From the Seychelles to the Bahamas via the good ‘ole Garden Route… The Reeds are about to start scripting a new chapter in their careers, but not before they fill us in on what is, what was, what should be and what will be:
1. Firstly, let’s talk a bit about the past year (as much as people are tired of it). You guys spend the majority (or all) of lockdown on Alphonse? Correct. There are surely worse places to be stuck, but it couldn’t all have been coconuts, mojitos, Sey Brews and fishing? Or was it??
JESS: This is correct! Lockdown on a tropical island, what could go wrong! Dress-up parties, team sports days, beach cleaning initiatives and being day drunk by 9:00am just about sums it up. There were a couple of stitches, LOTS of “dronk verdriet” moments but in the scheme of things, probably the best team to be with during that mad time. This was the first time in a long time that most of us were together again, we were extremely blessed to have been there.
KYLE: I couldn’t agree more with Jess. We were all very fortunate to spend the duration of lockdown on Alphonse. There were definitely a few deep and meaningful conversations, where we all thought we could solve the world’s problems. We unfortunately didn’t spend much time on the flats. With the constant hope of reopening we didn’t want to add any additional pressure on the fishery. Most of our fishing time was spent handlining wahoo with bungee ropes. (Kitchen Runs)
2. You guys have now closed the chapter on the Seychelles and are moving on? Tell us a bit about the new gig?
J: Moving away from the Seychelles has been quite emotionally challenging, to put it mildly. These destinations become a part of your life, your pride and your soul. Seychelles is every single fly fishermen’s dream destination and I do feel we will hopefully one day be back. As Kyle mentioned, the people you work and live with become your family and everyone hates a goodbye. We have always wanted to experience the Bahamas and The Delphi Club is the next fit for us. The ambient style The Delphi Club has to offer is exactly who Kyle and I are. Every single detail in the lodge is a piece of memorabilia and there is a lot of history there. This new opportunity will be challenging and different, there is much more to learn from a business perspective which is extremely exciting for the both of us.
K: I would say maybe put a placeholder on the Seychelles page. HAHA! For sure, the Seychelles is one of the most incredible and remarkable places we have ever visited. The sheer diversity and abundance of life is something – I honestly feel – if anybody has the opportunity to see, they have to. No questions asked. It is very hard for us to move away from a place we have spent close to a decade traveling in and out of. We have had the pleasure to work with some of the most remarkable people in the fly-fishing industry, after such a long time we have all become a family. The Bahamas is an incredible place. For me personally, the move to Delphi Club was heavily motivated by an opportunity for me to move away from guiding. Being involved in a lot of the ‘off the water’ part of the Seychelles operation, really made me want to challenge myself and grow more as a hospitality professional.
3. Tell us a bit about this fishery specifically. Do the Alphonse bonefish tactics and flies translate? Or are the Bahamian bones different to target?
K: On a whole, I think the fish behave very similarly. The fishing dynamic around Abaco is very different to that of many of the Atolls in the Seychelles. The sheer size of the actual land mass dictates a very different approach to the fishery. With the boats being trailered every day, we have the scope to fish vastly different parts of the island depending completely on wind direction and obviously the tide. Some of the areas that you fish really remind me of the Seychelles. White sand flats with nice groups of Bones cruising around. However, the vast expanse of the Marls, with it’s massive network of mangrove forests provide a very different scenario. Here the fish are plentiful, but the water is often unbelievably shallow, fishing at fish with their backs out of the water, will test any anglers skills. A well set up 12-foot, 15lb Seguar premier leader, with a tasty pillow talk, will do the job on both fisheries any day.
J: I’m going to let Kyle answer this one, everyone who knows me knows how excited I get about: Every. Single. Fish! Even the thumb-sized ones.
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4. How important do you think a move like this is in the scope of a career? It is important to stay fresh, learn new resorts, cultures and fisheries?
J: I think it all depends on what you would like to achieve out of your career in the hospitality industry. Personally for us, we love to tackle new challenges and we constantly want to learn new things. Expanding your knowledge in this industry is imperative, the day you feel you know everything is the day you need to consider a career change. Besides doing it for work, gaining new insights into different cultures and environments is kind of a hobby of ours, which we are very lucky to have.
