“There are three things you can see from space, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China and a school of Bumphead Parrotfish.” This is always my introductory line to, arguably, the most interesting fish found on the flats of Providence and Farquhar Atolls in the Seychelles. Giant green tails showing at what looks like a mile away, big fish moving slowly in big schools, it’s the recipe for a unique flats experience. They are really easy to see but a lot more difficult to catch. They are space aliens that live underwater.
Tip 1. Stealth and Precision.
After spotting one on the flats, the sheer size with lead you to the proverbial GT mode and lash a cast out with no thought to presentation and your position in relation to the fish. Bumpies, as we call them, are incredibly intuitive and have a complex social structure which makes them keenly aware in shallow water. Often times they’ll pick your number from a long distance and just keep themselves out of casting distance. After chasing them down and finally getting a shot they explode as, in unison they spook off the flat. Slow yourself down. With these fish one accurate cast is always better than 10.
Tip 2. Position, Position, Position.
Branching off from the last point, your positioning in relation to the school is vital. The ideal scenario to fish for Bumpies is with them tailing and feeding directly towards you. This is the best chance of getting the fly to be the first thing they come across as opposed to the leader or fly line coming in from the side. Once the fly is placed stay still, they’ll hear boots shuffling in the sand or turtle grass and start to broadside you and move on. If you don’t connect, wait until they have moved a good distance past you and work on wading back into the best position.
Tip 3.This is an eat you’ve never had before.
We have had many “tribal councils” about what the Bumpies are feeding on and why they only come and tail on the flats of Providence and Farquhar Atolls. We, of course, have theories that have proven to be fruitful in getting them to eat a fly. A Bumpie is not in a sense a predator of the fly. They don’t smash it when they see the fly as the Trevally species would, neither do they move and tail trying to pin it to the bottom as a Triggerfish or a Bonefish would.
The fly must be in their lane and not moving at all. There is no way that you can move them to induce an eat. A yard might as well be a mile with these fish. It’s akin to the Permit as it needs the fly right in a zone where it can pick it up. The eat is very subtle for a fish of their size, there might be a slight bump or an unnatural tension on the line but the best way I know when to set the hook is when there is any slight movement of the tip of the fly line.
The set is a small hard strip to try and get the hook to puncture and a lift of the rod (I know, this is a criminal offense in all flats fishing), but as opposed to lifting into a trout it’s a lift using the butt and first section of the rod to drive that hook home and if anything, slide the hook across the infamous beak and get purchase in an overhanging flap of skin on the side of the mouth.
Tip 4. Have Proper Tackle.
Leader: After years of fishing for these brutes, the guides of Flycastaway have formulated the strongest leader possible in fluorocarbon less than 30lbs. A combination of double to single furled butt section and a bimini’ed section of tippet to connect to the butt section, then to an Improved Homer Rohde to the fly, the pulling and holding power of this leader is immensely strong.
Rod: The paradox is seeing a fish so large you might think you need the big gun 12 weight, but this is way too heavy for these spooky fish. The ideal rod is a 10 weight with a 10 weight fly line or a 9 weight with a 9 weight fly line. The subtlety of these presenting rods is what is needed to be able to present the fly accurately to the fish.
Reel: Most reels these days have good enough drag systems to be able to handle these fish, but the reel should be loaded with at least 150 yards of 50lb braid backing. The Bumpies are often found tailing on areas of the flat where off the edge there are massive coral gardens. These fish are dirty fighters when they get into these coral gardens so you need backing that can hold up being wrapped around a coral head.
Fly Selection: We almost exclusively use weighted crab patterns that will get down and almost plug on the bottom. Colour is mostly determined by the bottom substrate, darker tans for turtle grass, whites and mottled tans for sandy and broken coral substrate and weirdly enough bright orange for most circumstances.
Tip 5. Win the Fight with Torque
You’re taking a 10 weight to a gunfight. These fish are big and incredibly powerful, if I had a word to describe their physicality in a fight it would be torque. They will blast off straight into the backing once hooked and continually take more line as they fight to get to deeper water, you’re going to see a lot of your backing. They will then hold broadside into a current forcing you to have to horse the fish back in. They will test your tackle to the absolute extreme and you have to use patience and intelligent rod angles to win the fight. There is no easy way with Bumpies, the fight might take up to half an hour, so you have stay focussed and stay patient. On the other side of the coin is that you are going to lose fish, a lot of fish. We have worked on a rough a ratio, for every 4 fished hooked 1 will come to hand. There are exceptions, we had one client hook and lose 11 fish before landing his 12th on the last afternoon.
They are going to test your resolve, in getting them to eat the fly and then getting them to the net, it is a completely unique experience and one that is never forgotten. Enjoy it and hold on tight!
The Potential World Record
With the ever-expanding world of flyfishing and the new species that are caught, the Bumphead Parrotfish has made its first attempt at an IGFA all-tackle world record.
Angler Mark Weeks and myself were fishing in an intricate lagoon system on Providence Atoll in the Seychelles when a school of Bumpies was spotted moving over an open sand section of the deeper lagoon, Mark was keenly alert and sent a cast barely longer than the leader landing in front of the school, after letting the fly drop to the bottom he stayed in tension as the school moved over the fly. The school split and we thought the shot was done, but with a slight tilt one fish moved on the fly and almost instantly blasted off into the deep water with the school, Mark holding on tight as it went. Luckily enough were able to get onto the skiff and maneuver through a minefield of shallow coral managing to keep the fish from getting underneath any, after 30 minutes of back and forth I managed to peg the skiff onto an almost exposed turtle grass finger and jump into the water, then slide the net under the brute and almost forget to catch my breath looking at the size of the fish. It was unique in that Mark is an avid member of the IGFA and had his digital scale with him.
For the first time a Bumpie was weighed, we put it in the net and it came to 102 pounds of green Fury. It proved that we were underestimating the size of these fish by a long way. The record attempt has been submitted and we eagerly await the verdict.
Article from Brendan Becker a Flycastaway Guide. The company is a group of specialist fly fishing guides in the Indian Ocean (Seychelles & St Brandon’s) and Africa. Check them out online at https://www.flycastaway.com/.