FLY FISHING & PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE
3rd anniversary issue
ISSUE #19 - june 2013 www.flymage.net
finding nirvana ii By Earl Hamilton
FLY TYING VIDEO: “emerger nymph”
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
THE QUEST FOR ARABIA´S BONEFISH
By Mikel Elexpuru
By Eoin Fairgrieve
By Ray Montoya
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Finding Nirvana (II) Heaven on Earth By Earl Hamilton
A client of Nomad casts what it is perhaps the first ever fly to be presented on this patch of water.
An adventure from bygone days, to untamed and untouched shores, where nature abounds and the brutal existence of life is played out in the beauty of its rich abundance. This is where we ventured on a recent expedition. We journeyed to an exceptional and remote location where some of our goals, ambitions and dreams were realized. A place far away from our daily lives, still sheltered from the impact of man and of civilization. Unaltered, untainted and pristine as this far off land is, there are still the monsters of our daydreams, the great fish of our desires and the objective of our mission. It is of these grand expeditions to distant exotic regions in faraway lands, so very far away, that we reminisce. The sensation of peace and beauty in the landscape and the harmony with nature, contrasted with the brutish violence of life, the profoundly fierce battles and unique encounters with wild beasts, denizens of the deep, and leviathans of gargantuan proportion. All this we encountered on our epic expedition. There lies
in our passion a nostalgia, where the seeds of our wanderlust germinate, and grow over time into a great hunger for new quests, greater experiences and exploits - We are bound to return, one way or another. Our spirit of adventure is awakened by the vivid recollection of past historic and dramatic confrontations with our chosen adversaries. Collections of photos, broken pieces of tackle, chewed up, destroyed lures and flies, are the hard won prizes we keep and cherish. They stand as a testament to those incredible confrontations that provide us with an unbreakable link back into the past. They bring back to life all the intensity, excitement and adrenalin rushes that gave us such exhilaration from these amazing encounters. Kept in boxes and drawers, some displayed in cabinets, such trophies from our exploits serve as the medals to the success of our mission. They not only remind us of the reality that once was, but also confirm the reality of the incident to give an authenticity to the great tales of our epic, unforgettable
“Never seen anything like that before” The expression on this birds face sais it all-they just don’t see people in these parts!
triumphs, trials, and failures. Each object, every article of remembrance, every picture taken represents a chapter in a story- a tale of an epic event in our lives. Combined, they create an account of the complete history of these legendary happenings that we witnessed. When we retrieve these treasured possessions from their dusty lair, we begin to relive those fantastic encounters. We embark on a virtual reliving of the grand moments of our adventures and fill our hearts and souls with some of the exhilaration and rush that we felt from the original incident that created the memory. In telling our tales, we take our audience on an enchanting tour of the undertakings and events that make up the entire episode of our journey. We hope to enthrall and inspire our fellow travellers with some of the joy and wonder we have been fortunate enough to experience firsthand. The pictures in this article are some of the memories of my own encounters with the big fish of our dreams. The encounters with natureâ€™s beasts and of some of the
wonder of the creatures I came across on my journey. There are pictures of the people whose mutual passion brought them together on this adventure, who shared some of these experiences with me while on their own journey to experience the wonders of the mission. There are pictures of people who taught me new things, and of people who leave me with great respect for their sharing of their knowledge, their understanding, and the depth of their passion. These pictures and texts represent some of the record and reminiscences of this quest for fulfillment of these great people, having great times, with great fun, and they are some of the people who took part in an extra ordinary fishing adventure, full of wonderful memories and incredible encounters, while realizing their dreams and ambitions in what for us was as close as you can get to a state of Nirvana, in a place that is heaven on earth.
A rare prize of a Dogtooth Tuna taken on a DNA Bush Pig. This fish just did not want to come aboard, even with the persuation of a twelve weight behind it.
Our accomodation for this trip was this luxury floatilla moored in the lagoon of the Diamond Islets which sit at the fullest extent of the sea planes operating range.
