Andamans March 2019

Discussion in 'International reports' started by Pope, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    This report is a bit belated. I returned from the Andamans to close out the school year and then prepping for Blake to head away to school. I also wanted to give the report the attention it deserved.

    We left the states the second week of March after working all day and caught a red-eye to Qatar. This was Blake’s first time to leave the country and we were extremely excited. Blake had been practicing throwing heavy poppers at the local lake and he had it down. We worked out daily for an hour each Saturday and Sunday the month leading up to the trip, just plugging away with 150-190g poppers. Blake was pumped as we lifted off the runway from DFW.

    The exchange in Qatar was quick. We soon boarded a plane to Chennai where we landed at 9pm local time. We had been flying for 30 hours by this time and we were exhausted, but still primed. Chennai does not allow departing passengers to enter the airport until 2 hours before their flights. We had 11 hours to layover, so we left the arrivals terminal and found a spot on the sidewalk outside of the airport to wait out 9 hours until our departure. It was dark and little was going on by Indian standards. We used our backpacks as pillows, threw our legs over tackle bags, I doused ourselves with insect repellent and I threaded by arm through the locking cable on my rod tube. We had $8K in tackle and were sleeping on the sidewalk, but if anything were to move, we’d know.

    The sun rose and Chennai came to life. Blake and I watched the rush hour dance. The country was on high alert with military exchanges with Pakistan in Kashmir. Soldiers kept eyeing Blake and I with our rod tube, but otherwise we were left to ourselves. A father and his child walked up to our area, as we were mostly out of foot traffic, and let his daughter urinate. We decided to see how many people would avoid the stream angling into foot traffic as the sidewalk sloped away from us and down to pedestrians. Muslim women would always step over or around it. They were the clear winners in this dance. It was as if they were patrolling for biological obstacles on their paths. It was also great to watch birds jockey for space to grab or inspect trash for breakfast. This was an interesting way to spend the morning, but soon we would need to catch our plane to Port Blair.

    We had no trouble making our flight and this one would be much shorter. 2.5 hours later we were approaching the Andamans. We shared the window to see the reefs fringing the islands and we were dying to break out the rods. We were fishing with Game Fish Asia and a representative was waiting for us at the airport. We stuffed our bags into the truck and took off to spend one night in Port Blair before fishing our way south the next morning.

    We were fortunate to have the owner of Mangrove Studio and his friends staying at a guest house with us the first night. While they mostly spoke Japanese, we all spoke fisherman and had a fantastic evening eating sashimi and drinking Indian beer. I was careful to only have two because we met at the dock at 4:30 to fish all day, which by the way, I mean. You fish 10-12 hour a day. It was awesome!

    The first morning we loaded the boats and made a 2 hour run to an island that had massive schools of fusilier the locals call, banana fish. GTs were running the perimeter of the schools as they passed across the reefs. You could see varying sides of the schools were more nervous than other. I had paired my BH Cape Cod nano rod with a Stella 10000 and Blake had a TR GT 7810 paired with a TP 14000. We used these and started throwing to the areas with nervous fusilier and were met with massive strikes. I caught 9 and Blake caught 4 GTs between 10-35kg, with the average fish being between 15-20kg. When the tide slacked off, we stowed away our gear and went to fish deep ledges with poppers and drop a few jigs. I could see the way points on the captain’s maps. These ledges came up the 50m from 300m on the east side to 150m on the west. Little pinnacles dotted the ledge and we drifted the area throwing poppers first. The fish were there, holding deep, but ocassionally would erupt in a pack to hammer our poppers. These fish were all in the 20-30kg class. Nice solid fish, but it wasn’t a numbers game. You had to work! We jigged as well and caught all sorts of fish, mostly jobfish, yellow trevally and smaller GTs.

    The day ended by us pointing the bow to Little Andaman where we would spend the next 4 days. When we got there, we unloaded the boat and were taken to a guest house where we, two Egyptians and a Frenchman were also staying. The food was great and we always had a cold beer at the end of each day. We didn’t have hot water, but we did have a shower and we took one. Blake mentioned his throat hurt at dinner. I thought maybe he wasn’t digging the Indian cuisine, but he wasn’t lying.
     
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  2. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    The next morning Blake woke with a fever and his throat was inflamed. He picked up a bug somewhere along the way. I had packed two Z-packs and started him on the first round of antibiotics. I was nervous, but not half as nervous as the captain. There are no medical facilities on Little Andaman and it was 2.5 hours to Port Blair if he ran wide open all the way. I agreed that if he wasn’t better by the next morning to the point he could fish with us, we would head back. Rama, our captain agreed. I had to fish by myself, but I enlisted them to throw some poppers and jig with me occasionally.

    This day proved to be slow. We hunted fish as Rama idled along the reef perimeters just outside of gorgeous breaking waves. It was a surfer’s paradise with nobody on the beaches. I listened to rhythmic breaking swells against the reefs and it was mesmerizing. I worked hard all day and probably only caught 4-5 GTs along with a few other really ambitious bluefin trevally and snapper. Nevertheless, the scenery was unmatched and the setting for a day’s fishing was uplifting. The funniest thing about fishing this way was the GTs didn’t want poppers. They wanted stickbaits. I was pleased even further when I came back. Blake looked better and after a shower, he had dinner after not eating all day. He was fever free by lights out!

