The outer atolls
When people talk about saltwater fly fishing, one place stands head and shoulders above the rest. The Seychelles, and more specifically the fabled outer atolls of Alphonse, Astove, Cosmoledo, Poivre and St Francois, all destinations operated by Alphonse Fishing Company. There’s more to it than just the remote location of these atolls that make the destination unique, the techniques, the season and the species diversity make up an incredible mix for fly fishing adventure.
Fly fishing in the Seychelles sets itself apart due to the largely land-based approach it offers. Whereas saltwater fly fishing destinations in many parts of the
world are boat-based, the Seychelles stands apart because of the opportunities it gives anglers to wade in shallow, warm water on hard white sand, turtle grass or on coral flats for a plethora of exciting new species. Sure, it takes a bit of hard work, but getting the opportunity to cast at behemoth giant trevally or schools of bonefish in the same knee-deep water is not something many fly anglers accustomed to boatbased fishing will ever forget. It’s not that Seychelles guides and anglers are against boats in any way, but there is something more satisfying about wet wading and catching a bonefish, Indo-Pacific permit, triggerfish, barracuda, milkfish, snapper, grouper, trevally or GT in shin deep water.
Many of these species, like the milkfish or Indo-Pacific permit, used to be thought of as uncatchable, but, through the perseverance and pioneering techniques of Alphonse Island based guides, they are now a viable target species on fly. Off the back of the work done by us in the early days the possibilities around what is or isn’t possible with saltwater fly fishing has been rewritten. Not only are the species unique, but so is each atoll in the way that that structure varies from one other and attracts a different variety of species.
Fly fishing in the Seychelles began in the mid 1990’s with trips to the Amirantes archipelago situated 230km south-west of Mahe. As interest slowly grew in this new frontier, exploration of Alphonse Atoll situated 400km south-west of Mahe. This magnificent island threesome comprising of Alphonse, St Francois and Bijoutier fast established a reputation for holding one of the healthiest populations of bonefish on the planet. The luxury resort of Alphonse Island opened, generating a considerable amount of hype throughout the
Outside the reef, you can encounter the spectacular indo-pacific sailfish. After luring the fish within casting distance with hookless topwaters, you can try to present the fly correctly to the fish and maybe hook one !
fly fishing industry and soon cemented itself as one of the most famed saltwater fly fishing destinations in the world. Nearby St Francois is approximately seven miles long and four miles wide, consisting of firm white sand bottoms interlaced with channels and cuts. The uniqueness that sets St Francois apart from many of the other Seychelles destinations is the endless white sand flats. In addition to the abundant bonefish flats, the lagoon envelopes coral finger flats allowing anglers to catch several of the now 60 species targeted on fly in the Seychelles.
Alphonse island is credited with deciphering how to catch the first milkfish, pink parrotfish, yellow margin and moustache triggerfish on fly as well as refining techniques for catching numerous other species like giant trevally and Indo-Pacific permit. To date this fishery still accounts for more than 90% of the world’s milkfish caught and released as well as over 15 000 fly caught gamefish on an annual basis. The resort
This fishery still accounts for more than 90% of the world’s milkfish caught and released
has evolved to a destination that caters to both fly fisherman as well as their partners and families, boasting five start accommodation, a spa, a world renowned dive operation and eco activities.
