Gambia report

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bassmanrob
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Gambia report

Post by bassmanrob »

I'd never fished abroad and had read plenty about fishing in the Gambia. So when my girlfriend suggested going in November for 2 weeks I was very excited about getting a couple of days fishing in. Reading old threads I wanted to book a couple of Gambian guides called Tom and Assan. I asked on another site and a guy called steveh24 was very helpful with pm's and gave me their contact details and a few pointers too, thanks Steve. After a few emails with Assan we set a date for some good tides. I shared a few pm's with another angler Davey (raptor1) who was also going to be in the Gambia after Guinea Bissau and he was to join me for the 2 days.

Day one

Tom and Assan picked up myself, my girlfriend Jules and Davey from outside the hotel at 6am in the 4x4 they hire and we were on our way. A quick stop at Tanji fish market for some Bonga fish to go with our prawns for bait before we continued south to our marks in the south of Gambia. The off-roading when we got nearer the mark was great fun, Tom has previously worked as a safari driver and soon had us on a stunning looking deserted beach.

I had a quick chat with Assan about rigs and hooks and he confirmed what Steve had advised me, strong 3/0 hooks with 60lb snoods. I was immediately impressed with the guides, they set things up quickly and it's clear they've fished with plenty of good UK anglers. I initially thought Assan had taken my pennel rig to look at it but before I knew it he'd expertly baited it with some large prawns and handed it back to me! These guys know all about rigs, cocktails, double-patting etc and as I was on holiday with Jules and didn't fancy smelling like Grimsby I was more than happy to let them do my baiting up.

Casting into the Atlantic for the first time....

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I put my rod into the tube and waited for my first bite, I didn't have to wait long before it showed a few rattles. My first Gambian fish was soon on the beach in the shape of a small catfish. These are a very common catch in the Gambia and put whiting to shame with their ability to swallow large baits and hooks. They are also poisonous so I was more than happy for them to be unhooked by my Gambian guides.

I was soon nick-named the catfish king and was bringing them in every cast. The guides and Davey also had landed amongst the catfish some butterfish which look like pufferfish with the teeth of Esther Rantzen! We all suffered the odd bite-off to these toothy critters too. I was to taste butterfish later in the holiday and they are delicious. I also learned that fish is too expensive to buy for a lot of Gambians, butterfish is one of Assan's favourites so his smile says it all in this photo....

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Butterfish are ugly, taste great and actually give a decent scrap despite their appearance. The best one caught by us was a 7lber caught by Davey (I think he has the photo of it). It was soon time for a move and we headed along the beach in the 4x4. Our guides informed us this was a very good mark for guitarfish and Davey proved them right with this one which went 9lb if I remember correctly.

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I only caught catfish on the first day but throughly enjoyed it, not knowing what the next bite may bring whilst ospreys, vultures, buzzards and pelicans flew over-head and ghost crabs ran in and out of the burrows. During the afternoon Tom and Assan conducted their prayer, both their rods were still out and when they'd finished I asked Assan what he'd do if he had a good bite. "Rob....that's what you're here for" he beamed in reply! He also promised to loan me his lucky rod for day two.

Day Two

Jules left me and Davey to it on day two and stayed at the hotel for a day of beauty treatments. I was determined to shed my title of the 'catfish king' and I did so on my first cast with a sompat. I then had a bigger one on my second cast, they look like a black bream with bass dorsal fins. Like black bream they hit harder and fight harder then their size suggests. Unlike black bream they have no problem in taking big baits on 3/0 hooks! On my 3rd cast I finally landed one of the 60lb snood chomping butterfish.

A sompat and a butterfish...

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I was chatting to the guides about the different sorts of bites the different species give when the lucky rod I was using trembled the hammered right over and stayed there! I ran to it and grabbed it, this fish was either coming in with me or gone. I caught up with it and it made some fast runs and took a bit of line in the surf. I saw a silver tail come out of the water and soon had my first 'proper' Gambian fish. A 9lb Cassava caught on prawn and bongafish cocktail.

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I was delighted with this fish as were my guides. They really are a great couple of blokes and mad keen anglers. A few catfish and butterfish followed before things slowed down for a bit. Davey told me he'd hit a big mullet bait out at range and on cue something big took it! It took line and kited off to the left before coming into view to the shouts of "captain" from Tom and Assan. It was indeed a captainfish and it went 16lb 14oz.

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Things again went quiet for a while before we headed to the shallower guitarfish mark. We waded right out and hit the baits long over the back of the sandbar. My 6500 was right down to the backing when I got the rod back in the tube. If something headed out to sea with the bait, I'd be following it! Davey was soon in with a good bite and had a very nice fish on, a 20lb guitarfish was soon tailed by Tom. I was waiting with the camera...