This picture of me playing a Bluefin Trevally does not do the colours of nature justice. The light, the Azure Blue and Turquoise of thecrystal clear waters in the lagoon are beyond the scope of mere photography.
Hours earlier we were standing on this sand spit. These wild and untouched places abound with many monsters, as seen here with the Nurse shark right up in the shallows.
One of the great caracters of the expedition. Stewart with a nice Dogtooth Tuna. Stewart was happy to show us that the West Coast American style of jigging was equally as effective as the Asian Style of jigging.
A sad reality of nature is that evolution has created predators that pick off the weak and distressed. Many of our prized fish fell victim to the huge number of sharks taking advantage of our tethered trophyâ€™s. We moved to a new location every time we had fish sharked to reduce the carnage, but the sharks quickly learned to associate the boats with an easy meal. Frequently we only managed to land one or two fish before the sharks appeared.
Chasing down a 30kg fly caught Wahoo with the big fly reel still screaming as the line peeled off at 80 km/h.The most exhilarating runs of this are permanently burned into my memory.
Sunset in one of the many small islands, where fishermen and guides discussed the day.
Keith Rumble-32kg GT. Self guided, stalked and landed from the beach.
(Fregata magnificens) Juvenile frigate birds. The whole area serves as breeding place for many species of seabirds.
Guide Chris James and me with a good sized sailfish caught close to the reef cliff.
Tying wire leaders for wahoo.
Refueling after a long flight from the mainland.
In blue waters is common to see whales and sometimes are escorted with dolphinfish.
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Life in the fast lane By Eoin Fairgrieve
My main interest in fly casting and indeed my working life in salmon fishing, began when I was a teenager. I started working on the River Tweed in Scotland as a ghillie in 1988 on one of the river’s most photogenic beats - Makerstoun. With the Tweed enjoying a ten month salmon season, the river has a large throughput of salmon anglers of mixed casting ability during the course of any given season. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my years as a ghillie was helping people develop as spey casters and anglers. Whether fishing from a boat or wading deep in the river, improving my client’s ability to cover water would directly result in an improved chance of hooking a salmon and ultimately more fish in the fishing log. This frequent scenario developed a desire to better understand casting mechanics and to undertake a recognised casting qualification to improve the services I could offer to my guests. I was keen to ensure I was teaching the correct techniques and applied to sit the Association of Game Angling Instructor’s (A.P.G.A.I) single and doublehanded casting exams. It was in this environment of talented
casters and instructors that I learned a huge amount about the various spey casting techniques and equally importantly, different styles within individual casters. Such was my interest in spey casting that in 2000 I decided to leave my position and set up a fly casting centre on the Tweed system. Having been fortunate to experience over a decade of guiding on one of Atlantic salmon’s most famous rivers, teaching spey casting was now my primary focus. To date, the fishing centre and spey casting is still very much the day job. This can involve a range of different teaching scenarios both at my base in the Scottish Borders or at some of the world’s leading salmon fishing destinations. The teaching practice also incorporates an educational initiative called Tweedstart. The primary aim of the program is to introduce children to the world of angling through an affiliated program with primary and secondary schools in the Scottish Borders. Tweedstart is now over a decade old and has introduced over 8000 children to fly fishing. With a varied teaching practice, I’ve been fortunate enough
Spey ghillie and speycasting expert Bill Drury executing a seamless snake roll. The image was shot in the late afternoon sunshine using a very fast shutter speed to highlight the spray off the fly line.
to submit fly fishing and spey casting-related articles to various fly fishing publications. It’s this part of my working life that is directly responsible for my interest in photography. I would contact an editor about a particular idea for a feature and they would ask if I could accompany the article with the appropriate images. At that point I knew very little about photography and didn’t even own an DSLR camera. I bit the bullet and my first purchase was a Canon 450D with a Canon EF-S 18-200mm lens. This setup turned out to be an excellent combination to learn how to take publishable images. The initial problem was a simple one - I didn’t know how to use the equipment! We now live in an knowledge rich culture and the information I needed I found on You Tube and other webbased sources. The You Tube platform is an amazing source of free information about a huge range of photographic subject matter and I began to get a better understanding of the relationship between the camera settings and the captured image.
