What do you do when you get a call from a couple of guys from South Africa who say they want to take you on an expedition to some of the most remote atolls in the Seychelles Island chain. You reply "When? Where? Yes please!"
Dean Riphagen and Tom Lewin are the owners and operators of Frontier Fly Fishing in Johannesburg, South Africa. They have a specialty fly shop there and also specialize in trips to some really "off the wall" destinations.
The "shop" in Johannesburg.
Getting to the Cosmoledo Atolls which was our final destination was not an easy task, 15 hours from the US to Johannesburg, 7 hours to Kenya, 4 hours to Mahe the capital of the Seychelles, then a 3 hour flight on a charter plane to a remote airstrip on an island with 5 inhabitants and then finally on the mothership Indian Ocean Explorer where we spent our next 10 days. Couple that with all the camera, fishing, diving and miscellaneous gear an it truly became a journey of epic proportions! I can tell you it was worth every bit of it!
So many sights to see along the way and so many people who made this trip memorable that it is hard to encapsulate it. The crux of it though is that we were going to meet up with 8 fellow travellers and spend 10 days exploring and fishing the "Cosmos" for Giant Trevally, Bonefish, assorted wild looking Grouper and Napoleon Wrasses.
The adventure begins, our fellow shipmates and travelers.
Our trip started in Johannesburg going to the Tom and Dean's shop and getting all our gear together, piling it all in a bus and getting to the airport for the trip to Mahe via Kenya. When we finally got to Mahe, we took a break and explored the island for a day, absolutely beautiful, incredible vistas, lush mountains falling into beaches by the sea. We took some time to explore the fish markets there and get a feel for the culture of the place. A really enjoyable stop that had nothing to do with fishing. But that was what this trip was all about, enjoying the stops along the way that made the journey itself a big part of the trip!
Mahe is the capital of the Seychelles
Vista from the top of Mahe
Tim Schick setting up an interview scene in Mahe
The fish market in Mahe, great place to see what species are available in the area, also a way to get a few for the culture of the people there.
We woke up the next day and piled all our gear into a charter flight that got us 3 hours later to some remote island in the Indian Ocean, carted our stuff down the beach and sailed off to our first stop which we arrived at some 12 hours later , the Astove atolls!
Our plane arrives at this island with an airstrip and almost literally nothing else man made.
The proud ship Indian Ocean Explorer, our "resort" for the next 10 days!
Astove had a fair number of Bonefish and we spent that afternoon catching bunches of them, very forgiving untouched fish, I hate to say they were dumb but if you got a fly anywhere near them it was eaten without hesitation.
Dean and the crew set up, the little raft was used for camera equipment.
Astove Atolls, beautiful spot
That night we sailed to the Cosmoledo Atolls where we spent the remainder of the trip. First day fishing, we waded and stalked Giant Trevally and Milkfish. They have 12 foot tides there so you had to be careful not to get caught too far away from the boat because you may have started with ankle deep water that in just a few hours was over your head. Dean Riphagen was our guide for the first part and proved his worth knowing where and when to be somewhere to catch fish and when to move so the tide didn't catch you.
This is how we ferried equipment to and from the boat.
Jose, Dean Riphagen, Tim Schick and Wes Miller... we would stage our gear here and then....
..... ferry it to and from the boat via the "ducky" AKA rubber rafts!
Funny thing, even though everyone was catching fish on flies during the day, one of our more memorable catches was a Giant Trevally that Tom Lewin caught one afternoon by the boat. Tom is a dedicated fly fisherman and on a challenge I got him to catch one of the largest fish of the trip on a peanut butter cracker!! I can't tell you how much fun we had with that, the whole boat gave him crap about that for the next few day. That was what this trip was all about though as the camaraderie with the other guys was as much fun as catching fish.
Tom Lewin and the peanut butter fish!!!
Going to the flats, Dean Riphagen at the helm.
Dean Riphagen and Jose at Astove.
On the mothership Indian Ocean with our new South African friends.
Tom Lewin guided us the next few days and we caught big GT's, Groupers and Napoleon wrasses.The weather was rough and raining, but the times we were able to fish outside the lagoon was incredible. On a deep reef outside, I dropped a deep jig 6 times and came up with 6 different species of grouper!!
Putting the heat on one of the big grouper. We got alot of questions about the
Shimano rod and reel outfit we were using to keep these fish
from getting back into the rocks! Read some Q and A's about Rods and Reels
Just one of the weird grouper we caught on one of our few forays out of the lagoon.
What the hell is this??? ... This is a Napoleon Wrasse!
Yet another weird big ass grouper.
All in all, this trip was one of those that left you with not only unforgettable experiences in some remote, almost alien place, but also meeting and making new friends. I can't say enough about Dean and Tom and their operation there in South Africa and the Cosmoledos.
For More Information visit Frontier Fly Fishing