Far From Home: Ep. 6 The Nubian Flats

Presented by: Sage Fly Fishing

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From the banks of meandering rivers to vast open landscapes baked in sunlight and trodden by only hooves and talons, the best fisherman’s tales come from adventures had far from home. Join us as we explore one of the most remote fishing destinations in the world: The Nubian Flats. On a mothership exploring endless flats in the Red Sea, The Flylords crew joins African Waters to put the new Sage SALT R8 rod to the test. Here, you have an opportunity out of any salt water anglers dreams. Some of the best opportunities for triggerfish in the world, and on top of that the chance to offer a fly to giant trevally.  Explore the energy, beauty, and endless horizon that is a place so far from home…

three anglers standing on a sandbar in the nubian flats

How This Episode Came to Be:

After taking the Sage R8 CORE with us on our last far from home adventure, we immediately returned to the drawing board to discuss the next “Far From Home” episode. After 5 episodes of our original series, which focuses on fulfilling angler-fantasies about fishing far away lands and becoming immersed in new cultures. We were looking to find episode 6.

Learn more about the SALT R8 HERE

With the news of the new Sage SALT R8, we immediately stated to riff off flats destinations where we could put this rod to the ultimate test. We all came to the consensus that there was no other species more capable of putting a rod through the ringer than the GT. After a few phone calls with the Keith Clover from African Waters we were set on heading to the Nubian Flats for a two week expedition.

About The Nubian Flats: 

The Nubian Flats are a one of a kind fishing destination. Getting there is an adventure in itself. After a handful of flights, you arrive in the Port of Sudan where the crew from African Waters greets you to transport you to the live-aboard which is your home for the next one or two weeks.

The Felicidad II live-aboard vessel for the Nubian Flats.

Until recently, fly fishing in Sudan had not been considered viable due to political unrest in neighboring Southern Sudan. Despite its reputation, Sudan is a safe and inviting place to travel and has been the center of an exploding scuba diving industry for years. Following in the footsteps of the scuba industry, fly fishers soon discovered a rich and rugged flats ecosystem full of exotic species including incredible numbers of triggerfish, giant trevally, bluefin trevally, as well as the occasional bonefish and permit.

The nature of the fishery makes a live-aboard option perfectly suited for the needs of fly anglers visiting the Nubian Flats. Anglers stay on board the Felicidad II, a 98-foot schooner which was renovated in the summer of 2009. The guide team is comprised of all South Africans with the exception of one Italian, all are incredibly passionate about the fishery and the species you are chasing on The Nubian Flats. As you push off from port, adventure and excitement awaits beyond the horizon, moving us closer to what we anticipate in this special slice of the world…

The Fishing: 

The Nubian Flats are immersive and rugged. From jagged coral and crashing waves to white sand and tailing shrimp diggers, this place is the adventure hungry wade anglers dream.

TRIGGERS

The pinnacle islands that make up the southern portion of the Red Sea offer some of the most prolific triggerfish populations on the planet. Titan, yellow margin, and picasso triggerfish prowl a maze of coral bommies and turtle grass flats in search of crustaceans. You can find them doing headstands in a euphoric daze getting rolled by waves as they blissfully munch on their sweet crunchy snacks.

Scanning the flat searching for triggers.

Targeting triggerfish requires stealth, accuracy and finesse above all else. The tackle required is minimal. A handful of small tan flexo crabs and spawning shrimp patterns in different weights, a 12’ 16lb fluorocarbon leader and an 8wt SALT R8 rod is all you need to wrestle with these bipolar aliens.

Fly selection for triggers – learn more about the SALT R8 HERE.

When approaching the water, a good strategy is to walk the shoreline. Unlike most saltwater fisheries, the Red Sea doesn’t experience tides. With that, there’s no telling when fish will flood onto a flat. Minimizing presence and using an elevated shoreline to your advantage are the main reasons to keep out of the water when scouting. Once you’ve spotted a trigger, which could be cruising, or actively feeding, it’s important to take your time, set up and make the first shot count. These fish can be in very shallow water and are extremely sensitive to predation from the sky, so making a sidearm cast low to the water and ensuring your fly lands softly are paramount. Assuming everything went to plan and the fly landed in the right spot, just let it sink in front of the fish (mimicing a fleeing crab/shrimp trying to burrow into the sand for safety) and the cat and mouse game begins. 

