A unique opportunity to participate in a true fishing expedition
In late July of 2020, a small group of anglers will set sail in the remote waters of west Papua aiming for a secluded atoll that we’ve named Napoleon City! Our mission: scout the fishing grounds at one of the most remote and pristine atolls one can find on the map. Once there, our mission is to locate, hook, and land Giant Trevally, Napoleon Wrasse, and many other species. This will be the third phase of our scouting project to this amazing place and we are now beginning to see patterns and locating hot spots for both the fly fishing and spin fishing.
This adventure will cover open sea crossings onboard a luxurious Indonesian style ship called a Pinisi, interactions with isolated Islanders who have blessed us with their permission to visit their islands and fish in their waters, fishing for GT, Napoleon Wrasse, big Bumpies, and Triggers, lengthy evening beer sessions, and plenty of storytelling. All in picture perfect, tropical surroundings.
Although this is a true fishing expedition and dream trip for any angler looking beyond the existing destinations being promoted around the world, this expedition is so much more than just a fishing trip. This is exploring in its purest form, in waters infested by fierce, aggressive Giant Trevally and other species still clueless that such a thing as an angler even exists. This is a journey back in time where we will experience traditional west papuan traditions, dancing, and much more. This is a place and an experience where every participant of the expedition will leave a piece of their soul but take with them memories to last a lifetime.
Our team of fly anglers will mainly be chasing fish on foot, meaning wading along reef edges, sand dunes, and shallow flats areas. Depending on the tide and conditions we will use different tactics to try and locate hunting fish. On an incoming tide we’ve been finding fish pushing in to the flats using channels in the reef, so called GT highways. On outgoing tides we’ve been successful finding and hooking fish moving out using deeper channels from deep within the flats areas. We also see plenty of fish in the waves just outside of the reef. This is super fun as you see GT’s sitting high up in the wave faces, patrolling for pray being pushed out over the reef with the outgoing tide.
We will also cover sand and stone bottom flats looking for tailing Triggerfish, Bonefish, Permit, and more. For the ambitious angler there are huge schools of Green Humphead Parrotfish cruising along the reef edges. So far our attempts to hook one of these beasts have been fruitless but we have no plans of giving up.
Spin fishing for GT, Napo’s and more will mainly be done casting poppers and stick baits covering reef edges and drop offs. Fishing will be done from so called long boats, 6-7 meter outboard vessels powered by 40 hp engines. Since we will arrive during the eastern trade winds we expect an ocean boiling with fish so blue water fishing and jigging will be possible for anyone who wants to give it a try.
Although we have visited this place two times before we still have an endless amount to learn about the fishing here. This time our scouting will take place during the season of the eastern trade winds which brings with it huge schools of fish. When talking to the locals, this is the time to be here. Although our shared knowledge about the area and its fishing is limited, we all share something more important: a deep and true passion for exploration and a burning desire to fish one of the few spots still untouched on this blue planet of ours.
Species and technique
Species likely to encounter on the flats or shallow reef sections
Based on our previous expeditions to this place we know there are GT, Bluefin Trevally, Napoleon Wrasse and Triggers entering the flats and shallow reef sections in search of easy prey. We’ve also caught job fish and been told there are Indo Pacific Permit frequenting parts of the flats. Green Humphead Parrotfish are always present along the reef presenting a real challenge for the ambitious angler.
Giant Trevally is probably everyone’s main target on this trip and they roam the area in great numbers. Giant Trevally prey on basically anything that moves and they have even been observed killing sharks several times their size by repetitively ramming them head on in the liver until the shark dies. They normally feed on prey like fish, crabs, lobsters, squid, eels and Mantis Shrimps. However, and luckily for us fly anglers, one of their favorite prey is the wide variety of smaller fish that populate the flats. Those will mainly consist of shoaling fish like Mullet, Bonefish, smaller Trevally species and more. Any smaller fish is smart to stay as far away from a pack of hunting GT’s as possible. When we are searching for them on the flats we are always carrying our GT rod in hand with the fly in the other, ready to go. From the moment you spot a moving fish you generally have a few seconds to make a cast. The key however is to remain calm under pressure. Once you see what direction the fish is moving, make a cast about 3-4 rod lengths out of its way and start doing long, fast strips. If the fish sees the fly it will be on it in no time. Most times the GT will attack the fly immediately and all you do is keep the rod low and strip hard until the line is ripped out of your hand and flying out from your reel. Remember to always keep the rod low and fight the fish with the butt of your rod. You need to stop a GT as fast as you can as he will aim for the reef edge where he can cut you off. In the few instances where a GT starts following your fly without attacking, all you can do is keep stripping fast until he either eats or takes off. This especially happens with bigger GT on the flats. Remember to stay as low as possible to avoid being spotted by the hunting fish.
Key recommendation: Prioritize flies that are easy to cast over being pretty to look at. Ideally you should never need more than one or max two false casts in order to make a 10 – 15 meter cast.
Triggers will come in and feed among the coral heads on low tides. You usually see their tails sticking out of the water when they are digging in among the coral looking for pray. This is when we will try to target them with fly rods. One thing to be aware of when hunting triggers is which way the current is going so that you can drift your crab or shrimp imitation into their field of view. Once they are hooked they will run for holes in the reef and your mission is to stop them before they succeed. As with permit we strip until we feel the fish and then do a proper saltwater hookset.
Napoleon Wrasse – perhaps the most beautiful fish on the reef and for many anglers that have spent days, weeks, and months trying to land one, it’s as mythical as a Unicorn. These friendly giants can be encountered along the reef sections, sometimes in shallow water, sometimes deeper. It is more common to find smaller juveniles along the shallow reef sections, which makes them a realistic catch for fly anglers fishing shallow sections for GT and Triggers. The bigger Napo’s tend to prefer deeper water but can hit a surface lure at any time when fished over deep water reefs. If you manage to hook a Napo there is only one thing to do. Full break and STOP it! They will go straight into coral and hide in their holes under rock. This of course is a common theme for the species we hunt this week, as Triggers will do the exact same thing. Although GT’s don’t necessarily go and hide in a hole once hooked they will still circle coral heads and anything sharp they can find trying to cut you off.
Green humphead parrotfish – These guys cruise up and down the reef edges every day, looking for coral to chew on. They can grow up to 1.5 meter in length and if you are fortunate enough to hook one, there is a good chance you won’t see your line or backing again. This is a real dream fish for most anglers and they are plentiful in Napo City. All we need to do is figure out a way to hook them, and yeah, the landing part of course….
Indo Pacific Permit are in the area but during our first two trips we have spent very little time looking for permit specifically. We have however seen a few areas that looks the part. If we run into one we can only hope he’s part of the permit population who actually wants to eat rather than sniff around the fly for a minute before deciding that your perfect crab imitation doesn’t match his current cravings and takes off. The key if you get a shot is to land the fly as close as possible without landing on top of the fish and spooking it. Strip slowly until you feel that the fish on and then set firmly but not violent. Permit have soft tissue around their mouth and rarely comes off once properly hooked.
Milkfish – this torpedo shaped, explosive, giant herring look alike, is pound for pound one of the best fighters in the ocean and should be on every fly anglers top list. Once hooked, these plankton-fuelled torpedos turn into tuned up Ferrari’s on rocket fuel, displaying powerful runs and aerial displays that will have your heart stop several times over. When they enter the flats they are normally relatively easy to spot as their large, v-shaped tailfin tends to protrude the surface while they are covering patches of algae looking for food. Milkfish are omnivores and feed on both algae and plankton. At times when there is an abundance of plankton in the water you can see huge schools of Milkfish swimming with their mouths open in the surface filtering plankton. This is when you are most likely to hook one. We still don’t know if there is Milkfish in the area but it wouldn’t be a far stretch to think so.
Species likely to encounter in deeper water and along the reef
GT, Bluefin Trevally, Napoleon Wrasse, Dogtooth Tuna, Snapper, Grouper, Blacktip sharks, Yellowfin Tuna, Milkfish, Mahi Mahi, Spanish Mackerel, Bonito and more. In deeper water we expect to see Marlin and Sailfish as well.
We will stay on an Indonesian style wooden ship called Pinisi. The ship has a total of 6 guest cabins. Four of these cabins are shared cabins for 2 guests and comes with a comfortable bunk bed and a private bathroom. We also have two private cabins with queen size beds and private bathrooms.
The mothership is very spacious and has plenty of space to relax and just hang out. Most guest cabins are located on the lower deck. The second floor has a nice lounge area with a flatscreen TV and an endless amount of movies, a kitchen, and a big area for storing tackle and bags. The third floor has a large dinner table and eating space in the back. The front has couches and seats to relax in while taking in the views of the ocean. On the top we have a sun deck to enjoy when the sun is not too hot. The sun deck is also a perfect spot to watch the incredible night skies and milky way.