So there we were, sitting in a coffee bar in Pretoria and Danie asked: So what about Madagascar? Nosy Be seems to be the Indian Ocean destination thats cooking.
Ahhh, mmmm, well yes... I watched the superb
Inside Angling, and Off the
Chart footage on TV, and have heard
wonderful reports from a few other mates, supported with some great fish
pictures. Problem is, I cant recommend a destination confidently without
having been there and experienced it myself.Danie is a scientist by
profession, and he does his research, homework
and planning very, very carefully. His reply was something along the lines of: OK, so lets go to Nosy Be and experience it for ourselves!
Easy! Sorted! The group was to consist of Danie, Stefan, Bernard, Robbie with his newly-wed wife Julie an accomplished fly-fisher and myself. A number of phone calls with Wendy Thomson of Bossi Island Adventures and the trip was booked. Huge compliments to Bossi Island Adventures, and in particular to Wendy Thomson, for making this process so easy and seamless at such short notice professionalism at its best.
We were to live on Yacht Adiva (our mothership) for a week and have access to Bossis Sportfisher Joz-Joz for four days. The plan was to make those four days count.
With excitement mounting, we waited for 3 December to arrive, and during this period Danie and Stefans better halves looked at pictures of Yacht Adiva and the islands and came to a decision that their hubbies were not leaving them at home. Another urgent phone call to Wendy, and Lorraine and Karina were quickly added to our group for the trip. Jozua Adendorff of Bossi Island Adventures was also joining us as guide and host for the week.
We met at OR Tambo airport, checked in, cleared immigration, boarded the Air Madagascar jet for an uneventful and comfortable direct flight to Nosy Be, and a little under four hours later we landed. As the aircraft doors opened, there was no doubt that we were in the tropics. A 30-minute drive in the air-conditioned people carrier to Bossis Villa, the tender was loaded with our heaps of tackle, and off we sailed.
Yacht Adiva is a spectacular vessel a 53 Royal Cape Catamaran, she boasts five huge luxury double en-suite cabins, a luxuriously appointed galley and saloon and a covered and furnished aft-deck that became the social hub for most of the trip.
We were welcomed aboard by the crew with true Malagassi hospitality. Yacht Adiva s crew consisted of Namadou (yacht master), Gerard (a Swiss-trained chef) and Mahrouf (deck hand). These guys are all highly professional and go the extra mile to ensure that all guests have an amazing experience of fishing, sight-seeing, diving and, of course, eating delicious multi-course culinary gems for the duration of our trip.
On our first night, Namadou elected to weigh anchor and steam for the shelter of Crater Bay. It being the first week of December and in the summer monsoon season, this proved to be a wise decision. We were treated to a genuine tropical storm (I didnt know that so much rain could fall in such a short time, and that this could be supported by so much thunder and lightning).
A few hours later, in stunningly calm
weather, Namadou weighed anchor and
set course for Mitsio Island to the northeast. The sheltered bay of Nosy Mitsio was to
be our home base for two nights until Joz-Joz was scheduled to meet with us on Tuesday, 6 December.
En route to Mitsio, everyone was kept busy by medium-sized wahoo, king mackerel and barracuda (both greater and pickhandles) as well as a few green jobfish eating small feathers trolled behind the boat. Most were released, with the exception of a nice wahoo that went into the galley with Gerard, a few hours later emerging as some of the best-tasting cerviche and sashimi imaginable.
We were also entertained by a marlin that ate a feather and kept Bernard busy on light gear until the leader parted; big respect to him because we werent rigged for billfish then, and it was very close to the boat but holding at 5 to 8m when the leader snapped. It was a good fish on light gear Namadou called it at around 120kg.
Not to be outdone, Stefan promptly went onto a strong fish on a Jigstar 450 rod, but with a light reel. We could see that it was a shark and suggested he break it off. Nope, he wanted to teach this shark a lesson and from our perspectives this battle looked interesting. Everyone opened refreshments, offered advice, sat back and enjoyed watching the tussle.
For around two hours, Stefan and his shark traded line Stefan trading line and sweat until triumphantly he held the leader on a huge silvertip reef shark swimming next to the boat. We got some great pictures, cut off the leader and headed for our anchorage in the bay at Mitsio Island, a gourmet meal and a good nights sleep .
Monday morning started at around 06h00. The plan was to explore the reefs in the vicinity of Mitsio, with a focus on jigging for GTs. The day was spent jigging from the catamaran Adiva in water ranging from 20 to 60m and everyone had great success with small GTs in the 5 to 10kg class. What was amazing were the sheer numbers of juvenile fish that inhabit these reefs, suggesting that this is a very healthy ecosystem.
