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Remember subscriber Gary Anderson’s less than positive report in the July issue about a trip to the Nubian Flats off the coast of Sudan, handled for him by Tourette Fishing (www. tourettefishing.com) based in South Africa? Well, Tourette’s Rob Scott weighed in this month with the following must-read rebuttal:
I am writing in response to Gary Anderson’s report on our Nubian Flats exploratory trip. Firstly, I should point out, Gary Anderson is a good friend and client of ours here at Tourette Fishing, and we look forward to making many more memories with Gary and his fishing partner, John Gregori, in the future. They are both not strangers to fly fishing exploration work, so I really appreciate their input. Unfortunately, on this particular trip, our views differ slightly.
I’ll start with the positive things about the report. Gary touches on the safety issue and the fact that there is a well-established scuba diving industry along the Sudan coast. This dive industry welcomes, literally, thousands of European tourists each year, with zero instances of compromise on safety. A perception of danger in regard to traveler safety to the Nubian Flats has been our biggest problem regarding promoting the area as a viable fly fishing destination, and it is something we hope to change slowly over the next few seasons. Gary’s report, which depicts the Nubian Flats as a safe and easy place to travel to, is the kind of firsthand report that we hope will encourage other international visitors to travel to Sudan.
On the downside, Gary’s report paints a pretty bleak picture of the fishing. I think it is fairer to judge a fishery/experience on the number of opportunities one has than on the number of fish landed. Nothing cuts a guide deeper than getting back from a good day that provided ample opportunities only to have a client say it was disappointing. For example: One of the best days I have ever guided was on another trip to the Nubian Flats. The client and I were looking for giant trevally (GT) in the afternoon, and in total we had nine shots at big fish. Some were missed due to angler error, there were some snapped fly lines, and some were missed merely because of the sheer volume of adrenaline that comes with GT fishing. On returning to the mother ship that evening, we learned the other group had caught some nice GTs and bluefin tuna.
When asked how our day had gone, my client said it had gone badly because he didn’t get any fish. I merely laughed (as, luckily, I happen to be good friends with these particular clients), and pointed out that we had had ample opportunities. In truth, if we had landed half of the fish we’d had chances at, it would have been one of the best experiences of this client’s fly fishing career. My point here is that it’s important to separate what opportunities at fish are available from the total number of fish that are landed.
I am not saying this axiom applies neatly to the week in question, but the report I got back from the guides that week does paint a different picture than the one that emerged in your great publication. Here is a link to a report from Mark Murray, one of our guides, that week: http://blog.tourettefishing.com/nubian-flats-exploratory-week-4-14-to-21-april/. Blog reports can be misleading, of course, as they often try to get all the highlights of a week into a few paragraphs, but on my nightly satellite phone conversations with Mark he always reported the same thing, namely: “There are loads of opportunities at fish.”
I think one thing that compounds the problem here is the high level of expectancy that surrounds trips to tropical flats. Photos showing endless expanses of crystal-clear water, along with big fish, create false impressions that flats fly fishing is easy. In truth, it is physically demanding and very technical in most cases. For someone to enjoy a trip to a place like the Nubian Flats to the fullest, I think it is critically important that he keep his expectations in check.
One thing that Gary points out in his report is undoubtedly true—namely, there aren’t big shoals of baitfish and bonefish at this destination. It is not that they have been removed from the ecosystem, but merely that this is a marine ecosystem that doesn’t consist of big bait balls. The ecosystem is as unique as the destination.
As regards bonefish, I should point out that we have indeed found them to be erratic and unpredictable at this destination. When we first explored the Nubian Flats we weren’t even sure if we would find any of these wonderful fish. As it turned out, we did find them on that first trip, and ever since then we have seen and caught them but never with any consistency. The bones we see are often very tricky, and fly refusals (combined with complete ignoring of any flies) are a lot more common than eats. I realize this is a bit mind boggling, as one would expect bonefish that have never seen a fly to be incredibly easy. That is just not the case on the Nubian Flats. In sum, there are always going to be chances at bones here, but bones are never going to be predictable enough here to justify travel to the Nubian Flats. Luckily, there are more than ample opportunities at other species.
In closing, I am privileged enough to explore and fish, on an ongoing basis, some of the best- and least-known fisheries on the planet. Exploring is a cornerstone of our business, and we will continue to push the envelope with regard to fly fishing where no one else has previously fly-fished. It is what gets us out of bed each morning, and in all likelihood we will be gray and old before we consider slowing down. In all my travelling, personal fly fishing, and personal guiding experiences, I have never been as excited about a new destination as I am about the Nubian Flats.
When we set out on this journey to explore the Nubian Flats, we weren’t hoping for the next Seychelles. We didn’t picture ourselves having a conversation about how the GTs here are comparable to Cosmoledo, or the bonefish like those at Alphonse. We wanted to develop a unique fly fishing experience that provided world-class flats fishing at an affordable price. Currently, this trip is half the price of Indian Ocean flats options.
At this point, we have spent a total of 10 weeks exploring the Nubian Flats, and we are exceptionally happy and excited with what we have found. The Nubian Flats are home to possibly the best triggerfishing on the planet. On one weeklong trip we actually had clients land upwards of 60 triggers and 12 big GTs. Plus, in a typical week, the number of opportunities here at bluefin, bohar, and barracuda is more than adequate. On top of this, we have seen and caught permit, milkfish, golden kingfish, bonefish, queenfish, cobia, dogtooth tuna, and king mackerel.
With these 10 weeks of exploratory work under our belts, we are now ready to launch our first full season in 2015. I can only hope that the disappointing review doesn’t affect anyone’s decision to visit the area. This isn’t your typical flats destination, complete with palm trees and 80 percent humidity. The landscape is dry, barren, and hard. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and it offers an overall travel and flats experience that is truly unique. I can’t wait to share this place with many more anglers in the future. Kind regards, Rob Scott.