Nubian Flats, Sudan South coast season 2020
As most of us, most of the world in fact, sit in their homes in isolation due to the Covid 19 virus, we have time. Time to relax and reminisce. Here is our reminiscing session by telling you a few stories from the start, and unfortunately the forced end of the Sudan 2020 season. The first season running on the southern reaches of the Nubian Flats and islands of the Red Sea, Sudan.
I arrived in Sudan on the 4th of April 2020 with the first guests of the season. Brent and the Wild Sea guide, David were already on board. They were previously with a group of conventional anglers doing some filming. They had a great trip. To see the action go check out Jon B on YouTube.
With a group of five guest and three guides we set out to sea on board the mighty Don Questo. A large diving boat (or small ship) that use to work as a North Sea fishing vessel. This boat proved to be ideal for a fishing expedition. It was captained by Lorenzo, who has been navigating the Red Sea for 23 years along with his fine crew of skilled Sudanese sailors. It was also the first season using the Don Questo as the mother ship. Previous seasons were all on board the smaller Scuba Libre, which many of our guests should recall. The upgrade was much needed, and with each group expedition now lasting ten days the extra space and comfort was warmly welcomed.
We sailed out of Port Sudan with small talk of a few cases of corona virus throughout the world, yet the seriousness of the problem had not yet reached us, and our excitement for ten days out at sea fishing overruled any uncertainty. Off we went.
The first few days set a standard for the rest of the trip. After stopping and fishing full days at various islands and reefs the guests began to get comfortable again with the ways and means of angling the Red Sea’s crystal clean waters on fly. Each island hosted an array of different fishing platforms. From white sandy flats, which were generally teaming with tailing triggerfish, to broken coral sections that could produce anything from a giant trevally to a teasing tail. On the outskirts of these flats begins a top reef which runs for a good couple of metres at a reasonable depth and then severely drops off into the deep dark unknown of the sea (sometimes as deep as 700 m). Here one can find anything patrolling.
The team consisted of four Norwegian anglers (Anders, Johan, Espen and Chris) joined by Jason from Zimbabwe. All guests had previous experience on the Red Sea, which showed. Everyone started off with a bang all landing consistent triggers, bluefin trevally, bohar snapper and an array of different reef species as by catch. The guys really enjoyed the late afternoon teasing sessions which always resulted in something. Some good fish were landed yet some even better ones were lost! The one thing about teasing over these drop offs is that if you do manage to hook a big fish, like a solid GT or a big snapper which has followed the teaser in, so begins the tug of war. A literal tug of war. As the sharp coral drop off is sometimes only twenty or thirty meters away from where the fish was hooked. This means fully locked reels and dead stopping fish. The fish cannot go over the drop off or its game over. A proper fish fight if ever seen.
Jason, the Zimbo, having experience from last year proved this by getting stuck into good numbers of triggers. Despite starting to feel sick after two days, he managed to land a small GT and plenty of bluefin trevally. Jason was unfortunate to lose a really big GT. Hooked on the tease, the fish ate a rod length away from us, turned, and started heading off like a steam train. Jay immediately put the brakes on. He managed to control the fish by keeping its head up and off the reef. We were in with a shot at landing this beast. Jason did everything right but unfortunately the tackle let us down with the hook snapping. A scary thought knowing that a fish has the power to snap a steel hook like a twig. Until next time, leviathan!
The drop off was cooking, every tease was bringing in fish. So much so that we had a few shark encounters. Not big aggressive sharks like we get back home in South Africa, but smaller, more nimble and very curious. Sharks would often come and investigate the teaser but generally peeled off as it got too close. Except for one incident with Jason in the same cooking session. After a long cast out into the blue, I began skating the lure on the surface seeing what I could bring up this time. Quick to lock on was a very prominent fin speeding in behind the teaser. I began to speed up the retrieve, reeling in as fast as I could, which usually causes them to peel off. But not this time. The teaser was now just in front of me with the shark hot on its tail. I pulled the teaser out of the water and swung it behind me hoping the shark would lose interest. No. The shark now locked onto my two legs standing in waist deep water like two juicy droewors sticks (local South African snack). In one last stand, after shouting at the shark didn’t seem to work, I bumped him square in the nose with the butt of my teasing rod. The shark exploded off to my right with an almighty fright. It shot inches past Jason who nearly fell right back into the water with thoughts of the shark now locked on to him! Absolute chaos, a comedy of errors.
Our Norwegian guests had no problems fishing the flats and outer reefs, with experience of having done multiple DIY trips to various locations in the Red Sea. Johan and Espen nailed the trigger fishing by catching very impressing numbers throughout their trip. Chris was the bluefin expert by landing some really impressing thugs. He gave them nothing by taking control of the fights. Chris was also super unlucky when his fly line popped on a really good GT. Much like Jason’s outcome; everything goes right but surely something must go wrong? That seems to be the case with most of the encounters that guests have with these boxing bullies.
Espen, on the other hand, had his stars align when he landed a very impressive GT of 89 cm. David, Espen, Chris and myself were walking the high cliffs on the North side of a big sandy island. These cliffs are sheer, rock as sharps as knives yet gave us a great sight advantage. We saw the craziest things. A number of game fishing hunting the close drop off. Big GTs pushing up into shallow holding pools and cuts terrorizing any fish that was around. With spring tides in play, the incoming tide was pushing hard up against the cliffs into seams and cuts in the old, exposed coral shelves. There were sections where we could get down below the cliffs and make a cast from on top of the shelf. We waited patiently. Something was bound to cruise past. Just as I was about to send a teaser out David, who was spotting on the cliffs above us shouted “GT, LEFT!!” Not even ten metres to our left we see a really good sized GT patrolling the drop off. Our first thought was that it was too big, it was bound to make it to the drop off. But Espen frantically made the cast. Within seconds of the first strip a smaller GT (still great size on fly) that we hadn’t seen, busted out from behind the bigger fish and smashed his fly. Espen set the hook and held on like a winch. I ran over to him and locked my arms around his backpack as he was starting to get pulled towards the ledge. This fish was even working the two of us. After a short but immensely powerful fight we managed the get the fish above the ledge and land it successfully. Shouts and screams of joy and triumph followed shortly.
Anders had a good trip landing some remarkable fish. From some good snapper, one sight fished on the flats, to barracuda to bluefin to triggers galore. The good doctor, as Yusef the head stew nicknamed him, worked really hard on the teasing sessions looking for bigger game fish. He was rewarded in some ways but was denied his lifer. Until next time Anders!
Johan fished with absolute flair, having vast experience all over the world especially with flats fishing. He cracked on quickly and landed some incredible fish. Triggers and bluefin were hot on the list including a memorable double up with one of each. Johan is into his photography so we really had some fun playing around with different shots, angles and videos. Amazing what one can do with these new iPhones! Packed in and amongst his fly fishing gear were a few jigging and spinning rods along with a box packed with some deep diving jigs and impressive looking stick baits. In the mornings and the evenings Johan would often get stuck into some dog tooth tuna on the jig and the odd barracuda or trevally on the stick baits. His efforts rewarded us with fresh fish and some delicious starters.
The first trip of the season was a success with guests catching an outstanding number of fish. As we started heading north back to port, the problems of the real world started to catch up. The corona virus had started to become an issue and gave our Norwegian guests some problems with flights getting home. At the end of many phone calls and emails they managed to get home safely, with unreal memories and an itch to come back.
Thanks to all the guys that made the trip.
Get ‘em! James