THE ARTICLES. 2020. No. 1
Giant GT’s on the fly in Africa
Author: Steve Trippe, Off Grid Business Advisor 😉
Our New Off Grid articles will feature awesome stories from a variety of people, everyday Joe’s, us, our friends, industry professionals, gear experts… We’ll post at least one a month. Let us know what you want to hear about! Our first one is from one of our own, Steve Trippe. Steve resides in Key West, Florida, and is a fly fishing freak who has fished all over the world for a variety of species. Here, Steve gives us the rundown on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the African Seychelles, to chase Giant Trevally on the fly! Steve gives a full rundown on his gear, and has 30+ years of hard core fly fishing experience. He is also our primary business advisor and our founder’s old man!
On November 8th I departed Key West for a Mother ship trip to Providence Island in the Seychelles. I was still somewhat nervous about the trip as it’s a long way to go fishing and I live in a world class fishing spot to begin with. My flight path went from Key West to Miami, then Doha (Qatar), and finally, Mahe, the capital of the Seychelle Islands. I spent two days recovering from Jet Lag where we then took a 2-hour charter flight further south to the Island of Farquhar. Arriving in Farquhar we boarded our Mother Ship Maya’s Dugong for a 6-hour passage to the Providence Atoll.
I was finally getting excited, gone was the cell phone, email, TV, or news of any sort – just ocean wilderness to concentrate on. I was comforted by the fact we had two Doctors on the trip. Like the mountains, the ocean is a dangerous place and things can deteriorate quickly if you have a problem. An emergency rescue service membership (Global Rescue) is a requirement for a charter this remote. Like they say “don’t leave home without it”.
The guides from Fly Castaway quickly got us settled, and along with some cold beers, we began a safety briefing on the boat as we made passage to Providence. Right after the initial briefing we began rigging rods and gear, and each anglers was assigned storage space. Some 65 fly rods were put together and racked above the dressing bench towards the aft deck of the boat, always ready to roll. There was a handy clothes line where wet gloves, hats and jackets could be hung to dry along the center of the dressing bench.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this trip is the strict weight limit due to the charter flight to Farquhar – each angler is limited to 44.5lbs of luggage which includes your fishing gear. My 5 rods, reels and tackle weighed approx. 22lbs out of 44.5. I had chosen to bring 2-9wt rods, 2-10wt rods and 1-11wt rod. This was probably the lightest package of rods in our group as most anglers brought 12wt rods for the Giant Trevally. Above: Steve with a nice Blue Trevally
My clothing and OFFGRID FOOD supplies maxed me out at exactly 44.4 lbs. I brought 6 each of Off Grid’s oatmeals and trail mixes. While there was breakfast on board the boat each morning, I mixed an oatmeal each day for a mid-morning snack and the trail mix was the shared afternoon snack between fishing partners and guide. The fishing days are long and hard beginning at 7:30 and ending around 6:00 each day. The fishing is about 65% wading so lots of long walks in the water. The tides are big and the water is deep in spots sometimes even requiring a short swim to the next flat (often challenging with two fly rods and a back pack). The OFFGRID snacks were a hit with the whole crew and the mid-morning oatmeal was way better than a candy bar. My energy level was good all day for the entire trip. Hydration was also a key component as we were at 9 degrees South – we had both high temps and high humidity. I also packed a Pedialyte powder for water each day at lunch which helped as well.
The fishing was spectacular! In addition to the targeted species of Giant Trevally, Golden Trevally, Blue Fin Trevally, Indian Ocean Permit, Bonefish, Trigger Fish, Humpy’s, Milk Fish and Sailfish, there was also an abundance of what our South African guides called “Shrapnel” which consisted of numerous varieties of Snapper, Grouper and massive Barracuda’s.
The Trevally, and in particular the Giant Trevally or GT, is a brute of a fish. The strip is as fast as you can pull the fly, while sometimes walking backwards to get more speed. The eat is explosive and happens so fast that if you don’t have your line managed the fish will beat you quickly every time. I quickly learned that focus was key and that the most important piece of equipment was a good reel. I brought only Tibor reels and when fishing for GT’s I was using a Tibor Gulfstream whether I was using the 11wt or the 10wt. I brought along a Tibor everglades, and signature series 9/10 reels for the other rods. You need a reel you can take apart because you will be dropping your rig in the water while you land fish or dropping a different setup in the water when another species comes by and you need to switch, as you often carry to rods at a time. We had several failures on sealed drag reels.
We had selected a week with very high tide cycles so early in the week we would troll for sailfish in the morning while waiting for the water to drop enough to fish the flats. This would be done by trolling one teaser plug and one angler on each side of the boat ready with a fly rod. When a sailfish would surface, the guide would tease it to within casting distance and both anglers would cast. It was highly effective and we landed 5 Sailfish during the week. Catching a Sailfish on a fly rod is a challenge and our group was lucky enough to capitalize on our opportunities.
