Video of the Week: SUDAN

For our latest video of the week, we had the chance to talk with Alex Blackwell, videographer for Jon B., about their trip to Sudan and their experiences there.

FlyLords: Tell us about how this trip came about.

Alex: When this trip first came to our attention, we were reached out to by Capt Jako Lucas of Capt Jack Productions. World class fly fisherman, film maker, you guys know the drill. He had set this trip up through African Waters, an extremely reputable guide outfitter that handles African based trips to remote locations. Their main point of contact is Wild Sea Expedition, we spent the majority of our trip with them & dealt with African Waters’ Guide, Brent Poultney. He’s been guiding with Wild Sea Expedition for the last 4 years.

This was the first guided trip to the Southern Red Sea. Wild Sea Expedition had acquired an old diving boat, Don Questo, for this mission. It was a bit rugged, but perfect for what we were looking to do. Normally they run trips to the Nubian Flats near the Egyptian Sudanese border, but our trip took place over 100 miles SSE of Port Sudan on small atolls & archipelagos that have rarely (or most likely never) seen a fly or fishing lure before.

After launching from Port Sudan and making our way into these untouched waters, we would take small boats called Pangas to the reefs edge & crawl inside these protected islands. Inside we found flourishing ecosystems. Sand flats contrasted the coral reefs that lined the islands edge, with gin clear water. Giant Trevally, Bluefin Trevally, Bohar Snapper, Marbled Grouper, Triggerfish were littered throughout. The occasional Napoleon Wrasse, Sweet Lips, & Permit would show themselves, but never were quite in casting range.

Once on the flats your group (normally 2 anglers) would be accompanied by a guide. We would alternate between stalking flats fish with teasing bigger reef fish from the edge. You’d always be strapped with a 12wt & an 8 wt, but ideally you’d want to have a 10wt with you just in case that elusive permit showed up.

Flies were primarily alphlexo crabs or small crab patterns for fish on the flats, while the Giant Trevally flies were size 10/0 hooks and all of 8 inches long. We brought along some Tarpon fly tackle along, but quickly learned we were dealing with an entirely different class of fish.

15-20lb tippet was standard for the flats.
150-200lb leader was standard for the reef’s edge.

The contrast in tackle was absolutely stupid. You think you come prepared for GT’s knowing they’re only 15-25kg class fish, but you soon realize even a 15kg sized fish can absolutely destroy your gear in the blink of an eye.

The GT’s eluded us on the fly, but our friend’s Mick & Ben from Australia were able to come tight on one fish over the course of 12 days of fishing

But we weren’t there to just fly fish, we were there to throw giant stick baits and poppers as well. That’s where we had the best luck. The boat probably caught over 40 GT’s, and we were told that was extremely slow.

FlyLords: What was the highlight of the trip?

Alex: The highlight of the trip was definitely the entire experience. Going into these exploratory trips you never know what’s going to happen. You just place yourself in a situation that seems productive & you cast until your shoulder feels like it’s going to fall out of the socket.

We caught over 16 different species of fish, using everything from big poppers to small freshwater bass tackle to flies.

We stepped foot on islands that have probably never seen a “modern day” angler & witnessed what a tropical ecosystem looks like without the influence of man. It was truly eye opening.

One of the trips where you look back & go, “Wow, did we really just do that!”

The fishing was slow at times, we dealt with cold fronts that dropped temperatures from 91 degree Fahrenheit to 65 the next day. Winds sustained at over 25 knots on numerous days. We didn’t have the best conditions over the course of our 12 days of fishing, but when the weather cooperated – it was world class.

Hopefully some of our pictures do it justice.

FlyLords: I heard you got to knock off some personal accomplishments on the fly. Tell us about that.

Alex: Yeah, it’s always a challenge putting down the camera when the fishing is red hot. But being that we were in Sudan for 14 days I was able to take some time & focus on my true passion, fishing.

I’ve traveled all around the US & abroad chasing fish on fly. From Bonefish and Permit in Belize to King Salmon in Alaska. When this trip came to my attention, I knew I wanted to target Triggerfish.

The Triggerfish is a Staple in Sudan. The small Atolls & Archipelagos we explored in the South Red Sea were littered with them. Singles cruising & tailing down the beach, packs of two or three fish grubbing on the sand flats. It’s a sight fisherman’s eden.

Jon was struggling on his second day targeting Triggers to come tight on fly. Everything that could go wrong, did. Fish lodging themselves into coral, tackle failure, pulled hooks, you name it. After “partially” landing his first Trigger, Jon handed the rod over to me and said “I’m done! It’s your turn.”

Getting these Triggers to hone in on your fly isn’t the biggest hurdle, it’s the Hookset. You lay out a 30ft cast, 5 ft past the fish, trying to intersect their path, it’s flats fishing 101. Your strips slowly drag your crab fly into their path & they immediately show interest. Every strip feels like an eternity, pulling a foot of line over the course of 3-4 seconds. Your knees are shaking, sweat dripping into your eyes, just waiting to feel the sensation of weight on the end of your fly line. When that fish finally eats, it feels like you’ve come tight onto a rock. Your running back, waist deep in the water, just hoping to put the fish onto the reel. And when it all comes together, it happens! The reel starts screaming, you’re into your backing in the blink of an eye & you come to the realization that “it’s happening”!

The approach to these fish is eerily similar to stalking Bonefish on a flat. The eat is so subtle, you tend to miss the first, second, even third eat. But the reward for all that stalking & patience is a colored out fish that feels like it’s better placed in a children’s coloring book than in the middle of nowhere Sudan.

Catching my first Trigger on fly is going to be hard to live down, I’m addicted from this point on. I could spend days chasing those fish on an 8wt – it’s everything you want out of a sight fished scenario.

FlyLords: How were you carrying camera gear in this harsh environment?

Alex: I was carrying our camera arsenal in a Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack. It’s one of the toughest backpacks on the market when it comes to being waterproof and dealing with harsh environments. I never left the boat without the Sony A7III & Sony A6300, always had the 16-35mm F/2.8 G Master & 70-200mm F/2.8 G Master lens, my DJI Mavic 2 Pro & DJI Smart Controller, a handful of extra SD & Micro SD cards in a PolarPro hard case, 3 external 10,000 MHA Anker batteries, 2 additional USB C cables, 9 Fully Charged GoPro Batteries for our 2 GoPro Hero 8’s, and a GoPro Hero 6 in an Underwater Dome Housing. To say we were ready for anything was an understatement.

The Fishpond Thunderhead backpack held up with no leaks for 12 days exploring 7 different islands in some of the harshest weather & terrain conditions I’ve ever experienced. One splash of saltwater in that backpack could have resulted in thousands of dollars lost. She held up like a champ.

This interview was conducted by FlyLords team member Conner Grimes (@doublehaulmedia).

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