Alphonse Island – Seychelles

St Francios Atoll from above

Fishing in the Seychelles is certainly up there as one of the best sporting destinations on the globe. A location that is frozen in time, very little human impact has taken place on these wonderful atolls over their entire existence. Even now, with lodges such as Alphonse, minimal impact is imposed on the island and its marine life. This leaves us with magical beaches and an abundance of quarry to catch. In fact, if we weren’t there fishing on these atolls there would likely be more human damage. Without our efforts for catch & release, tagging programs and conservation these islands would likely have all suffered from poaching, long lining, netting and so on. It is so important that we maintain and preserve these wonderful places.

Walking out to the charter flight

Having heard many tales of the famous Alphonse Island over the years I was extremely excited to finally see it all for myself.

Landed on Alphonse, hitching a ride to our rooms from the airstrip

The travel, in very simple terms: UK to Dubai, a night in Dubai and fish for a day (click here to see more on Dubai Fishing). Continue from Dubai to Mahe Island. Overnight in Mahe followed by 1-hour charter flight the next morning to Alphonse Island. This journey can be made much shorter with BA’s new direct flight from London to Mahe. However, I don’t like to miss out on an opportunity to catch some Queen Fish in Dubai! I must add, BA do only provide the non-stop flight once a week which can result in more nights in Mahe.

Inside the charter flight

In Mahe we have an array of hotels for people to stay in; my new favourite is CaranaBeach Hotel, an extremely good value hotel that ticks all the boxes. It’s private, quiet, with a lovely beach, pool on your balcony, excellent service and perfectly adequate food. In my opinion, this is the place to stay.

Once landed on Alphonse Island and greeted by the welcoming staff, you are shown to your room and allowed to relax for an hour before lunch.

After lunch we all proceed to the ‘Fishing Centre’ on the southernmost point of the island, meet the guiding team and start to set up the rods. This is an important hour, making sure your knots are good, your gear is correct and getting the all-important information from the guides on what has been successful and how the fishing is. I am a firm believer, in any fishing destination, no matter how experienced or good you think you are, there is nothing better than recent local knowledge. The guides may be on their first season in the Seychelles but their knowledge from the weeks prior to your arrival matches years of fishing experience. Please note here, tackle set-up is such a vital part of the first afternoon. Your line must be checked properly. The joins between backing and fly line and fly line to leader are the weak points in your equipment. If those knots are not done correctly you will lose your gear! I recommend having this done in the UK by a specialist like Fin & Game if possible. If not, the guides will do it on arrival.

Guides and I reveiwing some broken gear

The fishing.

What many people are unaware of when fishing on Alphonse Island is that your days are not actually spent on Alphonse. Each morning you meet at the jetty with your packed lunch. The guides have already loaded up your rods on to the ‘Shuttle Bus’ a blue water boat called The St François. Once all the guests and guides are loaded up, you take a 30 minute ride to St François Atoll, where you will then get onto your skiff, with guide and fishing partner and commence the day’s fishing.

Some of the Alphonse guides at lunch time

St François offers a very diverse amount of fishing. My day would typically start with a few bonefish, just to get the blood up, stretch the shoulders out and practice my strip strike! After which, depending on one’s own preference and of course the tide I would head to the flats or the surf in search of a Giant trevally (GT).

The odd bonefish around

I might stress, the bonefishing on Alphonse, I think is probably the best in the world. I have certainly not heard of a more prolific destination. A member of our group who shall remain nameless, aged 86 managed a day of 30 bonefish (his partner also caught 29)! This is extraordinary. This was not just casting a fly into a massive pod of fish over and over again. This is stalking single bones tailing away. Fish up to 8lbs. I’m sure there was bigger fish around too.

