It is axiomatic that the further one has to travel to fish, the better the fishing will be. It just makes sense... if an area is easy to reach, more anglers visit and more fish are educated. Finding habitats where the human influence has been minimal to the ecosystem usually means a pristine fishery and great angling. In our experience, Cosmoledo Atoll is a perfect example of the axiom... seek the remote and come back with a smile on your face and a duffle bag full of great angling moments. Boy, did this trip ever deliver!
In the face of a brewing war with Iraq (not to mention two long days of air travel and considerable expenditure), our intrepid group of anglers persevered. We arrived at this true bonefish paradise tired, but otherwise unharmed. As with our prior trips, we were pushing the outside boundary of the known angling world and as before, we were rewarded with a blow-your-hair-back and knock-your-socks-off experience. You name the clich» and this trip lived up to it. On the waters that surrounds the Seychelles' picture perfect atolls, we experienced great new friendships, lots of laughter, a wonderful mothership operation and some prolific fishing both in terms of quantity and quality.
Cosmoledo is a huge atoll that lolls virtually unnoticed in the southwestern corner of the Seychelles. Cosmoledo is as untouched and as pristine as it was a hundred years ago. A few sailors and fishermen have sailed through these waters, but few others have found themselves even remotely near these atolls. These islands are just too difficult to reach and even if you were to find yourself here, there is no fresh water, nothing to eat (except fish) and very little landmass. Sounds perfect eh?!
A few years ago, we discovered plenty of reasons to visit Cosmoledo and these abundant reasons were in the form of slippery, pale green backs that tailed predictably up into the tide. Just as we found on our trip last year, these bonefish occupy the enormous flats of Cosmoledo in huge numbers. They follow an ancient rhythm; a predictable pattern based on the ebb and flow of each day's tide.
During our trip this year, the tides were steep... the result of the recent passing of the full moon and its associated spring tides. As the water began to creep up, just as the tide changed from slack to flood, huge numbers of bonefish began to arrive en masse in the shallows. These Seychellesois bonefish have an amazing sensitivity to water depth with their trigger point being a mere few inches of tidal gain. One minute, the lagoon edge sits emerald green and lifeless... ten minutes later, pods of large fish are seemingly everywhere. They gain access to the feeding grounds through slightly deeper troughs looking for any advantage that will allow them to be the first up and onto the fertile flats. Each day we watched in amazement as the schools filed past our positions. It was not uncommon for every angler within view to be hooked up as a serenade of buzzing drags filled the warm tropical air. At its peak flow, the tide quickly filled the once dry flat. As a precaution, we kept the zodiac tenders nearby. We retreated to shallower water as the tide rose, playing a game of leapfrog with the advancing fish. As the tide wore on and the fish dispersed up into the mangrove edges of the island, we would abandon our pursuit of the atoll's bones to now refocus our thoughts onto Cosmoledo's other great fly rod species, the giant trevally.
In yet another of nature's perfectly orchestrated dramas, the predatory trevally advanced on the incoming tide right up to the reef edges. From here, they would patrol the cuts and channels that had earlier served-up heaping helpings of bonefish to the anglers lined up at Cosmoledo's buffet table. Often during our trip, we watched these revved-up bullies charge in on the tide just itching for a fight. The best part of fishing for giant trevally is their hostile, almost bellicose, attitude. Clearly an alpha predator, Cosmoledo trevally cruise in small packs, making virtually anything prey in the swift current of the cuts and channels. A well-positioned angler can watch as bluefin, giant and Aldabra trevally take up a patrol route looking for bonefish, snappers, eels, mullet or any other unlucky fish that happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These Cosmoledo trevally are truly equal opportunity thugs and the badest boys on the block. We caught them while on their patrols, the ambusher ambushed by our small, rock hopping raiding party... an ironic little twist that made us chuckle even as our rod arms ached. Whether large or small, the bluefin, GT and Aldabra trevally amazed us with their strength and aggressiveness. If a bonefish requires stealth and technical angling acumen, the trevally requires only an ultra stout leader and a street fighter's attitude. Our largest specimen weighed in at 42 pounds and represents an absolutely fantastic fly rod accomplishment for our group. A true 40 plus pound GT is a beast and landing one requires as much luck as skill. The truth is, a GT of this size usually break things before it is broken itself!