As the tide dropped, we would move into the lagoons of the atoll and drift over large coral heads looking for GT’s. Often it would take catching a grouper or a snapper to get the GT’s attention and fired up as they are typically not far behind. The Bluefins seemed to come up first and then the GT’s. As the week progressed, we became adept at pulling the fly out of and away from anything but a GT. A “proper” GT is anything over 100cm measured from the mouth to the fork of the tail. The accepted weighted calculation is 50lbs at 100cm and 2.2lbs for each cm after that. So, a 115cm GT would weigh in at 83lbs. We boated 6 fish over 100cm for the week. The largest at 122cm – 98.4lbs!
As the tide fell to wading levels you began to walk the flats looking for cruising fish. The GT’s mostly swim with the tide, which was a bit different – the optimum depth was knee deep but we found them in both shallower water tailing or cruising with their fins out and also in chest deep water. I would drop down to the 10wt rod when fishing on the flat. The guides recommended an 8 foot 130# leader. I originally thought this was overkill and eventually I dropped down to 100# or 80# leaders on the flats. 130# is definitely not overkill in the deeper water around coral heads however. For the smaller Blue fins on the flats and other species the leader design was 10ft with a 30# or 40# butt section dropping down to 25# then followed by 20# byte tippet. This worked very well as the fish are not leader shy at all and there is a lot of coral around the edges of the flat. Catching a cruising GT on the flat was the highlight of the trip for me – a big aggressive fish in shallow water that when hooked will try to kick your ass and about 30%-40% of the time will accomplish that even when you are on your A game. I especially enjoyed walking the edges of the flats and then casting to nearby coral heads to see what kind of explosion of fish would happen. The trick was to quickly lock down the drag and get the fish up on the flat for the rest of the fight. Often times when doing this other species would follow the fish up onto the flat and real madness would ensue. I had a snapper eaten by a big grouper while fighting him one day. The fishery was truly wild and exotic.
If you decide or get the chance to go after GT’s I believe the essentials are as follows:
- Reels – I would avoid sealed drags – take something you can take apart and work on and take a spare or two. Practice getting on and off the drag quickly – on quickly after the eat and off quickly when landing the fish – The drag system is the key to a successful fight. I used Tibor Gulfstream and Tibor everglades reels. https://www.tiborreel.com/
- Rods: I enjoyed my lighter rods on the flats but would not take anything lighter than a 9wt or heavier than a 12 wt. I personally took a Sage Salt HD in a 9 wt, and a Sage ONE in a 10 wt & 11 wt https://www.sageflyfish.com/
- knots – the basic package for the Indian Ocean would be blood knot, nail knot, surgeons knot, perfection loop and homer roads knot – that will get you home. – Be prepared to have fly line mfg. loop ends fail. We had several of these fail and lost a few fish and while its disappointing I think after reflection it is where you want the line to fail so you can keep fishing without having to replace the entire fly line – but take extra’s. Learn to tie a new loop end on the fly line securing that with a triple nail knot. Even then I had on loop break on a fish that got me on a coral head.
- Fly Presentation: learn to strip long and fast – while walking backwards to give you more line and time for the fish to eat – these fish will eat right at the end of the rod sometimes and that is truly a blood rushing event.
- Line management – practice for your scenario, here, it was mostly walk and wade style fishing – its easy to step over your fly line or have the tide wrap it around you costing you a nice fish after a successful hook-up. Good line mgt. is essential for catching these fish. I took a variety of Rio fly lines https://www.rioproducts.com/
- Waterproof backpack or sling pack – Fishpond, Orvis, Simms and Patagonia all make good ones – our group seemed to prefer either the Fishpond or orvis sling packs. https://fishpondusa.com/
- Sacrifice clothing for gear weight wise where you can.
- Good Boots: I took the lightest pair which were Orvis Christmas Island Booties which worked fine but most went with heavier duty lace-ups by Simms. https://www.orvis.com/https://www.simmsfishing.com/
- Sun Protection: 3 parts here – Eyes, Face, Exposed skin. I prefer Smith or Costa Del Mar sunglasses, but whatever you choose make sure it is polarized, and comes in a frame that provides some level of peripheral protection (ie – not aviators). Buy a good reef safe sunscreen, at least 30 spf (thermal30 is our favorite for reef safe face protection), for your arms, face, and exposed skin. Lastly, I highly recommend a Buff face guard. They are soft, breathable, and protect your face from the sun when you need that extra bit of shade. https://www.smithoptics.com/us/https://www.buffusa.com/https://www.facebook.com/thermal30/
- *** We at Off Grid Food Co are watermen ( we fish, surf, sail, grew up on and still live on the water) as much as we are hunters, please help keep our oceans and reefs healthy by choosing a reef safe sunscreen!!!!*** https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/your-guide-to-reef-friendly-sunscreens?gclid=CjwKCAiA0svwBRBhEiwAHqKjFok3XeYxFVShu_g7EF8Jwjp0PbatixVEF0Q8wMXXAMMFKaT_k2ljHxoCB_cQAvD_BwE
- Wear tights to prevent scraping and more importantly to prevent chafing from long walks in the water.
- Hydration & Fuel: Water, water, water. I also recommend some sort of electrolyte replacement. Always take snacks by OFFGRID.
Big Thanks to to Capt. Will Benson and World Angling for organizing this trip and the incredible photos. Thanks to FlyCastaway for great guides, the mothership boat and crew that made this all possible!