enjoyment in photography is at opposite ends of the spectrum very fast shutter speeds and very slow. Spey casting lends itself extremely well in a photographic setting - the graceful and fluid line movement and the accompanying water spray are visually striking. I quickly became fixated about capturing the fly line in motion and this involves fast shutter speeds and often shallow depths of field. Conversely a flowing river captured with a long exposure technique and a range of filters for me is a very photogenic image. If we add to this mix a sky with good cloud movement and contrast, and the image can become almost surreal in appearance.
One of the main things I’ve learned about photography is that it is like learning to fly cast both subjects involve a continual learning process. In photographic terms I’m hugely fortunate to incorporate taking images of fly fishing as part of my income and day to day working life. For me photography and fly fishing are seamlessly linked - photography captures moments of time and The camera began to accompany preserves memories of days me every day on the river and spent in or on the water in the I soon realised that my main pursuit of fish.
Setting up a long exposure shot of the salmon rod partially submerged on a gravel banking, I looked through the viewfinder and noticed a small olive had landed on the handle. I quickly removed the ND filter and pressed the shutter release.
This image features Tweed ghillie Jonathan Mackereth holding an April springer caught by his Swedish guest.
This image was taken for a fly fishing catalogue. To capture the water spinning off the reel I had to shoot at 4000th sec and f4.5. The ISO had to crank up to 3200 to handle the shutter speed.
This image was taken at our fishing school using a wide angled lens. Lying along one of the casting platforms, I asked the caster to stand directly over me while casting.
Starting the twilight session on Lower Varzuga, Kola Peninsula, this image was taken as the sun dipped behind the trees at around 11pm. I used a circular polarizer to both enhance the blue of the sky and also help shoot into the sunlight.
I was able to capture the water level image of this 6lb sea trout by using an EWA Marine waterproof housing to protect the camera.
This image was taken in early autumn at Norham bridge on the River Tweed. This is a very productive salmon holding area on the river under low water conditions. I used a 10 stop ND filter and a 53 second exposure to achieve the glasslike appearance of the water.
Taken on the River Teviot in Scotland to illustrate an article about Skagit casting and the importance of a sustained anchor during this method of speycasting. The image was shot at 1/2000 sec at f4.5 to highlight the spray caused by the sustained anchor.
This image was taken on Spittal sands looking over the Tweed estuary in North Northumberland. For many years commercial salmon fishermen operated from this beach to intercept Atlantic salmon as they entered the river system.
Many of the casting images are taken at my fishing centre located on the River Teviot in the Scottish Borders. In this image our resident fly casting instructor Malcolm Douglas executes a Snap C.
This is a long exposure image of a Hardy rod and reel taken with both an ND filter and graduated filter, with an exposure of 14 secs at f22.
Published in April 2013, My First Salmon is an interactive children's book about learning to fish for Atlantic salmon. This book has been inspired by Eoin's work teaching thousands of children to fish, and comprises of sixteen chapters covering all aspects of fly fishing for this prized species of fish. It includes motion graphics, interactive educational tools, and an image gallery. Please, click on the cover to know more on this ebook. www.eoinfairgrieve.co.uk www.flyfishingimages.co.uk
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The Quest for
Arabia’s Bonefish By Ray Montoya
Additional pictures by Kamal Busaidi & Mark Wals
My mate Mark Wals took this photograph of Detwah lagoon, perhaps the most mouth-watering bonefish flat on the island, We saved this location for the later part of our trip which in retrospect, was a good idea as we might not have seen much of Socotra if we had come directly to Detwah.
