Cay­man Is­lands

Wayne Jones and friends en­joy the hol­i­day of a life­time

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

Some of the UK’s top match an­glers en­joy the hol­i­day of a life­time

THE Cay­man Is­lands is a dream des­ti­na­tion for salt­wa­ter fly­fish­ing. So, it’s lit­tle won­der it at­tracted so much in­ter­est as the main prize in last year’s An­glers World Fly Fish­ing Cham­pi­onships! Welsh an­gler Wayne Jones beat a starstud­ded field of 100 an­glers at Chew Val­ley Lake last Septem­ber to be crowned the 2016 An­glers World Cham­pion and it was my job to ac­com­pany him to Lit­tle Cay­man for his fish­ing hol­i­day of a life­time, writes John Horsey. Welsh con­trib­u­tor Russ Owen joined us along with An­glers World boss Martin Founds who filmed all the ac­tion!

About lit­tle Cay­man

Lit­tle Cay­man has 170 peo­ple and over 1500 igua­nas. It’s also home to the largest colony of red-footed boo­bies, who get mobbed by the huge and ag­ile frigate birds that steal their food while in flight. Most vis­i­tors come for some of the

best dive sites in the world due to its pris­tine wa­ter and phe­nom­e­nal fish. This too makes Lit­tle Cay­man an an­gler’s par­adise, mean­ing you can wade the flats all day and never see an­other an­gler. The is­land is 10 miles long and a mile at its widest. White sands and man­groves pro­vide a haven for the ‘grand slam’ – bone­fish, tar­pon and per­mit. One other at­trac­tion unique to Lit­tle Cay­man is the ‘tar­pon lake’ formed af­ter Hur­ri­cane Gil­bert swept the is­land in 1989 and de­stroyed the red man­grove trees. Re­gen­er­a­tion of this area has now meant that the lake, fed by salt wa­ter, is a haven for mas­sive num­bers of fid­dler crabs and mos­quito fish. These shal­lows are also home to tar­pon, prob­a­bly washed into the lake from the sea dur­ing a trop­i­cal storm. They thrive in this unique en­vi­ron­ment and al­though classed as ‘baby tar­pon’, they grow to 20lb and are great fun on sur­face flies! My job is to guide Wayne to his first-ever bone­fish and tar­pon on the fly and who knows, even an elu­sive per­mit! The first two shouldn’t be a prob­lem and the best area for tail­ing bones is nor­mally in front of our ac­com­mo­da­tion; the South­ern Cross Club. I’d pre­vi­ously stayed at this won­der­ful re­sort, known for its ‘bare­foot lux­ury’ and found that the shal­low flats in front of the venue held good num­bers of bones. There’s al­ways a chance of a big tar­pon near the deeper wa­ter of the pon­toons, as they feed on the huge bait­fish shoals. I’ve jumped a cou­ple of tar­pon here but never landed one. With the help of South­ern Cross Club’s res­i­dent guide, Chris Gough we hatch a plan to catch one of these 60lb-plus mon­sters.

An early start

We let the lads sleep in and head for the tar­pon be­fore any­one else wakes. This is al­ways a good time for these mas­sive sil­ver preda­tors and, they are ‘on the munch’ when we ar­rive. Chris gives me a fly, not a big hook, but sharp, and at­tached to 80lb shock leader. Al­though tar­pon don’t bite through tip­pet, they have sharp ar­eas around their gills and this breaks nor­mal tip­pet dur­ing the fight. My heart pounds as I wade qui­etly into po­si­tion and watch the tar­pon tear­ing up wa­ter on the bait­fish. We know that this ac­tion won’t last long, so my cast has to be ac­cu­rate and my nerves hold. I cast into the melee and be­gin strip­ping the fly. The best fish turns off and fol­lows be­fore hit­ting it. I hold my nerve, set the hook with sev­eral re­ally hard strip-strikes, then all hell lets loose. Jump­ing, crash­ing into the wa­ter, run­ning un­der boats – this fish does it all. Forty min­utes later Russ Owen, ap­pears and helps with plenty of ad­vice, and se­cures the tar­pon for a few pic­tures. Martin films the whole ses­sion and at around 60lb, that’s the hard­est-fight­ing fish I’ve ever landed. It makes me think, what would a fish of three times the weight fight like? But that’s hope­fully for an­other day and my im­me­di­ate task is to help Wayne catch his dream fish. Wayne takes up the story...

