The following article was published in Africa’s Original Flyfishing Magazine:
Catching a doggie from shore
A story about a dogtooth tuna that was caught from an island in the Red Sea
By Leonard Flemming
The Red Sea has been a red-hot topic amongst saltwater fly fisherman ever since Tourette Fishing started hosting guided trips to Sudan in 2013. The dispute about the photographs of trophy yellow margin triggerfish, titan triggerfish, twinspot snapper and giant trevally that littered the internet due to numerous exploratory trips to this destination was not because of the inferiority complex it sparked amongst those that regularly visit the Seychelles. Instead, it was in the press and widely discussed as it appeared to be an exceptional African tropical saltwater destination that had the potential to be a big attraction.
The Tourette guides spread stories of 35 kg giant trevally, 8-9 kg bonefish, 6 kg permit and 6 kg titan triggerfish that had been hooked by clients, but none of the anglers could stop the Ferrari-fast runs of these fish from reaching sharp coral and most of these big fish were lost with little backing left on the spools. However, it was only after I spoke to Rob Scott over the phone before my trip there two weeks ago that he told me about the dogtooth tuna they had seen close to land.
Dogtooth tuna are scientifically described as an offshore fish species that may come close to coral reefs and atolls, but it is generally found in deep water. Their appearance in shallow coastal water is uncommon and catching a doggie from the side could probably be compared to the mythical dream of flyfisherman catching yellowfin tuna from Rooikrans at Cape Point. In other words, it is possible, but highly unlikely.
The Tourette Fishing team has seen one or two of these fish chase a teaser (a lure with no hooks attached to it) from very deep water to the edges of coral reefs in the Red Sea where clients wait with twelve weight rods to get a shot at the pelagic predators that would come swooping in and close enough to reach with a fly line. Similarly, I had the privilege to experience large predatory fish chase a teaser to my feet and even caught a beaut of a twinspot snapper that way, but never saw a dogtooth come after the lure.
Jeff Tyser, the angler that accompanied me under the guidance of Nicola Vitali, fished blind in between the teasing spots. Jeff didn’t hook a large predatory fish coming after the teaser. He pulled off something that was a lot more impressive and challenging, he caught a dogtooth tuna on a blind cast from a knee deep reef that was the shoreline of Magarsum Island. This is Jeff’s story:
“With the wind gusting at well over 30 knots, spotting fish was becoming increasingly difficult. We thus made the call to tease along the drop-offs. It was slow-going at first, and although Nicola worked the big, hookless plug like his life depended on it, not even the garfish were showing any interest.
Then, without warning, things started happening. First, a big GT came out of nowhere and annihilated the teaser as it approached the reef, but the fish failed to find our flies. A few minutes later, we almost stepped on an even bigger GT, which was holding in a shallow depression on the shallow reef. It must have been a little spooked because it completely ignored Leonard’s perfectly placed fly before it drifted over the edge and out of sight. A little later, there was a bit of a bust-up about 40 meters out. We couldn’t quite tell if the foot-long fish coming out of the water were doing the hunting or were being hunted. Either way, we were now in no doubt that there were fish around, and the 12-weight began to feel a little lighter in my hand.
I began making short blind casts into the abyss as we moved between teasing points. On one of these, a big bluefin followed the black # 6/0 brush fly right to my feet, so I decided to put a few more casts into the area, while Leonard and Nicola continued down the reef. Two throws later, and BANG! Something slammed the fly so hard, it practically dragged me to my knees. The fish sounded immediately, and I stumbled to the edge, trying to keep the line clear of the coral and maintain some kind of control. “Could it be a giant trevally, or a big bluefin trevally?” were the thoughts that crossed my mind. Whatever it was, it was fast, strong and very intent on getting to the bottom of the ocean. But it wasn’t gigantic, like a goliath grouper, and I was able to pull hard enough on the 1.2 mm leader to keep the fish on the fly line. Nicola had noticed the commotion, and rushed to join me where I was balancing on the edge of sharp coral and a drop off that plummeted over 30 meters deep. At first he offered words of encouragement, which were replaced by crazy screams when, a few minutes later, he was able to get a number plate. “Doggie! Doggie! It’s a f*&^%$# dogtooth tuna!”
I eased the fish up onto the coral flat where Nicola was able to tail it. High fives, a few photos and plenty of Italian swear words followed. Strangers only four days earlier, the three of us felt united by that fish. We all knew it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and we took our time savouring it.”