K: Absolutely true, for both of us, challenging ourselves is what keeps us moving. I have spent about 10 years guiding and this was the perfect opportunity for me to stay within an industry that we love, but have some new challenges. Diversifying is very important, being able to learn and understand different operations is an invaluable asset for a manager in this industry.
5. From a lodge management perspective it is vastly different to Cosmo/Alphonse/Astove?
J: Very different but also the same, each lodge has their own unique attributes but the foundations are the same. This role is definitely going to be a lot less physical than Seychelles (anyone who has worked there knows what this means) – rolling diesel barrels up a beach has to retire at some point. This role will give us a lot more responsibility and involvement in the overall operation from HR to reservations to tackling budgets. It’s going to be awesome.
K: The fly fishing lodge industry, has so many attributes that are similar. However, as Jess mentioned they are all unique in their own right. There are vast differences between the management practices between even Cosmo/Alphonse/Astove/Farquhar, each has it’s fine nuances. Delphi, is just the same, similar but different. I’d say the biggest bonus, is not having to worry about the barge. If you know, you know.
6. Also you’re within pretty easy reach of the States right? Quick long weekend Stateside when you have
J: Absolutely! Need to catch a Tarpon in Florida and eat at a traditional diner with some pancakes and a big jug of maple syrup (& obviously add a diet coke). This is the first time we will be so close to the US, we have a lot of bucket lists we want to try complete. Have you guys ever heard of Outdoorsy? Like Air Bnb but for pimped out vans to travel the US? Count me in. ‘Merica!
K: We are both extremely excited to spend some time in and around the US. An overland trip in a kitted out van is definitely high on the bucket list.
7. I read somewhere (or heard, I forget) that due to Covid and the travel restrictions etc many of the ‘closer’ and internal resorts/outfits/lodges in the US (and then obviously Bahamas) are thriving, while the further destinations are suffering?
J: Covid has messed up a lot of things and travel is in the top five. Closer stops for US clients are thriving, this could be due to proximity and also entry requirements. Seychelles took a beating at the beginning but if there is any team that’s going to make it to the top again it’s the Alphonse Team. Seychelles has exceeded on their vaccination program and are ready for clients.
K: I think on whole, the entire travel and tourism world has taken a beating. A lot of the closer travel destinations are starting to slowly get back to some sort of normal. I wouldn’t say thriving though. The one huge advantage with places like the Seychelles, is that because it is such a ‘bucket list’ destination, guests will move hell or high water to ensure they make it out there. With all the challenges that the Seychelles has faced, the team and the country have performed extraordinarily well. With Seychelles excelling in their vaccination rollout plan, it wont be long before things are back to normal.
8. Then let’s talk about your SA time/rotation… You guys are based in the Garden Route when back in SA as it is where you both grew up, but you spend heaps of time in the bush/Kruger and traveling locally when home. How important is that (non-fishing) local travel aspect to you guys?
J: The bush, there really is nothing quite like it. There is truly nothing better than fighting over who turns the light on once the alarm has gone off at 4:00am, making some coffees and racing to be the first one at the gate before it opens. We live in such a beautiful country and even after months of working remotely together, I wouldn’t do it with anyone else.
K: The Bush… Jess and I obviously work together, but when you’re at work, you aren’t really together. For us as a couple, it is integral that we take these moments to really spend time together after an incredibly high-energy, stressful season. Working in high demanding environments takes a toll on you. Our bush time is a time we use to re-connect, switch off and be ourselves.
9. Lastly, photography is a big passion, right? You shoot a lot while in Kruger etc, but also while guiding? How important is it to be a good photographer person in today’s fly-fishing industry?
J: This one is definitely for Kyle, my iPhone has the weirdest pictures.
K: Photography has always been something very close to my heart. I’m not sure if it’s the taking photos or the gear that I love? I’m kidding, however in this day and age it is incredibly important to at least understand the basics. As a guide, it is the one thing we can actually give our guests to take home. To me, it was probably one of the most important parts of my guiding day. Everybody wants a great picture of them with their fish. It was about making the time and effort to go an extra mile to give each guest a small, lifelong gift for them to remember that moment.
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