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Sette Cama, Gabon Fishing Report 8th July 2024

After hosting Dan’s group, our final week at Sette Cama Fishing welcomed just three clients. This included a father and son team, Rex and Ryo, along with Charles, whose wife and children were set to join him towards the end of the week. They planned to spend a night at Sette Cama before heading to Ndolo camp to see the gorillas.

Following a spectacular flight in, over the hundreds of kilometres of forests and waterways between Libreville and Sette Cama, the group climbed out of the three seater military helicopter, after it landed in the grassy patch less than a km from camp. From there, it was a matter of minutes until they were welcomed into the lodge for something to drink and cool down before being directed to their accommodation for the week.

Rex and Charles were die hard fly guys, while Ryo was keen on the fly, but more open to anything that meant he could have a line in the water, even if it was just a hand-line off the boat dock for the resident tilapia. As much as its good for the lodge to have a camp full of people, and guiding big groups has its own advantages, It’s often nice as a guide to have a small group of nice people, as it allows you to get to know the individuals better and obviously it allows more one on one time. 

We were a little nervous of how the week was going to unfold, as being the last week of the main fishing season, with the dry season fast approaching, and fish being a bit hard to come by on fly off the sand the previous week. On the plus side, we did have a good tide, and the anglers were keen and competent so with that to work with we were confident that we would make things happen.   

The first evening on the beach was super tough going. It was a beaut of an evening with decent conditions, but the fish just weren’t coming to the party and despite a number of hours casting the 12wts, we just could not find any cooperative fish and decided to call the evening off a bit early and head back for dinner. 

The following morning, we were up bright and early and on the lagoon at first light to be greeted by the sight of jacks smashing bait as we arrived. It didn’t take long for everyone to have their first fish of the trip safely in the camera and carry on to get more. Charles had a really good longfin to start his weeks fishing which we didn’t know at the time, but was a small indication of what was in store for him later in the week. Ryo also got a really good fish which smashed his fly with the leader almost in the tip eye, giving us all a fright and then proceeding to drag us around on the lagoon for a good while before we eventually managed to get a hand to it and scoop it up and into the tub on the deck. Eventually, the jack action fizzled out and we made the call to head back to camp for breakfast. On the way back, we came across a lone elephant bull having a swim which is always a cool sighting, especially for guests that aren’t from Africa. 

That afternoon, we headed down to the mouth under a very ominous sky and it wasn’t long before the heavens opened up on us and the rain bucketed down. There wasn’t any lighting or thunder, so we persevered through the torrential rain until it got dark. Fishing in rain like that is quite an experience in itself and once the initial apprehension wears off, it’s actually quite fun. The air is warm, the water is warm, there is basically no wind and there are just millions of litres of water falling straight down out of the sky. Despite a commendable effort through all this, there was no result for the guys with the flies. Ryo had a really good jack on a live bait, but the hook pulled as I got my hand to the leader. We arrived back at camp that evening like a bunch of drowned rats and scrambled for a shower and dry clothes before meeting back around the dinner table to chat and laugh while the rain continued to pour down outside.

The next morning, the rain had finally slackened off, but a check at the rain gauge revealed that around 150mm of rain had fallen in that 12hr period. Finally, enough rain to really kick start Sette Cama into gear. We were excited!

That morning, as Ewan predicted, the water temp had dropped considerably from the rain and the jack session was pretty slow with the bite shutting down early. Everyone still had their chance to get some decent fish though and a slow morning by Sette Cama standards would still knock the socks off many other destinations on a good day. We did have a sneaky little peek down at the mouth and were excited to see dirty water pumping out of the Moli Moli tributary as well as numerous shoals of mullet making their way down the system towards the mouth. The stage was being set and the potential for something epic to happen was very real. The question was whether it would start that night or if the fish needed a bit longer to acclimatise to the cooler rain water run-off. 

That evening, Ryo was the first into the action with his live mullet, fishing into the channel on the inside of the South Bank sand spit. He landed two lovely threadfin in the 8 to 10 kg range and a handful of sand sharks that kept him busy, as well as losing a few other good fish to hook pulls and bite-offs. The shoals of mullet were accumulating at the mouth, and as darkness settled, the big fish arrived to wreak havoc among them.