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I glanced at my rod as soon as I took the shot and it was bending right over in the tube, Assan grabbed my camera off me and I ran to start the fight. Again this fish turned and came in towards me for a while before turning a making some good runs in the shallows before finally beaching itself making Assan's job easy. My first guitarfish went 13lb 2oz.

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Not a bad double shot, Tom and Assan know their marks....

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Despite things being hard in the Gambia and fish being out of the price range of the majority of Gambians it's worth mentioning that Tom and Assan regard guitarfish and rays as sport species. Their numbers are declining and the guides return all guitarfish and rays to the sea. Our days catch minus the returned guitarfish, a great days fishing.

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Another thing worth mentioning is that tackle is almost impossible to get in the Gambia and well beyond the price of the locals. Every rod, reel, swivel and hook owned by Tom and Assan is donated by the anglers they guide. We gave them plenty of weights, line, rigs, hooks and components on our return to the hotel.

Day Three

I had promised Jules that I'd only do two days fishing but hadn't stopped talking about it all holiday. We'd also done an excursion Assan and his friend Lamin during our holiday, better value and much more fun than the tour companies. We'd also befriended another couple in our hotel and Martin had done a bit of fishing years ago and fancied a bit of gambian fishing. When Jules said I could go again on our penultimate day I couldn't pick up the phone to Assan quick enough! The tides weren't as good as the previous week but I didn't mind.

Tom was off up country somewhere guiding some students building a school so 4x4 driving duties fell to Lamin. Lamin was a tour rep for first choice before they went under and is a really cheerful charismatic character. I you want any day-trips whilst in the Gambia I highly recommend him. His number is +220 7725259.

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I was soon off the mark with a sompat and a catfish before the obligatory butterfish bite-off. Martin was a bit rusty but was also soon into the catfish but also had a couple of crack-offs. I winced as I remembered how pleased Assan was upon receiving five 5oz breakaways and offered to do his casting. The first cast i did for him saw the line heading far to the left as I got the rod in the tube. "I reckon something's picked that up" I said to him and he picked the rod up and felt something there.

Sure enough there was and it was the fish I needed for my 'Gambian hattrick' a captain fish, albeit a small one. Jules said "well you cast so you half caught it"! My 'half caught captain fish'.

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Next cast saw the arrival of the stingrays, one to Martin, one to me and another to Martin. Assan did the honours for the photo.

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Assan had also noticed a ray like bite on his own rod, this was no tiddler though and he soon had quite a battle on his hands and slowly pumped the ray in.

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I was stood in the shallows and the sinker was soon in site. Assan has using a drop-down pulley rig donated to him by davey the previous week. Just as the ray was about to come into site the hook-pulled leaving us all disappointed as we'd have loved to have seen it. Lamin took the girls off for lunch in the 4x4 leaving myself, Martin and Assan fishing. The 4x4 reappeared about an hour later like a mirage in the desert! Lamin is a friend of the bar owner and let the girls bring lunch and a crate of drinks down to us, we dropped the stuff off and the drive back up the beach.

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The fishing had gone quite in the heat of the day so the refreshments were welcome. It did pick up again with sompat and catfish. I said to Assan I need to catch you a butterfish before we run out of time then had a better bite. It was indeed a butterfish but a different species a yellow butterfish.

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Time for one last cast in the Gambia which like my first yielded a catfish. Despite the fishing picking up it was getting late and the tide was also threatening to cut us off so we reluctantly called it a day.

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I had a great holiday in the Gambia and the fishing was a real highlight for me. As was meeting Tom, Assan and also Lamin. Really nice guys who will go out of their way to help you. I can't recommend them enough and can see why they are so popular with other anglers. They say hello to all their regulars and I know they will read this in their local internet cafe as they were looking forward to the seasons first report going online. If you want to book contact Assan in advance so he can pick the best tides so you get the most from the trip. His number is +220 7781160. He also has email which I can pm you. Thanks for reading.

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flattiefanatic
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Post by flattiefanatic »

What a great report and fantastic pictures. A big thank you for sharing them ;)

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redmouse
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Post by redmouse »

you jammy jammy git :) , looks like a fishing trip of a lifetime, thanks for sharing it

pendulampete

Post by pendulampete »

Wow....what a stunning place full of cracking fish
Great report and pictures mate,thanks for posting

pete ;)

rabbi2
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Post by rabbi2 »

Makes your eyes water don't it lads? Well done and thanks for both the report and the stunning pics.
Cheers
keith :D :D

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