Each day the team is split up into groups of two anglers per skiff and guide. The four purpose built Mini-Mahe skiffs are left on anchorage at Cosmoledo atoll and are skippered by the experienced, world class and professional Alphonse Fishing Co guides. Each guide has first aid experience and is extremely experienced in all facets of fly-fishing these remote saltwater destinations. All the guides communicate with each other during the day to update each other on tides, water levels and fish found at different parts of the fishery. Their passion and dedication is infectious and rest assured they will definitely go the extra mile in search of your fish of a lifetime.
Many anglers are allured half way around the word to the Seychelles in search of the dozens of species found at Cosmoledo. The mainstay-targeted species are five species of trevally, bonefish, triggerfish, permit, barracuda, parrotfish, and the powerful milkfish. During certain tides, the bonefish literally pour off the white sandy flats, where ten, twenty and thirty fish sessions are not uncommon. The diversity of other non-typical gamefish species is staggering as well. While dredging with sinking lines off the edge of the atoll, some clients have reported landing over fifty species a week including yellowfin tuna, surgeonfish, lemon shark, grouper, dogtooth tuna, and every kind of reef fish imaginable. Other than the optional dredging session during slack tidal periods, nearly 100% of all fishing in the lagoon is done wading.
Here is the daily routine: Wake up at 7:00 a.m., breakfast at 7:30, board your skiff at 8:30 a.m. for fishing (can be tide dependent). Clients will choose between a packed lunch or a lunch onboard the yacht. Boat runs are rarely more than 10-15 minutes, and your fly line will be in the water by 9:00 a.m. at the latest. Guides always give a brief orientation and chat up the day’s game plan relative to what species you want to target, the expected tide, and fishing conditions. After a full day of fishing you return to the yacht between 4 p.m.-5 p.m., with cocktails at 6:30, dinner at 7:00, and off to bed at 9-10. This regimented routine makes the week fly by.
The Giant Trevally (Caranx Ignobilis) is the true bad ass of all game fish. His round head, broad shoulders, and elaborate fins are built for speed and power, and he has no predators other than large sharks and humans. He literally eats everything, and his incredible eyesight combines with his quickness to make him a lethal hunter. While adults spend much of their life in deeper water, fish well over 100 pounds often feed on the flats in skinny water or cruise in riding the waves on the reef to ambush unsuspecting prey. There is nothing more impressive than watching through the face of a wave as a big GT surfs his way inside the reef. The combination of hurried panic to cast and huge dosage of adrenalin is very addictive. There is also no eat more impressive than the mighty GT. The deliberate and crushing speed of the monster when he zeroes in on your fly is scary to the point where you almost don’t want him to eat it! Once you witness the spectacle that is the “JEET”, it gets in your blood, and you become obsessed with trying to find one a bit bigger than the last one.
Five species of trevally are found in the Seychelles with the golden, bluefin and giant trevally most prevalent. The giant trevally is about as crazed and hard fighting as any gamefish on the planet . . . you had better come prepared. 80-100 pound straight fluorocarbon for your leader, 5/0 – 8/0 hooks, and 80 pound gel spun backing is the norm. GTs over 50 pounds often require you to be chasing them in a skiff as landing one on foot is nearly impossible without a 14 weight and lots of luck. They are truly an incredible fish. “GTs” or “Jeets” (as the South Africans and Seychellois call them) are most often found at low tide cruising the cuts and channels around coral heads and surrounding the flats in search of baitfish and other prey. Half of the time anglers will cruise in the skiff looking for giant trevally, however, a walk out to a reef can also be a fruitful way to get a shot at a trevally. At low tide anglers can stand just inside the reef and scan the incoming breakers for these hunting monsters and sight cast to cruising fish in the surf. On an incoming tide, you can also find trevally on the flat in very skinny water crashing bait at warp speed. Although visually the most impressive form of feeding (huge bow wakes and rooster tails) trevally in shallow water can spook easily. No matter where you encounter the giant trevally, their pure closing speed and aggressive feeding habits will intrigue all anglers. There is simply nothing more jaw-dropping than the eat of a big GT – and if you are lucky you won’t get spooled!
The bonefish fishing in the Seychelles is the best on earth. Period. Nowhere else comes close. The majority of the areas fished for bonefish are on hard, white sand with minimal coral or grass growth. It is an idyllic setting for bonefishing with easy visibility and a nearly endless amount of targets in skinny water. Tidal fluctuations in the Seychelles are quite significant, and the day’s itinerary is built around accommodating the ebb and push of water on and off the flat. During a falling or rising tide, anglers typically wade looking for bones feeding their way on or off the flat. The population of bonefish is outstanding, easily rivaling any and all other bonefish destinations in the world. The average fish is a solid four pounds, with seven and eight-pound specimens encountered frequently. Double-digit fish are present; however should definitely be considered a real bonus trophy.
