320 Days

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What is it like to guide 320 days a year?  Simms Guide Ambassador Jako Lucas tells what it is like. Read his year recap and wonder if you could keep up.

As the years run past us at a blistering pace, I sometimes can’t imagine that there are actually 365 days in a year because of the rushed lives we lead. I had to actually sit back and think through the year that I had in 2012; hopping from one continent to another, and boom! I ended up guiding 320 days in 2012.

If I had a dollar for every time I had a conversation with someone about what I do and they responded with “I wish I could do what you do and just fish for a living” or “so when are you getting a real job?” I would be able to actually start fishing again! For some of us it is just in our blood and there is nothing else we would rather do. Being able to share a special moment with an avid fisherman when you have helped him get the fish of a lifetime is amazing. Another great aspect about guiding is that it takes you to some of the most amazing places in the world. I have always said that fly-fishing is probably the closest that you will ever get to nature; doing your best to blend in as you try and fool the fish into thinking he has just got his meal ticket, feeling that line tighten up into a fish and feeling every movement the fish makes as he shakes his head in complete disbelief at what is happening at that moment.

Back to guiding: The year started off nice and easy coming back from a great holiday in Jeffery’s Bay. It’s probably better known for its surfing and epic waves, but this is where I have spent a lot of my life fishing and learning how to read water from my dad. From there I had a few weeks guiding at one of our local premium fishing destinations, Sterkfontein – sight fishing for Smallmouth and Largemouth Yellowfish on dry flies with absolutely beautiful surroundings. It was a great trip because it gives some of us, FlyCastaway, and other South African guides the opportunity to spend some time together, catch up on all the seasons that have passed, sharing war stories and of course talking about the year ahead.

With all the prepping done and all the bags packed we had the big season in the Seychelles ahead of us, a nice 3 month stint for the Boys from FlyCastaway. Farquhar Atoll is the most southerly atoll in the Seychelles chain of islands, lying just over 700km to the southwest of the main island Mahe. This remote atoll has a total area, including the large lagoon, of 170.5 km – 18 km north to south and 9 km east to west. The large ear-shaped lagoon provides easy access to the countless flats, channels and surf zones which make Farquhar such a diverse fishery. So what do we have here?! An atoll in the middle of nowhere, pristine sand and turtle grass flats chuck full of baitfish that attracts one of saltwater’s most notorious beasts, the Giant Trevally and many other predators. There are lots of crustaceans and nutrient rich flats that keep the Bonefish feeding hard, Permit on the flats to tease us and sometimes even becoming prey to some of the oversized GT’s. There is also offshore fishing, where you can move 200m away from the flats and have the chance to catch a big Pelagic and 200lbs+ Dogtooth Tuna on fly. In summary, a Fly Fisherman’s paradise. The first time you get off the plane and get hit by the heavy humid warm air, you know it is on. Even after having guided in the Seychelles for 8 years now, every time I put my foot on the flats the anticipation makes it feel like the first time. To see the Bonefish and Permit tipping over your fly your heart skips a beat and is followed by either great disappointment or great joy! And then the more notorious beasts…

So what lay ahead? Getting the boats ready for the season, which might not sound like too much now, but believe me they get redone from top to bottom every season so it’s hard work, rigging clients’ tackle to ensure that there is nothing to blame at the end of the day. Then comes scanning the water for hours until it feels like your eyes are going to pop out and then…an angry beast comes into sight! The cast goes in, the fly starts to move; with fins tucked in a GT attacks the fly like it is possessed, big bulging head out of the water and the eye looking straight at you! It’s ON! After a tug of war you have to end the game, by grabbing the super sharp scoots, you are now on top of the world! Take the memory shots and video and then it is time to say goodbye and send him back home to his buddies to get laughed at for being a fool! Then there’s seeing 20-80lb Parrot Fish tail in knee deep water or the tricky trigger fish feeding hard, just wanting to smash the fly. The list just goes on and on and there is never a dull moment! We have been out there for many years now and thanks to FlyCastaway we have been able to get attached to the monster fish that grace the Indian Ocean until our bodies can’t handle it anymore. After all the amazing memories of the season, it is time to pack up and head home.

