Having booked a holiday in September 2010 with my girlfriend, Anna, I was keen to find out about fly fishing in Mauritius. We were staying at a lovely hotel on the south west coast called Les Pavillons, which I believe is now called (a href=”http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Hotel_Review-g488105-d316737-Reviews-LUX_Le_Morne-Le_Morne.html#REVIEWS” target=_’blank’>LUXE Le Morne. It was right on the beach, had several good restaurants, a five star PADI dive centre, a nice spa, free bike hire and offered an excellent all-inclusive package, which provided everything you could want – cocktails and all. Highly recommended!
Anyway, as well as enjoying a relaxing holiday, I wanted to do some fishing – specifically fly fishing. I’d brought along a 9-weight, 4-piece fly rod, floating line and a selection of flies, hoping there might be some flats for bonefishing, or even a chance of fishing for GTs.
I started off by wandering up the beach with my fly rod and line tray (a must if you don’t want your line catching on shells, pebbles, seaweed etc). I saw a few fish, but nothing within range and it didn’t really feel overly hopeful. The south west point of Mauritius is only sparsely populated, but the beach is pretty accessible and I got the impression there weren’t many fish in residence. Nevertheless, I enjoyed fishing my way north, past several beach resorts (with guests staring at my fishing tackle in an apparent mixture of surprise and disdain), then along the side of a seaside golf course. There’s a very large, very shallow bay less than one mile north of Les Pavillons and this felt like the best chance. I didn’t catch myself but I was taking pot shots, had no idea of tide and had no local knowledge whatsoever. If I go back, I’ll give this a more concerted effort, as I’m sure there are fish to catch there at certain times of day.
So, fishless, I returned to the hotel. But, on my way there, by absolute uncanny coincidence, I found a small purple sign cable-tied to a lamp post, offering fly fishing trips! I called the number and a male, South African-sounding voice answered. Sure enough this seemed to be the only guy on the whole of Mauritius who took people fly fishing and I had run into him by accident. We agreed to meet a couple of days later.
It turned out that our hotel was slap bang, right in the right place for fly fishing for GTs. Result! On the other hand, this guy wanted US$300 for the day, which I thought at the time was pretty steep. We negotiated, a bit (not my forte – you might have more luck!) and arranged a time to meet – just outside the dive centre on the beach in front of our hotel.
When the time came, we boarded his skipper’s small open boat and began our 3-minute journey along the coast and out to the reef. For those of you who have been to this part of Mauritius (it’s a popular kite surfing destination), you’ll know that there’s a narrow reef running parallel with the beach, about 500 yards from the shore. This was our destination. As we motored, my guide and I changed our flip flops for sturdy walking boots and thick socks – essential, he told me, for wading on the sharp rocks and coral along the top of the reef. And so we stopped, hopped off the boat into thigh-deep water, and waded to our fishing spot.
Inside the reef is fairly calm, as the reef itself stops the breaking waves more or less in their tracks, but outside the reef can be quite different. Our tactic was to wade towards the surf, into the shallower water, and literally stand on top of the reef, casting into the foaming water. Exciting is an understatement!
As one or two of the photos may show, some of the waves were four or five feet high at their peak and, even after breaking, they surged into us with some considerable power. It was a workout and all we could do, at times, to maintain our balance. Still, after the first few hits we hardened to it and I could start thinking about fishing. Standing here was one thing, but would we actually be able to catch anything?!
This was the technique: watch while an incoming wave began to break and prepare to cast. As the wave approached, start making a few false casts, aiming the forward cast high enough so that the line didn’t become entangled in the wave. When the wave broke, turn your face away and brace yourself for impact, doing your best to keep the splashing foam off your polarised glasses, then fire your cast as far as possible into the foaming wash behind the wave. We then had about fifteen seconds of fast retrieve before the subsequent wave started to build – just enough time for the trevally to see and catch the fly, or such was the theory.
My guide was clearly enjoyed it and, I must admit, so was I. Although a tad extreme, I could definitely see the strategy and the water looked very fishy – if a little turbulent. The idea was that the waves would dislodge fish, crabs, shrimps and other critters taking refuge in the reef, and the trevally or perhaps other predatory fish would rush into the swollen water behind the waves, snap them up, then retreat into deeper water before the next wave could bash them against the coral. I didn’t see any fish moving but my guide excitedly pointed out several, with the shout: “GT!” I’ve been fishing with enough guides now to know that, despite having pretty good eyes and a lifetime’s experience of spotting fish, I definitely don’t see everything that’s there. Still, in this instance I was less convinced. I’ve been bonefishing and had guides talk me through a cast into seemingly empty water, only to find myself hooked up to an invisible silver ghost. Here in Mauritius, I cast where instructed but to no avail.
We fished like this for fifteen minutes or so. The more time that passed, the more comfortable I got with the situation and I began to get into a rhythm with the waves. Sure enough, on one of my casts into the foam, BANG! Away she roared, my first ever trevally hooked on fly and, boy, was she tearing off line. Instantly both our thoughts turned to the fly line. My guide had already warned me of the razor sharp coral and told me the chances of losing my one and only floating line were fairly high. Up went the rod tip and outstretched right arm, as the free line was torn from my fingers. I tried my best to get the fish over onto the leeward side of the reef and, after only three or four minutes, she complied. It was at that point that I realised what I’d hooked. What had felt like a ten or fifteen pound fish turned out to be more like two pounds. What incredible power!!
Don’t get me wrong – I was surprised but I was not disappointed. A quarter of an hour earlier I was still wondering if this was a bonafide operation and yet here I was with my first fish. Great. It turned out that this was my only fish, apart from a very small reef fish, which I have yet to identify (please let me know if you recognise it!), caught from the boat. But it felt like a success, I’d braved the ocean and caught what I came for. Not only that but I hadn’t lost my tackle!
I didn’t go again – the price was too high – but I definitely plan to go back. Next time I will take my own hiking boots and my own waterproof jacket (with hood!), and I’ll pay a local boatman to ferry me over to the reef. If you intend to do this yourself, I would recommend doing it in pairs. It was good to have someone standing beside me and falling between crashing surf and reef is not something I would recommend. Having said that, if you do end up in Mauritius and you do give this a try, I’d love to know how you get on. And if you don’t feel like going it alone, see if you can track down Dominique Taveneau.