A few years back while surfing for potential fly fishing flats within the Arabian Peninsula, I stumbled across a collection of stunning images of Socotra, an island sandwiched between the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. For the past eleven years, I‘ve had explored much of Oman’s coastline, and while I regularly target permit, I have yet to encounter a single bonefish. That all changed in February of 2013. Still obsessing about Arabian bonefish, I came upon the first piece of evidence that Socotra did indeed have a bonefish population. It was small inconsequential photo, actually part of a collage of grinning fishermen proudly holding ridiculously large Socotran groupers, snappers, and GTs. I had seen similar photographs, but there was something special in this one. In the lower right hand corner of the collage, overshadowed by its mutant brethren, one particular fish caught my eye. The photo showed a spin fisherman proudly posing with a bonefish. Even
more implausible, in the bonefish’s mouth hung a blue Vibrax spinner, a lure more commonly associated with trout fishing. The next day, I excitedly fired off an email to my mate Kamal, another to a tour operator in Socotra and a third to the Yemen embassy here in Muscat. The embassy was no help at all, but my contact in Socotra, a Mr. Abdullah, was confident that he could fix a visa, secure airfare and provide logistic support if I wired him funds in advance. To say it was a leap of faith was an understatement, but within a month, I had both a visa and a one way ticket in hand, albeit, it was made out to someone named, Mr. Monfox. Hosting a unique and exceedingly diverse collection of plants and animals, Socotra has been described as the Galapagos of the Arabian Sea. The island’s name, from the Arabic words, souk (market) and qotra (dragon) may refer to the rare dragon blood trees scattered throughout its mountains region. Volumes could be written about Socotra’s rich and mysterious history which dates back
A mother and daughter carry drinking water back to their stone house. The young girl is using a tradition goat skin water bladder.
past Babylonia times, and is rumored to hold the secret of immortality. The island has always been an offbeat travel destination, but recently it has developed a reputation as a frontier for spin fishermen who come from all over the world to throw bowling pin sized poppers at monster GTs. Ironically, Socotraâ€™s incredible offshore fishing has diverted attention from the islandâ€™s inshore fishery. This disparity was clearly illustrated in the incredulous reaction we received from the few other sport fisherman we encountered throughout the island. They simply could not fathom that one; we had arrived without popping equipment, and two, that we were going to spend ten days searching for a bonefish. Thus began our quest.
One of the benefits of exploration fishing are the countless treasures you come across, like this beautiful pair of humpback whale skulls.
Clue 2 Helping us in this quest was our young “tour guide” Saeed, and our driver, Abdul Rauf. Abdul was a rolly, smiling man who’s right cheek bulged with khat. He seemed content with his life and genuinely happy. I liked Abdul Rauf. Though his English was limited, I probably had more meaningful exchanges with him than anyone else on the island. He also made us fresh bread every morning. It took a few days for the boys to get their heads around what we were trying to do, but their main concern was that we were happy, and ultimately, they were accommodating and flexible. The breakthrough came the second evening when we showed Saeed a photograph of a bonefish and inquired whether they were available in Socotra. Yes, he replied, examining the image, there are many of these fish here in Socotra. Where, we asked, excitedly? In the fish souk, he proclaimed with a smile.
Abdual Rauf, our driver, cook, and friend was always smiling, always in a pleasant mood, and always willing to accommodate our changing plans.
My first threadie on the fly. It was my mate Kamal who finally cracked these guys. We had been casting at them for days, initially thinking they were bonefish, but they would not take a fly. Kamal eventually figured out that they were less cautious in the surf and became the first one to successfully land a threadfin salmon on the fly-the real Salmon fishing in Yemen!
In the1980’s the Soviet Union actively supported South Yemen’s communist movement. These T-34 tanks now flank the beach between Qalansiyah and Detwah.
