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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The best Reef Raiders yet?

Returning to a favorite distant location is always an exciting time, when its to Southern Oman to fish for giant GT's with your mates it's epic!  Getting the call up for the 2017 end of season Reef Raiders trip is a pretty cool ticket to have, and this year especially so.  The assembled international crew comprised:

Andre Van Wyk - South Africa
Tomislav Jukic - Slovenia
Ed Nicholas - Oman
Jonathan Brooks - Australia
Alexandre Martin - France
Eric Le Guyader - France
Nate Tsao - Hawaii
Lydia Low - Australia
John Cahill - (me) Australia

A fourth return to Southern Oman had a good degree of familiarity for me, I love visiting this safe and friendly place, the crew and atmosphere simply make it an amazing experience.  People often ask me if it is safe there - well I feel completely comfortable driving across the desert with my fiance Lydia un-escorted, just apply common sense like you would in any foreign country.

Fishing late in the season in Southern Oman around the Al Hallaniya islands is a risk and reward situation in terms of the weather. The persistent and building winds fire up the GT population on most occasions however the seas do get big. Standing in a boat can be difficult at times, casting harder again, fighting a big GT a major challenge, just as well Ed's fleet are well up to the task and the crew experienced.  At some point in late April or early May the monsoon (Kahreef) will begin and at that point all fishing is over until September.

We were incredibly lucky on this trip with the winds building but still fishable for at least a morning session each day.  Right on time, two days after the fishing concluded, the kahreef arrived - precision timing by Ed!  As well as the traditional boat casting on the first class No Boundaries fleet, what this trip had in store was something that has not been done to any great extent before; exploring some land based GT fishing opportunities on the islands, an exciting and scary prospect with Omani sized GT's off the rocks.  What a decision this turned out to be - wait for the video.

It's impossible to give a blow by blow descriptor of what occurred on each boat on each day but what we can do is discuss a bit of a summary as I know it:

56 GT's were landed over the 5 days fishing between all anglers.
I managed a personal NB's high of 10 GT's which equaled my first ever trip including 3 land based.  I was reefed once, mainline busted 3 times and leader failed once.  I missed more fish than I caught, simply not pinning them sufficiently which can be quite common with big GT's, there were plenty of opportunities on Omani sized fish.  Across the groups, multiple line failures, broken rods, broken lures, snapped and bent hooks, broken reels were the norm; this was Southern Oman GT's at their brutal and unforgiving best.  With the GT's 'on' very little alternative fishing was done.  A smattering of light tackle was had which was as usual very good.

These trips are about friends, fishing and a smattering of product testing for me. I would say this was among the most enjoyable I have experienced, the crew were fun, experienced and hard core, essential ingredients with big GT's and rough seas.  The camaraderie developed within this group in a short time was something else; great times.  Well done for Ed for not just maintaining but making his operation better each year, surely one of the very best guides globally and simply the worlds best big GT location.

As always I was keen to try out a number of bit's of gear and they are worth discussing individually:

I thought of the Saththa popper as a smooth water option, however watching Ed pop large holes in the ocean with it with very few blow outs in pitching seas where it is harder to time your 'pop's' I was impressed and so were the fish.  The Kimitsu needs no introduction and it performed brilliantly.
These old stagers produced multiple fish across several of the group, their value and effectiveness speaks volumes.  Jonathan Brooks Wahoo 200 accounted for so many fish.  I managed to loose a Cubera 150, Wahoo 150 and a Skipjack 150 all to fish - just bad luck on that front.
After having great success with this lure in the Coral Sea early this year I was keen to see it in Oman - I knew it could handle the big hooks required and it did not disappoint, the last fish of the trip was tempted by this big stick.

Pretty much every Amegari that hit the water was bitten at some point.  The Dzanga 230 popper brilliant in rough water, the Kaxu 240 is a real rough water specialist and was the land based star (wait for the Morningtide video this weekend).

The relatively new GTX170 and Plug Tropic 150 were absolute stars working just under the surface of the choppy waters with ease.  I scored three GT's on the plug alone, they are brilliant and easy to use lures and despite their plain appearance are absolute stars.

Although the GT series have not yet been publicly released, Brooksy and I both have had access to the prototypes for some time.  Both the popper and big Argo accounted for multiple fish, their release sometime later this year is highly anticipated

Casting land based, both the Nautilus FS and Espada S were obliterated in rough water however neither fish were landed, them's the breaks.  The profile of both lures very good for this application and the sink aspect helpful in tough conditions.

Having used one of these for the first time at the start of this year I can confidently say that they allow the angler to put significantly more pressure on a big GT (or tuna) than any popping or jigging belt I have used, whilst they are not cheap, they are worth every cent.

We have been using the ASWB GT Tamer series (popper and stickbait) on the last three trips over the last year but I have been waiting for this trip to comment.  Nothing like a Southern Oman trip to really test the durability of a product in my opinion.  Whilst the IP GTT8 is 8'3" and only rated PE6-8 I ran PE10 over it and cast lures to 220 grams (including hooks).  I abused this rod in terms of casting load and heavy drag fighting big fish.  I am pretty sure I have voided any warranty in doing so, but it stood up for the abuse and wants more.  The heavier PE10 popping rod was brilliant in it's own right without any compromise on large cup faced poppers to 170 grams (plus hooks), tight drag and big fish.

Enjoy some of our pics from me, Ed, Andre and the really good ones from Tomislav!  Click on the images to enlarge and see in hi res - enjoy!

Brooksy frothing - Jack Fin proto

Alexandre - true gentleman

This fish ignited our trip

Shari eating grouper for Alexandre - it began with an Orion GTX

Land based madness - JC Buckled in to a beast

A considerable land based GT!

I am still disbelieving this capture weeks later

My PB - Lyds and I got engaged on the trip

Triple hook up on the first drift of the last day - yeww!

Beast for JC on the last morning - crunching an Orion Plug Tropic

Bucket

Permit on Heru Ulua! while Lyds battles 

Nate with an impressive land based GT - this guy is a shore line legend


The No Boundaries hire fleet

Eric with his GTX - this man is a legend

Brooksy racking up the species

The coolest cat on the reef - Dre with a shoreline Shari

The baddest captain with his mates

Doubles for Lyds and Dre - fun times


So many big queenfish late in the season

Trecking to the lodges from Salalah

Nothing like a GT to seal the engagement

Brooksy was on fire - Jack Fin for the win

Amegari produces

Thug - baitfish nightmares

Workin' hard

This pig needs to watch his food consumption!  The fattest GT I have seen

So epic, the GT hooked by the NB's cook Saiful

Shoreline release

Lyds dropping bombs

Even the rats get celebrated from the shore - Amegari Urpekari for the win

What a final day - 9 fish in 2 hours


Now you have seen the photo's please do yourself a favor and watch the Morningtide Fishing video of the trip - it's worth the 20 minutes!!