2001 saw us start the the first professionally guided trips to the more southerly situated atolls called Cosmoledo Atoll and Astove Atoll, after initial exploratory fly fishing trips. Located 1 030km south-west of Mahé, Cosmoledo Atoll is situated a stone’s throw away from the world heritage site of Aldabra and comprises of a larger white sand lagoon surrounded by 18 islands, numerous flats and two main channels. It’s a huge atoll measuring 17km from north to south. Menai and Wizard Islands occupy the eastern and western points of the atoll. South Island stands near the main entrance to the inner lagoon, while the second, smaller entrance is just south of Menai. The perimeter of the atoll is covered with vast, wadeable sand flats dotted with islands of various shapes and sizes, all of which is the perfect habitat for its fish population. Known as the giant trevally capital of the world, Cosmoledo is unparalleled, if targeting these fearsome predators is your thing. These fish are however not the only species that can be found here in impressive numbers. Large bonefish, milkfish, barracuda, Indo-Pacific permit, triggerfish, bluefin trevally and bohar snapper are all regulars to the atoll and fly anglers. The tides at Cosmoledo are stronger than those experienced anywhere else in the Seychelles and are often thought to be the reason why it attracts so many GTs. No matter how experienced the angler and where they have fished in the world before coming to Cosmo-
The Indo-Pacific Permit is considered one of the ultimate fish to catch on fly. Just like their Atlantic cousins, they are spooky and picky but very powerful once you finally hook one.
ledo, the sheer numbers and variety of fish species you are likely to catch leaves even the most experienced fly anglers amazed.
A three-hour sail ( 18 nautical miles) from Cosmoledo, Astove Atoll is situated 1055km south-west of Mahé. It’s a small and unique atoll that spans six kilometers from north to south and just under four kilometers from east to west at the widest points. The shallow lagoon has one small entrance, and due to its elevation a phenomenon occurs whereby the tide falls like a river for ten hours of the 12-hour tidal cycle and then turns to flood the entire lagoon in only two hours. Astove atoll has a rich, but dark history and has been the cause of countless shipwrecks dating back to 1500 AC. It has been said that ships used to pass by in the
hope of “rescuing” and then subsequently enslaving souls abandoned on the island. It’s also a famous atoll because Jacques Cousteau filmed the acclaimed underwater documentary “The Silent World” along the edge of the “Wall”. The “Wall” of Astove is breathtakingly beautiful natural structure, known as one of the best dive sights on this planet. Best described as looking down into the Grand Canyon, it consists of the flat and reef dropping a vertical 90 degrees from ankle deep water to over 1000 metres over a short distance. The terrain on Astove varies from hostile shore breaks on the windward side, to flat calm coral flats on the outside and snow-white sand flats inside the lagoon. Astove has become synonymous with the largest flats-caught GT’s in the Indian Ocean. Its shallow lagoon
and small entrance, surrounded by sheer drop-offs makes the experience truly unique. This lagoon is a sanctuary for both juvenile and trophy-size fish that feed on the shallow white sand flats that line the inside of the lagoon. Astove is small and is surrounded by coral flats with deep drop-offs on the flats edge allowing predators easy access to their lunch. Not only does Astove have large GTs but it also has an equally impressive bonefish, permit, bluefin trevally, triggerfish, barracuda and milkfish population. The number of permit caught from season to season at Astove continues to increase, backing up the unified approach to the fishery and the conservation ethic of the guides and anglers.
Great infrastructure, an incredible guide team combined with remote and pristine locations, incredible species diversity and an amenable climate all combine to make these destinations truly exceptional. But, there’s a lot at stake. With such a precious resource comes great responsibility on Alphonse Fishing Company, its guides and the anglers involved. The Seychelles fly fishing industry has evolved to become leaders in the conservation aspect of the sport. Today, with experienced guides leading the way, the vast majority of anglers understand and are sensitive to the changing world and how we effect it with our presence. In these islands and atolls, the fly fishing code of conduct is strictly conservation orientated, with skilled guides ensuring as little impact as possible is placed on the fish and the surroundings. After all, a live fish is far more valuable than a dead one. Many of the Seychelles atolls have set up foundations that work in conjunction with ICS (Island Conservation Society) to monitor the fisheries in a responsible manner. These foundations are funded by conservation donations from anglers who visit the atolls. Once they have experienced how special these places are, visiting anglers come to understand the difference they can make in conserving these fisheries for future generations. Every release contributes to the health of the fishery and ensures that Alphonse, Cosmoledo, Astove and Poivre remain firmly scheduled in the seasoned fly fisherman's calendar.