Clue 3 Our third clue came in the form of a wiry South African named Mark Wals who was on our flight. Packing a bazooka-sized rod quiver, Mark was obviously after “moster fish”. He informed us he would be fishing out of Qalansiyah on the east end of the island. I knew of Qalansiyah from maps and Google images as it was close to a very bonfishlooking lagoon called detwah. We met up with Mark a few days later at Ar’aher beach. That evening, he pulled out his Nikon and began to scroll through photos which included a GT the size of a pony and the biggest rainbow runner I have ever seen. Mark finally scrolled to a photograph of a Socotran fisherman holding a bonefish so large it made my eyes water. I think you boys need to have a look around this area, he advised. At daybreak we packed up the Landcruiser and headed west.
Clue 4 After quick lunch at a noisy cafĂŠ in Hadiboh, we restocking our Khat supply and headed for Detwah lagoon. The plan was to try to secure a boat to search the beachside flats. After dinner, a couple of Socotran fishermen appeared. There was a serious fuel shortage on the island which meant that petrol could only be purchased from private hoarders at more than three times the regular price, so negotiations for a boat took a while. Nothing is ever straight forward within Arab cultures. I knew that it was best to be patient and not try to hurry through cultural formalities. We eventually settled on a price and then moved to so the subject of bonefish. The fishermen excitedly confirmed that big bonefish were regularly caught out on the deep flats, and added that these fish were delicious.
Camping was not luxurious; in fact, it was downright rustic and took a heavy toll on my bones. We spent chilly nights sleeping on stones, but the stars were dazzling and we always had freshly made flat bread, honey and tea in the morning.
Another Mark Walsâ€™ photographs, an amazingly layered shot of Socotraâ€™s famous Dragon trees.
Clues 5 and 6 The next morning we met our boatman on the beach. The sea was as smooth as silk linen and the color of Brazilian topaz. At the tiller was Captain Ahmed, a big, happy, mouth breathing man who helped himself to our lunch. On the prow, his crew of one, a sprightly man wearing a red Ronaldo jersey armed with a heavy handline. This was not a good sign, but we decided to see how it would unfold. On the flat we approached a local fisherman to ask for bait. While the men exchanged salaam alaikums, I peered into the bottom of the other boat. Two massive bonefish stared blankly out at meour first glimpse of actual a Socotran bonefish, one of which I estimated at fifteen pounds! It didnâ€™t take long to sight our first living bonefish, but before Kamal or I could strip out a flyline, Ronaldo sprung into action, jumping up on the prow and flinging a baited 3/0 hook towards the shadow. The fish immediately pounced on the offering, then turned and ran hard. On
heavy mono it did not get far. It was over in less than ten seconds. With the bonefish flopping in the bottom of the boat, Ronaldo was beside himself with glee. Clapping, he danced and proudly proclaimed, Allahu Akbar! We have our fish! Kamal and I stared in disbelief; our jaw mirroring the bonefishâ€™s dazed expression. After the celebration, we calmly explained to the boys that we did not want to catch bonefish with bait. In fact, we did not want Ronaldo fishing, period. The two of them looked at us like we were idiots. We tried drifting over the flat with the motor off, but by this point, we had thoroughly spooked any remaining bonefish and it was becoming more obvious that this strategy was not going to work. In the end, I felt we would have a better shot from the beach.
Our boat captain, Ahmed and his mate display a pair of double digit bonefish caught by a local fisherman just off Detwah beach. Fortunately, most inshore species including bonefish are only taken with hand-lines, thus ensuring that populations remain sustainable. These bonefish were the first hard evidence that we were on the right track.
Clue 7 On day six we opted to forego the boat and instead walk the spit outside the lagoon. It wasn’t long before we encountered a fish cruising in and out of a deep gutter. Kamal took the first shot of the morning at what we initially thought might be a large threadfin. When the fish rushed forward and pounced on the fly (very un-thready like), we realized that it might be bonefish. The fish felt the hook it bolted hard, popping Kamal’s 10 pound tippet. In shock, Kamal turned to me and asked, do bonefish get that big? Kamal continued his slow and methodic search from the beach, while pushed ahead towards a flat near the mouth I had spotted from the boat the previous day, stopping only once to reinforce leader knots and up my tippet to fifteen pound flouro. Bolstered by Kamal’s first fish, I felt confident that this would be the day.
