A Day on Providence Atoll, Seychelles
There is one atoll in the Indian Ocean that little is known about; only a few have visited the atoll and even fewer have fished it – Providence. One of the largest in the Seychelles, Providence is over 140 km² and is accessed following a five-hour sail from Farquhar. Since its closure in late 2009 only a few vessels have visited it to fish, so it still remains largely unexplored. I have been trying to get to the Providence Atoll, Seychelles ever since and this year I finally had the chance.
Our first day is one that will remain with me forever. As the boat slipped up quietly, higher up the flat rays began to appear from the center of the lagoon. Warren our guide spotted a dark shape on top of one of them and there was a mad rush to grab a rod. Mine came out on top of the knitting and Peter and Tom threw it at me and told me to get on with it. I jumped over the side as Warren held the boat, ripping line off the Hardy SDS at the same time before beginning to cast. With two false casts, the line was singing and I dropped the Black Brushy fly four feet to the left of the ray.
The fish, which was black as night, charged off the ray and smashed the fly. My 11# Zephrus bucked over and I was attached to my first Providence Atoll, Seychelles GT as I grinned uncontrollably under my buff. With the rod bent over in a full curve I clamped down and started to pump and wind the fish while pulling his head in the opposite direction. After a short while of this kind of treatment the battle was short lived and Warren hand tailed the wrist of a lovely 70 cm fish. “Welcome back!” he said, slapping me on the shoulder.
Anchor lifted and off we went again, this time to an intercept cut further down the long edge of the flats. The tide had dropped off significantly by this time and the edge of the flat was pretty skinny giving way to a deeper edge of turtle grass. We had also lost the light and spotting was very tough. Coming along the edge I suddenly caught sight of a fin for a few seconds betraying the presence of a fish. We thought perhaps it was a good sized emperor and Peter set up for a cast. Warren directed him and the crab landed softly on the edge of the flat. A surge of water was followed by a solid hook up and whatever he had hooked powered for deeper water. The battle appeared to be considerably harder than anticipated for an emperor, finally giving itself away as a tank of a yellow margin triggerfish estimated at 8 lbs. The fish had actually been feeding on its side. The evening light was upon us and we kept moving.
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Warren and Peter were moving along the edge of the flat when Warren suddenly ducked down and pointed, some way ahead a sickle-shaped dorsal broke the surface… And then another… Permit. The four of us could barely breathe as Peter lined up for this shot. The cast was true but the fish continued moving off and feeding, just always tantalizingly out of reach. The two of them kept chasing until finally the fish spooked and splashed water across the flats. Normally that would be it, chance gone. We waited for a little while looking into the cut they had come from and suddenly the tails came up again. And then more… and more. There was a slight depression on the turtle grass edge, and before we knew it there were tails all around us in what I can only describe as the most extraordinary sight I have ever seen in my saltwater career. They were all permit. We were losing the light fast and we would have to make tracks soon. Suddenly Peter’s line went tight and raced across the flat. Again, we all held our breath, barely daring to speak as he battled the fish in the evening light.
Warren was taking no chances and grabbed the net. Shortly after the gold belly slipped over the edge and it was over. A stunning permit of some 15 lbs and then the hollering began! It was wonderful to witness and with that we packed up and headed home. Some first day with Peter completing a super slam. I am heading back to the Providence Atoll, Seychelles in March 2017 and can hardly wait! Providence Atoll, Seychelles