Since most of us are unable to travel right now, relive an epic trip report from Free Fly Ambassador Paul Sonnen! Read on to check out his account.
We’ve always tried to retreat to a warmer climate with a local, tropical vibe for a week or two every year. The checklist typically consists of: an exotic location that can supply sight fishing capabilities, beautiful beaches, reasonable accommodations, and unknown adventure. Search tropical sight fishing and yes there are plenty of great places that pop up before considering somewhere such as Guadeloupe, but it had gotten my attention.
Guadeloupe is an archipelago Region of France located in the Western Antilles. Within our first 24 hours of being there we were blown away of this island’s shear beauty. The island of Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly with the left wing containing mountains, rainforests, waterfalls and active valcano, La Grande Soufrière. The right wing has more of the typical Caribbean feel with more flat terrain, white sandy beaches, and encompasses more of my preferred fishing flats.
We spent the first few days on the western wing, or Basse-Terre, with features reminding us of Hawaii. We tackled an intense hike to Guadeloupe’s largest waterfall, Chutes du Carbet, and couldn’t help but feel accomplished on such an underestimated hike. Afterwards, we were rewarded by a breathtaking drive around the western wing, traversing through laid back harbor towns and expansive ocean views. To top it all off, the sunset viewed from our lodging was breathtaking.
It was time to relocate to the right wing of Guadeloupe, known as Grand-Terre. After staring at Google Earth for hours, I knew of several flats on the south eastern part of the island that could be accessible by foot and should be decent feeding grounds for bonefish, and possibly permit. When searching information on fly fishing in Guadeloupe, quickly I realized there wasn’t much and there were only a few guides, especially ones that did it on the fly. I can’t afford to book a guide for days on end and also love the reward of doing it yourself, but it is always great to talk to like minded fishy people and learn about their waters. I met up with guide Gavin Lebreton for two days of stalking the flats on foot. Gavin does all of his guided trips via foot or kayak and was very knowledgeable of the fishery there in Guadeloupe.
The first day with Gavin was a special one for both of us. After stalking a couple of flats and spotting a few bonefish that didn’t want to cooperate, I quickly learned that there were several differences in the bone fishing there that reminded me of parts of Belize and Honduras. Lots of turtle grass and coral bottom scattered behind breaking waves created a slight obstacle, but also made for a spectacular surrounding. The next flat we hit I was able to connect and land a small permit which was a great way to start flats fishing in Guadeloupe! Shortly after we spotted a nice bonefish that ate willingly and took me deep into my backing. Once landed we realized it was a respectable bonefish for anywhere in the Caribbean, and we were lining up to possibly get a slam for the day. After a couple tough shots at larger permit in breaking waves up to our chest, Gavin said he knew where we could find a tarpon or snook. With the day coming to an end and a couple of close follows from some nice snook, I got tight with a small one and completed a slam for the day! That was Gavin’s first guided slam on fly and my first slam of that combination! Early that next morning I landed a fun sized tarpon with Gavin and had several shots at finicky bonefish through out day with only a beautiful buffalo trunkfish to hand.
"Bonefish a day keeps the doctor away"
With a handful of days left and a good stoke going into the rest of our stay we spent the next day exploring the most eastern tip of Guadeloupe, Anse des châteaux “Cove of the Castles”. This part of the Island had a very European coastal look. Tall cliff walls that have seen tremendous breaking waves for millions of years and beautiful shades of blue water that could only be described by its pictures. The cross at the top of the mainland point of Anse des châteaux is a memorable spot I’ll never forget. Plus the snorkeling on the beach adjacent to there was crystal clear and full of life!
Normally renting a boat is too expensive or not available in some destinations, but after searching around we found that renting a small 20ft center console was in our budget and decided to spend our last two days exploring every bit of anything else I thought was fishy on the maps plus we could get away and find our own private paradise.
That we did and couldn’t of been more impressed with the full potential of that Island! The first day we set out to see waters of the northern half between the two wings of Guadeloupe. This region was scattered with small pancake turtle grass flats and I was able to hook a nice bonefish on the first one we hit. With my internal itch and concept of “a bonefish a day keeps the doctor away” done, we spent the rest of the day sight seeing and jaw dropped! In the afternoon we explored a small creek system where I landed a small tarpon and felt as if we were in our own utopia.
Ending with a Bang
Our last full day on Guadeloupe we set out to see the southern waters of the winged Island, with priority of seeing a certain area that looked very appealing on Google Earth. Upon arrival the overall appearance was more than what we expected, a beautiful island with no one around and perfect fishing flats scattered around it. The tide was higher than expected but I knew that it was only going to get better through the day. Within the first thirty minutes I hooked a nice tailing bonefish behind the outside breaking waves of the island that pulled off on the initial run. A little discouraged but not broken, I waded back towards our rental boat where I hooked another decent bonefish right next to the boat and was photoed and released. Pressure was off and we ate a delicious boat lunch before setting back out to wade the flats again with the tide perfect. I immediately broke off a nice bonefish, then set out to look at the reef flats behind the breaking waves and stumbled upon a small school of permit tailing. After a couple fly changes and shaky hands, I was tight and landed a beautiful, no trophy, but still a permit! The rest of the day was on fire, breaking off another nice permit, and landing a really nice bonefish before returning our rental boat to Pointe a Pitre!
So if you’re looking for something a little different than your normal Bahamian, Belizean, Keys, etc. spot to catch some winter sun, some fish, and swim in perfectly tempered Caribbean waters, consider the Island of Guadeloupe!