The last time I worked a fishing trip into a work trip I had a spectacular day in South Wales Czech nymphing on the Usk. Like all sequels I was full of anticipation; the question was whether the Director, cast and crew could deliver on expectations? The locations were the tropical Maldives, just north of the equator, and then the slightly less temperate Japan, just coming out of winter and into spring.
I was in the Maldives for a UN FAO project working with the local fisheries team on compliance with their international law obligations in the tuna fishery. The Republic of Maldives is a nation of nearly 1,200 small islands in the Indian Ocean, south west of India and Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean. The capital is Male’ which varies between 2 and 3 kilometres in diameter. There are no big islands. Flying in to the adjacent airport island, Male’ resembles a mini-Manhattan. Jam packed with 10 story buildings, with occasional more modern 20 story tower block. From the south to the north of the country is just south of the equator to about 8 degrees north, about 500 miles. The average natural height of the islands is 1.5 metres; the highest natural point is 2.4 metres. There isn’t a hill anywhere. It is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed nations, whilst is the smallest Asian country in terms of total land mass and population (around 330,000). The mainstay of the economy is tourism with 1.4 million visitors a year. It’s a tropical paradise, and there is a fantastic service culture. And they have a big tuna fishery (the second biggest contributor to the economy), which is why I was there.
This is a Muslim country so my days off were Friday and Saturday, and we had a mid-week break on a Tuesday whilst some of the staff were on a training course. Friday and Saturday were the chosen days and I chartered a local boat for the Friday; then imposed on some colleagues for the use of a boat to get to an island on the Tuesday.
The plan was to find a nice reef and fish lures on the drop off. The charter boat was a 12 metre game fishing cruiser and communications were a bit complicated. Trying to explain I was interested in fly fishing was amusing to the crew and despite my protests and animated explanations there were 6 trolling rods including the 2 outriggers deployed within a few minutes of leaving the jetty. I almost had to wind them in myself.
The wind blew, the waves crashed against the reef, the skipper declined my begging to get close enough to the reef to get a cast to drop down the face and all in all it was a nice day for a boat trip. When we did find fish it was trigger fish that launched themselves at the fly barging the other fish you could see chasing with interest – especially trevally – out of the way. Hundreds of trigger fish. I learnt from this not to rely on the hotel to make the arrangements for the booking.
Tuesday came around quick enough and I was dropped off on an island – which happened to be the police training island. I fished a retaining wall and jetty. It was a beautiful day. I had a ball. But still only caught trigger fish. Clearly some more research is required.
I was sorry to leave the Maldives. This was my second trip this year, and I’d decided to stay off the main island of Male’ on nearby Hulumale’. A great decision. The island has a stack of small family hotels, great restaurants, a beach, it’s linked to the airport island with a man-made causeway, and there’s a busy jetty with a 10 minute fast ferry to Male’ every half hour that dropped me a ten minute walk along the waterfront to the office. Maldives is best known for scuba diving and game fishing. I’m sure fly fishing would be a good addition, after all they catch 60,000 tonnes of tuna each year by pole and line – which isn’t all that far removed from casting a fly – just a bit heavier gear!
Tokyo is a big city. Enormous. Check out this YouTube video – around the 6 minute mark you start to get some idea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnv1GnyNofc
I was here for Pacific tuna fishery related work and staying near the Palace in a hotel that was more like a city. They said it had 1700 rooms and 27 restaurants. My evening off fishing plan was to fish for sea bass in Tokyo Bay, an immense stretch of water, more than 50 kilometres generally north south, and around 10 kilometres across. I made the arrangements and it took me four (very efficient and on time) trains to get to Yokohama to meet Captain Masuda. By this time my general expectations were somewhat diminished, but they were well managed by the Captain who to be frank really played down our prospects. Even finding a charter boat had been hard although a website http://www.troutandking.com/eng/ finally got me headed in the right direction. I think Ebi, my main contact is like a broker for various captains, but even that was unclear. However, after several emails, it was agreed I would meet Captain Masuda at Yokohama Station at 6 pm. Where, precisely we would meet was never discussed, but in the end a 6 foot fair haired bloke was pretty easy for the Captain to spot in a nation full of 5 foot 6 inch dark haired folk.
From here we walked 10 minutes to the boat shed jetty where a 6 metre fibreglass centre console was waiting. I rigged up my 9 weight outfit and tied on a clouser, with 20lb tippet, Still not really sure what we were fishing for or how big they were likely to be. Captain nodded an approval and suggested a different fly would be better after dark.
We headed out into the main area of Yokohama Bay as the sun was setting, the scale of the city even more apparent from the water. The sun reflected off magnificent glass buildings, large and small boats buzzed around the harbour, and it struck me just how hard it was going to be to find fish. I was grateful for the second jacket the Captain had loaned me. It was already down to 6 degrees C and a brisk breeze pushed that down further. By the end of the night, once the sun had gone and the breeze was wind it felt pretty close to zero.
We headed for a nearby wharf and Captain told me to cast directly at the wall. The goal was to hit the wall and have the fly drop into the water – or so it seemed. We stuck at this for a while. Moving along the face of a couple of jetties without any action to report. The one bit of research I’d found that looked useful was a YouTube clip of a couple of blokes doing this, casting to fish boiling on the surface. Sure enough suddenly, and surprisingly, I saw one – a real boil as a fish hit the surface chasing something smaller. The next cast was right on top of it and even more surprising to me, it grabbed the clouser and was on. Not a huge fish at about 2 lb, but it went like the clappers and stripped line off a couple of times before it was in the net. Why am I always surprised when I catch a fish. I was delighted. A new species, caught to plan, and it fought like a demon. And back it went. I’ve talked about this with a few people who are surprised there are any fish in Tokyo Harbour let alone that they catch and release.
Anyway, on we went. It got dark. The security lights came on along the wharves and the bait fish started to gather. The boils became more frequent, the fish became more regular. I seriously rate this as in the top ten of all fishing trips in my 40 years fly fishing. I landed at least 25 fish, had my fly attacked by at least that many again, and the biggest was over 5 lb and gave me a bloody good workout. Captain Masuda’s after dark fly was a floating fry pattern which I stripped back roly poly, getting excellent practice at the forearm and armpit strike (both hands occupied with the line of course). Captain Masuda was pretty impressed – or so it seemed to me. One 80 foot cast in particular, to a fish working bait in a wedge between two jetties had him hopping on the spot as the biggest fish of the night nailed it within seconds of the first strip.
The satellite image arrows show where we came from and the kinds of places we fished. Anywhere there were lights and structure, with bonus points for a warm water outlet from anywhere electricity was being generated.
We fished our way back to the wharf and I reluctantly handed back the spare jacket packed away the rod, and headed back to the train station. Do not go to Tokyo without giving this a go.
For anyone who got this far, a Eucumbene blog within a day or two. Even more adrenalin pumped out there over the weekend as the browns start their move up the lake!
Tight tippets all