Doubling up on one of the trickiest fish on the flats.

Little twitch, little twitch, long strip, pause and BOOM he decides your fly looks real enough to eat. The best piece of advice here is KEEP MOVING IT. Triggers will often pick up a fly several times before finally committing to eating it. Contrary to almost every other saltwater scenario, the worst thing you can do is strip set when you feel the fish eat. You’re waiting for a specific moment, the fish will eventually pick up your fly and turn. Once he turns, just hold tension in your line – this will set the hook into the fleshy corner of the trigger’s mouth, and slowly lift your rod. Game on.

Sometimes you have to get creative to fetch the fish out of the coral.

Now you just need to navigate the screaming runs and dirty plays the fish makes as he tries to bury himself in the bommies, every fight is different but these things will pull out every dirty trick in the book. They’re a beautiful, strong, frustrating headache of a target species but once you get one to commit addiction sets in.

GEETS

There are countless species prowling the flats alongside the triggers, but only one king, the giant trevally. Golden eyes, war paint down their backs and a face that screams “come at me, I f&%king dare you.” The giant trevally is the heavyweight in these waters and trust me, they know it.

GT require maximum pulling power from your rod – learn more about the SALT R8 HERE.

“A lot of people use the phrase “fighting a fish” but this is one of the few scenarios where the cliche runs true. This is hand to hand combat…”

The tackle is simple, and serious. 12wt SALT R8 rod, floating line with a heavy head for quick shots, and 7-9’ of 100-150lb leader. Flies need to be lightweight and easy to cast. You need something that catches the attention of a killing machine having a bad day, so black, blurple, and red flies are all good choices as they provide maximum contrast in the water.

The majority of fish are found prowling the steep coral drop offs that shelter each island, waiting for a smaller fish to make the wrong move and end up in the kill zone. The guides have adopted bait and switch techniques to bring these pelagic beasts into fly range. It’s a coordinated effort between three people. In the center of the lineup you have someone with a spin rod and a hookless plug, the GT Ice Cream. To his left and right there are fly anglers, this is you, with enough line stripped off their 12wts for a 60-80’ shot.

The guide with the spin rod will launch his plug into the blue water beyond the reef edge and start burning it back. The plug aggressively skips across the surface, full of fear. A wake starts building behind it until the geets back breaks the waters surface in an explosive show of dominance as it hunts the plastic dummy down. The spin angler will tease the fish into fly range exponentially speeding up his retrieve. This is where your time comes in, hold that 12wt tight because once you make that shot all bets are off. The goal is to replace the plug with your fly, so it’s imperative to land just in front of or better yet on top of the plug. Once the fly is in the water the plug gets pulled out and the testosterone fuled geet wants nothing more than to kill something. It’s usually the first strip. A wall of water met with a surge of energy turns the fly line into a guitar string. A couple hard strip sets to seat the hook in the geets mouth and it’s time for a ride. 

A lot of people use the phrase “fighting a fish” but this is one of the few scenarios where the cliche runs true. This is hand to hand combat. You need to put your whole back into this thing. A hardtailed, pissed off, chunk of muscle is on the other end of the line and it’s going to do everything it can to win. Lock the drag down and plant your feet hard. Hooking and fighting a big GT is a uniquely humbling and frankly, sweaty, experience. You’ll be winded by the end and war cries will echo through your eardrums for a good while. If you like adrenaline, this is the fish for you.

The Takeaway: 

It’s adventures like these you never forget. Opportunities to travel to faraway lands and fish for unpressured, monstrous fish is a privilege not many anglers encounter. We acknowledge this, and carry these stories to you as a homage to the time spent in paradise. However, from an experiential perspective, the fishing was only the tip of the iceberg. To share two weeks on a mothership with a group of anglers, all from different backgrounds united around the love of adventure was an experience we wish everyone in the world could possess.

The passion expressed amongst all the guides and staff who do so much with such thoughtful simplicity is a subtle reminder of why we fish. It’s more about having these experiences, and who you’re having them with, than anything else. That’s what “Far from Home” is truly about, and we hope it resonates in this piece.
Feel free to check out more from the “Far from Home” series HERE.

To learn more about African Waters, click HERE. Thank you to Sage and Fly Water Travel for making this trip possible. To learn more about the new SALT R8, click HERE.

Far From Home: Ep. 5 Patagonia

Behind The Scenes of the Sage SALT R8

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