SITUATED off the eastern coast of Southern Africa in the rich, incredibly warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and actually slightly larger in land mass than France.
In addition to chameleons, fruit bats, lizards, tree frogs and snakes found nowhere else on this planet [there are 80 species of snakes alone and strangely not one of them is poisonous] the salt water sports fishing both off shore and around the countless jungle-clad islands that comprise this huge archipelago are quite phenomenal.
Our base was Turtle Bay Camp on Kalakajour Island which lies over 40 miles south west of Nosy Be in the islands north west sector and accessible only by boat.
Following flights from Heathrow to Paris and Paris to the Capital of Madagascar Antananarivo, we than took a short domestic flight to Nosy Be where from the port at Hellville, our nine man party was met by Fergus O’Brien [a genial South African] and skipper of 28 foot ‘Pinch of Salt’.
And close on three hours later we finally arrived on Kalakajour Island, which is literally, everyone’s idea of a Robinson and Crusoe existence.
Heavily clad in dense jungle and only 8 km in perimeter, Kalakajour is in fact a typical ‘desert island’ with an equally ‘basic’ fishing camp within a stones throw of the ocean, and to die-for sunsets and sunrises – wherever you point the camera.
Initially we found fly fishing and spinning from the shore very difficult due to steep-sided rock faces around which it was impossible to walk on. So we concentrated on trolling, drifting along the shoreline of our own and other islands, and drifting over deep water over 10 miles out close to the blue water drop off. Then Fergus informed us that two small boats for exploring the inshore deep water gully areas around the island are already on their way for us!
We trolled up a couple of oceanic bonito for cut bait and had enormous fun pulling up the most brightly coloured reef fish you have ever scene whilst drifting using two-hook rigs over pinnacles and ledges in the 40 80 foot depth band.
Species such as trigger fish, rock hind, hogfish, snappers, coral rock cod, tomato sea bass and many others. Some of the smaller specimens were put back down near the bottom on heavier gear only to be grabbed and the trace bitten through by much larger predators.
At this point I decided to give my vertical jigging outfit an airing with a 250 g Benthos speed, butterfly jig and single assist hook, tied to a 12 foot 100lbs mono rubbing leader [to withstand abrasion against the rocks] which was joined to the 80lbs braid reel line with an ‘Albright’ knot.
A fast retrieve Torium 30 reel completed the outfit, and down to the bottom went the jig in over 200 feet of water.
After touching down [surprisingly quickly in such depths, but that’s the beauty of butterfly jigs compared to pirks] I repeatedly worked that bottom 50 feet of water, and was rewarded with a large squirrel fish, little bigger than the jig, on only the second drop.
A couple of minutes later I felt a savage ‘bang’ on the rod tip followed by a feeling of weightlessness.
Yes, the 100lbs rubbing leader tied to the solid ring on the hook link had been bitten through. Possibly a cuda, shark or a wahoo.
So I incorporated a 20 inch, 100lbs test wire trace between jig and rubbing leader to alleviate this happening again which I’m pleased to say did not. But I did have a huge fish immediately afterwards, rip over 40 yards of braid from the reel [the clutch wound up so hard I could not pull line off] as it dived for the bottom before slipping the hook.
Boy was I gutted, because the unseen monster, with its power diving and head shaking suggested a big GT [giant trevally] one of the very species we had come to catch.
Only a few minutes later however just up from the bottom in 220 feet of water over went the rod again as line peeled from the reel. But this fight was entirely different and easily controllable, and following a great arm wrenching scrap, up through the clear water depths came a stunningly coloured rock cod of around 30lbs.
This was followed, also from depths in excess of 200 feet by another rock cod of almost twice the size, which for the first couple of minutes power-dived so hard, I thought I was going to be pulled over the side.
What incredible, gut busting fishing.