just because everything gets a healthy coating of salt. As I mentioned before, everything in the ocean is bigger, faster and stronger and as a result, will put your gear to the ultimate test. It’s imperative that you bring quality equipment otherwise you’ll be stripped of any dignity you may carry as a fishermen within seconds of hooking your first GT or large bonefish. These fish don’t mess around and neither should you. Even the best equipment in the industry has a tough time holding up to these conditions and fish. In short, you ultimately get what you pay for so it pays to dish out the cash.

What one piece of gear that was totally critical on your Seychelles trip (non-rod/reel)?

There are two actually – sturdy wading boots and sunglasses. Roughly 99% of our days spent on the flats of Providence were on foot and if hadn’t had good footwear, I would have ended the trip with stubs for feet.

Having good eyewear is mandatory if you want to spot fish and keep your eyes from being burned out of your head. I would have been in a world of hurt without my Costa’s.

Where is the next saltwater location you are planning on traveling to?

I don’t have anything planned for saltwater yet but I’m hoping to get down to Belize. I have a serious fascination with Permit and haven’t had the chance to target one. So I’ve got my heart set on that for this winter. Aside from that, my next big trip is to Kamchatka, Russia to host a group of anglers for Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures on the Zhupanova River. Big rainbows dwell in those waters.

Thanks Camille. It looked like a fantastic time out there and glad to see you put the stick to some impressive fish. 

Jul 14

Aquatic Fireworks

I can think of little with the explosive potential of the GT… so… Happy 4th of July.


Good way to see them, but let’s not chum.



Aug 13


Before I die… which I’m not planning on doing any time soon, I’d like to catch a GT on the fly.

Mar 13

Chumming in Christmas

Nice fish. I want one.

Nice fish. I want one.


I want to catch a GT. Badly. I’m not alone. Who wouldn’t want to catch one?  Massive, aggressive (like, OJ aggressive), top water even?  Come on!

Guides out in Christmas have found a way to get their well paying foreigner guests the GT they have flown half-way around the world to tie into.  The easiest way to get it done is to chum. Milkfish (I almost wrote Milf fish, which is a whole other post, I’d think), are caught and cut up and the juicy bits milk chum lure the big, massive kings (and queens) of the Jack family in for anglers to catch, fight, photograph and release. Doesn’t sound horrible.

However, I’m starting to hear about some major downside to this whole enterprise. Some of the guides are starting to say the Geets are starting to get habituated to the handouts. I read one comment that talked about the fish being the equivalent of Yosemite garbage bears.

Here is what one friend and Christmas Island booking agent had to say…

It was unfortunate that I had to witness the ‘chum’ fishing by other lodges.  To cut up and chum with the islands main food fish was sad to see, and many of the guides were disappointed it is happening.

On the bonefish side of thing, the chumming is affecting that also, according to the guides.  I heard different takes (mostly in broken English)  about the bonefish being extra spooky of any and all noise – thinking it’s “chum time and here comes a bunch of trevally, so lets leave this flat”.

Other guides said on some flats, the bonefish won’t eat a fly well any more, because they are used to picking up extra and stray pieces of chum left over.

“This flat ruined” is what one guide said once.

So, not only does it “train” the trevally, it’s changing the behavior of bonefish – according to the guides.

My group did not chum, and trevally to 65 pounds were landed – legit – on a cast fly to cruising or busting trevally.  I personally needed a defibrillator on more than one occasion, as they are viscous hunters and will chase a goatfish, or fly for that matter, right to your feet.  It was something else to see !!

Then there were all the the smaller trevally, the queenfish, the triggerfish, and all the wonderful wildlife….  what a special place!!

The debate has carried over to the Dan Blanton message board. Read the debate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is happening there. It is a special place to so many people and it is a place I long to get to myself. Don’t screw up before I get there.

Feb 13

Interview with Dylan Rose

I first heard about Dylan Rose from his days blogging. These days he can be found at Fly Water Travel. I’ll actually be seeing him in Pleasanton here next weekend at the Fly Fishing Show. He answered some questions about his salty experiences here.



You are now at Fly Water Travel. How did you end up there and what has been the best part of the job so far?

Honestly, how I ended up at Fly Water is a pretty long and sordid tale! I suppose the path started as a toddler fishing off of my parent’s small sailboat in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Even at that early age of 2 or 3, I was fascinated by fish and trying to catch them by any means possible.