As the tide reversed direction, so did we. As the water flowed off the flats, we once again found incredible numbers of large na‘ve bonefish willing to entertain our group. Most anglers lost track of how many fish they caught and began instead to look for the "big shadows" that represented 8-10 pound fish. We caught numerous fish in the 5-7 pound range. With catching not a problem, we spent much time carefully weighing and measuring many fish in order to document what seemed to be a remarkable and a bit unbelievable average fish. Our records show the average bonefish weighed in at 6 pounds. We caught lots in this size slot. The largest bonefish we weighed were a touch over 10 pounds and garnered a huge thrill for the lucky members of our group that came tight against one of these big boys.
With periods of gentle seas and modest winds, we finally got to explore some of the deep reef edges that looked so appealing on prior trips. Having now a sense of the superb interior fishery, it only stood to reason that the big blue drop-offs would also hold good numbers of the main cast of characters usually found here... namely wahoo, tuna and billfish. We deployed two large marauders and these lures were not in the water three minutes when the port rod bent hard. Instantaneously, the Penn reel began to scream with telltale run of a big wahoo.
Surprised and reacting clumsily, we completely fouled up the fish and managed to break it off after the first run. We quickly re-rigged the leaders... this time with wire. We then dropped back another set of lures. Within an hour, we had landed 8 different species of fish including a 60-pound wahoo, a 35 pound dog tooth tuna, several other 30 plus pound wahoo, many huge giant trevally, cuda, jobfish, rainbow runners and for good measure, a few 15 plus pound bonito. Needless to say, we were truly amazed and a bit in awe. We immediately sent back two hookless teasers and now, effused with an optimism that can only come with mega doses of adrenaline, set up a 13-weight fly rod rigged and ready for serious battle. As the last light faded from the sky, we carefully pulled the bait 'n switch on a nice 30-pound dogtooth tuna, stretching the limits of both the rod and our fish-weary muscles. After 20 minutes of serious tug-o-war, we tailed the fish, admired it in the golden light of the setting sun... and decided on tuna steaks for dinner!
We awoke the next day to a windless and clear sky. It was a foregone conclusion that on such a day we would continue our fly rod quest for wahoo, tuna and billfish. We lost track of how many fish we raised on the dawn and dusk bites. We hooked up 5 or 6 nice wahoo and landed three, one of which was an impressive 40 plus pound bruiser caught on a fly rod. As an after thought, we trolled back to the ship with a black and red wahoo feather. After a vicious hit, a 100-pound sailfish took to the air behind our little zodiac. Working the small reel and light line, we fought this beautiful fish hard. Taking to the air in the dim light, she ignited all of our spirits giving us an incredible display of aerial acrobatic maneuvers straight out of the chronicles of Zane Grey. After 30 minutes of this incredible oceanic duet, we slowly slid her electric blue body up next to the small inflatable zodiac. We were more than willing to accept her surrender. We carefully released her, making sure she had plenty of time to recover in the lee of our tender. When her long bill was freed, she swam off gracefully, capping what has to be one of the most amazing fishing days we have ever experienced. Bonefish in the morning, trevally in the afternoon and wahoo, tuna and sailfish at dusk!
The seaworthy and comfortable 113 foot Indian Ocean Explorer served as our base of operations during our week. The well-designed layout, air-conditioned cabins, private heads with showers, as well as the tasty, well-prepared meals made everyone on board happy and able to focus, as we should, only on fishing. Each evening, we sat sated in the main salon listening to the tales of the day. To a person, day in and day out, everyone on board had outstanding fishing with many anglers recording their personal bests in terms of size, species diversity and just flat out fun! For the week, we landed 19 different species of fish, 18 on fly rods... a true testament to the pristine nature of this untouched area and the bounty that this incredible marine ecosystem provides. It is truly an aquatic Garden of Eden and the finest fishing I have ever seen in 30 years of saltwater angling.
We will be planning our return trip for March of 2004 soon. We can take 10 anglers. At least half these spots are already taken by members of this year's expedition eager to return for another serving of Cosmoledo a la mode. Please feel free to give us a call if you are interested in this expedition and seek more details.