For someone who has never experienced night fly fishing at Sette Cama before, it is quite a thing to wrap your mind around. You can no longer rely on your vision to watch your loops unfold and time your casting accordingly. Everything comes down to casting by feel and timing alone. If that’s not enough, add to the equation that you are under a pitch-black African sky in a super remote destination, fishing a 12wt outfit, standing knee-deep in tannin-stained water with mullet skittering and flopping all around you. Occasionally, the mullet will spook and hit into your legs. You have fish ranging in size from 5 kilos up to potentially 100 kilos crushing mullet within fly casting range, often barely a rod length in front of you, and you have to try to maintain your composure and present your fly to them. Oh ja, there are also the reeds, branches, and other rubbish on the bank behind you, so you better not let your back cast drop too much. All in all, it’s quite an overwhelming situation to be in, but once you settle in, it’s undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world available to a shore-based fly fisherman.

Both Rex and Charles had chances at tarpon on the fly that night. Rex bent a hook open on a good fish that seemed to be properly pinned, and Charles had the hook pull on another fish just as it was settling in to start going in the current. Rex shared with us around the dinner table that while he was standing knee-deep in the water casting, he had looked down over the drop-off and, in the little moonlight there was, had wondered why there was the bottom of a Coke can drifting upstream against the current. It had taken him a moment to realize that what he was actually looking at was the reflection of the massive eye of a tarpon cruising past. This was just the first night of good conditions, so we were excited at the prospect of what could happen in the next few nights.

The good jack session the following morning was almost just a formality to get through so that we could get into the main act of the day, which would be the evening at the mouth. As if the anticipation wasn’t enough, we had an absolutely stunning sunset that evening, and all three of the guys got fish during this golden light period. Ryo got an outstanding longfin jack on live bait, and both Rex and Charles had younger models on the fly. It always makes for amazing photo opportunities when fish are caught during this last light period. Ryo was the first onto a good fish after nightfall and landed a lovely snapper that munched his live bait. Not too much later, Charles had his fly crunched by a proper fish. A brief, hard fight to extract the fish from the current, and he had a beautiful snapper on the sand, ready to be photographed. A short while later, Charles was on again with another good fish that took him for a walk down with the current for a bit before he could work it to the edge. It was a beaut of a threadfin, but unfortunately, the hook pulled literally at the last second, and we watched it swim off. The moment was captured on camera, though, so there is proof of it. After that bite, as the tide got lower, the current sped up, causing the mullet to move and the predators to go with them. We made the call to wrap it up and head home.

The bite windows at Sette Cama are often so clearly defined! It goes from zero to bat-shit crazy wild mayhem in the blink of an eye, and then just as quickly, the party is over, and you’re left wondering what the hell just happened. For that reason, it is always critically important that when the fish are there for the taking, you give it everything. The window may be open for time to make only a few casts, or it may stay open for hours. Either way, you don’t want to be left at the end thinking how you should have tried a bit harder or made a few extra casts.

The following morning, the guys decided to do a beach walk up the North Bank with Ewan to some ledges where, an unconfirmed rumour has it, permit can sometimes be seen tailing in the shallows. I opted to skip the permit mission and rather took the opportunity to spend some time behind the tying vice and strap up some more of the flies that had been producing the goods. Despite the absence of permit on the walk, the guys had a great time catching some young jacks in the surf zone on fly and getting to see some beautiful scenery, forest buffalo, and other wildlife.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of taking solid naps whilst at Sette Cama when the opportunities present themselves. As much as the adrenaline and excitement of being in this dream destination can carry you for so long, lack of sleep eventually catches up with you, especially when you start chasing the tide into the wee hours of the morning as we were doing to get the bite window and then still wake up early to get a morning activity in. With this in mind, we planned a slightly later departure to the mouth for that evening, and the entire team retreated to the air-conditioned rooms for a bit of a recovery doss.

Rex and Ryo were departing the following morning to head to Ndolo Camp to hopefully spend some time getting close to the gorillas there, so we went down to the mouth in two boats so they could head back separately and still get a bit of rest before their early departure the following morning. As expected, the fish weren’t there immediately when we got to the mouth, and the guys fished for quite a while with no result. As luck would have it, not long after Rex and Ryo had made the call to head back to camp, the fish arrived! It started off with a few splashes kind of far off across the lagoon, and then the splashes came closer, and before long, there were explosions in the dark all around us. Looking at the time stamps on the phone pics now, Charles’s first fish was landed at 22:03, his second at 22:14, and then the third at 22:31. They were, in order, a good threadfin, a solid snapper, and another proper thready. He had got all the fish in quick succession on a black and purple Andino style fly, but then, the bite dried up for him, and the fish were very definitely still there. We changed over to a lighter colour, slightly bigger profile white and tan version of the same pattern, and it wasn’t long before I heard, from the dark, a grunt from Charles, followed almost immediately by a gill-clattering splash! That meant only one thing!