With my finger nails caked with bits of herring, tube worms, crab guts, or shrimp that my brother and I would catch with our hands off of a dock, I’d fish for everything and anything. The addiction only grew from there leading to a job at a local fly shop, guiding, teaching, repping, e-commerce, blogging and now travel. I’ve seen and experienced a lot in my 16 year career in the fly fishing industry and it definitely has not all been easy.

I really feel like my varied experiences in all sorts of fly fishing related gigs has perfectly trained me for a job at Fly Water Travel. The pains and gains I’ve been through along the way have prepared me for what I consider to be the best job in the business. I work with an amazingly talented crew every single day and get to be part of a highly successful small business with great clients. The opportunity to travel the world and experience the best saltwater fisheries on planet (and call it work!) isn’t too shabby either. It doesn’t better than that for me and I feel truly fortunate and blessed.

How do you set expectations for a trip so that someone isn’t disappointed?

Setting expectations is really at the crux of what we do here. It’s about being totally honest (sometimes brutally so) with our clients. Sometimes that means telling a client that a trip is just not right for them.

Luckily, Fly Water has been around working hard for so long that we are not starved to make a booking. It’s not uncommon to send a perspective client elsewhere if it just feels like their expectations are not in line with what we can offer them. There’s not pressure to sell someone on a destination just to make a sale.

So it’s actually very easy to be totally honest, unbiased and just tell anglers like it is. As long as I come to work each day and am honest about my impressions of an operation or fishery and communicate that effectively to our clients, I feel like I’ve done my job.

You’ve caught GT’s… I long to do it. If someone has that on their bucket list, what is the best, fastest, cheapest way to make that bit of that magic happen?

Compared to the Indian Ocean, Christmas Island is really accessible, affordable and relatively easy to get to. I’ve just returned from my second trip to the island and without a doubt, it’s the closest and easiest way for one to have an encounter with a GT. The guides at Christmas Island Outfitters are simply fantastic at putting you into the best situation to make it happen. Of course, it can be pretty easy when conditions are right and they’re able to chum them in, but they are also great at putting you on a productive bonefish flat that at the same time houses big GT’s roaming the edges.

There is simply nothing like happily fishing along a flat and turning to see a 70lb GT crashing bait with a foot of its back out of the water. As you throw your 8wt down on the flat and reach for the 12, there is a split second that you find yourself hoping that it doesn’t decide to just swim over and take a chunk out of your calf. They are easily and without a doubt the most savage fish I have ever encountered.

That look says it all.

That look says it all.

Where does fly fishing fit in your life priorities?

Fly Fishing is a huge part of my life. It’s my both my work and my recreation, but it’s not so much just about the fishing for me anymore. It’s just a great excuse to travel, to spend time with friends and family, and just enjoy the splendor of our natural surroundings. What other excuse could you possibly come up with to creep around a flat in the tropics, soak in the environment, observing everything and just taking in the incredible beauty of our planet?

Do you have a saltwater mentor and if so, what has that person taught you?

Without a doubt, Brian Gies who is part owner and co-founder here at Fly Water is my biggest saltwater mentor. It’s just great to have him around every day to bounce ideas off of and his experience fishing the best saltwater destinations around the world is extremely valuable for me.

Ken Morrish, who is also part owner/co-founder here, is another huge influence. His knowledge of fly pattern design, mechanics and philosophy is truly mind boggling. His incredible creativity at the vise is a huge inspiration for me and his patterns from trout to bonefish to steelhead are the most instantly fishy right out of a fly shop bin of any I’ve ever seen.

We also have some clients that are truly remarkable anglers and that I would certainly consider mentors. I am humbled and learn something new every day in this job, whether on location or in the office.

Trips involve a lot more than just fishing. What is something non-fishing that you particularly love about chasing saltwater species?

I really enjoy looking at life through the lens of those folks living and fishing in far off saltwater destinations. I have met some amazing people through my travels that I keep in regular contact with. Whether it’s the guides, the owner/operators or simply members of the crew, it’s remarkable to compare contrast how folks live in other less fortunate parts of the world. It provides a lot perspective and that’s one of great things about traveling that I look forward to.

