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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Chasing Gold in the Indian Ocean Off Fujairah In The UAE

I had arrived at the Le Meridien Al Aqah beach resort at Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates for a week of offshore bluewater fly fishing. I chose the Meridian as it offered a superb service, booked the fishing and you were treated as a welcome guest and friend. Not just a number as I have experienced at some hotels. I planned to fish for various members of the tuna family, treavally, queenfish. Often known as five fingered jack or talang, I believe the latter name is the Arabic word for this fish. I also hoped to target Dolphinfish, not to be confused with our friend 'Flipper' the bottle- nosed dolphin a mammal and not a fish. The Spanish call the dolphinfish, Dorado, the golden one, in Hawaii it's known as the Mahi mahi. It's a pelagic schooling migratory fish of deep water. Though it inhabits the surface of the ocean, an extremely fast swimmer its favourite food is the flying fish and squid. Of course it will eat all the bait fish species when they are in abundance.

This great game fish has a liking for cover buoys, seaweed, logs, planks of timber, in fact any floating object could hold the dolphinfish. I well remember seeing a three foot square piece of cardboard in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico with a dozen good size fish underneath it. In the 1970's and 80's the Sea of Cortez in Mexico was the place to hunt these fish. Today I feel the Indian Ocean off Fujairah could rival Mexico. Sadly this fish is rated highly as a table fish, being slaughtered by the commercial fisherman. I say now "Its worth far more in the tourism dollar when its swimming in the ocean, than in the fish market".

Many of these commercial fishermen could be trained as guides for sports fishing where they could probably make a better living. Most of the commercial fishing boats with their centre consols only need a few slight modifications to be ideal for the fly fisher or light tackle angler. It's believed a hooked dolphinfish can reach speeds of fifty miles an hour in short bursts. Having hooked into some very fast swimmers I can believe this figure.

My day started around 3-30 in the morning when the alarm sounded its strident note, throwing back the bed cloths I staggered off to the shower room, switching on the kettle as I did so. Unless I start my day with porridge, toast and tea it not going to be a good one. Having had my shower I dressed in shorts and tropical shirt. I light knock on the door heralded breakfast.

I left the Meridien hotel around 4-30 for the drive to the Fujairah marina where Wayne De-Jager of East Coast Sports Fishing was waiting on the slip. As I made up a Thomas and Thomas Helix ten weight rod with an Aaron reel, we discussed the days prospects. I decided to use a Teeny T400 grain line, too which I attached a Froghair leader with a 15lb tippet using an Albright knot. This knot was designed by the late Jimmy Albright of Florida. It's perfect for joining leader to a fly line or leader to wire. I then attached a size 3/0 white Clouser with some red super hair tied in at the throat.

My other outfit was a Thomas and Thomas 12 weight Horizon with a Tibor Gulfstream and a Teeny T500 line again I used some Froghair Deep Blue leader material to make an eight foot long tapered leader with a 20lb tippet. I then attached a size 4/0 Sea Habit bucktail. This second outfit was for the big dolphinfish or tuna should I get the chance of chucking a fly in their direction. With rods made up and tackle stowed. The bow and stern lines were released. The ignition was switched on.

The hum of the twin outboards was music to my ears, we moved slowly across the harbour for the open ocean. Once clear of the harbour Wayne opened up the twin outboards. The bow lifted, soon we were skimming across the smooth glass like surface of the Pacific Ocean heading in a southerly direction. I stayed up in the bows keeping a lookout for fishing nets and pots. As we cruised the ocean I could see a few flying fish and the odd small group of queenfish attacking bait fish. Today the queenfish were left in peace. I was on a mission to seek the "Golden Ones" unless we spotted some yellow fin tuna. Then I would change my mind. Off the port bow I could see a big ball of orange emerging over the horizon, though it looked as if it was coming out of the ocean. Through the haze on my starboard side I could just make out the Harjar Mountains.

The twin motors throbbed and purred not missing a beat. I suppose it was half an hour, perhaps forty minutes from leaving the harbour when we changed direction heading for the horizon. Hopefully not too far, I didn't want to end up in Iranian waters. Thirty minutes later and some fourteen miles offshore Wayne pointed then shouted "Feeding fish two hundred yards off the starboard bow at about 3 o'clock. Wayne made a big swing to port to put us upwind of the feeding fish. I felt the bow dip as the engines slowed down to a steady tick over, slowly we moved within casting distance.

