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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


It’s Fun In The Sun at The Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah Part 1

I suppose my love affair with the United Arab Emirates started 14 years ago when I first visited the country, not to fish, but to see and spend time with my daughter Sharon who was based in Dubai. On that first visit I discovered the waters of Persian and Arabian Gulf had an abundance of fish, I also have a simple rule in life never travel without a fishing rod. I had with me on this first trip a 9 weight rod for chucking flies in the ocean; also a spinning outfit. In those early days the target fish were jack crevales, the street fighter of the aquatic world and queenfish both growing to 20lbs plus. These fish were guaranteed to give you work out. Trolling was the accepted way to fish; in my book trolling is as exciting as watching paint dry. In fact I would get more excitement from the latter. Good luck to those who do this branch of the sport. It’s not for me.

In those early days just a handful of anglers fly fished, whenever I cast a fly from the Creekside Park in Dubai, I often had fifty or more people watching, on the shoreline the locals quickly gathered to watch the action. In those early years I taught many freshwater fly fishers from Europe, the UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia, how to fly fish the ocean. Even the Egyptians and Indian wanted some of the action. Over the past 5 years I have been running saltwater fly fishing classes at various hotels, which proved very popular. In fact they were often over subscribed. Prospective fly fishers travelling great distances to attend Abu Dabbi, Fujairhah, even Oman and Qatar. The waters of the gulf were suited to this style of angling; the fish readily grabbing hold of hooks covered in silk furs flosses and feather, which represented the baitfish. It was an exciting time. Best described as “Fun In The Sun”.

Today the UAE is rated very highly as a holiday destination for thousands of British holidaymakers; it wasn’t so back in the 1990, today there are many hotels situated on lovely sandy beaches making the area a natural playground for us Brits where you’re guaranteed a tan. The nightlife is excellent; you have many restaurants of international standard, where you can also enjoy a pint of beer. It’s not a dry State; in fact there are many bars and clubs. In and around Dubai there are excellent golf clubs, rugby is very popular, as is power boat racing. Most important of all the sun shines nearly every day, and it’s a very safe place to spend your holiday. Without exception, it’s a shopper’s paradise. In this area of the UAE the fishing has deteriorated over the past 3 or 4 years. I put a lot of this decline down to the construction-taking place on and off shore. No doubt in a few years time when every thing is settled down the fish and aquatic life will recolonise the area. We must remember that life in oceans of the world is very fragile. It has to be protected.

The Perfect Oasis

I feel I have found the perfect oasis for you the saltwater fly fisher and your family, it’s in the State of Fujairah, which overlooks the Indian Ocean, From Dubai it’s about a 2 hour drive though the mountains. I got to hear about the State of Fujairah in May 1994, I was having lunch in Hatta with an Italian fly fisher who said “There were bonefish in the area of Korr Fakkan and Dibba in Fujairah” I have never forgotten that statement. Since being told about bonefish I have spent many days, often weeks in search of this grey ghost of the flats, but never once locating this top saltwater game fish. I tried many locations without success. Occasionally whenever I visited Dibba or Korr Fakkhan I would hear the word “bonefish” whispered. I was convinced they did swim in these waters. Conditions seemed ideal, there were mangroves and flats; it was on the same latitude as the Bahamas, Florida, Belize and the Scheychels.

In June of 2005 I got a telephone call from an excited Tim Mace an ex pat living in Dubai he said “Martin a 20lb bonefish was taken to the fish market today, a commercial fisherman caught it. I now had confirmation that bonefish did exist in the UAE. In the next few weeks I had reports from other anglers who had seen the bonefish in the fish market. I also learnt there were blue, big eye, black skipjack and yellow fin tuna, king mackerel, rainbow runners, Dorado often known as Mia Mia or dolphin fish. ‘Not to be confused with flipper’ also queenfish, jack crevales, barracuda; even the rare sailfish were available for the sports fishers. Sadly this fine sporting fish is in decline, being netted off the coast of Iran in great numbers. Is it not time we designated certain species of fish as ‘Sportsfish’ that should not be killed by the commercial fisherman, they are worth far more to the tourism industry. The dead fish on the fishmongers slab is worth very little compared with what its worth swimming the ocean. Remember a fish can be caught many times over when it is released.

Fujairah with its mountains and ocean has provided this small Emirates State with an unparallel advantage. It boasts some beautiful scenery. A fact, which is fast reaching the eyes and ears of the worlds tourism industry. The 1300 square kilometers of territory consists of the rugged Hajar Mountain range where much of the sparse, annual rainfall becomes trapped. This has been exceptionally good for the area; it allowed modern agricultural projects to be implemented bringing considerable additional benefit to the land and its people. I have been lucky during my many visits to see the waddies full of rushing water. An awesome sight. The Emirate State of Fujairah came of age in 1992, though a number of exciting projects were well established including the main sea and airport. The Emirate States future in tourism and commerce is probably due to the outstanding and bold leadership of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqui, the Emirates ruler.

