Farasan Banks Exploratory Report
Dylan Rose | The Arabian Fly | FlyCastaway October 03, 2023
We couldn't be more excited about this new destination and considering the challenge of unearthing a new fishery we feel their results were fantastic.
These first few groups of anglers found a wide variety of species including giant trevally, golden trevally, Indo-pacific permit, bonefish, and both titan and peach face triggerfish. Anglers focused on the early part of the day to take advantage of cooler temperatures. In the afternoon once everyone was back aboard, the yacht moved to explore new fishing grounds. The guide team learned a great deal about how best to approach this fishery and unanimously agreed that the cooler temperatures of the coming "Spring" season had the potential to yield even better catch results.
Even from these early explorations, it's incredible to think of the potential of this fishery. The key takeaway from the guide's full report below is species diversity. It's incredible to think that we could soon be seeing anglers with catches of giant trevally, bonefish, permit and trigger fish in a single day. The Saudi Arabian super slam! Or maybe even adding milkfish, bluefin trevally, and bumphead parrot fish to mix.
In addition, the logistics went smoothly, the single rooms on the boat were spacious, the food was great, the crew as warm and hospitable.
Full report from the Farasan Bank Guide Team:
Hours spent huddled around a computer looking at satellite imagery of vast flats and interesting-looking islands, eventually matured into five different exploratory trips totalling 10 weeks in Saudi Arabia between July 2019 and April 2023. What we’ve experienced during those initial trips to Saudi Arabia left us excited to tell the world that there’s a saltwater fishery in this modern era, largely unexplored, with sight fishing opportunities for all of the species you’d expect to encounter in the Red Sea.
A hidden gem in the fly fishing world until now, Saudi Arabia flaunts over 2000 kilometers of Red Sea coastline, accompanied by an additional 1150 islands and islets. This expansive aquatic venue offers loads of potential for targeting many iconic saltwater fly fishing species including Bones, Triggers, GTs, Info-Pacific Permit, Golden Trevally and others. Venturing into such a vast fishery is however no small feat, requiring the procurement of a nimble and comfortable liveaboard vessel, as well as assembling a team of intrepid anglers and seasoned fly fishing guides. These essential ingredients set the stage for our two week exploratory season with guests in early Sept this year.
This two-week expedition provided us with invaluable insights for the future and over the course of 12 days at sea, we charted an impressive 840 kilometres aboard our comfortable and spacious 131ft liveaboard vessel. The vessel, equipped with Wi-Fi, 2 large saloons and 12 independently airconditioned cabins ensured our guests were treated to loads of space and their own rooms during their stay, a rarity for most fly fishing liveaboard operations. In addition to the infrastructure were the delicious meals and warm hospitality of the crew which all contributed to making our time in the Red Sea as enjoyable as possible.
The character of the flats varied significantly from one location to another, offering coral-adorned expanses, turtle grass patches, pristine white sands and lush mangroves. In contrast, some areas featured small coral atolls, where we waded amidst broken marl, rolling surf and inviting white beaches. Although we encountered challenging conditions during Sept, we enjoyed encounters with GTs, Bones, Indo-Pacific Permit, Golden Trevally and Triggerfish…in fact loads of Triggerfish. Saudi Arabia’s smaller tides were however a new dynamic for us, with the air temperatures and water levels playing more of a role on these two weeks. The prime fishing window extended from early morning until midday, as such we used the mid-afternoons to either go diving or steam to the next piece of water we had earmarked on our satellite map.
Now, let’s delve into what we found:
We encountered Bonefish in areas boasting expansive sandy flats. Often sizable, they would tail in the extremely shallow water during the early morning sessions. The windless mornings, paired with low light conditions did however present challenges when presenting flies to these elusive fish. On a positive note, some of the Bones encountered during our exploration were very sizeable and although they managed to elude us this time round, we were left feeling energised by the thought of a 12 lb. plus fish coming to hand in the seasons to follow.
Whether encountered singly or in schools, the Golden Trevally provided an exceptional shallow-water sight fishing experience. Certain areas we explored offered truly world-class opportunities for this species, with some sessions yielding double-digit catches shared among the group. Alex and Stefan of AOS Fly Fishing had a particularly productive session, each landing 3 and 4 Golden Trevally, respectively. The consistent attributes of the areas where we found Golden Trevally ensured a steady flow of fly fishing opportunities. When we walked specific substrates, we anticipated several Goldens and once you spotted one, you knew another would follow.
Our encounters with Yellow Margin and Mustache Triggerfish had their ups and downs, but like the Goldens, we learned specific substrates and conditions dictated the size and density of Triggerfish populations in various areas. Certain islets offering exceptional opportunities!!!! As such, the abundance of Triggerfish sightings and hook-ups left us brimming with anticipation for our next season in the Red Sea.
Conversations about GTs always ignite excitement. Farasan Banks offered sightings of these formidable species in various conditions and locations. However, the shots were not always straightforward, as encounters with GTs typically resulted in frenetic chaos and near misses. Nevertheless, the number of GT sightings, while not reaching the volumes seen in fisheries like Seychelles, kept us on our toes. When the area exuded that unmistakable “fishy” aura, encountering a bow-waking or tailing Geet was inevitable.
Encounters with Indo-Pacific Permit were particularly thrilling and gratifying. These elusive fish were often spotted while tailing, either individually or in schools. Opportunities closely mirrored those found in renowned fisheries such as St Brandon’s and with some more time learning the fishery, we’re confident we’ll be able to provide guests with some fine Permit fishing over the years to come.
Although we were hoping for higher water levels and cooler water temperatures, we still experienced good opportunities at a wide variety of flats species. The flats themselves teemed with abundant food sources, including small baitfish and crustaceans. In addition we encountered loads of stingrays and the occasional shark, all of which indicates a very healthy ecosystem. The ebbs and flows inherent in exploring a new fishery are part and parcel of the journey and so we look forward to our next stint in April 2024 with great excitement.
Farasan Banks, Saudi Arabia
Wade fish beautiful, crystal-clear flats and sight-fish to a variety of exotic species including giant trevally, triggerfish, bonefish and permit