Getting back to South Africa, I had just enough time to get my Visa done and I was off to Norway on the hunt for Monster Atlantic Salmon for another 3.5 months. I started guiding at this amazing place 5 years ago on my off-season from the Seychelles and St Brandon’s. Arriving in Norway, you are immediately amazed by the beautiful landscape and the huge amount of water, fjords, lakes and rivers. All of which have the potential of holding fish. I have always said if you are looking to try and connect yourself with some of the world’s bigger Atlantic salmon, this is the place. Every time you swing a fly you just have a feeling that the line will just stop, and a behemoth silver slab would climb out of the water in order to shack off the thing that got him into this trouble. The river that I work is not one of the big main rivers in Norway; it is privately owned and one of the most beautiful rivers you will ever see. With very unique pools and runs, this place will test your Salmon fishing ability to the max. Plus it has also historically produced fish in excess of 40lbs! I remember in my second year, after a long day on the river, the clients eventually went to bed around 4am in the morning and I just had a feeling and went to make a cast in one pool. I hooked into a fish and after 45 minutes it eventually broke the leader going up river. It was the closest I have ever been to crying on the water, I sat down and thought about what could have been. Going back to the guiding; this is not a place for the fainthearted as Norway has something called the midnight sun and believe me the guests fishing use every minute of it, so through June and July I was guiding up to 18 hours a day. This includes guiding, river management, our hatchery project, looking after the river back, cleaning guide’s rooms, wading room and tackle room, filling in catch reports, editing photos, checking on clients drinks and making sure that they are happy 24-7! Then the last thing is policing the river for poachers. There is a funny story about when I found two poachers a couple of years back, thing got a bit heated and we exchanged some choice words. The next day the police were looking for me as I had a warrant for my arrest for pretending to be the river keeper! You just have to roll with the punches. We ended up having a phenomenal season, the best in 20 years with many fish landed over 20lbs and a few over the 30lb mark. We have been working hard with our hatchery project in this river over the last few years and it is paying off big time! The last great news that I got before was done with Norway is that I had won the Best Fishing award for my movie Gangsters of the Flats 2 at the 7th Annual Drake Mag awards, how could this year get better?

Straight from Norway I was about to go on to an epic adventure to a place that I have always wanted to go to, Mongolia for a 5 week stint. Flying from Norway through Stockholm, Beijing and then arriving in Mongolia you can’t help but be a bit surprised on what waits for you in Ulaanbaatar. It is not exactly what you would expect Mongolia to be, a rush of traffic on some really questionable roads. And people everywhere! You can’t help but ask yourself “what have I signed up for?”, but then you get onto the Russian helicopter and it doesn’t take long to realize this is the real Mongolia; lots of barren landscape, and a handful of traditional Mongolian Gers camps in sight, their owners on a horse looking after his sheep, goats, horses. The closer we get to camp the more mountainous the landscape becomes and then you get the first glimpse of the river. Almost hypnotic in its beauty it is nearly impossible to take your eyes away from it; you also can’t help trying to see if there is any way that you can spot your first Taimen in the clear and amazing holding water. After all the preparations with the camp and the boats, we met up with the clients as they step off the Helicopter. And all I could think was that I want to get on the water. With the clients on the boat and the engine running at full taps we find the first potential spot. As the cast goes in you do not take your eye of the dry fly (Squirrel, baitfish pattern) that is just hopping across the surface. Then it happens, the water explodes behind the fly, the rod stays down and the client strip sets the fly (let’s just say this is in a perfect world). Apart from Permit, I have never been as nervous with landing any fish, and it is the same every time! The relief that follows after the fish is landed almost makes you feel like you are floating in the air! You also cannot help but be fascinated by these fish. It is so rich in history and there are many great stories. This fish is also known as the River Wolf and with good reason. They are at the top of the food chain in the river, with nothing else to fear but themselves and humans. It is able to survive the icy winters and can live to over 60 years old. We had a great season, and the highlight for me was landing a 140cm Taimen with a client on my third day guiding! I continued to have luck on my side and landed quite a few fish with clients over the 3 foot range. The other amazing thing is the huge number of Lenok and Graying, which you can catch all day on dry flies! I have fallen in love with this place and will keep going there as long as I can. Thanks to the amazing operation that Sweetwater Travel guys have set up, and all their conservation efforts, we will be able to do it for many more years to come.

As I dropped my bags in my new home in South Africa, I have just enough time to pack them again and head off to the Seychelles for the second season of the year; another three-month stint. From the thin air and crisp high altitude it was time to get back to that heavy tropical air. This was once again a phenomenal season, where I was lucky enough to spend the first day of the season with a good friend and amazing photographer, Matt Harris. Matt has written a great article on this day with him landing a Permit, Bus Bonefish and a Bumphead Parrotfish, we also had a GT on briefly but lost it or it would have been a first. This just set the tempo, so where do you go from there. Later on that season I would also guide a client and his son. The youngster managed to land a nice big GT in the morning, and a few great bones in the middle of the day. But the highlight of the day was when we had some Permit magic, with his dad losing one Permit and the youngster managing to land a great 17lbs Permit for the Slam. I still remember his words so well – after I netted the fish he turned to me and said, “so what do you call this fish again?”

Battered and bruised after three months of tackling Bumpies, Monster GT’s, swimming under coral for that prized Napoleon Wrasse that has gone back home and many other tales, it was 320 days of guiding down for the year and time to head back home, just in time for Christmas and a good New Year’s party!

Jako Lucas guides for FlyCastaway and Sweetwater Travel among others.  You can see his Simms Guide Ambassador Profile here.

  • Petrus

    Jako, respect! Petrus

  • Craig Somerville

    Wonderful article Jako! So, when are you getting a real job?