As I settle back into the routine of work and sitting at my desk on the computer I discover that jet lag is a very real thing. I’ve been waking up bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 3am. It’s useless trying to go back to sleep so I get up and try to be productive. Then by early evening I’m struggling to stay conscious. I yearn to be outside and my body is craving movement, sunlight and salt air. Trust me, I’m asking no sympathy. I recognize I’m very lucky to have such problems.
My recent trip to Alphonse in the Seychelle Islands was simply magnificent. I flew about 3 hours from Denver, Colorado to Atlanta, Georgia. Then another 9 hour direct flight to Paris, France. After Paris there was another 10 hour flight to Mahe’ in the Seychelles where I spent a night in Victoria, the capital. In the early morning I took off again on a small jet to fly south one more time on an hour flight to reach Alphonse Island. Total flight time was about 23 hours.
When we arrived we were welcomed by staff, given a rundown of amenities, dining times, activity options and shown to our beachfront bungalow. As soon as my luggage and gear was delivered, I set up a rod and started casting from the beach. The water was clear and stingrays, bonefish and other ocean species could be seen just feet from the shore. I wanted to get some practice with my Winston 12wt Salt Air. That rod is a beast compared to the tenkara rods I typically cast – even compared to the Zen Kyojin which is the most powerful tenkara rod out there.
Just a short bike ride away was the fishing center where I met all the guides, went over my gear and flies and discussed tenkara. I was relieved that everyone was open to the idea abet a bit skeptical. I assured them I wasn’t going to be casting to GTs but had already landed a few bluefin in the Maldives. They were impressed and curious about the rods and several wanted to give it a try. That, in my opinion, is the sign of excellent guides. They’re not heroes, super cocky or too cool to try something different. They know their water, they know the fish and they work to get you into them, no matter what your fishing style.
The following week proved to be as incredible as I had imagined it would be. Don’t get me wrong, we worked for fish and the guides put in a lot of time on the pole. The weather fluctuated between blazing hot and sunny, to overcast, windy and heavy squalls. Whatever was delivered, we worked through it and continued to hunt and fish. Most days we looked for stingrays and sharks on the horizon. GTs like to tail them and cruise along side these two flats dwellers. Other days we waded 5 miles in the breaking surf watching for fish in the underside of the crashing waves. Both bluefin and GT could be found here and on the backsides of shark and rays preying on bait fish coming in and out with the tides. Often you’d cast and rip your strips in front of a GT, only to have a bluefin pound it. Going head-to-head for the same fly, a bluefin will almost always come out the winner. I was happy either way.
Besides bluefin and “Geets” as the guides called them, we also were in bonefish lala land. My favorite fishing was one afternoon on the flats. The bottom is soft fine sand. No shells, rocks, coral or other buggers. I decided to go native like several of the South African guides and walk it barefoot. This was the very definition of glorious. Sun shining down, wet wading barefoot, casting to bluefin and bonefish coming off the shelf and onto the edge of the flat. I used both my Kyojin and my Winston 8wt with my Hatch Finatic Reel, switching off every hour or so. Strolling the edge, back casting the tenkara rod and double hauling to pairs of “proper” (South African slag for BIG) bones just coming into eye sight. This was simply, a perfect day.
You wouldn’t normally use tenkara and Seychelle in the same sentence. It’s not where people think of when you talk about tenkara destinations, but these days, everywhere is a tenkara destination. Regardless of where I go or what species I’m targeting, my tenkara rods always comes with me. I may be packing my 10 and 12wt rods and by massive saltwater Hatch reels, but I’ll never not also bring a fixed line setup too. On this trip I was limited to 33lb of luggage and gear combined. That included my toiletries, my GoPro stuff, my regular rods and reels, my leaders and fly boxes, my clothing, shoes, sunblock and Simms Wading Sneakers, and yes, my tenkara rods and lines. I was underweight. I still had plenty of room for several tenkara setups.
Towards the end of the fishing day and the end of the week I really appreciated transitioning out of my 12wt rod and reel and into an ultralight 3ounce tenkara rod. It was nice being able to cast with either my left or my right hand and give my regular casting arm a break. I didn’t stop fishing, I just changed it up and stayed fresh and accurate all day through. Even better, I had the opportunity to dance with bones – to feel the fight intimately and win the battle fair and square by my own skills and abilities. I can say it a thousand times but until you try it, you just can’t understand it. The feeling is raw, fresh, unencumbered like running naked through the wind or going commando. There’s simply a freedom and primal response to tenkara fly fishing. And while I love to hear my reel rip line, the experience is somehow “dampened” by a reel. Tenkara delivers a FBE – a Full Body Experience that’s just different from the reel.
I love my rod and reels and I’ll never stop using them. But I feel the same about my tenkara rods. There will always be room for at least one extra 3 ounce tenkara rod and a few lines in my bag, and I will always seek out the opportunity for that incredible adrenaline surge that comes from a tenkara fight and landing, and the thrill of being reel-less and wild, in the water world.
Thank you Alphonse Fishing Company for a most spectacular fly fishing experience. I hope to come back again and try Como. Tight lines and happy fishing – whatever your method!
Karin Miller, Owner/Founder