Triggerfish

It is so important however to have a few different types of rods rigged up ready for other species, milkfish, triggerfish, bonefish etc… My view on the fishing is that if you concentrate on one particular species you will miss so many great opportunities with others. My advice, if you see a catchable fish – throw a fly at it. So many people get so determined to catch a GT or a triggerfish and leave passing opportunities on bones, grouper, bluefin trevally, milkfish which are all amazing species to catch. By all means express an interest for particular species of fish but talk to your guide about it and allow him to tell you when the right time for a GT is, or the right tide for a milkfish. Trust me, they know best! Of course, Murphy’s Law is a terrible one here, you hook up to a bonefish and as you’re playing 3 GTs come cruising by… But that’s life!  

Tarquin Millington-Drake and his Milkfish

The abundance and variety of fish on Alphonse/ St François was something that really amazed me. All day, every day there was hardly a quiet moment. Whether it was a tailing trigger in the surf, a GT cruising on a sting ray or a pod of milkfish daisy chaining on turtle grass, there always seemed to be something that kept you on your toes.

Guide Trevor with my first GT of the week

 Another form of fishing on Alphonse that I find highly underrated is ‘Bombi Bashing’. Every day there is a period when the tide comes to a standstill. Depending on spring tides or neap tides the ‘dead low’ can be long or short. Most of the target species of fish you catch prefer a current of some sort and the fishing tends to get a little slower for this period. Now, this is a great time to go Bombi Bashing. Inside the lagoon on St François there are a series of coral heads, also known as Bombis. In each coral head lives some form of scaly creature. The aim of the game is to drift on your skiff over the coral heads and as you drift, cast over each one with your 12wt rod and brush fly. It’s amazing what comes up from the depths to grab your fly, all sorts of groupers, snappers, trevally and even the odd barracuda. The groupers and snappers are great sport. They tend to live in hole on the coral head, once they take your fly, they make a B-line back to the holes they came from. If they make it, your line will snap on the coral, with very few exceptions. So, this results in a full-on arm wrestle with the fish. You’re typically using 80 – 100lbs breaking strain so you can really pull hard, but these fish are very strong! An exciting way to spend an hour of the day at the ‘dead low’.

Matt Phillips tagging my GT

On my last day at Alphonse Island we had a terrible storm come through the archipelago. It’s not totally unusual to have a day of bad weather in the Seychelles; it is the tropics after all. However, it can be frustrating. On Friday, some of the guests decided to stay behind due to the weather, myself and Tarquin braved the storm and headed out. After a morning of looking for GTs with very little success (although all the others found GTs) we accepted defeat in good time and decided that we would spend the afternoon looking for bonefish. To my surprise we found probably the best bonefishing I have ever had and likely will ever have. Waves of big fish cruising towards us in incredibly shallow water. Big single bonefish tailing and pods of large fish too. Because of the wind and rain, they were not easily spooked, I caught a 5lbs bonefish that was tailing about 12ft from me! It was an extraordinary afternoon. Tarquin and I landed 20+ bonefish in conditions that were as bad as they get. I think that really sums up the fishing on Alphonse.   Anywhere else in the world, Bahamas, Belize, Mexico etc… under these conditions you would have spent the day at the bar. Not in the Seychelles, it is so diverse and prolific, even on a bad day you have to be prepared for serious action. I found it amazing how easy it was to see bonefish in the bad weather. Often in the Bahamas or Mexico, bad light makes for very difficult spotting. There must be a different form of light on the equator, the bonefish almost become fluorescent green in the rain and become really quite easy to spot.

Bonefishing in a storm
Can you see the green back of the bonefish

For me, Alphonse Island is about as perfect as it gets. A dreamy desert island that really does have something for everyone, offering scuba, snorkelling, fishing, tortoise walking, you name it…The food is outstanding, and everyone is looked after with 5-star service. The fishing fits all the categories, perfect for the beginner to learn due to the amazing stock of bone fish and wide variety of species. Also catering superbly for the experienced saltwater fly fisherman who can chase big GTs across the flats or get stuck into some of the most amazing milkfishing in the world. For those that don’t know much about milkfish, have a read of Tarquin’s blog here as he reports on our magical day hunting the not so elusive milkfish on Alphonse.

More bones
Another GT
Triggerfish eye
Blue Fin Trevally
Bonefish release
Big GT
My last GT of the week, in the stormy weather.

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