Ocean fly fishing emerges as the ultimate pursuit for the elite
Ocean fly fishing has emerged as one the most popular pastimes of the ultra-rich, according to research by the wealth intelligence firm New World Wealth and the investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners.
It’s not hard to see why. Call it the thrill of the hunt.
“The fish are moving, the wind is blowing, the boat’s moving,” said Brandon Henley, owner of Florida Keys Fly Fishing in Big Pine Key, Florida. “And you literally have seconds to get the fly in front of the fish.”
Oh, and you’re in some remote, magnificent tropical location either in Florida, Belize, the Bahamas or Seychelles, a remote nation in the Indian Ocean about a 45-minute boat ride off the coast of South Africa.
“The beauty of the Seychelles is that it is untouched,” said Keith Rose-Innes, a co-founder and managing director of the Alphonse Fishing Co. in Seychelles’ Outer Islands. “It’s not civilized, so you don’t have overfishing here and the exploitation of the ecosystems. It’s like it was 100 years ago, or two or three or four hundred years ago.”
THE LATEST IN ECOTOURISM?
Ocean, or saltwater, fly fishing is quite different from its more familiar freshwater counterpart. For one, it’s often done from a flat boat, not standing in the water. That water is typically about four feet deep, and the best locations can be hard to reach. Also, because of the pristine conditions, those fishing can usually see the size and type of fish before trying to catch it.
The fishing is mostly catch-and-release, and ecosystem preservation is a major part of the experience. The Miami-based nonprofit Bonefish & Tarpon Trust states on its website: “Through science-based approaches, BTT is working to protect and enhance healthy, functioning flats fisheries and habitats in the Western Hemisphere, and restore those in decline.”
In Seychelles, local regulations require that all the fish caught are released, regardless of size. “The way we work with the fish is all oriented on the rotation of spots and sustainability,” said Rose-Innes. “The fish that gets caught gets captured in the water, and it’s left out for a very short period of time for a photograph to be taken and then goes straight back into the ocean and is released.”
The range of species you’re likely to encounter can run the gamut, depending in part on your location. In the Florida Keys, bonefish and tarpon are plentiful. Visitors to Seychelles can expect to snare barracuda, milkfish and bumphead parrot fish, among other species.
Henley typically recommends that groups commit to at least a week for an ocean fly-fishing vacation. Typically, they only make such trips once or twice a year, so it may take a day or two to learn or get back into the swing of things.
“The big thing people have a hard time dealing with is the wind,” Henley said. “The wind is always a factor in saltwater.”
Henley also recommends that participants practice at home before going on a trip: “A lot of people think, ‘I’m a good trout fisherman, I’ll do fine.’ And then they get here, and they get their butts kicked, because they’re not used to the wind and the fish moving so fast and all these different variables.”
FISHING IN STYLE
Hiring a seasoned guide is a must for any group planning an ocean fly-fishing expedition. Guides typically run $750 per day, with an additional $150-plus per person for lodging, Henley said. Right after Thanksgiving this year, Henley is moving his business to the Bahamas, where he said the saltwater fly fishing is even better than in the Keys.
He and his partners have built an all-inclusive lodge there and also will be offering overnight trips aboard a 50-foot Viking Sport Fisher.
Traveling to Seychelles from the U.S. usually requires flying to Qatar, Dubai, London or Paris before transferring to a flight to Mahé, the largest island in Seychelles. A sample trip would include another hourlong flight to Alphonse Island in one of the nation’s more remote atolls.
“We’ve got villas; we’ve got bungalows; we’ve got suites; and we’ve got a really big-budget, live-aboard catamaran,” said Rose-Innes. “We’ve got so many different options.”