The Fauna and Flora of the area is most interesting, there is an abundance of wild flowers. In some of the spring water pools fish can be seen darting in and out of the rocks, while toads can be heard croaking. There are eagles, fox, Arabian gazelles, and the very rare Arabian leopard; on the mountain slopes you can see the Caracal Lynx. With some three hundred different species of birds in the Emirate including Hoopoe, Bee-eaters, Indian Roller’s the Bonelli’s Eagle and many more to numerous to name.
Its one of the key bird watching areas of the region

You Have Excellent Accommodation - With Lots Of Activities In Fujairah

On this my latest adventure to the East coast I stayed at the Le Miridien Al Aqah beach resort it’s the perfect place for a family holiday. It sits on approximately a 1000-yard stretch of unspoilt golden beach, nestled between the tranquil Indian Ocean, and the rugged Hajar Mountains, which act as a magnificent backdrop. Every single room in the hotel faces onto the ocean. I had the choice of several restaurants where the food was excellent from steaks to seafood. You will find the staff extremely pleasant and helpful, they always have a welcome smile. Ensuring you feel part of their great family and seeing to you’re every need. To give mum and dad the chance to relax over dinner there is a child watching service in operation, I even had my laundry done to perfection. If you want to lie in the sun getting that perfect tan you can do so, but the hotel can arrange day trips into Dubai and the city of Fujairah, where you must make sure you visit the souk’s and be prepared to barter. If you have a favourite shirt or dress the local tailors can make an exact copy costing you just a few pounds. Oh yes, don’t forget to visit the Gold Souk. You will save many pounds on that gift for your loved one. For the active and non-fishing members of the family, the hotel provides many attractions, wind surfing, skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving and bird watching. You can take a cruise to Musandam in Omani waters, for a great diving or fishing experience, or just to relax on a cruise through some of the most delightful waters in the Gulf with magnificent scenery to rival other tourist spots in the world.

Sports Fishing With A Fly Rod

It is said “Everyman in Fujaira is a fisherman at heart”, the sea is in his blood. The Arab nation have always been fishermen using nets, traps and handlines. Talk to the local fishermen and they will tell you stories of big sailfish and tuna caught using a handline, now that’s hard tough work. We find it tough going trying to bring in a 40lb yellow fin tuna on a 12-weight rod, a fight often-lasting 3 hours or more. No way would we want to use a handline. I have gone afloat with the local fisherman on many occasions, fishing using a length of nylon, they showed me how it is done. After using a nylon line my hands have been sore for several days. No doubt weakened by years of modern living in the western world. When you visit a new destination spend time at the local fish market, there you will see what the locals are catching.
The Le Miridien Al Aqah hotel can arrange your fishing trips; where you can go in search of queenfish, kingfish, barracuda, rainbow runners, jack crevales sailfish and various members of the tuna family. In some of the shallow bays you will find various grouper species. Hook a big grouper on a 10-12-weight rod and you’re in for a big tug of war. In fact I suggest you work out in the gym for a few weeks before you tussle with some of these blue water fish. Catch and release is practiced along with the use of barbless hooks by most of the saltwater fly fishers. The two Captains I fished with were Wayne De Jager a South African and Roger Ledeboer a Zimbabwean of East Coast sports fishing. Both are excellent at boat handling. I cannot compliment them to highly; they certainly put me on the fish.

Imagine your ten or twelve miles off shore, the ocean is flat calm, in the east a huge orange ball is slowly climbing over the horizon, on the western shore you can just see the Hajar mountain range through the early morning haze. Sixty feet off the port bow a group of Dorado are attacking a school of baitfish. You pull off some seventy feet of line, knowing you can cover the feeding fish. On the end of your leader is tied a size 2/0 Lefty Kreh red and white deceiver. Two false casts’ you shoot the line, the fly lands on the edge of the feeding fish. As it sinks some 12 inches below the surface, you give two short strips. You get a hit then strip strike, you have a hook up. Line is stripped from the reel at a fast rate of knots; it cuts through the ocean leaving a rooster tail. 150 yards away the fish leaps several feet clear of the ocean, not once but several times. Water droplets fall from the fish, glistening like diamonds in the early morning sunshine. Several minutes later it goes cartwheeling across the ocean. Surely life cannot get better than this. It’s a battle between man and fish; slowly you get an inch or two of line back on the reel, then it’s several feet. Just as you think your winning, the fish goes off on another reel screeching blistering run, and then leaps skywards. You start retrieving line all over again. Twenty minutes later a 25lb plus Dorado is close to the boat and netted, a quick picture then the fish is released. Feeling exhausted you pick up an ice-cold bottle of water to quench your thirst. That’s just a little of the action when you fish the waters off Fujairah

On my latest trip I had with me Thomas and Thomas Helix and Horizon rods from 8 weights through to 12, I carried a selection of saltwater fly reels Tibor’s, Aaron, Gilmore and Loop with several spare spools. Reels that had been tested in some of the toughest conditions found from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean and down through the Caribbean. Not knowing if the fish would be down deep or on the surface, I had Wulff triangle taper tropics lines, also Rio and Cortland models in floating, intermediate, slow, medium and fast sink to cover every eventually. As a backup I also carried extra fly lines and several hundred yards of backing in case I should be spooled by an extra large fish.

Sun protection is most important; I use and have done so for many years Riemann P20. It’s a product made in Denmark, one I can thoroughly recommend. Clothing is important, I wear tropic designed shirts and shorts. You certainly need a good pair of polarizing sunglasses both to both protect your eyes and fish spotting. I have several pairs from Optilabs with various shades of prescription lenses. A hat with a good long peak is a must; it should be a dark colour under the peak. I use Frog Hair tapered leaders both Deep blue and fluorocarbon in tippet sizes from 10lbs to 40lbs In my tackle bag I have a pair of Abel pliers, hook sharpener, line cleaning kit, various spools of breaking strain line 10 to 60lbs On this trip I had some 400-500 flies in various sizes colour combinations and patterns. Including a good selection of Clousers and Deceivers. See pictures Part 2 to follow

Martin James Fishing