Now on to day 4 I think the whole group was amazed at how fresh we felt despite a lot of traveling, a reasonable amount of walking and of course some hard fishing. However ...
Chris Yrazabal who operates the Sightcast team who looked after us use these brilliant Pangas to ferry their clients from island to island. Quick, comfortable and reliable there is plenty of room for gear, with rods neatly stowed in racks along each side of the boat. Leaving more than enough room for tackle backs, anglers and of course the obligatory cooler box. Prepared by our fantastic Posada (Acuarela Lodge) the coolers came complete with fresh salads, sandwiches, biscuits for a sugar rush, watermelon and of course gallons of water. Just the kind of refreshment needed after hours under the sun on a flat. Its well worth remembering too that eating and drinking are not the only important factors to remaining well on these tropical trips, cover up well with a high factor sunblock, use a lip block too and I just cannot imagine a day on the flats anymore without a Buff. These are amazing and especially the new angler series incorporating UV protection which you can see here.
Here's a Buff in use covering my rather large ears! It is also covering my neck which if exposed to the sun is bound to cause illness at some point, be it sickness/diarrhoea within hours or of course the possibility of the big C. I also use my Buff to cover the rest of my face during especially hot periods and when fishing around mangroves the mosi's have no chance of getting up my nose! The cool new shark and offshore patterns don't make them that hard to wear anyway and they cost so little that investing in one for a trip is no hardship. Again I always look to what the guides are wearing and without fail all of them were covered up with Buffs, especially as the sun grew more intense through the day.
The invisible man a.k.a. Al Lambert sporting his Buff and a little snapper caught in the Mangroves. During this session Cayito our guide called to me to head back to the Panga. Thinking that Alasdare had not heard and was deeply engrossed casting at a Mangrove with his back to us I shouted loudly to him. In fact he was staring straight back at me. Very funny at the time!
While there are ridiculous amounts of shallow flats, mangrove areas, beach's and pancake flats, they are surrounded on all sides by deep ocean. Here is the entrance to a lagoon showing the considerable water movement present. This kind of dark water next to light is a particularly good place to look for Cuda. I didn't fish for these seriously during this trip but must do in the future as there are plenty to have a go at. In fact a few were landed during the week by boatmen and we ate a couple back at the lodge. Wow, Cuda is delicious! Like eating chicken. Sadly a couple of my Bonefish fell foul of these aggressive predators, one while still on the line which hit with such ferocity out of no where that I jumped out of my skin and the other had been revived only to swim straight off the flat and disappear in an explosion of water and teeth. Believe me the flats are a tough place to live out your days ... unless you are a Cuda or a Shark!
During our entrance to this lagoon another amusing moment took place as the boatman decided to take a closer look at the mangrove with Cayito the guide bellowing instructions in his ear! Look out for my mission in possible style decamp from the bow and the wave of sympathetic laughter that follows from Sam and Al! And on a serious note see the beautiful colours of the water, the clarity and the big blue sky ... life in the tropics is so tough!
Wildlife is an all important part of the Los Roques experience. You will see many different birds, lizards, some big spiders and of course Sharks plus a variety of fish. Now and again you will also catch a glimpse of Turtles, such as these that were being held in a tank ready for release back into the wild. At least that's what the locals told me, I hope they were not about to become soup!
The penultimate day to our trip was awesome, in fact all the days were. But getting a triple hook up on Gummy Minnows was a highlight and lots of fun with guide Raphael.
Especially as the fish were a little like those Russian Dolls ... Big (see mine!), Sam's ... medium and Stu's .... little!
The last day came all too soon. It was cool to head out for the session in the company of Stuart and Alasdare who just a few years ago had never picked up a rod. After a fly fishing course the pair became hooked and met for the first time during a hosted trip that I ran to Los Roques with Aardvark McLeod in Feb 2007. Our venue for the day under the watchful eye of Jesus (a guide who I think has vastly improved in the past few years) was Dos Mosquises, a series of islands 30 to 45 minutes from Gran Roque, situated in the far South West. It is one of the most heavenly places I have ever come across ... it was very hard to leave.
But there was fishing to be done and I was chuffed to hook up a fish patrolling the margins on one of Jesus's mini Clousers. As you can see ... I am just a little happy .... note the customary silly "I have a Bonefish on!" grin!