By the time I crossed the short distance to where Charles was, the fish was already in the backing and heading down current. He clamped down on the drag a bit more, and we started scampering down the South Bank as fast as we could go, gaining line at every opportunity. The fish made a bit of an error on our way down by turning back into the current for a while,

By the time I crossed the short distance to where Charles was, the fish was already in the backing and heading down current. He clamped down on the drag a bit more, and we started scampering down the South Bank as fast as we could go, gaining line at every opportunity. The fish made a bit of an error on our way down by turning back into the current for a while, allowing us to gain good line back and even get down current of it and into a strong position on the point of the South Bank to swing the fish out of the current before it got going again. By the time the fish had started heading back down with the current, Charles was already around the point and had a good angle to turn the fish out of the current. This is a critical point in the fight, as if the fish stays in the current and gets going, it is literally impossible to stop, and as it gets further away, the angle gets less to turn its head, and ultimately, something almost always goes wrong once the fish has gone 150m or more. It’s a nail-biting period trying to swing the fish out of the current with maximum pressure needing to be applied. Charles’ fish was fortunately quite obliging, and with some good angling and hard, well-timed pulling, he got it out of the current and into the shallow surf off the left of the point. As the fight with a tarpon goes on and different challenges and stages in the fight are overcome, the realisation that this one could actually be the one you land starts becoming a reality, and the stress and anxiety levels increase exponentially. Charles had most of the line back on the reel with Ewan coaching him from over his shoulder, and the fish was on the back of the shore break. It’s around this point in the fight that pretty much everyone starts holding their breath, as the fish is basically beaten, almost all the challenges are behind the angler, but most of the time, the fish will still have a few half jumps left in it, and with all the turning and changing of angles, the possibility of the hook popping is very real. There’s also the risk of the leader rubbing through as the fluro is dragged left and right across the bony jaw.

After what felt like an eternity, but was more like a minute or two, the fish was well positioned with a good surge of water behind it, and with a bit of encouragement from Ewan, Charles was able to hold the fish’s head aiming at the beach long enough for me to get behind it and prevent it from getting back over the drop-off. The next push of water took the fish further up the beach, and Charles had his prize secured!

There were the mandatory whoops of delight and relief all around, followed by hugs and handshakes, and then we quickly got to the task of keeping the fish in the waves and snapping off pictures that did the fish justice. This is a very stressful exercise for the guides, as it’s critical that the tired fish is kept in the wave zone and released fast, but there is no excuse for not providing the client with suitably impressive pics to remember the experience by. Fortunately for us, the pics came out OK! After that, the bite window had shut, and there was no more action for the session. When we finally got to bed and set the alarm for the morning, it read “alarm in 3 hours and some change minutes.” Thank goodness for afternoon naps.

The following morning, we said goodbye to Rex and Ryo as they headed off on the next leg of their trip, and we took Charles out on the lagoon to hunt jacks. It was another good session with a nice average size fish. That evening, we ventured down to the mouth later than usual to compensate for the later tide. The fish arrived on schedule, and Charles opened his session with a PB snapper that munched on a black and purple Andino. In the very early hours of the next morning, Charles hooked up with another tarpon. This fish didn’t play our game at all and quickly got its head down current, not looking back. We raced to the South Bank point as fast as we could, but despite our best efforts, there was no turning the fish out of the current, and the backing melted off the reel into the darkness. Eventually, with the fish several hundred meters away and Charles almost looking at the bottom of his reel with his hand clamped around the spool, something went through the fly line, and the connection was lost.

The following morning, Charles’ wife, son, and daughter were flying into Gamba on a charter flight to join him. Instead of doing a morning session on the lagoon, we drove into town to meet them at the airport. Ewan had to collect one of the camp quad bikes from the mechanic in town and drive it back to camp, so I went with Charles to meet his family. After collecting them at the airport and loading them onto the game-viewing chairs on the back of the cruiser for the trip back to camp, my limited experience with the road network let me down. I took the wrong fork at one of the intersections, causing a fifteen-minute detour. This allowed us to explore some of the less-traveled roads before getting back onto the main track and arriving for lunch slightly later than planned.

That afternoon, we headed out with the family to the North Bank, planning to get Charles’ son into a few fish. It turned out to be a stunning evening with good sightings of elephants and forest sitatunga. The fishing wasn’t wild that afternoon, but Charles’ son did get his arms stretched by a few decent fish.

Departure the following morning was at 6 AM sharp for the gorilla camp. We said goodbye to Charles and his crew, knowing that he would be reliving experiences from the past week for many moons to come.

CONTACT US

If you’d like to know more about the fish, fishing, and accommodation at Sette Cama in Gabon, you can contact our destination manager Paul Stevens on 01603 407596 or email at paul@sportquestholidays.com, who would love to speak to you.

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