Gabon – Season 2020: Week 1

Gabon – starting 2020 off right. 

I don’t get out of the office much these days. Spreadsheets, budgets, logistics and negotiations take up the majority of my time, and time out of the office is carefully allocated between fatherhood and the rare occasion when I have an hour spare and the waves are decent enough for a surf. There are days when I look back on the long seasons of guiding with nostalgia and a strong longing to be in the wild. 

However, there are perks to my job, and these days I get to spend a handful of weeks each year out on location. The start of 2020 was one such occasion and I found myself in Gabon for a series of meetings followed by a week in camp with some old clients who were visiting Gabon for the 8th year in a row. 

We arrived in Sette Cama, obviously full of excitement, only to be greeted by a formation at the mouth which would prove very difficult to fish affectively. Fishing in Gabon is all about ensuring that you are in exactly the right place, at the right time. Having an intimate knowledge of what makes fish congregate in a certain area, and also what triggers them to bite is essential to success (this intimate understanding takes many years to accumulate). This week proved frustrating, since the fish were there in large numbers, and we knew where they would be, and at what times, but we couldn’t get close to them. As I said, the key to success in Gabon is being at the right place at the right time, and with this formation it made it impossible to accomplish this. We would either be pushed off a sand bank by the tide before the bite started, or a particular gutter or bank would be out of reach when the time arrived. 

However, what the week threw at us in bad luck, the group made up for it in sheer good attitude. Everyone’s humour levels remained high, and the positive attitude remained right through the week. This approach would have made the week a resounding success, even if we caught no fish. There wasn’t a single meal, time in camp, or fishing session where everyone wasn’t smiling and laughing. 

As the week progressed, we began to land more good fish. Keith landed a good sized tarpon, a couple of monster tarpon were lost, some great snapper and threadfin came out, and of course the ever present jacks provided plenty entertainment – and as with every week some superb fish were lost. Throw into the mix some exceptional estuary fishing in the morning sessions, and it turned from a difficult week, to a decent one. 

By the end of the week, when we were able to take a step back and look at the fishing we had experienced, we realized that although the fishing had been “tough” by Gabon standards we had still racked up an impressive number of good fish. Over 300 individual fish to be precise.  Looking back on the fishing in hindsight, and being cognitive of the fact that so many good fish were landed, in difficult conditions, made it clear on just how amazing a destination Sette Cama is. There aren’t many places on the planet where you land that many quality fish, and still feel that it was a tough week. 

Being office bound it often takes a trip like this to be reminded about just how special these places are.  In my line of work, and perhaps for guests like these that are so well experienced, it is easy to become a little jaded. Sometimes one has to take a step back, and look at Gabon with fresh unexpecting eyes to fully appreciate how unique and exceptional it is. 

Ed Truter once wrote that he tried to look at things as if he was seeing them for the first time, to try and absorb everything around him – in his way fighting off the risk of becoming jaded to the amazing experiences we are so lucky to have available to us. For me visiting this wild place evokes the full spectrum of feelings. – The smell of the jungle at dusk, the sight of elephants walking on the beach, the excitement of seeing chimps, hearing African grey parrots flying overhead and of course the constant reminder of how lucky we are to experience a fishery and marine ecosystem that is truly intact. I still try to look at things with fresh eyes, but now all the smells and sights of Gabon evoke more a feeling of home than the excitement of somewhere new.  

– Rob Scott