1. Where in the world have you fly fished?
I was pretty much born into fishing. I have been fishing (or let’s say playing in little pools next to the ocean) since I was 4. My father and grandfather were avid fisherman and I was soon to follow. From a very early age I was fishing whenever I got a chance and fished a lot for big sharks on our coast line. Then fly fishing took me to many different premier, fresh and saltwater destinations around South Africa, whether it be sightfishing for yellowfish at Sterkfontein Dam to Garick in Jeffery’s Bay. I have also fished some other great fisheries around Africa, like the Zambezi for tigerfish and around the Mozambique coastline. I then moved to the United Kingdom and worked for Farlows of Pall Mall, where I continued fishing many UK fisheries including the prestigious River Test. In 2007 I joined the FlyCastaway team and have been guiding full time ever since. I have guided the notorious outer atolls of the Indian Ocean, namely Cosmoledo, Providence, Astove, Assumption, Farquhar and St. Brandon’s. I have spent a large amount of time guiding for tigerfish on the Zambezi River as well as for South Africa’s indigenous Largemouth and Smallmouth Yellowfish on the Vaal River, which is my local water. I have also guided five full seasons in Norway for the infamous Atlantic salmon. I have also completed two full seasons guiding in Mongolia for monster taimen…. a fish which has seriously captured my attention.
2. What is your favorite destination and why?
That is a very hard one, as every destination that I have fished or guided has its own unique elements. I have guided and fished the Seychelles for over 9 years now, so it will always have a special place in my heart. It has such a variety of species to catch on fly – the Bumphead Parrot fish, Napoleon Wrasse, Triggerfish…the list just goes on and on! I think if you speak to any Saffa (South African), or person who has experienced the brute force of a GT, the Gangster of the flats, Mr. GT! I don’t know any other fish that will hit the fly with the sheer power of a GT. Just imagine, we are walking along a flat, in the distance we see a shark, but something is different about this shark, what is that around it? A dozen sickle tails, holy shit! Those are all GTs. Ok let’s try and keep our cool and get into position, let’s head closer to the shark – what are you crazy!? Trust me…. Ok, just cast the fly in a 30x30ft radius of the gang of GTs. Ok, nice, start stripping, strip, strip, strip, faster, strip…. F%$# they are all coming, strip…Boom……! Hold on, turn the drag all the way…How can you not just love that?! As the fish takes the fly his whole head comes out and looks you straight in the eye, as if to say, this is mine, get your own! So any place that holds these beasts, is epic. We have also found some monster GTs in St Brandon’s Atoll; I mean these fish are eating 7-8lb bonefish daily. St. Brandon’s is also arguably the best Permit fishery in the Indian Ocean. Then there is also Tigerfish, a true freshwater monster of Africa. But then there is the beauty of Norway and Mongolia that will just blow your mind. I think the thing that I love the most about fly fishing and guiding is the challenge that comes with a new piece of water. How it works, fish behavior and then there is also the adventure along the way.
3. What is the most memorable travel experience you have and why?
I would definitely have to say my travels to Mongolia last year. Every year it is super smooth sailing but last year it became a long journey. Flying form Johannesburg to Dubai and from Dubai to Beijing was a breeze, but this is where it started to get interesting. After not being allowed on the plane to Ulaanbaatar in Beijing for not having the right Visa in my passport and a serious lack of communication and help, I had to try and get a Mongolia Visa in Beijing at 2am in the morning. So let’s just skip 7 hours of sitting at an airport, to 9am. After sitting in front of the embassy for 5 hours, they realized that I had the right documents and that there was no Mongolian embassy in South Africa, they eventually gave me a Visa and off I went. I had to try and find another flight within 24 hours because I had no Visa for China. When I landed in Ulaanbaatar, I kissed the ground. One more short flight followed and a 12-hour heavy-duty road trip to the camp. For all the guys who are a bit nervous now about traveling to Mongolia, don’t stress, it is normally much easier to get to camp, we just had to set up camp pre-season!
