Fly-fishing off Farquhar Atoll in the Seychelles is a once-in-a-lifetime angling adventure, with giant trevally and bumphead parrotfish among the prizes, reports Marina Gibson

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Farquhar Atoll is the most southerly atoll in the Seychelles chain of islands, lying just over 700km to the south-west of the main island, Mahe. Even in normal circumstances, trips to these remote places are carefully planned out, with little or no room to alter logistics, so we were fortunate that Covid restrictions allowed us to travel to the Seychelles, providing we abided by all regulations and guidelines.

At short notice, we packed bags and set off from Germany, flying via Dubai to the capital of the Seychelles, Mahe, and then to Alphonse Island in a small plane, before the last leg to Farquhar Island. The island has around 22 inhabitants from Islands Development Company (IDC), a small number of houses, next to no pollution and minimal fishing pressure. After 12 months of downtime, I was lucky to be one of the first fly-fishers to set foot on this pristine place, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It is a dream location, where casting for giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis), green humphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) – aka bumpheads, bumpys or buffalos of the flats – Indo-Pacific permit (Trachinotus blochii), bonefish (Albula vulpes), several species of triggerfish (of the family Balistidae) and an array of reef fish, including Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), saddleback grouper (Plectropomus laevis) and bohar snappers (Lutjanus bohar) makes it the apogee of destination fly-fishing.

As our sporting group of six eager fishermen, with a crew of ambitious guides, approached the island there was no one else in sight. The view from the white King Air plane sent shivers down my spine. This horseshoe-shaped atoll was going to be home for the next week. We would be wading and poling its immaculate flats with high hopes of encountering some ravenous saltwater beasts.


The fishing lodge is set on the edge of a rocky coastline a stone’s throw away from the first flats; the guesthouse caters for 10 anglers at a time and each en-suite cabin has an idyllic water’s-edge view of the ocean. You walk 20 metres from the main lodge to your skiffs. Although the lodge is a catch-and-release-only fishery, the IDC employees do daily kitchen runs to catch fresh fish for the guests.

Historically, the use of conventional tackle methods such as bait fishing, chumming and spinning was allowed but, after having seen catch records dwindle, it was decided that Farquhar Island would become a strictly fly-only destination. The island also has an Island Conservation Seychelles programme, which assesses and monitors the Farquhar biodiversity, including nesting sites for turtles, seabird habitats and fish-spawning aggregations, as well as working on rehabilitation after Cyclone Fantala hit the islands in 2016. Today, commercial copra production on the island has ceased and tourism, especially fly-fishing, has been identified as a replacement source of income for the atoll.

As soon as we landed the guides formed-up like a well-trained platoon and assembled all the skiffs. They opened up cobwebbed buildings, hauled the boats out into searing sunlight, mounted the engines and washed off layers of dirt that had accumulated during lockdown. Cullan Ashby, one of the guides, confided, “I am absolutely frothing to get back and see how much everything has changed. One of the most exciting things about guiding in the Seychelles is returning to these destinations after they have been rested, getting on a skiff on that first day and having to figure out the fish all over again. No matter your guiding experience, the atolls end up changing season to season, as do the areas we fish. It keeps it fresh and exciting when you see fish somewhere completely new – you’re constantly on the hunt for the next move. That’s the beauty of it.”

The Alphonse Fishing Company’s guides have been handpicked, carefully trained and are trusted to work in one of the most challenging fisheries there is. Guiding in the Seychelles requires extreme fitness, especially over a full season. Demanding days with poling, pulling boats and walking miles in search of their client’s prized catches. They’re also away from family and friends for most of the year but that’s the sacrifice they are willing to make for their love of fishing and guiding.

Poling takes balance, power and endurance, not to mention the execution of perfect drift and positioning to allow a client the shot at a fish. Guides stand on a tower by the engine of the shallow, flat-bottomed skiff with an 18ft, carbon-fibre pole. Should you receive any grief for missing a fish, executing a ‘trout set’ or being too slow (because you haven’t practised your double hauling before your trip), then it’s best to remain quiet and concentrate a little more. Either that or swap with the guide and get up on the poling station.

From the moment I stepped on to the island all I could think about was the bumphead parrotfish, the largest species of parrotfish, capable of growing to 1.5 metres and 165lb. The bumpy is slow growing and can live for up to 40 years. It’s a species that I have seen on various websites and social media channels, though I’d yet to fish for them, mainly because there are so few places where they can be found in good numbers.

I gravitated towards these giants due to their peculiar, alien features. Their business end looks like a parrot’s beak due to exposed teeth plates, behind which you’ll find a baby-pink, bulbous forehead with a near-vertical profile, a small, beady eye, brightly coloured neon-green gill plates, huge pectoral fins and an armour of chunky green, blue and purple scales all propelled by a paddle of a tail.

