Reel Life


The Alphonse Group in the Seychelles will easily seduce anglers who fish for freedom, solitude, and serenity. The fringe benefit of this trio of Eden-like islands is that their many thousand acres of pristine sand flats are teeming with bonefish, and offer the finest flats fly-fishing experience in the world.

“This is the Holy Grail of saltwater fly-fishing,” says Chris Cecil-Wright, “You stand on stunning shallow sand flats to catch translucent bonefish who are pound for pound the strongest fighters in the sea.” Keith Rose-Innes, a co-founder of Alphonse Island Fishing, was part of a pioneering group who, 20 years ago, set up fly-fishing in the outer atolls of the Seychelles. He immediately saw something unique. Surrounding the cluster of three uninhabited islands - Alphonse, St Francois and Bijoutiere – is not only the highest concentration of bonefish in the Indian Ocean, but a huge diversity of blue water fish: “It’s like having a Masai Mara migration experience, but in the wild,” says Keith.

The giant trevally is the largest potential catch in the two atolls, a super predator with local specimens of up to 120lbs; and fearsome giant barracuda that feast on the abundant bonefish can be seen in water that’s less than knee-deep. Colourful triggerfish and indo-pacific permit are also considered trophies
for dedicated flats fisherman, but also jostling for attention are milkfish – aerobatic fighters that were caught on a fly for the first time at Alphonse. There are more milkfish caught here than in all the world’s destinations put together. Alphonse is surrounded by sheer drop-offs and ledges and the blue water and big game fish that can be teased and targeted in the deep include yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, and fast-moving sailfish.

“Alphonse Island Fishing is a business that has grown around conservation,” says Keith, “We won’t get involved in a destination unless we can improve it.” Conventional angling (quite apart from being too easy) would decimate the population, so fishing across the flats and reef is strictly on a catch and release basis (and all fish served to eat is caught by the resort in the deep sea). Only 12 guests are permitted to fish on the flats each day, and every guest donates a daily $25 to a conservation fund to preserve the atolls – in just the last six years $1.2 million has been raised. The five-star eco-resort – a collection of 27 beach bungalows and suites built 20m from the water – offers experiences that showcase the protected scenery and wildlife, from giant tortoise feeding and dolphin viewing to a buffet lunch out on the unspoiled flats. “You can easily compare us to the Galapagos,” Keith remarks.

Set off on your skiff and you’ll see huge shoals of fish, but how many you catch depends on your skill. The expert guides at Alphonse Island Fishing have pioneered several of the techniques in catching Seychelles species, such as milkfish and triggerfish, and will improve every guest’s chances. It’s not all about results, though, reminds Keith: “Standing in the wild and simply having a giant trevally rush up behind you – that’s pure excitement.”

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