One of the most sought after species on the flats is called the Milkfish (Chanos chanos). Although we have learned a lot about how to effectively hook and land these brutes, Milks still have lore about them. There is a common misnomer that they are herbivores or vegetarians exclusively. They feed on tiny invertebrates such as plankton as well as algae. They are not filter feeders, but they do skim along with mouths wide open inhaling their food (kind of like a whale shark). The hardest part about catching a milkfish is simply being in the right place at the right time for a predictable, surface feeding event with a large enough school of targets to increase the odds (which oftentimes won’t happen for weeks on end). Most often during large spring tides, milkfish will set up almost like trout feeding into the strong tidal currents flushing food off of the flats. Lucky anglers encounter them feeding on or near the surface with mouths wide almost mindlessly vacuuming everything in their path. Although they will certainly move to avoid your fly, they will definitely not move to eat your fly. Anglers fish with algae-like deer hair or craft fur patterns tied on a #2 Gamu hook and long slow strips through a school of milkfish. If the planets align, your fly will incidentally get sucked in and off to the races you go.
Although found throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the milkfish that inhabit these waters are some of the largest in the world, and more importantly your guides pioneered how to catch them with regularity. Milkfish are similar in shape to bonefish, only reach up to thirty pounds and possess large sickle tails and huge eyes. When the milkfish are feeding on the surface, anglers present a grass or algae imitation and hope that one mistakes the green fly for a meal. When the fishing for milkfish is “on,” success rates hooking milks are actually quite high despite the rumors of them being extremely difficult to hook. Finding them feeding in the proper fashion on the surface is the hard part, but once discovered feeding cooperatively and consistently, they can be hooked with regularity. Some experienced guides say that a thirty pound milkfish will give a hundred pound tarpon a run for his money, so landing them is another story!
Other species encountered daily include three species of triggerfish found tailing on the tidal push. The three main triggerfish pursued are the Yellow Margin, The Giant aka Mustache, and the brilliant little Picasso. These colorful speedsters slowly and lazily cruise feeding mainly on crabs and other crustaceans on the outside flats. The presentation to triggerfish is quite technical, and reminiscent of trout fishing. A good drift and proper current are required to “feed” triggerfish. Once they eat your fly, hold on! Triggers are aptly named for the trigger like mechanism on their dorsal which literally locks them into holes and crevices in the surrounding coral heads. If you are lucky enough to land one, make sure to have a camera.
Another species found at Cosmoledo worth mentioning is the Indo-Pacific permit (equally as spooky as its Atlantic cousins). Over the last 2 years the guides of the Alphonse Group (Cosmoledo, Astove and Alphonse) have more than tripled the number caught from the previous season by the development of some new fly crab patterns. Finding “Gold,” as the guides endearingly refer to them, usually happens on white sand flats either free swimming or on rays. It has been said that the ones traveling on the backs of ray are more likely to eat, but beware these permit are as tricky and sometime just down right frustrating as ones found in our part of the world. Again, although Seychelles has not historically been recognized as a rich permit fishery, we are encountering and catching more and more permit each year. What was once a super bonus a handful of times each season, targeting permit is now considered part of the usual program.
Other species worth mentioning are the enormous barracudas, all types of jacks, groupers, snappers, emperors, surgeonfish, and the colorful parrotfish. Bring all your fly rods because you never know what species will present itself.
During certain slack tides and if anglers desire to “do something different,” great success can be had by dredging the edges of the atoll. Dredging is a method in which the angler uses a 12wt (or 14wt) rod equipped with a 450-600grain sinking line. The fly line is completely stripped off the reel and thrown over the edge of the reef with a 6/0-8/0 large fly. Once the line has completely straightened and sunk, the angler rips (strips) back in the line as quickly as possible, often using the dispy doodle (double hand) method. Dredging has been known to raise up all kind of species such as grouper, huge GT’s, job fish, dogtooth tuna, yellowfin tuna, etc. Hold on, as these fish will definitely give you a run for your money and often if played too long will be munched on by a shark or two.
The guide staff consists of a mixture of Seychellois, South African, and Americans all with extensive experience in the world of saltwater fly-fishing and the Seychelles fisheries. Their appearance, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the fishing and the area is very impressive and professional. There are few saltwater fishing destinations in the world with such a salty crew of world-class guides and anglers. Anglers rotate guides throughout the week and access the flats in comfortable purpose built Mini-Mahe skiffs and with dry storage, cushioned seating, and reliable fifty horse Yamaha outboard motors. Safety is obviously very important in such a remote location. The guides are outfitted with waterproof radios and are very capable, always wear their kill switches and ensure anglers a safe experience.