Up in the bows I picked up my ten weight outfit, stripping off some line I let it fall on the deck as we got within casting range of my target fish I made a couple of false casts and shot the 3/0 white and red Clouser minnow out some fifty feet. It dropped six feet in front of my target fish. I started to retrieve, the bull dolphin nailed it before I had moved the fly twelve inches. A firm strip strike set the hook He shot away like a missile the reels screamed the line cut through the water leaving a rooster tail eighty yards away he leapt clear of the water then dived.

A few minutes later he leapt clear of the ocean again, then again. By now he had taken one hundred and fifty yards of line. I was well into my backing then he went deep, very deep then swam slowly but powerfully away from me. The reel drag was tightened down as much as I dare. The rod was hooped over, occasionally I felt a big hit on the line either caused by the tail of the fish or another fish bumping the line. I have seen dolphinfish do this on other occasions.

Wayne my South African guide said "That's a hot fish Martin" I had to agree. I just wished I had hooked this fish on my twelve weight rod and not my 'ten' weight. I would get a bit of line then the fish would take it back. Minutes later the pressure started to tell I pulled back hard, inch by inch I gained some line. Slowly by winding in as I lowered the rod, then smoothly lifting I started to gain a few feet of line. I was winning. Then suddenly it dived the reel grudgingly giving line. As I fought this 'Big Bull' I could see a dozen more fish. This is the time when another angler can often get a hook up. After a long slogging scrap lasting some twenty plus minutes, I had the fish ready for netting. Yes, my arms ached but it felt great. A quick picture and the fish was released. As the fish was released all the other dolphinfish went deep with it.That fish gave sixteen big jumps. It was awsome fishing

During that day I caught fourteen fish between ten and thirty pounds, some near the surface others down some ten to fifteen feet. I used a selection of flies from size 1's up to 4/0's I found I had to change the rate of retrieve, the size and colour of fly through out the day. I was certainly happy to have a big selection of flies so I could swap the changes. When I couldn't see the fish, I used the countdown method. Not all takes were aggressive some fish gave a tentative pluck more like a trout. This from one of the quickest and most aggressive fish swimming in the ocean.

Fact file The Le Meridien Al Aqah beach resort at Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. Is in a unique location in Fujairah, the only Emirate on the East Coast of the United Arab Emirates. Nestled between the blue Indian Ocean and the majestic Hajar Mountains, Le Meridien is blessed with natural beauty and ample opportunities for fun, adventure and relaxation. The resort is 49 kilometres from Fujairah town and only 90 minutes from cosmopolitan Dubai.

All rooms are very spacious offering the modern amenities you come to expect from a five star hotel, and all rooms boast a sea view of the beautiful Indian Ocean. Decorated in pastel shades and elegantly furnished, the rooms give off a calming ambience, setting the perfect place to relax.

With four restaurants, each offering something different and several bars you will find that all tastes and styles are catered for at Le Meridien Al Aqah. The resort offers even more to do on land and in the water with a stretch of unspoilt golden beach providing an unbeatable array of leisure activities including water-skiing, beach volleyball and sailing.

Le Meridien Al Aqah also boasts the largest free-form swimming pool and some of the best diving sites in the UAE and of course some first class fly P O Box 3070 Fujairah United Arab Emirates E-mail

I flew from Manchester to Dubai with. Emirate airlines who have two flights a day. My fishing with East Coast Sports fishing was booked through the hotel. Apart from bluewater fly fishing, you can do light tackle fishing. Over many years I have fished many beach venues on the East coast where I have enjoyed good sport, though the fish are not as big and powerful as you can catch offshore.

I took with me over 500 flies, several rods from 9 to 12 weight, though next time I will take a 14 weight with a selection of lines from floating to extra fast sinking. I had fifty odd Froghair and Deep blue leaders from 10lb through to 30lb breaking strain leaders, spools of deep blue leader material, fly line cleaner, a bag of bits and pieces, polarising glasses and a plentiful supply of sun protection.

Martin James Fishing