Jigging from a big yacht is a little awkward, as the skipper lacks the manoeuvrability to accurately position and control the boats drift over target structure. Big yachts are very susceptible to wind and current influence, so we were eagerly anticipating the arrival of Bossis Sportfisher, Joz-Joz. The remainder of Monday was spent catching small GTs and admiring the beautiful islands dotting the ocean, followed by another amazing dinner and a good nights sleep.
Tuesday morning arrived with promise of great fishing to come. The weather was perfect, and Namadou had communicated with the skipper of Joz-Joz who was en route from her previous charter a few hours steam from us. We all rigged our jigging and popping rods, selected the gear to be transferred to Joz-Joz and, before we knew it, her sleek shape glided into view.
Joz-Joz is a great fishing platform a 38 Supercat powered by a pair of Yamaha 70hp four-stroke outboard engines. With her wide beam and displacement hulls, she is very efficient, spacious and comfortable, and with an average cruising speed of 18 knots, we would be able to cover good distances quickly and efficiently. She was skippered by Mao, a local Malagassi skipper who knows these waters intimately. He also knows fishing, the species we would be targeting, their feeding patterns and where and when to find them.
This was borne out as soon as we boarded Joz-Joz and Mao asked what species we were targeting. We replied that GTs on vertical jig was a good start, and that lots of them would make us very happy. His reply in French was something like no problem.
A 30-minute run later he said that we were in 60m water, and that on his command we should drop our jigs over the side. Sure enough, Mao set Joz-Joz up on her first drift, made the call and that is when the craziness commenced. For about two hours everyones jigs were smashed by GTs, shot for shot on every drift. Not huge fish all in the 12 to 15kg class but wow, this is not an everyday experience. We didnt keep count of the numbers boated and released, but great fun was had by all on ultra-light jigging outfits. It was so frenetic that eventually I put down my little Jigstar 100g prototype, and picked up a camera to get a few pics.
The end of this session was marked by a beautiful sunset, and lots of sore muscles. We also realised that the jigging had now commenced in earnest this is the reason we came here.
That evening around the dinner table (after yet another meal fit for royalty) the decision was made that we Jigging Junkies would leave on Joz-Joz at 4am on Wednesday morning and run for three-and-a-half hours northwest to Banc Intermédiaire to target dogtooth tuna on jigs. Together with the ladies, Namadou would sail Adiva north to the bay at Cap Saint-Sébastien where we would later meet and overnight at anchor. The ladies were to be treated to a spectacular cruise that included snorkel dives around tropical coral reefs, walking around small uninhabited islands, and even seeing lemurs and other indigenous wildlife in their natural environment. Oh yes, the ladies also caught lots of fish on the way.
Everyone retied their PR knots and terminal connections, checked and rechecked their equipment, showered and hit the bunk to rest before the long day ahead.
Wake up call at 03h00, a quick cup of coffee and, bleary-eyed, we bundled aboard Joz-Joz. Mao set course for Banc Intermédiaire while six grown men quickly found some comfortable deck spaceand promptly fell asleep. We were on our way to Doggie Paradise.
Awakening to a magical sunrise, we found the water flat and the only thing louder than the purring outboards was the snores from the other Jigging Junkies. Almost there, everyone was suddenly awake with jigging rods in hand.
From the first drift, the craziness of yesterday continued only better. Mao produced the goods yet again.
This was awesome! Everyone boated dogtooth
tuna after dogtooth tuna. They were good fish in the 15 to 35kg class and all
on jigs. To make it even better, we were also getting good GTs of more than
20kg. On most drifts, there would be a mix of doggies and GTs. One drift in
particular produced four different species to four anglers
on the same drift a doggie, a GT, a rosy jobfish and a bonito. The very next drift provided three species.
Most drifts resulted in multiple hook-ups, and for a number of drifts everyone was hooked up simultaneously. There were also bohar snapper, mata hari, and a variety of tropical species we had never seen before this was vertical jigging at its best; the only things missing were the really big GTs and doggies.
We were exhausted from an amazing jigging day at sea, and on the long run to Cap Saint-Sébastien it wasnt long before the question was asked: So Mao, where are the really big GTs and big dogtooth tuna? Mao replied: Tomorrow I will take you there. And he did! This resulted in what was probably the best Thursday of my life.