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"It's a permit," I screamed to Kyle.
What was it — my hundredth cast in the last two hours? Kyle Simpson and I had been knee-deep in hoards of big permit all exposing themselves in the receding tide while looking for a last supper on the southeastern side of Poivre atoll in Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. It was just the two of us, taking turns in conditions perfect for spying black tails and dorsal fins trimmed with gold.
I cleared my line and thought, “Finally.” I exhaled through my cheeks as the rod pulsed to the rhythm of the powerful tail kicks that propelled the fish toward the outer edge of the atoll, closer to the reef drop-off. I held my rod high, palmed the reel’s rim and carefully put on the brakes. The fish slowed, turning parallel to the reef crown. I’d turned it — just — and was now recovering dozens of yards of backing. With a second wind, the permit surged once more. Again I broke it from a likely fatal plunge over the reef’s edge.
High-hurdling as best he could in heavy wading boots, Kyle came over to me, camera in hand and out of breath. “Great job, Bro!” he gasped. We fist-bumped and then, incredulously, the slab of a permit was gone. A subsequent review of the seven-second video later that evening would reveal little more than a sketchy glimpse of an angler with a bent rod rebounding straight right as the camera settles on the subject. Next, a long, guttural effigy that is often used to characterize the worst of things when — “shit happens.”
Finding myself sitting at Poivre, sharing shots with a guide-in-training on a dark afternoon in October, began with a cryptic e-mail from Keith Rose-Innes in June 2012.
“Hi there, Mark!” it began. “It’s been a while since we last chatted. How’re things? Have you been fishing lately? I’ve started consulting for an operation in the Seychelles called Desroches. I want to get you out there sometime. Best, Keith.”
It had been a while since we’d last “chatted,” but his brief note seemed more like a long, tight, well-directed loop hurled at me than just a friendly “hello,” which intrigued me on several levels. First, while familiar with some fly-fishing destinations in the Seychelles, I’d never heard of Desroches. Second, his e-mail address now read “@desroches.com,” not the familiar “@flycastaway.com.” And third, “get you out there sometime” was a metaphor for “I’ve got a story right in your wheelhouse.”
Thus began a correspondence trail between Keith and me, with Fly Fishing in Salt Waters providing peripheral guidance, that culminated in my two-week visit to the Desroches Island Resort. The plan was simple: “Come to the Seychelles; train with my new guides before the start of our first client season,” Keith wrote.
It turns out, Desroches Island Resort had an established blue-water trolling operation running an Egg Harbor 35 Sport Fisherman for guests looking for the occasional day trip. However, the island’s topography does not support adequate flats fishing to justify a full-time fly-fishing operation. That said, nearby sister atolls of St. Joseph and Poivre, 24 and 26 miles distant respectively, are an entirely different matter.
Thus, Desroches Island Resort had a business case for a fly-fishing operation; it just needed an industry professional to define the capital assets required and to develop a strategy for execution. Enter Keith Rose-Innes.
I had to see what Keith had up his sleeve. It boiled down to trusting a vision he’d built on 16 years’ fly-fishing experience in the Seychelles, the last seven leading FlyCastaway as owner/operator. Having fished with FlyCastaway twice, I’d seen firsthand a fishing product that sold itself and an operation that ran so tight it squeaked. How could I go wrong?
On the first of October I arrived in Mahe with swollen ankles after 26 straight hours of travel time. To save precious checked baggage weight, I’d worn my wading boots — once my feet began to sweat after the first leg from Cincinnati to Paris, I realized this was a bad idea. My compadres in coach class would agree. But a shower stall at the Desroches Island Resort pavilion at the Mahe terminal refreshed me, clothing, stinky socks, body parts and all. In the lounge, I drip-dried, smelling of gardenias as I sipped cappuccino and awaited the final 40-minute flight to Desroches.
A contingent of staff decked out in company colors, from the hotel’s general manager to porters, moved to meet the plane as it rolled to a stop. Sweet tropical air enveloped as Keith waited in the periphery.
“There are 320 people here who keep this island running.” Keith enlightened me while we walked the length of the manicured grounds to my room, which was on the beach. Well, all hotel rooms are on the beach.
The term five-star accommodations has become overused. So how could I characterize this place without resorting to hyperbole? I’ve never had a suite at a fishing destination with two bathrooms before, nor had one including both a throne and a bidet. Which got me thinking a bit about the business model: Was it possible to run a fly-fishing operation from such a remote location that was so over-the-top?
Eventually I ran into Keith. “See you at 7:30 for dinner? Got to get back to work — close to a deal on another island we want to add to the fly-fishing operation.” Hmm, the plot thickened.
At dinner, servers exchanged silverware with every course and filled water glasses with every sip. We drank down our meals with draught SeyBrew and talked about the game plan for the days to come. Keith avoided discussing “the deal,” and I didn’t ask.
“Tomorrow we provision our 54-foot Simonis Power Yacht catamaran Aman’i for your trip to St. Joseph. You’ll meet my new guide crew tomorrow night. You’ll also meet Bryan Rapson; he’s skippering,” Keith said. “Have your gear ready by 4 p.m.; I’ll send a buggy to your room. Sorry, but I’ll not be going; we’re close to closing that deal I mentioned and I need to be here.”
Frankly, I liked the idea of hanging with the new gang independent from the boss. I’d get an honest sense of personalities and skills. Kind of like an unchaperoned boys’ week out.