I fear that many traveling anglers do not take the time to really find out about the people that work and live in the far away areas where our beloved saltwater species live. Doing so can provide a great clarity for what’s truly important in life and can provide opportunities for laughter and joy when cultural differences are embraced and explored.

What is the set-up you use for bonefishing? (Rod/reel)

I’ve been an R.L. Winston man for quite a while. Happiness is a warm 8wt 9’ Boron-IIX, although I would love a BIIIX, a Bauer M5 and a Rio Tropical Clouser (which has become the Saltwater taper as of this year, I believe…).

Mexico Bonefish and Dylan.

Mexico Bonefish and Dylan.

If you had to spend money on a rod or reel for bones, where would you put more emphasis and why?

It would definitely be the reel in my opinion. A reel is certainly more susceptible to salt corrosion. The salt can play hell on a reel. In the salt, with hard running powerful fish, nothing is more frustrating than a reel that doesn’t perform. On a flats trip, you’re traveling so far and spending so much money that a cheap reel will just cause nothing but headaches and heartbreak. Get a good reel, take care of it, treat it right and you’ll be happier for it.

Thanks Dylan and hope to see you soon.

Jan 13

GT Primer – Guest Post

I love it when content that is awesome shows up unnanounced in my in-box. That’s what happened on this guest post from Tom Paulson who picked up on my semi-fixation with someday cathing a GT. Here is his advice and experience chasing GT’s in Christmas Island. He had not fished for them before, so this is from a GT-Virgin perspective, which is how most of you (and I) would approach it. Good stuff.

Nice fish. I want one.

Nice fish. I want one.

I recently spent 6 days fly fishing in Christmas Island, Kiribati.  This was my first trip to Christmas Island (CXI).  I booked my trip 5 months ahead of time, and spent a lot of that time meticulously planning and learning all I could about the fishery at CXI and the gear necessary to battle the legendary Giant Trevally.  I found it difficult to find any real detailed information about gear and setups, so this is my attempt to make a one stop shop for anyone heading to fish for GT’s for the first time.  I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who had absolutely no experience with GT’s before this trip.  Believe me, I know how overwhelming it can seem.

Most places you’ll fish for GT’s are far enough away from civilization, you want to make sure you’ve got your setups and back-ups spot on because once you get there, what you have is what you have.  Having the necessary amount of back up equipment is essential, mark my words, these fish are hard on gear.  You don’t want to be resigned to watching massive v-wakes come straight at you on the edge of the bonefish flat and have to think ‘gosh, I wish I would have brought back up Trevally stuff’.  I also understand that fly-fishing for GT’s is a relatively new thing, my setup may not be the best, but for the most part, it worked for me. This is basically a reflection of what I learned fishing for GT’s.

My group fished the new moon spring tide.  I was told before the trip that this was a favorable tide to encounter GT’s on the flats.  We had plenty of shots for sure.  I can’t speak for everyone in my party, but I would say I had roughly 10-15 shots at large Trevally from the flat.  It seemed like every time we met back on the boat and exchanged experiences, someone had seen or had a good shot at a GT.  (We also had plenty of success bonefishing this tide.  People who go to CXI for bonefishing strictly I think often prefer to fish the neap tide, with the exception of the full moon Paris Flat phenomenon, but we never encountered a lack of bones from my perspective.)

We experienced the GT’s mostly cruising the edge of the flat as the tide was moving.  They’ll be looking to ambush fish coming on, or leaving the flats.  Most of the time you’ll be bonefishing and see their wake, or a large shadow approaching.  It’s important to keep your cool, but to be quick.  You’ll want to have your idle GT rod’s drag set so you can strip out enough line for a 30-50ft. and cast ASAP to get the best angle you can on the fish.  The key is to get that fly roughly within a 10ft. window in front of that cruising fish.   If that shows interest start stripping like there’s no tomorrow until you get a take, these fish love to chase.  If the fish doesn’t show interest, and doesn’t spook, wait a little while to see if the fish returns.  I noticed a few times that GT’s would circle around the same area 2-3 times before moving on.

One thing that surprised me on CXI was how selective a solo GT can be when they are in cruise mode.  All the videos you’ll see of GT’s is mostly of groups of them going gangbusters after flies.  My experience was that they can actually be quite picky.  My perception before my trip was that these fish will take just about anything put in front of them, but that just isn’t the case in most situations.  I think you’ll have the most success keying in on patterns that emulate milkfish, mullet, and yellow snapper in 3/0-6/0 (at CXI).

If you encounter a group however, you’ve got a much better shot of hooking up.  In this situation, you could probably cast a boat anchor in front of them and probably get a take.  The competition aspect increases their aggressiveness tenfold.  It’s really something to see alternating mouths trying to engulf your fly while stripping like a mad man, trying not to wet your pants and wondering whether you’ll get a take before the fly hits the tip of your rod.

Everything anyone tells you about GT’s fighting dirty is probably true.  It’s a lot different from a long drawn out tarpon fight.  The fight isn’t a long one, but it is fast, furious, and nerve wracking.  My group as a total for the week was 8/12 (GT’s hooked/GT’s landed).  The four lost fish were due to 2 straightened hooks, 1 cut fly line, 1 cut spectra backing (lost fly line).  The bottom line about fighting GT’s is, you have to get them turned as soon as possible.  Once you hook these fish, you’ll want to lock your drag to the max setting.  The further GT’s run the better their opportunity to run the entire capacity of your reel.  Also, the further they run, the greater the opportunity they’ll have to find something to wrap you up on.  Trust me, these fish will look for any and every opportunity to rub up on or wrap you around a coral head, and if they do it enough, they will break you off.  I could feel one fish wrap me 5-6 times before I was finally able to get it free and land it.  It’s a strange sensation of nausea and relief when you hear your line come free from a coral head.

Here is the strategy that worked best for me to get these fish landed:

Once you feel the fish, get a solid strip set.  Check your line and make sure you’re going to be able to clear it without wrapping it on your reel seat.   Also make sure it isn’t wrapped around you or any of your gear, and if it is, get ready to do a frantic “Trevally Dance” and hope for the best.  Once hooked up, lock your drag down to the max setting.  Aim your rod relatively horizontally just above your belt buckle, you want to let the reel do all the work.  Any time you feel the fish give you any leeway pump and reel.  You will feel these fish start to stall and take little mini runs, they are looking for something to hang you up on.  Change your rod angle and start to pump and reel again.  Once you’ve got them turned, you probably don’t have to worry about them running your capacity, so take your time and be methodical.  If you feel  that the fish has got you hung on a coral head, change rod angles, if that doesn’t work, lift your rod (while keeping it somewhat horizontal), if that doesn’t work walk towards or in the direction of your line (if possible) while repeating the steps above.   If all else fails, get in a boat. Take care once you get the fish near the flat to keep the fish, and your line away from any obstructions.  Keep the GT near the water, take a quick photo and make sure the fish is recovered and released appropriately.

My setup was as follows:

12 WT. TFO TiCR-x

I think the rod is probably the least important aspect of your setup, so if you’re looking for a way to save money, in my opinion the rod is the one.  For the most part, you’re not going to need to make a cast over 50ft. Nevertheless, the TiCR-x did everything I needed it to.

Cheeky Thrash 475

I took a massive risk taking two of these reels to CXI seeing that they are relatively new product and untested.  Everyone told me before I left ‘only the absolute best saltwater reels will do for Trevally’.  But it’s hard to pass up being able to buy 2 of these reels for the price of 1 reel from one of the Tibor, Nautilus, Hatch variety. Whatever your premonitions are about this company, let me tell you, their reels are legit.  I have had a reel from another company who people perceive to be one of the pinnacles of Saltwater reel manufacturers blow up on a ~125-150# tarpon.  A GT in the 50# class will run further, fight harder, and dirtier than most Tarpon in my opinion.  Your reel needs to be able to handle nearly its entire capacity being ran at max tension.

(I brought backups of each)

My reels were loaded as follows:

Base of 50-75 Yards 30# Dacron

The purpose of the Dacron is to provide a kind of cushion for the spectra.  You’ll be fighting these GT’s @ your max drag setting so there is an incredible amount of tension.  It was brought to my attention by a “GT veteran”  that straight spectra will dig into itself and can cause you problems when the fish is running.

Doubled Bimini to Doubled Bimini

(the doubled Bimini is basically a Bimini with two loops instead of 1)

~250 Yards of 80# Spectra

(The spectra is used for the majority of your backing material as it is much more abrasion resistant than Dacron and also thinner, so you can increase your reel capacity, trust me, you’ll need it.)

Doubled Bimini to Welded Loop

Welded loop reinforced with 2 nail knots with 16# mono or flouro.

(UV knot glue applied to each connection above)

Airflo 50# core floating GT line.

Welded loop to Perfection Loop.

Note: I didn’t reinforce this welded loop, but I never had any trouble with just the loop to loop connection on its own.

~6 ft. Straight 100# fluorocarbon.

Lefty’s non-slip loop to fly.

After my experience at CXI, GT’s for me are the ultimate inshore species.  Seeing a 50# GT chase down your fly is the thrill of a lifetime.   These fish will test your gear, as well as your heart function.   If you are even thinking of knocking out GT’s on your species list, do it.  Now.

I must say in closing, I’ve been to many places fly fishing.  For me, it’s such a thrill to fish new destinations that I rarely feel like I’d want to return to places I’ve been before.  CXI is a place I would absolutely return to.  There aren’t many other places you can target so many species in one place.  Another draw for CXI is that you could probably spend 2 months fishing everyday in the lagoon and not fish the same flat twice.  Lastly, you’ll never meet such caring, friendly people, smiling people as you will on CXI.  It’s really uplifting to meet people with such amazing outlooks on life, who have practically no material possessions.

Tight lines and Cheers!

Dec 12

Interview with Yellow Dog’s Jim Klug about St. Brandon’s Atoll

A year ago I didn’t even know this place existed. Ever since I found out about it and first saw pictures out it I’ve put this place at the top of my dream destinations. I think it is easy to think that the grass is always greener, than the flat a little further out of the way has a bit more life on it and I’ve been fortunate to get to Cuba and Belize and Andros and those places are not shy of amazing bits of bonefishy biomass, but this place, this St. Brandon’s Atoll, I think this may be the pinnacle.

When I heard Jim was headed there to do some filming for his next film project as part of Confluence Films, I knew I needed to hear more from him about his trip.  He agreed to answer some questions about his trip and here they are (you can also see his full photo album here).

St. Brandon’s Atoll seems to be very, very far away. What was the travel like to get there?

It was a long trip, to say the least.  Bozeman to Minneapolis, and then the 11 hour flight to Paris.  A 10 hour layover in Paris, and then a 12 hour flight to the island of Mauritius.  We overnighted there, and then departed the following afternoon on the boat for St. Brandon’s. It’s a large, sturdy boat (about 100 ft.) but it still feel damned small in the big waters of the Indian Ocean. The “crossing” from Mauritius to St. Brandon’s takes anywhere from 25-30 hours, depending on the size of the seas.  Bottom line is that it takes some serious time to actually arrive on the flats of St. Brandon’s; in our case about four solid days of travel.  That said, it is more than worth it.  I would hop on a plane and do it all again tomorrow if I could!

Just a nibble. (Photo by Jim Klug)

Once you got there, all that way there, was there anything you thought “Man, I should have brought X.”?

Not really. We were pretty prepared once we arrived, but I guess that comes from many years of traveling and many years of forgetting things!  Probably the biggest thing that we ended up short on was good coffee!  Other than that, I would say that key pieces of equipment and gear for St. Brandon’s would include the following:

  • Heavy duty wading boots and neoprene guards to go over the top of your boots and heavy socks.  You definitely do NOT want the thin-soled wading boots or booties over there.  There are thing like stone fish and poisonous cone shells that will flat out kill you if you step on them, so your footwear needs to be heavy duty.
  • Heavy duty hooks (the Owner or Gamakatsu’s) for the GT flies are key.  If you have cheap hooks or hooks that are too thin, you’re out of luck.
  • Tropical floating fly lines are the go-to set-up, and you will definitely want to bring a few back-up lines as well. Several lines are lost each and every week out there to huge, unstoppable fish! 
  • A good waterproof boat bag is key, as you and your gear do get wet in the small “tenders” that they use to run between flats. If you have camera gear, bring a Pelican case for the boat as well.
  • Plenty to read, and a few DVD’s as well.  You spend four days of travel on each end of the trip, so bring plenty of books. There is a TV and DVD player on the boat as well, so bring some movies for the crossing.
  • A lot of the people on the trip brought some heavy duty sleeping pills for the flights and for the crossing.  I have personally never been able to take anything, but this is something that may come in handy on long trips like this.
  • Basic flats clothing.  Cover yourself from head to toe with pants, long sleeved shirts, Buffs, hats and gloves.  The sun down there is fierce, and you are on the flats ALL day long. They do have daily laundry on the boat, however, so you can still pack light.
  • Bring your liquor of choice. Beer and sodas are included, but you will want to pick up any liquor at the Mauritius or Paris Duty Free stores.

