Next up on the Behind the Lens feature of F3T we sat down with legendary guide, fly-tyer and lodge manager, Keith Rose-Innes. This film is all about the fly that changed the game when fishing for Indo-Pacific Permit. Developed by a handful of anglers across the world, this pattern gets its name and its notoriety from the Alphonse Fishing Lodge located in the Seychelles Islands. We are proud to share the story of Aphlexo Crab fly pattern along with Keith.
Flylords: When did permit become an obsession for you?
Keith: “I can tell you it’s a long history with the permit. I’ve been guiding in Seychelles for 24 years. And the whole time you’re there, you’re arguing you see them, but you never really had the skill or the fly patterns to successfully target them every time.
I never liked that, there comes a sort of point in your life where you juggle the reality of whether you’re going to catch [the Permit] or not. At that time, the patterns we had couldn’t guarantee a Permit would have a look.
These fish were the fish of like five hundred to a thousand casts. Your confidence changes when you get the reaction that you do with the Aphlexo from a Permit, you know that when you cast that fly out at a Permit and he sees it, he’s either gonna refuse it or have a go at it, and that’s the beauty about it. Whereas in the old days, there was a lot of…well, the fish wouldn’t even react to it, it would just like swim around it or that kind of thing.
It became a love-hate relationship, must have been seventeen, eighteen years or so, all of that, the frustration of how do you get it right, never thinking, it’s never gonna be the right kind of pattern to fool these fish.
And then we started getting the reactions that we did with the Aphlexo, you see the reactions to the fly, and we thought, ‘Oh my god! We definitely have something and we can refine it quite a bit…'”
Flylords: When you were developing the Aphlexo, was there one trip you went out with a prototype and it just happened? Or was, you know, a couple seasons worth of trial and error?
Keith: We started using them for triggerfish at the end of one of the seasons and then, as the season ended I stayed for a trip which we had planned. We went with the patterns we had and the current wasn’t too keen to fish in. We had some early Aphlexo prototypes but they almost felt as though they weren’t refined enough so we went back and I kept a whole bunch in my box. So I waited until the following season, we had a film crew with us and I went out and got two Indo-Pacific Permit literally back-to-back.
Early the next morning, I came back and I had four flies left and I gave one of the flies to a guest, it was his birthday. He went out, hooked something, broke it off. I gave another to a guide, and the other fly to the kid I caught the fish with. He went out and got a Permit the same day. Almost like that, everybody started catching a permit on the Aphlexo.
Flylords: How many versions of the Aphlexo are in use today?
Keith: So now we got kind of like four or five different patterns with varying leg sizes, colors, hook sizes. We have to match the flies to the crabs we have around here.
There are times of year here that the crabs are carrying eggs on their front side. So we’ll dub in a little bit of body in there. Or sometimes we would put, say a piece of fake nail or whatever underneath with a little orange hotspot to simulate carrying eggs. We put a little dubbing in them as well with a little orange face, almost like a strike indicator, make it easy for the angler to see.
There are all these little tricks which we use, but the beauty about the Aphlexo is that anybody can take this fly and pass it in front of a Permit or triggerfish or many other species. and you have a very good chance that fish going to have a look at it.
Flylords: We’ve heard the action of the fly is something special, what’s the best way to fish the Aphlexo?
Keith: We’ve learned it was the way you strip the fly. It’s not as much twitching the fly as we used to think in the past. It’s more of a long steady strip because you know the fish is coming on to the fly and you know you’ve just got to wait a little bit between your strips. So if you feel a tug it means you’ve missed the fish already. It’s almost like keeping it long and steady, making sure you’ve always got contact with the fly.
Flylords: What about the mesh body makes this pattern so special?
Keith: Before, you know, we never really had a fly sink, but now with the mesh body it sinks quite nicely and you get the fly down to the fish and they’ll eat that fly and in quite a bit of water.
Flylords: What is the next evolution of the Aphlexo?
Keith: The [current] fly is completely first rate. It’s evolved and now they’re tying a micro flexo which is smaller and much skinnier, and they’re having beautiful success with it.
Flylords: Did you get to use any of them when you were down filming “Glorious Bastards” in Australia?
Keith: So it was quite interesting, we thought a few people would be best and the guys out there suggest we fish like a big Merkin fly, which we did, and Christian used a lot of the new patterns but I wasn’t convinced. I was confident in the Aphlexos and I started using them and it was instantaneous. I mean they were eating it and eventually everybody was just fishing Aphlexos. All of the Indo-Pacific Permit during the trip were caught on them. 90% of the blue bastards were caught on Aphlexos as well. So it’s incredible that you can be confident fishing them anywhere.
So everyone knows about it and we’ve seen a lot of people fishing different places but we just wanted to let everyone know that there is a pattern out there which can be evolved to an extent that will suit your fishing needs.
Flylords: In the trailer, we noticed the Thomas and Thomas Sextant out. What’s the experience like throwing bamboo for bigger saltwater fish and Permit?
Keith: About a year ago they gave me a set of Sextants to fish. They’re obviously a lot slower, but you know when you hook a fish it’s an incredible experience, especially when you’re fishing with a 12 weight. You feel almost as if you’re more in touch with the fish. I suppose you could compare to almost like a glass rod. Since getting the rods, I’ve caught white marlin, sailfish, GT’s all on the 12-weight.
I’ve caught milkfish on my 10 weight. I’ve caught Indo-Pacific Permit on my 9 weight and 10 weight. I love it and actually, I’m standing here now and I’m guiding and I’ve got my 12 in the boat.
Flylords: What’s one piece of advice that you have for any angler looking to check and Indo-Pacific Permit off their bucket list?
Keith: The most important thing about Pacific Permit is that if you want to catch one you must be dedicated to it. Pick the right destination, number one. Obviously, your tides will play a role. When you’re booking a trip you need to make sure they’re booking you on the right tide types. There are destinations which are better for Indo-Pacific Permit than others. So it’s about going to the right destination and then when you get out there, the most important thing is to just be confident. You’ve got the fly and you know it works just be confident, don’t be nervous, just keep your rod down, and keep stripping. It’s a numbers game but eventually, you’re going to get one that’s going to eat.
Flylords: What’s up next for you in 2019?
Keith: In 2019, I’ve got a fishing Cameroon, for Nile Perch. I’m going to look at the new lodge out there. And then I’m fortunate enough to come back here after that and may head out with a good friend of mine. Then we’re heading to Bhutan, we’re fishing some of the waters Ollie’s just fished. Except we do it with a helicopter, and there’s just two of us fishing. That’s a real treat for me. Those two trips are the ones I’m looking forward to. That’s on my bucket list and a few fish I’ve never caught so I’m extremely excited about it.
Many thanks to Keith Rose-Innes for sharing with us. Check out his adventures to Cameroon on his Instagram, here!
Also, follow along with the film tour @flyfishingfilmtour to see where they will be next!
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This interview was conducted by Flylords team member, Collin Terchanik.