When we got to the camp, all the guides – myself, Matt Carter and Ghana, ran straight to the water and it was huge. Holy cow can I please get a break! When we managed to fetch our head guide Charlie Conn (17 year veteran guide in Mongolia) a day later by boat, he said that it was the highest he has ever seen it. So what to do? We still had high hopes that with no rain we will have an epic season. And we did, another great season at one of the most amazing places in the world, Mongolia! See you later this year (hopefully with no travel stress).
4. What has been the best trip so far and why?
That is also a very hard question to answer. Being a fishing guide you end up fishing a lot less than you used to, especially if you have a year like I had in 2012 where I guided 320 days of the year. But in saying that, when the opportunity comes up I do make the most of it. This last season that passed myself and long time friend and fellow guide Tim Babich had 7 days to fish and film St. Brandon’s (This is one of the atolls that I guide for with FlyCastaway). It was a bit tricky as we were only after Permit for the filming project. We had a 1 day a few years back to fish this atoll in 2010 and we landed 6 Permit. So we had set the standard pretty high. To make a long story short in the 7 day’s we landed 8 Permit and lost a few more big fish. So that was amazing. One fish that will also stand out is a 140cm x 113cm GT (Est 130lbs) that I landed in the Seychelles a few years back.
5. Do you have any travel coming up?
I am traveling to Cuba next week for the first time. I will be fishing with Avalon in Jardines de la Reina. I am looking forward to it a lot, I have heard many great things about Cuba!
6. Is there a species that you are dying to catch? What is it about that fish?
I have never caught a tarpon on fly, yet I have seen so much footage, movies and read great books and articles it feels like I have. I will probably mess up the first one, but I will try my best. Everything about tarpon just looks awesome and they seem like the most perfect fish for a fly rod. Firstly they will eat the fly (ok, well, sometimes), then they jump and fight like crazy and then there is their size. They grow to be monsters! There is a reason why they call them the Silver King. I am also addicted to permit fishing. Most of my fishing and guiding is for Indo Pacific Permit, but they are all epic – Indo and Atlantic – they will test your fishing ability to the max! I am currently working on a project with permit and I remember the one day I turned to my good friend and fellow guide and said, “I am so happy that after all the time spent on the water guiding and fishing, there is a fish that just makes my heart race, hands shake, sweat drip, forces me to do stupid things and make my brain tick the whole time.
7. When you are not on the water, what do you want the most out of a trip and why?
Let’s be honest, there is nothing better than a good drink (whatever is going at the place you are at) and then a good meal. Ok maybe there is one other thing, but we will not get into that! Being a full time fly fishing guide, I know that the time spent off the water with your clients is just as important as the time spent on the water. So you will always find that it is very important that you can keep your clients happy even if the fishing is tough. This you will be able to achieve by being a good host (and good food and drink helps!). The places I guide at are super remote so to get even the smallest thing can be nearly impossible. This can make it a bit trickier, but that adds to the adventure.
8. What is your dream trip and why?
A fly fisherman’s bucket list is always endless and will always stay that way. I have so many trips that I still want to do. I will have to say Bolivia for Golden dorado and pacu is very high up on my list, then there is also Brazil for peacock bass, the Congo for giant tarpon. I would also love to one day catch a steelhead, I have many friends who guide for them and they seem amazing. But again, my love for permit will drive me to where ever they are, so I will want to go were ever they are. It’s a hard decision, I can go on forever…!
9. If one song where to play in a video short of your last fly fishing trip, what would it be?
“Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill. That is what I feel like when I am guiding. Crazy stuff!
“Sail” by Awolnation is also a great track!
10. What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
I would have to say the first thing that came to mind is sunglasses. So much of my fishing and guiding is done on the flats, so most of the fishing is very visual. It is very important to be able to see the fish and with the help of good polarized sunglasses you will just increase you visibility and chances to catch the once in a lifetime fish. They will also help protect your eye’s from wildly flying flies. A lot of the time we are fly fishing where there is a wind factor involved, so with the help of the wind and a badly timed cast you can have the fly whistling past you face very often. It is easy to take a hook out anywhere in you body, but your eyes, you only have to and a fly in the eye will be a very unpleasant experience.
To check out more from Capt. Jako Lucas, please click here.