Each morning we set off in search of bonefish, carrying with us everything we needed to stay out the entire day.
Bonefish! One has to wade a chest deep gutter to reach it, but on a low incoming, there is a long flat that runs adjacent to the beach near the mouth of the lagoon. It was here that I finally got my first legitimate shot. The fish was cruising alone, oblivious and coming right at me. Unsure how it would react to a fly, I presented a simple Gothcha with a big loopy cast well out in front. I then slowly took up the slack and held my breath. The fish made two nerve racking runs into backing before I saw it again. Now I had to land it. Given all of the planning and hardship had taken to reach this singular moment, I wasnâ€™t going to risk handling the leader in deep water. As I applied more pressure, my mind immediately conjured up a gut-wrenching memory of the double digit Christmas Island fish that swam between my legs the previous year. The safest way to land this fish would be to work it off the flat, through the gutter and on to the beach, a method we use to humanely land permit in Oman. As I started
to back off the flat, I could see Kamal running down the beach-he knew what was happening. Two things made that Socotran bonefish memorable, one, being the first person to successfully do it on the fly, and two, having Kamal there to share it. Throughout the week he was the one who remained optimistic, reassuring me that we would find these bonefish. Other than a few pompano, bream and one threadfin, I had little to show my efforts. Â Kamal on the other hand, had landed a permit, many threadfin and pompano, as well as a host of other species. Kamal fished hard and unafraid off reefy drop-offs, which is how he found the permit. In contrast, my single-minded obsession with bonefish prevented me from thinking outside the box. Needless to say, when I finally slid that Socotran bonefish up onto the wet sand, it felt as if a massive weight had been lifted off my chest, and I could breathe again. Twenty minutes after that first bonefish, I was into another, a real smoker that
produced two exceptional runs. These Socotran bonefish were no fluke, they were here, they ate flies, and they were exceptionally large, the second fish just shy of ten pounds. The next morning we celebrated Kamalâ€™s first bonefish. He went on to land three more fish that day, while I had three pick up the fly, but landed only one. We both felt that we had hooked and lost double digit bonefish, once again popping the trace on the initial strip-set. In retrospect, we should have bumped up to twenty pound tippet. Another annoying variable we had to deal with was the myriad of small fish on the flats. Pompanos, needlefish, juvenile trevs and ballyhoo were everywhere and eager to snatch a fly as soon as it hit the water. On one occasion, my Gotcha was stolen from a pair of bonefish by a palm-sized pompano. I practically cried watching those two huge bonefish chase that little pompano around my legs. Convinced that with more time we could land that fifteen or twenty pound bonefish, we spent the
remainder of our time at Detwah. Unfortunately, our time and luck ran out. Outside beach flats are more prone to weather conditions than lagoons. On day eight, the winds kicked up a sloppy beach swell which made sight fishing damn near impossible.
Our last few days proved to be anticlimactic, but they did provide an opportunity to see more of the island. In the end as we packed for our return, I felt extremely proud of what Kamal and I had accomplished. Not many fisherman these days can say that they were the first, but more importantly, Socotra satisfied a deep longing for adventure and discovery that dwells within every fly fisherman. Do it yourself exploration fishing doesnâ€™t get any better than this, and always leaves one hungry for more. notemapez.tumblr.com
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E D I T O R S
Antonio Goñi José H. Weigand Fly fisherman, photographer and TV fishing editor at Caza y Pesca channel on Digital+ for 14 years. Avid traveller, have fished over 35 countries. Fly fishing guide.
Fishing video producer, photographer and fly fisherman. Currently producing fly tying series “The Silk corner” at Caza y Pesca channel on Digital+.
Contributors in this issue Earl Hamilton - Eoin Fairgrieve - Ray Montoya John Langridge - Mikel Elexpuru - Juan Urán Kamal Busaidi - Mark Wal
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