On to the Seychelles for the “fishing portion” of “The trip of a Lifetime,” which in my books was already there! Our first inkling that something was a tad on the unlucky side of things was a text I got from John, who is a touch weather-obsessed, on the Friday before we even left Calgary.
Me being the eternal optimist basically discounted that information because weather predictions that far out (a full week before we were to be in the Seychelles) are notoriously inaccurate, and Alphonse Island was 400 km from that particular weather station!
We arrived in Mahe for a one night stay before catching the charter plane in the morning. The first surprise was the van shuttle ride for the three of us to go the whopping 1.5 km to our accommodation was $50US!! All good though as he stopped at the local liquor store and stocked up on the local beer for the night and bought Rum for the week on Alphonse! We experienced some cloud and rain but weren’t concerned. We were in the tropics after all. We enjoyed the beautiful birds at Chez Payette, the self-catering guest house run by Rodney. It was a touch on the run down side of things but the beds were good and the location was perfect for us to head to the charter plane the next morning.
For our one and only dinner in Mahe, Doug and I decided to walk down the road for some take out from a highly recommended Indian/Chinese restaurant. The roads in Mahe are NOT designed for pedestrians. It was about a one-kilometer walk which Rodney stressed to us to do in the daylight, for obvious reasons after the fact! There is absolutely no roadside to walk on. There was at times a three to six foot drop off the road to the ground below and some of the cars give you no quarter whatsoever. I actually had my hand hit by the side mirror of one car!
Regardless, we survived the walk but very quickly decided that a cab was the only practical way to return with the bags of take out. We sat and had a beer while the food is prepared and asked the owner of the restaurant to call us a ride so we could make it back the one-kilometer in one piece. The food arrived smelling delicious and an old “mini” car (obviously NOT a sanctioned cab) arrived to take us back to our "house." We were fully prepared to pay the $40 that we thought it was going to be to get us safely back so when he told us $5 we happily paid and bid him a great rest of the evening. The food was excellent. And again fishing trips are not just about the fishing!
The next morning we were met by Franky our van driver for the short (about 0.5km) ride to the airport with all of our luggage. This time it felt like a deal at $40US for the half km! We took care of the standard charter flight details, met some of the other guests, and watched as the rain came down. Once we actually left on the flight we ended up having to fly around multiple storms on the way to Alphonse... Yet another clue that something was brewing. This meant the trip took a few minutes longer than normal. We arrived on the beautiful Island and settled in for our first meeting to discuss the week and how things work. This is when the bad news really started!
We found out that several of the other Seychelles fishing destinations had all been cancelled or evacuated because two cyclones (hurricanes for our part of the world) were developing. It wasn’t clear which way the storms were headed as it was unprecedented for them to have formed this early in the season. Oh lucky us!
The boats we were to be fishing from (including the larger dive boats) were being pulled from the water for safety reasons which meant that for the first day - at a minimum - we would be stuck to walking the shores of Alphonse itself rather than heading over to St Francois where the fishing typically happens. Also there would be some extra guests who had been evacuated from the other islands arriving that afternoon.
After that meeting, we were free to fish around Alphonse for the afternoon as long as we were back for a more complete briefing at 6:30 p.m. I set up my 8 wt not knowing exactly what I would encounter out there on the dropping tide, tied on my medium weighted “Pillow Talk” (a critical fly for the area), donned my rain jacket (as it was lightly raining) and headed out directly from my private beach bungalow to the flat immediately out the door.
As the tide fell there were pushes of water in multiple places and I managed to catch a few different species of small snapper and grouper. I hooked a tailing bonefish which promptly broke me off as I was so surprised by it eating my fly so quickly. Then the tide turned and started to push onto the flat and unfortunately so did the first band of Cyclone weather. The wind and the rain whipped across the flat and I could barely see John and Doug less that 200M away in the distance.
So I just started to blind cast toward the dark spots as I made my way back toward my bungalow. I did manage a couple of surprise catches though - a stunningly gorgeous pound and a half blue fin trevally and a picasso trigger fish (also known in Hawaii as the Humuhumu) and ultimately landed 9 or 10 species of fish that first afternoon. One being a decent size bream that put up a pretty good pull for the size of the fish (I would later come to find them the biggest pain-in-the-ass fish on the flats.)
Once we got back and were able get more detailed information on the weather systems that were obviously going to affect our week the mood around dinner was definitely on the negative side. Since there was nothing we could do about the weather in the end we decided we would make the best of it and enjoy our time at Alphonse and see what happened as the week progressed. Ultimately, we counted ourselves lucky we even made it to the island as opposed to having the whole trip cancelled like anglers scheduled at other Seychelles destinations did.
End Part 3