Yesterday I had the privilege to go out fly fishing on the reef again. The trip involves meeting a local fisherman at the bridge over the Tabia (Tambia) River near Labasa, Fiji.
My local guide is usually a man who is about my age named George better known as Chochee around the area. Every now and then when Chochee is tired from fishing all night his Father, Joe will take me instead. Last year I had an insane day fishing with Joe where I went 0 for 10 on big fish also hooking and promptly losing the largest fish I have ever hooked on a fly rod, a story Joe will never forget and loves to remind me of.
The place that we meet is a small bridge in an extremely rural area of Fiji where seeing a white person jump on a boat arouses the curiosity of any local passing by. Mesmerized locals literally stop what they are doing and gather on the bridge shouting questions at the boat driver in a language that I can’t understand. If I had to guess it would go something like this…
“Hey, what’s with the white boy trying to get on your boat?”
“Oh, just taking him out to the sea to watch him fail at fishing another day.”
“Hahaha, good luck with that, have fun!”
“Work is Work!”
I then try my best to get on the damn boat. It’s a tidal river that is higher during high tide. When it’s low it’s extremely muddy. For a clumsy person like me who’s prone to slipping it can be trouble… Or comedy to any Fijian that happens to be in the right place at the right time.
Once I’m in the boat it’s go time. George has the fastest boat in the entire area and absolutely bombs through the mangrove jungle on the way to the sea. It’s about a ten minute ride through a dense jungle ducking under vines and rounding the meandering muddy waters of the Tabia River. The river spits you out into the estuary, where mangroves give way to wayward palm trees and the horizon opens into a vast panorama of blue lagoons dotted by small green islands.
We head through a labyrinth of shallow reefs by way of a passage that only a local could navigate. The goal is to intercept Fish that patrol these passage ways as the tide changes, looking for predators in wait for baitfish in transit.
This particular day was slow. It’s the tail end of the rainy season and Joe tells me that water clarity is not ideal for fishing. He tells me that even his son had trouble finding fish while diving the night before.
We also run wide circles around sand flats looking for Giant Trevally on the prowl. The most action we had was when both of us noticed a bird flying low to the water preparing to dive. Both of us watched as the bird dove and the water around it erupted with feeding fish.
Immediately I stripped all of my line in as Joe punched the boat into full speed heading as fast as we could toward the bait ball. Joe maneuvered the boat from deep water into the shallow sand flat as he raised the prop and slid the boat into perfect position.
The Trevally were still feeding as we closed in on them just in time to make a cast. But as soon as my line hit the water they were done. They fed one last time about 50 yards west of us and we made one last attempt to reach them in time to no avail.
After that we tried a few more spots but couldn’t find any fish. We drifted over large areas of reef and enjoyed good conversation the entire time. To the Fijian people, especially on the island of Vanua Levu, encounters with Americans are a rarity. They love hearing stories about America. Especially from an Idahoan that has had many encounters with the gigantic wildlife of the Northwestern US. Their favorite topics are usually; Bears, Moose, Cougars, Professional Wrestling, and Donald Trump.
After receiving a beating from the Sea, the Sun, and a sore shoulder from waving around a 12 weight fly rod all day I decided it was time to head back. Joe told me to be ready for a clear day that follows a week of dry weather.
As of now I can’t wait to go back to the sea again. Every day I can see the places that we fish from where I stay and it’s like looking at wrapped presents on the days leading up to Christmas. Until then I’ll keep writing and editing footage from this amazing trip while I dream of future encounters with Giant Trevally.
From Fiji with love,
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