Cyclone Fantala Lays Waste to Fly-Fishing Paradise

Cyclone Fantala Lays Waste to Fly-Fishing Paradise
The FlyCastaway lodge at Farquhar Atoll, April 2016

When I wrote the final words of my story "Freaky Farquhar," (coming July 1 in FLY FISHERMAN magazine) I felt I had given readers an accurate glimpse of what the fishing is like at the southernmost island group in the Seychelles. The bumphead parrotfish, triggerfish, golden trevally, and GTs (giant trevally) I chased on the flats there were strangely beautiful, and unlike anything else I'd seen in 20 years of saltwater fishing.

But just days after I finished the story, Cyclone Fantala passed directly over Farquhar not once, but three times in a back-and-forth mauling that lasted for more than three days. On April 18, 2016, the tempest became the strongest ever in the history of the Indian Ocean, with sustained winds of up to 175 mph. In our hemisphere, that would make it the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

As the storm raged outside, the island's only 12 remaining inhabitantsincluding FlyCastaway fishing guides Matthieu Cosson and Justin Rollinsonsheltered in a concrete cyclone bunker constructed in 2006 specifically for this purpose. When they emerged, the idyllic, tropical paradise looked like a war zone with every building razed, and 99 percent of the trees uprooted or stripped bare. "I had tears in my eyes when I saw the photos," said FlyCastaway owner Gerhard Laubscher. "The cyclone destroyed everything in its wake."

Cyclone Fantala went back and forth over Farquhar, hitting the island three times with sustained winds of 175 mph

FLY FISHERMAN doesn't often publish stories about places you can't go fishing, but due to the timing of the storm and our publication schedule, this is one of those cases. When the printed magazine appears on news stands July 1, Farquhar Atoll will be in essence a "no fishing zone." Nobody can fish at Farquhar right now because there is no infrastructure to support it. The closest place to get a gallon of gasoline or fresh water is 700 kilometers away. For six months the island will be inhospitable while the slow process of rebuilding takes place. Laubscher expects a new lodge to open in March of 2017, nearly 11 months after the storm. The good news is that the new facility will be a substantial upgrade with single rooms instead of doubles, a larger enclosed dining area, a bigger outside lounge and bar area, and a building that serves as the saltwater equivalent of a mud room with freshwater hoses, and storage for wet boots and rigged fly rods and reels.


As far as the fishing goes, Laubscher says monsoon season always rejuvenates the flats and that this latest cyclone will undoubtedly improve the fishing. "It's a giant flushing of the entire flats ecosystem which is always good for the fishing and quite frankly, we needed it," said Laubscher. "It brings cooler water and freshens everything up. My guides have had a look around, and say some of the flats are bigger and better than they used to be."


If you want to be among the first to see the "new" Farquhar you won't have to wait for the new buildings. Laubscher plans to bring the 137-foot former research vessel Dugong to Farquhar beginning the week of Nov. 14, 2016, to provide accommodations for a slightly delayed season opener. The Dugong currently serves as the FlyCastaway base of operations on the island of Providence. If you've seen Jim Klug's Film Back to Providence then you've seen the Dugong. For updates on the evolving situation at Farquhar, and for bookings, contact Michael Caranci at The Fly Shop (530-222-3555).

Here are some Farquhar images taken before the storm in December 2015, and some from shortly after the storm in late April, 2016.

  

Grace Smith and Ross Purnell with a Farquhar bonefish December 2015.
Ross Purnell with a giant Seychelles tortoise in the forests of Farquhar December 2015.
Richard Clark exercising a Farquhar bonefish, December 2015.
The welcome sign at Farquhar Atoll, Nov. 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of Doug McLean
FlyCastaway fishing guides Matthieu Cosson and Justin Rollinson sheltered in a concrete cyclone bunker for three days. When they emerged, they found and recovered the Farquhar welcome sign.
Farquhar Atoll after the cyclone, April 2016
Farquhar Atoll after the cyclone, April 2016

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

A backhand cast is when you use your backcast to deliver the fly.

Bahamas - Bonefish

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones are brightly colored treasures. Trout

Alpine Lakes for Remote Monsters

Landon Mayer - April 18, 2018

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones...

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in United States

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado

Steven B. Schweitzer - May 03, 2016

Read about Colorado's backcountry fly fishing in " Indian Peaks Wilderness Area Colorado."

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most common applications you'll encounter on the water. Beginners

Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader

George Daniel - January 22, 2018

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most...

See More Trending Articles

More Editor's Notebook

According to Sam Wilson of the Billings Gazette, a Montana fly-fishing guide was settled a lawsuit over the wrongful death in 2014 of his 81-year-old client. Editor's Notebook

Fly Fishing Guide Settles Wrongful Death Suit

Ross Purnell - December 28, 2018

According to Sam Wilson of the Billings Gazette, a Montana fly-fishing guide was settled a...

55'12'08.6 Editor's Notebook

55'12'08.6"S 67'24'58.1"'W

Ross Purnell, Editor - October 02, 2015

55'12'08.6"S 67'24'58.1'W

Olympic Pole Vaulter May be the Perfect Fishing Partner Editor's Notebook

Olympic Pole Vaulter May be the Perfect Fishing Partner

Ross Purnell, Editor - June 10, 2016

Olympic Pole Vaulter May be the Perfect Fishing Partner

Road to Redemption Editor's Notebook

Road to Redemption

Ross Purnell, Editor - June 12, 2018

Road to Redemption

See More Editor's Notebook

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.