I’d imagine there isn’t much fishing pressure out there. Do you have any idea how much pressure there actually is out there?

Zero pressure.  The guys at Flycastaway have the exclusive concession on the entire atoll.  Locals Mauritians with their own boats are allowed to go there, but the crossing is a big deal in anything but a large boat, and once there, you really have to know where to fish, when to fish, what the tides are doing etc. These guys have spent years figuring out the fishery out there, which is the reason that they are so dialed in.  They host a handful of groups in the spring, and again in the fall. Sometime only 6-8 groups a year.  The atoll itself is HUGE; there are still vast areas of the Atoll where these guys have never fished or even explored.  At a maximum of eight anglers per week, in an eco-system of this size, you can do the math on the total amount of angling pressure that the atoll sees.

From what I can tell, those Indo-Pacific Permit, are actually a species of Pomapano that look pretty much identical to Permit. How Permity were those Permit?

I am not a fisheries biologist, but I have been around permit a fair bit. To me, these looked like permit, acted like permit, and refused flies like permit!  The colorations of the fish are different (they are bit more “yellow-ey”) but other than that, they look exactly the same.  St. Brandon’s had a ton of permit, and – according to the guys at Flycastaway – this is the largest concentration that they have found anywhere in the entire Indian Ocean. As far as behavior goes, they act, eat, fail to eat, and piss you off exactly the same as their Caribbean cousins.  We did – as a group – manage to catch several over the course of the week.  They are an awesome looking fish, for sure.

There she is. (Photo by Jim Klug)


What’s the variety of fishing like there?

The diversity is amazing. The bonefish are truly huge, and they are EVERYWHERE! On top of that, you have Giant Trevally (GT’s), blue-fin trevally, spotted trevally, permit, triggerfish, several different types of sharks, gar-fish, several types of Emperor fish, and a few other types of trevally. That is perhaps the coolest thing about St. Brandon’s – the variety and diversity of species.

Cool looking fish. (Photo by Jim Klug)

What was the most surprising thing about fishing in St. Brandon’s?

To me, it really felt like we were the first ones to ever fish there.  It is a prime example of what a flats fishery could be if it were totally  untouched by the hand of man. It is remote as can be, and it takes some serious effort to get there, but it is 100% worth it.  The other thing that really blew me away was the quality of the Bonefishing.  Six and seven pound fish are routine there. Legitimate, double-digit fish are caught on a daily basis. The bones also eat with reckless abandon, as if they have never seen a fly before (which they haven’t). I can’t tell you how many bones were caught at our feet; scenarios where the leader was literally inside the rod guides and the fish ate the fly within three feet of the tip-top. Truly amazing.

Damn. That’s a nice bonefish. (Photo by Jim Klug)

You’ve got yourself to some pretty remote places. How does this place compare?

It’s up there, for sure! You definitely felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. Its also one of the few fishing destinations these days that allows you to totally and legitimately disconnect from everything. No cell phones, no Wi-Fi or satellite internet, no boat traffic …. You have the entire place all to yourself.

That trip isn’t a cheap one and the time commitment is substantial. There are plenty of places that offer fantastic fishing, so what is the thing that makes this destination worth the added investment?

Hands-down this is the finest Bonefishing on the planet.  The numbers and size are both mind-blowing.  On top of that, you have the opportunity for GT’s, permit, other types of trevally – all on a daily basis and at any given time!  The ecosystem itself is pristine and untouched, which is something to see. Sadly enough, that is getting harder and harder to find these days.  I’m looking forward to going back over there next year, and we’re excited to be adding this to the Yellow Dog line-up for future bookings. I typically hate the phrase, “Trip of a lifetime,” as I believe it is over-used on every level. That said, this is a trip that legitimately falls into that category.

Awesome trip Jim. Awesome.