And the fish was gorgeous, a perfect Bone which gave me a decent scrap in the waves of the beach. This is why I love Los Roques so much, the versatile terrain. I am convinced it is the most diverse Bonefishing in the world. Contrary to popular belief these fish also do not require 25 yard casts into a 30 mile per hour wind. Instead get practiced in short, accurate casts. Gentle presentation. Casting off opposite shoulders. While also being able to kiss the water to stay low enough in a short range attack while a guide shouts instructions in your ear! Double haul would also be helpful. If you need to learn you can book a course with me right here.
Lunch was enjoyed in the shade on a little island all on its own. Stuart and Alasdare mulled over flies and tactics meanwhile ....
I amused myself by fishing for lizards. Water Melon was the top bait, followed by ham, then bread ... water melon seeds were no good so don't tie imitations for your next trip. Who needs Bonefish when you have Lizards! Watching them charge after a bait attached to some 12lb Rio Fluoroflex + (it had to be fluorocarbon!) was very amusing. Well, I found it funny anyway.
Where was Henry Gilbey when we needed him! With his expert eye he would have made so much more of this shot than I did with a hand held digital. You can see just the kind of result Henry comes up with here in his brilliant Los Roques photo essay from the 2007 trip. See the fish in the foreground with Stuart Forsyth manning the rod. I had been tracking down a bunch of Parrot fish which next time I visit Los Roques I will fish for seriously. Meanwhile Stu spotted a pod of Bonefish, chucked at them and hooked up. He had to play the fish hard and fast due to the serious amount of coral in the area. I forgot the Parrots and got behind the camera. Spotting his own fish, casting to and hooking it is a serious achievement considering this is only his 2nd ever Bonefish excursion with a gap of over 2 years.
And what a fine fish it turned out to be. I love these shots with the fish still in the water. After all that adrenalin it is a quiet moment and then seeing the fish swim away into the clear waters of Los Roques does something for the soul which is hard to describe. I can think of only one word ... magical.
Shark Attack. My adrenalin was upped again later in the day when I was abused by two fish, both hooked at short range on beautiful pancakes in the Dos Mosquises region. The first one ate a DNA fry, shot off and my line whipped up behind the butt. Gone. A few minutes later the best fish of the trip that I had a shot at (8lb plus) came into view. Arse in the water, heart rate up and adrenalin pumping I got the fish to eat the fly just yards from the tip ring. It then went into turbo charge in seconds and off the flat, my reel squealing! Afraid that any moment I may lose my fish to the coral I was off in hot pursuit and while stood on the edge of the coral with the deep blue ocean before me I felt suddenly that I may actually land this fish. Then the line just kinda fell limp. It couldn't have been coral, the fish was way out and my knots had held all week. I felt dejected. Then the boatman started waving frantically at me to go back to the boat. With all these fish on the flat and just 1/2 an hour of our trip to go? Not on your life! I just kept shouting "Mas fish, mas fish!!!". Then in the distance I heard Alasdare shout "SHARK"! Turning around I froze as just 30 feet away were 4 BIG Lemon sharks hunting along the edge of the coral. It was one of the most amazing sights I have seen and I was so awe struck that I fumbled the camera but never got to it before they were gone. A shark had devoured my last fish of the trip and it was only later that the boatman said that in fact at one point he could see 7 Lemons up on the surface! It was only afterwards that I realised how stupid I had been to follow that fish to the edge of such deep water, had I tried to land it and the pack had gone into a frenzy ....
And that exciting moment was the last fishing of the trip. For now our trip was at an end, just memories. Before us lay the journey back which I have to admit I never enjoy. Getting out of Venezuela seems harder than getting in! But I don't think anybody in the group begrudges a little discomfort during the journey, this is after all world class fishing. I feel privileged to have hosted a group there for the 2nd time and I am still absolutely buzzing after a few days back in blighty. I have a feeling I could be buzzing for some time yet and already I am planning our next visit which looks like February 2010. And if my words and pictures have not convinced you to visit this archipelago then go to Los Roques for the good looking fruit. Here's Sam getting cosy with one of them on our last night out on the Cerveza!
Thanks again Nick.
Had a brilliant time and company could not have been better.