I have not long returned from two weeks in New Caledonia, holidaying with my partner. It is an amazing country where the locals are extremely friendly and the landscape changes from barren farmlands to lush green jungle (resembling that of Jurassic Park) in a few bends of the road.
Any place I go now, I find myself gathering as much information as possible about whether or not it is a viable fishing location. New Caledonia just so happened to have an indication that there were bonefish on the flats, mangrove jack in the estuaries and jungle perch in the inland streams. The prospect of catching any one of these species excited me; there was no way I could resist packing in a rod or two with the snorkel and flippers.
In the first few days I attempted to make contact with as many locals as possible to better my understanding of fishing (Peche) on the island. I predominately received vague looks, followed by “ du quai?” (the dock) while pointing to the water. My realisation was that having an opportunity to find fish was grim, and I became resigned to the fact the task to locate a decent spot to fish was going to be difficult.
One of the cultural norms of New Caledonia for the indigenous tribes required visitors to pay tribute in the form of monetary value or gifts to gain access to the land. Later in the trip it became difficult to discover these boundaries, and where to pay such a tribute as most individuals on the side of the road did not speak English, and beside the fact most carried machetes (for coconuts I would like to believe in hindsight).
During my on the ground research and questioning of the locals, my partner took it upon herself to make contact with some of the fishing guides in Noumea. I have never used a guide before, never thought I needed to. Since growing up in Australia we are privileged and spoiled for a multitude of accessible fishing locations. I never did understand, nor saw the sense in needing a guide. My feelings of using a guide were always of laziness by the angler to not do their research before their outing.
We managed to make contact with a guide who had a reasonable fee and was willing to take me out at short notice. I accepted the opportunity, and I could say I was a little begrudged at having to use a guide, but I knew it was going to be my best opportunity to get out fishing.
We had an issue hiring a car for the day that we had arranged to meet the guide. The guides boat was approximately an hour’s drive outside of Noumea, and it was impossible to arrange public transport for the time I had to be there. We called the guide and told him of our plight, and our obvious need to cancel the trip. It was at this point the guide did something that surprised me; he offered to pick us up and drop us off. This came as a shock as it was not something he was obliged to do. I did graciously accept his offer.
6am in the morning, out the front of the hotel, the guide pulls up. He introduces himself, as well as his brother in law, who will also be coming fishing with me today. The guide tells us that he needs to collect some gear from his house that is on the way. We drive down a dirt track for a little while and arrive at his quaint house that is located right in the jungle; he invites us in, puts a pot of coffee on and offers an arrangement of French pastries. I was in awe of the hospitality shown. Upon arrival at the boat ramp the guide offers to drop my partner off on an island, rather than accompany us out fishing or hang around the car park.
Once we are clear and making our way away from the island, the guide asks me what I wanted to achieve from the trip. I tell him without hesitation: “Giant Trevally”. He looks at me with a wicked grin and replies “Good! we will catch GT today”.
We were fishing with the heaviest setup I have ever had in my hands: a big Saltiga Dogfight loaded with 100lb braid and 140lb leader with an enormous purple stickbait tied on the end. I knew there was going to be some serious fishing ahead of me. The guide coached me on getting my cast dialled in on the big gear, and the way to retrieve the stickbait to get the most out of it.
After an hour and a half solid fishing I was feeling fatigued and had only received interest from ‘Cuda’. When I saw several grey shapes dart across behind the lure, adrenaline kicked in. I remember the guide yelling “wind! wind! wind!” I took heed of his advice and did so… when it struck, the rod buckled on itself and I was on.
The GT is my dream fish, I love everything about them, they are big, they are strong, and super predators. But in particular, I love that you catch them on the surface. When the guide leaned over the gunnels of the boat and pulled in my first GT, words will never describe the feeling. I caught another two GTs that day.
As the guide drove us back to the motel, he says in French saturated English: “Good day, good fight, good fish, thank you”. I finally understood the reason why we need guides, and how guides are more than people who take you out fishing. Guides are people who care about the fish, about the angler and the experience had. Guides thrive on pulling everything together to create memories. This is why we hire the guide in the first place.
The guide who took me out averages 186 days a year on the water, taking anglers out in his boat. It is a special type of person who becomes a fishing guide, and I must admit, they are worth seeking out for their wisdom and passion for the sport.
Thank you Etienne,