    The next morning was Blake’s. He ate lot of fruit and toast, while I had eggs and coffee. A cat was living in our guest house and she gave birth the day we arrived. We watched her move her kittens into our room and then she begged us for scraps. Blake named her Diana and she became our mascot of sorts.

    Fishing was really good the next day. We fished deep rips away from the island and you could see GTs hanging 50m deep as they hunted the rips. We would cast poppers during tide changes and work them together and every so often a pack of 3-5 GTs would kill our poppers. When the tide slacked, they wanted the stickbaits again. We knew they were there and you could see them come up and swipe at the lures sometimes and others, clear the water to attack from above or slice through the water for a lateral strike. It was a great way to fish and you could feel the panic knowing that is a mere second you would be striking hard to set the barbless hooks deep as possible.

    I have to pause to explain how nice the staff at this guest house was. The cook was great! He served eggs which were laid on the property and many ingredients for the meals were sourced from locals. This island is crazy sparse. The food was fresh and delicious. The cook had never hosted an American on the island and he was very nervous about his meals meeting our satisfaction. I assured him they did and he finally let me cook with his one evening while Blake watched cricket on a 30 year old 10” TV with Rama and the mate Sushil.

    The guest house was clean and centered in the town of Hut Bay. Blake and I would walk the roads and visit the locals. Children were eager to demonstrate they could say, “hello” or “hi.” The periodic, “New York,” would be squealed by some grade school aged boy or girl as they ducked behind a tree. Cows, being in India, rule the streets and were omni present with old women soliciting milk from the swollen udders of a few. Wandering around Hut Bay was never boring and I often felt as if the people living there had something we could all use…a slower paced life with family always close by.

    We decided to take one day to fish the beaches and we used motorcycles to cross the island. I broke down the PE 1-4 rods and packed them into our backpacks with a small selection of lures. At low tide, we hauled ass down the beaches to fish a few lagoons. We waded and never caught any more than bluefin trevally and small barracudas, but we had a blast doing it. The array of small fish swimming in the lagoons was worth the effort just to see. What was even more fun was taking the bikes through the jungle on the way back. The tide had come in and the only way back was through the jungle. I was amazed that the bird life was so abundant that you could hear birdsong over the 2 cycle engines and when we shut down the bikes to listen, it was overwhelming. This is what the world was like before people covered the face of it….teeming with organisms on full display!

    The last day we concentrated on light tackle and jigging. Blake was on fire! He was jigging with a gosa 8000 and using 60JB with 70lb leader. He absolutely destroyed GTs to 25kg on this rig. He also caught various grouper and jobfish. I was throwing 35-60g stickbaits on a PE 2-4 Major Craft GT Killing popping rod and had a lot of success with emperor snapper, jobfish, bohar snapper and coral trout. It was bad ass and I wish I could have done this one more day. If you go to the Andamans, spend a day fishing shallow with small stickbaits. You WILL NOT regret it. Fish eagles are also really common there and will shadow your fish as you fight them. It was a blast to watch.

    The last two days we spent in Port Blair and we rented a scooter to go enjoy the city. Learning to drive on the left in a crowded city without street lights was almost as much fun as fishing and spending time in Hut Bay. The locals were baffled by the two white guys meandering through the traffic and I have to say, I think we did pretty well in dealing with it. We travelled south to some points where the Japanese left fortified positions to ruin after WWII. We sat in gun nests and bunkers that you could tell local kids had played or lovers had made love. There were coves we were able to access on the flanks of these ruins with tide pools. Blake and I sifted through the coral and rocks to find crabs, octopus and fish. The scooters were a lot of fun to use and the island was ours to explore.

    The day we departed was bittersweet. When we finally boarded and lifted off, Blake was looking out of the window to watch the islands and reefs disappear from view. When he could no longer see the reefs or islands, he turned away from the window and looked at me. He broke down. The trip was over and we were headed home. I wish he and I could bounce from one place to the other and fish our lives away. I know he felt and still feel the same way.
     

  3. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Photos
     

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  4. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    More
     

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  5. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    More
     

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  6. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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  7. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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  8. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Few more
     

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  9. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Another round
     

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  10. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    And another
     

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  11. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Mas
     

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  12. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Last set
     

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  13. ReelMe

    ReelMe Super Member

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    Nicely done man, trip was certainly a
    Success.
     
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  14. Kipi

    Kipi Well-Known Member

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    Fantastic report. Thanks so much. I'm so keen to do Andamans before my ticket is up. Those poppers and sticks got mashed :D
     
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  15. chris dennis

    chris dennis Member

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    Nice one, some solid fish there.
    The fishing on our trip the week before was nowhere near as good unfortunately.
     
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  16. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Dennis, I know we’ve talked about the trip since our return. The first day was the only day I would consider hot. The other days we had a lot of work btw strikes. We were lucky we had 10-12 hour days to exploit.
     
  17. HungryJack

    HungryJack Member

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    You achieved above average results on your trip,
    only accomplished with hard work at that location,
    congrats on the effort and results.
     
  18. jiggawhat

    jiggawhat Senior Member

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    Nice report! we need more of these here
     
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  19. semipro

    semipro Senior Member

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    Thank you for sharing great memories and pictures
     
  20. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior member

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    Wonderful report! So good that you could share this adventure with your son.