Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weird Moments in Fishing #2

The early days in the Seychelles were truly amazing. Not that they aren’t great today, but back then, when only a handful of anglers had explored these atolls, it was off the charts. For instance, in some places, you could strip a crab fly out of the water and pull bonefish  almost out of the water and onto the beach. We caught bonefish on grasshopper flies, two at a time on dropper rigs, and on bare red hooks. We could often get close enough to touch tailing bones with our rod tips and came damn close to grabbing their tails with our hands. Rays often had dozens of bones weaving in and out of the mud they created. We usually had dozens of big GT's cruising off the back of our liveaboard. The GT's would eat anything: fish guts, oranges, paper plates... they were so aggressive we had to make sure we never put our hands in the water!
GT's waiting for a free meal
Off the back of the Tam Tam
These moments were incredible, but one moment really stands out in my memory, I had been circumnavigating a small island in the Amirantes Group picking up bonefish that were nonchalantly tailing in the gentle surf only inches from shore. Suddenly, I heard a splashy commotion and looked up to see a pack of GT’s churning up the surface. These big bullies often charge into the shallows from the deeper cuts to ambush any napping fish giving the phrase “you snooze, you lose”, new meaning. 

When on the prowl like this, GT's are super aggressive. For instance, I had a big dark male bite the tip off my 12 wt. while his partner, a pale blue female, was inhaling my big deceiver. He covered the 20 feet from where I had last seen him to my rod tip in a heartbeat. I had made the mistake of having my rod tip in the water while I strip struck. Apparently, everything is fair game to a hungry GT.

Mike Schwartz with a big GT!
But I digress, let’s get back to this pack of assassins who were ransacking my peaceful bonefish beach.  Like one huge mobile cuisinart, these GT’s were laying waste to everything that came in their way. Those herring, small snappers and other baitfish that weren’t “processed” by the mob were flying out of the water in a last ditch effort to escape.  It reminded me of one of those 50’s movies when a biker gang rides into town and all the town folk scream and run for cover. 

In response, I threw my bonefish rod up on the beach and grabbed my 12 wt. from its tethered spot on my backpack. I pulled line off the reel until I had enough to throw the big green and gold streamer at the pack. They all turned on my fly. One of the big jacks outraced the others and chomped my fly. I struck and the dark blue GT didn’t move. He seemed more annoyed than hooked. It took the trevally awhile to process that something was wrong. The fish finned off slowly while shaking his head from side to side. I could see my big 4/0 fly flashing brightly out of the corner of his jaw. I strip struck again taking the opportunity to insure a good hookset. This time his dignity gave way to fear. My GT deserted the pack and raced off the flat. He soon disappeared into an deep channel.

Photo by Eric Berger 
My fly line was soon gone, then backing spun off the spool. My 12 wt. was bent to the butt and the drag was cranked so I was relieved when he finally slowed up a bit. I tried to work him back to me, but didn’t gain much before he powered off again. This process repeated itself a couple more times. If you’ve ever caught a big GT, you know there is a lot of blue collar work involved.  There comes a point when there isn’t much difference between digging a ditch and fighting a GT. It’s just work. Good work, but work just the same. Finally, after the third or fourth run, he seemed to be tiring. Then he shook his head, jerked hard on the line and raced off again even harder than before.  
I thought, “What the hell?... this is going to be a long fight.” 
I couldn’t believe that this fish had such a strong second wind. I was either turning into a real wimp or this fish was refreshing himself at the Barry Bonds Juice Bar.

A great marbled grouper from Providence Atoll
After a lot of pulling and a lot of winding, I was able to work him out of the deep channel and into the pale turquoise water at the edge of the flat. He was bigger than I thought... and much darker. I was tired and felt like I was pulling a sack of corn towards shore. With sweat rolling down my forehead and into my eyes, I finally got him to where I could get a good look at him. He looked odd... different! I backed up and beached him in the lapping surf. 

This was no GT, this fish was a grouper. This was not the fish that had eaten my fly. WTF! Had the fly pulled from the GT and this fish eaten it without me noticing? Impossible! Had this fish taken the fly from the mouth of the struggling GT? Was this the headshake I felt? That made more sense. How many fish are down there anyway? A fish in peril must be literally mobbed by other predators. In any case, somehow, this marbled grouper had stolen the fly from my GT’s mouth and become hooked in the process. I pulled the streamer from the snapper’s top jaw and released my second fish from the same cast.

I put my 12 wt. back on my pack. I didn’t want to use it again for awhile. I sat on the beach drinking tepid water and opening and closing my left hand. Who would ever believe this one?


  1. That grouper is such a cool looking fish - with it's big teeth and blue ringed eye. But I have to say the Schwartz's big GT has haunted me ever since the first time I saw it.

  2. That is your photo Doug, by the way!
    Yes, Mike's fish was a beast. A mouth backed by a lot of muscle spells death on the flats for the little guys!