An adult green bumpy uses its forehead as a battering ram to loosen chunks of coral to feast on. It may ingest more than five tons of structural reef carbonates each year, according to a paper produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tricking them to eat a fly is the difficult part, followed by trying to keep them away from all the sharp coral. Hooking them right in the surf zone on an incoming tide was absolute carnage with many fish hooked and just as quickly lost.


We were using orange, crab-like flies and the one that produced the majority of our hook-ups was an orange Alphlexo. As we followed a shoal of bumpheads slowly around the flats, they suddenly turned towards us, presenting me with yet another chance. I had been trying to catch one for a couple of days, most fish being lost to the coral reefs and one that simply came adrift, a sign that it was most likely foul hooked.

This time I pointed my feet towards the shoal, lifted my line carefully off the silky water, gave it a little tug to increase the line speed and lifted it into the air, my heart pounding as I false cast across the plain. Was I finally approaching the moment where I’d get to hold my treasured green monster, or would the battle end just like the others, with a frustrated fisher?

As the shoal moved towards the spot where I’d placed my crab fly I drew my hand back steadily and pulled it ever so gently towards me just as the first fish passed over it, followed by another, and another, then, suddenly I felt a bump. Was that a fish? It could be a fish… With my heart racing I retrieved my line slightly harder, felt the resistance of a heavy object and quickly set the hook.

It didn’t take long before the shoal saw the boat and shot off towards the reef, with my fish along for the ride. All I could remember was my guide, Jerry, and photographer Stephan Dombaj telling me that I had to break the fish’s spirit before it broke mine. I held on tight and gave it as much pressure as I could. Jerry navigated the boat superbly and we managed to steer the fish away from the reef, slowly but surely, inch by inch, getting closer and closer. Dombaj then made a lunge at the fish with the net and ran around in circles until finally intercepting the brute and, just like that, I’d caught my first bumpy.

We had a range of rods in our armoury, each one a different weight class to match the species of fish we were chasing: a 9ft 9wt for bonefish and permit; 9ft 10wt for triggerfish and bumpheads; 9ft 12wt for giant trevally, bluefin and barracudas; and a spare of each in case of mishaps. It is also a wise move to have a spare line for each set-up as you have the highest chance of getting spooled on a saltwater trip.

The most sought-after gamefish found fame on David Attenbourgh’s Blue Planet II, where extraordinary footage showed giant trevallies (GT) jumping and catching juvenile birds attempting their first fledge from the beach. While most survive their first lift off, some fail to escape the unforgiving mouths. These fierce-faced killing machines take no prisoners; if you’re out on the flats the law goes, it’s either eat or be eaten, grow bigger, move faster or have more teeth to survive.

And that is why you need a sturdy set-up when you are GT fishing because if and when you hook up to one, they allow no room for human error. Wading for GT is one of the pinnacles of saltwater fishing. Whether they are hammering a bait ball close to the edge of the reef or cruising the shallow flats picking off one bait at a time, you have to be ready because the moment you see them you will need to prepare your line and once they’re in firing range you need to haul a heavy 6in to 8in baitfish pattern 6ft in front of them and be prepared to strip.


I had caught GT before in the Pacific but never fished for them in the surf. Surf fishing is when you wade the reef or walk the rocky islands in search of the marauding GTs. Everything moves so quickly and you must be ready to run. When one is spotted, get there as quickly as possible. If it means falling over a few times in the process on hard coral, that’s what you have to do. As my guide and I scanned the waves and the turbulent white wash for moving shapes we saw one GT riding a wave like a surfer without a surfboard. The tide was coming in fast; we had a small window of opportunity to fish the surf before it got too high and we had to head back to the skiff. You want bigger tides ideally as the GT patrol thick and fast to feed on the baitfish.

When I saw the first GT riding the surf I was unprepared for what it would look like, so clear you could see the outlines of each fin and the prominent pitchfork-like tail. Waves crashed into us as we ran to get that one chance of a cast in front of it. Out of breath with scratches down my legs I hauled my fly as hard and as fast as I could at the target, not too close that it would spook it but just far enough that it would track and chase. The take was explosive, nothing would stop this giant trevally. As it fled from the scene I hoped my kit would hold up against the ferocity. It did, and once landed it grunted at me and, after a photo or two, I released him to continue his feeding frenzy.

Farquhar is an exceptional, all-round, multi-species fishery with some of the biggest GT I’ve ever seen. The variety of species we encountered was exceptional, as was the diversity of wildlife on each reef, island and the flats. Since Alphonse Fishing Company took over, the fishery has been carefully managed and rested. Farquhar island is a great example of a GT fishery that is conservation minded. If you are an angler in need of an adrenaline fix, this could be the perfect destination.

Special thanks to our hosts, Keith Rose-Innes, managing partner of Alphonse Fishing Company, and Devan Van Der Merwe, group fishing manager.

To book a trip to go fly-fishing in the Seychelles, call +27 82 496 4570 or visit: