H1 Directors in Paradise! Flyfishing in Anaa Atoll
Ever dreamt about disappearing to a faraway place? Ever sat at your desk and thought about escaping to an island in the middle of nowhere?
HorizonOne’s Directors did recently. Recruitment is an intense, seriously busy industry. Both Simon and David are ‘mad-keen’ fly fisherman so they took a trip to a remote atoll in French Polynesia to test their skills and escape. For Simon, who founded HorizonOne ten years ago next year, this was during his first full month off in a decade!
I sat them down to find out more about their adventures on this incredible trip.
So boys, it looks like you had an amazing time! Where the heck was this island?
SC: We went to a place called Anaa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. It’s about two hours by plane from the main island of Tahiti. But basically, we were in the middle of nowhere!
What do people do there?
SC: One of the main industries there has traditionally been Copra – a coconut product. While it’s definitely not a tourist destination, fly fishing tourism is a fledgeling industry that will help the villagers develop more sustainable incomes. We were 2 of 5 ‘Europeans’ on the island, with around 250 villagers living fairly subsistence based lives.
Our host was Alex Filous. An incredible guy who has spent 2 years on the island studying our target species, the Pacific Bonefish. He’s doing one of the most comprehensive studies on bonefish ever, tracking their movements and monitoring behaviour.
DH: Our guide, Raphael and his son Gananui, does about 10 – 20 tours every year. We are looking at sponsoring the project next year. We will help setup a basic fly manufacturing operation so other fishing groups can access the secret local flies, and to create income for the locals. We will also look at sponsoring Alex Filous’s science research on bonefish breeding behaviour.
What kind of fishing did you do?
DH: It was all catch and release fly fishing on sand flats. We were surrounded by the most stunning scenery and walked up to 12 kilometres each day hunting the flats. We caught mainly Bonefish but we also caught some triggerfish, flute fish, and bluefin, striped and yellow spot Trevally. Bonefish are still commonly eaten on the island, but our guide is trying to encourage more sustainable fishing practices so the island remains a fly fishing mecca.
What surprised you the most about the trip?
DH: The quality of the accommodation was a real surprise, it definitely exceeded my expectations. There’s also a lot of traditional French architecture, showing the influence of French colonialism which was really interesting to see in such a remote place.
SC: One of the other big surprises was how happy the people are. It sounds cliché but they really seem so much happier than those of us living the City life. We took some gifts along with us and gave them to the kids in the village. Soccer balls, colouring books, and they really loved it. Our plan was to just give them to the school to hand out to the kids, but the school teacher organised for a group of the students to perform a dance for us to say thank you. It was very touching to see how much they appreciated the gifts.
DH: It’s a very different way of life there. There is a real sense of community. One night we went for a bike ride and came across young people singing and dancing in their front yards, competition spear throwing in the park, and generally hanging out and having fun.
What was the highlight of the trip?
SC: Our last day there was absolute magic. The weather was perfect and the water was crystal clear. Visibility in the water was incredible, and the fish were ‘on the chew’. Once we worked out what they were eating and switched to the right flies, it was one of the best day’s fishing I’ve ever had. Dave and I both caught our best ever bonefish with Dave catching the island record size, 68cm, and I caught a trophy Bluefin trevally.
DH: Absolutely. We went out on a lagoon that day and the water level had been rising but there was no wind. It was just absolutely perfect conditions.
And the low point?
DH: There wasn’t actually a low point, it was almost the dream trip. Well unless you count us both being out of action for a whole day due to a serious case of Pacific Island Belly……we were very glad we had separate rooms for a while there.
And of course, who caught the biggest fish?
*Editors Note: both David and Simon claim they caught the biggest fish, but in the interest of fairness lets just leave it at this: Simon caught the most fish while David caught the biggest one.
Trip organised by Fly Odyssey UK