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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Komodo...... there be MORE than dragons

by Mark Harris

Is there a more iconic GT location than The Komodo National Park? Perhaps Tokara in Japan would rival it, but surely no other. I cannot think of anywhere on earth where there is such a close proximity of so very many islets, promontories and bommies, all with attendant ripping currents; GT heaven.

Early morning natural beauty at Komodo
My previous experience there had not been a particularly good one and it was at a time when the GT community pretty much ditched Komodo as a must-visit site.  The over fishing of the area, both legal and illegal, had definitely taken its toll come the mid to late 2000s.

Recent reports had been more encouraging though, so much so that Adhek Amerta decided that he wanted to try running charters there again.  Adhek first fished there in 2002 and guided many of the world leading GT anglers around Komodo before giving up there with great sadness when things took a downturn.

So, he and I planned a 4 day test trip together starting on January 5th 2014, staying in Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores and making the short trip out each day. Adhek sent out his boat Hapuka from Bali to be docked at Labuhan Bajo for the duration of this trip and also for trips tentatively booked by others later in the month.  This is a really nice boat to fish from with high gunwhales at the back and a superbly constructed stainless railing and cage set up on the bow.  Four GT anglers can cast without any issues.

Hapuka is a lovely boat to fish from

One of the many very solid and hard pulling Komodo GTs
When I first arrived I was a little down about the conditions, it was glassy flat with a forecast of no winds to speak of.  Far from ideal GT fishing conditions and our best hope was that Komodo's legendary currents would still provide some great fishing.

And so it would prove.  Over the four days, I lost count of the number of GT strikes. I did keep a tally on the first day and it was 18.  The 3 days which followed would have been similar to that for sure. Bear in mind this was pretty much a solo mission and for 90% of the time I was the only angler fishing.  The fish were not especially "on" though with many, many flappy misses and quite a number of fish lightly hooked (probably foul hooked) coming off after a few seconds.  That being said, I was extremely happy with the quality and number of GTs landed.

And another
Have been talking a lot with friends about the number of misses and poor hook ups, and I think the consensus is that this was due to the crystal clear glassed out conditions.  Most experience GT anglers wil have been through this and it is the most frustrating thing imaginable - you do everything right to raise a good fish and then it will not commit properly to the lure.

Also had a couple of hugely enjoyable PE3 sessions. I will never forget one 2 hour period when I lost count of the number of bluefin trevally landed but it was more than 20 for sure.  Other fish caught on the lighter gear included GTs and red bass.

Bluefin mayhem on the lighter PE3 gear

Red Bass are everywhere at Komodo
One particular moment of madness on the PE3 gear is worth recounting. At one spot having pulled out a small 15 kg GT and a Bluefin Trevally in consecutive casts on the heavy GT gear, I decided it was time to try to get a good sized GT on the lighter tackle. Duo Rough Trail Aomasa was the lure of choice and sure enough a massive hit on the second cast.  A hit so violent that fish went completely airborne. With only a Twinpower 5000 XG and PE3 line there was little I could do but screw down the drag and hold on for the ride. I thought the spool was going to melt at one stage (!) and trying to hold it only resulted in a hole burned straight through my glove and considerable damage to my hand.  Inevitably the fish found reef but I would not swap that experience for anything.... pure brutality.

BCS Wave Walker - 255 mm, 170 grams
I suppose the only really missing element from this trip was the landing of a true monster class GT. It was close with one reefing by an unstoppable fish as large as anything I have ever hooked, and a couple of misses which left me gasping at the size of the fish.  There are certainly 50kg+ fish here.

Floating stickbaits were the go to class of lure for much of the trip and one in particular deserves a special mention as it was the star lure of the trip. It is a new lure so many will
Adhek Viking 160 grams
not be aware of it: BCS Custom Baits Wave Walker, 255 mm, 170 grams. This lure is a beauty with such a sharp and precise action.Other stick baits to score multiple hits were Carpenter Gamma 140, Adhek Medium Penipen, ASWBs and BFP Swimbaits Astro when the currents were too strong to sensibly work a floating lure..

On the popper front, I was almost exclusively using the new Adhek Viking 160 grams. This is such an easy popper to use and it casts like a dream.  It too raised multiple large GTs.

Another one on the Wave Walker
Logistically, visiting Komodo is easier than ever.  Four different airlines now offer daily flights from Bali to Labuhan Bajo  (90 minutes).  Garuda is
very much the recommended and most reliable option. You will also have less hassles with overweight and over-sized luggage with Garuda than if you chose the smaller operators.  Labuhan Bajo (and indeed most of the island of Flores!) has been a backwater for as long as it has existed, but that is changing somewhat with rapidly increasing tourist numbers and a hotel infrastructure much better than it used to be.  Check hotel listings before any visit as several new ones are under construction at the time of writing.

For first time visitors, I would highly recommend you take half a day out of the fishing schedule to visit Komodo or Rinca islands to see the Komodo Dragons. This is truly one of the great wildlife spectacles anywhere on earth.  Adhek is set up to offer this side trip for you.

Komodo Dragons grabbing a spot of lunch. Photo by Jon Chia, originally published at Flickr and licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence

This trip certainly removed any lingering doubts Adhek had about resuming charters to this most iconic of locations. And it proved to me that Komodo is well and truly back in the top echelon of GT spots around the world.

GT work out
Carpenter Endless Passion 82/38 (PE8)
Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H (PE8)
Carpenter The Blue Lagoon 80/40 (PE8)
Carpenter Black Current 80 MRF (PE3)

Successful  GT lures
BCS Custom Baits Wave Walker 255 (170 gr)
Adhek Viking 1 (150 gr)
Adhek Medium Penipen (140 gr)
Carpenter Gamma 140
BFP Astro Swimbait

PE3 lures that did the business were Smith Saruna Dragon, IMA Barbarossa and Duo Rough Trail.