In Wayne’s own words

Russ Owen and my­self meet John and Martin in a Lon­don ho­tel be­fore our early-morn­ing flight to Grand Cay­man. We ar­rive mid-af­ter­noon and af­ter hop­ping on the small­est plane I’ve ever seen we’re fi­nally in fish­ing par­adise. We de­cide to get straight out and fish. It’s now early evening, I tackle up with a 9ft 8wt rod, float­ing line and bone­fish fly. Hav­ing not seen any bones I cast blind

“One other at­trac­tion unique to Lit­tle Cay­man is the ‘tar­pon lake’ formed af­ter Hur­ri­cane Gil­bert swept the is­land in 1989...”

catch­ing small jacks and blue run­ners. The takes and fight are fan­tas­tic! Af­ter some great sport, I move fur­ther down the beach in search of the bone­fish. Scour­ing the sea for ner­vous wa­ter I spot a small sil­ver glint of a tail a foot from the shore. Creep­ing into po­si­tion I cast, but it has com­pany and the pod is spooked. This hap­pens sev­eral times dur­ing the evening and by now I’ve lost the light. I head to the bar and dis­cuss to­mor­row’s plans. Next morn­ing Russ and I head off alone. I set up with a 20-foot leader of 10lb fluoro­car­bon and a small un­weighted fly. A short walk down the beach I’m greeted with the most amaz­ing sight in fish­ing, a shoal of bones on the feed. I make the per­fect cast and af­ter a few quick pulls on the line the fish bow-waves af­ter the fly. The line goes tight and my first bone is hooked. The fight and the sound of the reel singing is in­cred­i­ble. Russ as­sists in safely land­ing the fish. I’m over the moon and spend the rest of the day stalk­ing and catch­ing bone­fish, in my el­e­ment. Later we meet up with John and Martin at the bar. John tells how he’d hooked a large jack and a huge bar­racuda bit the jack clean in half. My mis­sion now is to catch a bar­racuda.

Hunt­ing the big “barra”

Next morn­ing, I set up a 12wt rod, 80lb fluoro­car­bon leader to a 60lb wire trace. We ar­rive at the spot where John and Martin saw the bar­racuda. I spot a huge black shadow – it’s the big ‘barra’. Pitch­ing the fly in front of the fish, it nails it in­stantly but I’m too ea­ger and strike the fly clean out of its mouth. Af­ter John ex­plains the im­por­tance of strip­strik­ing I’m ready again. This time I make no mis­take and firmly strip-strike into the fish. Noth­ing could pre­pare me for the fight I en­dure. John had tight­ened the reel drag a lot but the fish strips line too eas­ily. Af­ter lots of tail-walk­ing I land a gi­ant bar­racuda! Thank­fully, the fly falls out of its mouth, so I don’t have to go near those huge teeth! We bump into some lo­cals who’ve come in from deep sea fish­ing and watch them gut the fish. This at­tracts sharks to the shore and I have a cast at a smaller lemon shark around seven-foot long. The shark in­stantly takes the fly and it emp­ties my fly-line and back­ing. I clamp the reel and try to turn the fish be­fore los­ing my line but the shark breaks free. Up early next day, I check my tackle. The tar­pon are in a feed­ing frenzy on fry. Guided by John my first cast has a take. Again, I strike in­stead of stripe-strik­ing, much to the an­noy­ance of John, and the tar­pon makes a big leap for free­dom – the fly comes out. The fifth tar­pon I hook gives a tir­ing bat­tle. Af­ter mul­ti­ple leaps and long runs it’s in the shal­lows. But as John reaches for the leader, it makes one last run, and the fly comes free. All too soon the week ends. Be­fore leav­ing the fol­low­ing morn­ing, I have time for one last bash at catch­ing a tar­pon. Time for the tar­pon lake. Fish­ing a large Deer Hair Mouse pat­tern pulled across the sur­face re­sults in lots of ac­tion but no fish landed. A change to a sunk fry pat­tern lands two tar­pon at around 8lb each – not the mon­sters of the pre­vi­ous day but still an epic fight on an 8wt rod. Ev­ery­thing lived up to my ex­pec­ta­tions. Be­ing crowned Euro­pean fly­fish­ing cham­pion was a won­der­ful achieve­ment and there is no other prize like this.

Words: John Horsey & Wayne Jones Pic­tures: Russ Owen, Martin Founds & John Horsey A ner­vous mo­ment as John Horsey care­fully plays his tar­pon un­der the watch­ful eye of Pro Guide Chris Gough.

WayneJones’bar­racu­d­athathadear­lier bit­tenJohnHorsey’sjack­in­half!

The Lit­tle Cay­man coast of­fers stun­ning scenery for an­glers.

Those­teethare­ca­pable­of­bitin­gaprey fish­clean­in­half!

WayneJonesjump­sh­is­first-ev­er­land­ed­tar­ponon­theTar­ponLake.

A rock iguana sun­bathing at the road­side.

Russ Owen with a small bone­fish.

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