David my fishing partner and I would be guided by Kyle, who like most of the guide team is from South Africa and is currently doing his third season’s guiding with the Alphonse Group. On the trip over to St Francois, Kyle explained we would be starting in Cosmic Lagoon. The Lagoon is quite simply postcard perfect and you would struggle to find a more heavenly place to fish. When the tides are correct you are fishing in warm shallow water with almost perfect visibility. These conditions are what makes Alphonse and St Francois one of the most prolific bonefishing fisheries on the planet. If bonefishing is your bag and you just want to fish for these very sporty fish, there is no reason you can’t catch forty plus per day here. If I could only fish for one species for the rest of my life the bonefish would be up there on my list. My background is more hunting than fishing I love the hunt for me sight fishing for a tailing fish is the best type of fishing out there. With the bones if you want to cast into a shoal of fish and get the numbers then you can or if you want to stalk the larger wilier fish they will be there for you. It is that variety on the hunt and their ability to strip line off a reel that I love. However, this tale is not about the bonefish but the triggerfish, a fish I would shortly be addicted to trying to catch.
Triggerfish are extraordinary. They have an oval-shaped highly compressed body, with a large head that houses their strong jaws, home to teeth designed to crush shells. Their name comes from their dorsal fins which are normally retracted but when they are spooked they can raise it and lock it into place with a second fin. The only way to retract the fin is to press down on the smaller second fin, hence the name trigger fish. These fins are commonly used as a defence mechanism against predators but they also use them to stop fishermen dragging them out of a hole in the coral. The triggerfish feed on bottom dwelling crustaceans and molluscs, as a result they are normally fished for in shallow waters where you can see them more clearly.
We moved onto one of the coral fingers. I was equipped with my Thomas & Thomas 10 weight, with a floating line with a crab fly pattern, the trigger’s favourite food. The hunt was on. The conditions were border-line perfect, the visibility was fantastic, the tide was dropping and the fish were happy. The first fish we encountered was a moustache triggerfish who was feeding away quite happily. I made the cast leading the fish by a rod length. It was a good cast but the fish did not think so, and as the fly hit the water he raced to the edge and disappeared into a hole. With the triggers there seems no rhyme nor reason why they spook, you can land a perfect cast and they run or you can hit them on the head and they carry on feeding. Unlike freshwater the saltwater environment is a true dog eat dog world. As you walk across the flats you see fish the size of your finger nail running for their lives from fish the size of your little finger. This carries on up to the sharks that make you want to run for your life…so its no wonder the triggers are so jumpy.
The next fish was a nice yellow margin trigger; again he was feeding away quite contently his tail flapping away above the surface like a sail in the wind. I took the shot, the fish reacted instantly and went for the fly. I felt the tap of him hitting it, I did a strip strike, nothing another tap, another strike; this went on for about six strikes before the hook set. Off he went, as the line tightened the leader parted, some choice expletives followed. I reeled in, by the looks of the leader he had bitten straight through the knot. Triggerfish have incredibly strong jaws and have been known to bite a gamakatsu hook in half. We tied on another crab and started the process again. As the day progressed, my fishing partner, David and I took it in turns at various other triggers with varying degrees of success but no fish landed. Kyle was dragging the skiff with David up the front waiting for his turn at a trigger shot, I was standing up on the poling platform of the skiff when I saw a big bow wave about 400 yards across the finger, a Giant Trevally incoming. I jumped down and grabbed my 12 weight which was set up and ready to go. Kyle and I left the boat with David as we set off to intercept the GT. We got into position with the GT heading straight towards us. As the distance closed I hauled out the brush fly in front of where the fish was heading to, I let it sink, the trap was set. As the fish closed in I started to strip like a maniac, the fish turned and I was sure he was going to come but alas no such luck, he saw us and spooked. More choice expletives.
Back to the triggers. My final trigger shot of the day went to a very nice moustache trigger. My crab plopped in next to his feeding spot and straight away he was on the fly. Tap, strip, tap, strip, bang fish on. As the fish started to run I clamped down on the reel to try and stop him making it over the edge or into a hole. Standing on the front of the boat the fish did a full 180 degrees around the boat before the leader snapped; the fish had managed to cut it on some coral. I was gutted but this is fishing not catching.
At the end of the week I had caught 70 fish including numerous bones, 12 other species and 1 x Picasso triggerfish!