Words by Miren Elosegui
Images by Álvaro G. Santillán
Every fishing trip is, without a doubt, a personal motivation, a backpack full of dreams and, of course, a beautiful way of fueling our fly fishing fever. However, if the chosen destination is located 9.000 kilometers far away from home and it is about discovering a different island every day during two weeks, that is not a fly fishing trip, it is an adventure in every way. We knew that, in the land of a thousand blues, the days were going to be too physical but the uncertainty of which species was going to take the fly each time was more powerful than the tiredness. In other words, despite hundreds of casts against the waves, the reef fishing, the coral cuts and a lot of kilometers covered, our yearning for discovering every square meter of that paradise nourished continuously our adventurous spirit until the last day of the journey.
Although salt fishing was not entirely unknown for me (I had already been in Cuba during a few days chasing tarpons two years ago), I had never planned such a long salt fishing trip before. I must admit that I normally use ultralight equipments (#5 maximum) so, the previous training months were essential to deal with #10 equipments. We should keep in mind that the aim of this adventure was to explore a new zone trying to cover the largest possible area, that is why a prior long and well defined physical practice was needed. The casts were suposed to be countless and a muscle injury during the first days would have definitely turned our dream trip into a nightmare.
The fact that the group was going to be composed of a few good friends as well as experienced anglers finally persuaded me. In Maldives, fly fishing is not a widespread technique and to be honest, our fishing guide was really our taxi boat driver because he had never seen a fly fishing rod before. As a consequence, tasks such as compilation of information, satellite tracking, detailed studies of the structures of each island and a proper use of tide tables were required and my friends were well qualified to complete them perfectly.
That is right, every day we conquered a different little and uninhabited island and each fly fishing session depended on the tides. The water was crystal clear and the digital camera sensors indicated more light than they could control. Indeed, half an hour of sun exposure without sun protection could cause a serious sunburn.The flats were enormous areas that filled up and emptied creating not only a water flow, but also a movement of fishes which is very interesting talking about fly fishing. In other words, it is the tide which defined the fishing intervals and the break times. Definitely, during the rising tide, the fishing was much more productive and the sharks with their incredible curiosity indicated the entrance of the first predators in shallow waters.
The polarized sun glasses showed us an amazing landscape full of life and we had to be attentive to be able to spot the predator we were looking for. It was an authentic sight fishing. But be careful, while we walk through the flats with the water up to the waist, hypnotized by the paradise and with our eyes fixed on the distance, we can be distracted from what happens at our feet. Being more frequent then we expect, the coral cuts are real blades that cause serious injuries that only get better when we get home. I promise.
Casting at the edge of the reef was another fishing strategy. It was physically very hard but each cast was full of excitement because we didn’t know which fish will appear from the depths. It was not strange to see how our 0,50 mm tippet broke when the fish took our fly. This is the reason why we sometimes set the 1 mm one in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Turtles, sharks and manta rays were our fishing buddies those days. The flying fishes accompanied us ploughing through the Indian Ocean every morning and the dolphins escorted us at sunset.
Although our target was the Gt (Giant Trevally) and we looked for it incessantly, we didn’t find it. Maybe we were not situated in the best latitude or simply, it was not the right time. Nevertheless, thanks to the huge diversity of the species that we came across and their extreme ferocity, what might have seemed like a failure turned into an unbelievable experience. Snappers, bluefin trevallies, coral trouts, groupers, queenfishes, bonitos, trigger fishes and golden trevallies were the focus of our days in paradise.
And what incredible days! The attacks and the chases were heart-stopping. In one millisecond we could perceive a blue shadow ploughing through the water at high speed and then attacking our fly taking out metres and metres of backing at the speed of light. The strip movements were the key to success and each situation was different. Not anything goes in paradise.
In short, it is said that salt fishing has a special attraction and I must admit that it is completely true because it has been a few months since we arrived home and I am just thinking again about another salt destination. I must confess that I have the different blue tones etched in my mind and the coral scars in my skin will help me for sure to never forget this incredible fly fishing trip.