Catching GT in Djibouti

When a Plan Comes Together

After the disappointment of the previous couple days we retraced our steps back down the coast to Lac Ghoubet, to a spot we’d eyed out on the first day. Our trip had proved frustrating thus far as the coastline looks amazing but is mostly inaccessible and we just couldn’t get to the water’s edge. At the back of Lac Ghoubet there’s a small dirt track to very basic tourist camp right on the water. That’s where we aimed and straight away it proved the correct decision.

Rocky Djibouti Coastline
The bays and ridges of Lac Ghoubet held amazing fishing

Striking Gold in Lac Ghoubet

As we arrived we saw shoals of bait fish get smashed on the surface. Grabbing our rods we sprinted to point straight directly in front. From the first cast the sea was alive and the fish were feeding! Fred landed a small GT then got bust off by a really good fish, I hooked and lost a couple fish. Finally we’d found the fishing we’d been searching for. With the first taste a good one we packed bags for the day and begin exploring the coast properly.

GT Caught in Djibouti
Fred with a beaut GT caught on Fly
Fishing in Djibouti
One of the many fish caught on light tackle

The Excitement of Catching GT

That day and the next the fishing was just phenomenal. The fish we saw, landed, lost was the stuff dreams are made of. The reefs and drop offs are almost untouched and produced a variety of reef fish from grouper, snapper and emperor to napoleon wrasse, coral trout and more. The coral trout destroyed us. I cringe at the number of lures lost to them diving between the coral. We saw a number of big trigger fish and shoals of milkies but frustratingly they wouldn’t eat the flies Fred presented to them.

Lastly but definitely not least were the GT. Man alive did we find the GT. Off the side it was by far the best GT fishing that I’ve ever experienced. Throwing spoons, stickbaits and poppers on a 11ft Assassin Spinmaster 2x Heavy paired with a Stella 10k the geets gave me a solid workout. In the space of 24hrs, One afternoon and one morning session, I had 14 pulls! Landed 4 geets between 10kgs and approx. 25kgs, got bust up by another 2 fish that must’ve been around the 40kg mark. There was also a monster coral trout that kept following my lure but just wouldn’t commit. Fred during the same time found a pack of GT smashing bait fish up close to the side, whipped out the fly rod and hooked up first cast. After an exhausting 30min fight, getting dragged up and down the rocks he managed to landed a beautiful GT!

Photos were taken by Fred Davis of Feathers and Flouro. Check out his account of our trip at

Exploring Djibouti Coastline

Let the adventure move us

No matter of plans made nor the volume of research done once the adventure begins you never know where you’ll end up. Traveling through Africa is for the adventurous. The unexpected surprises put pay to the best laid plans. This was abundantly clear to us half way through our trip when the local army refused to let travel any further up the coast.

As we headed out of Djibouti City on day 1 our goal was to travel along the coast around the Gulf of Tadjoura then west almost to the Eritrean border at  the point where the Red Sea starts. That’s the narrowest point between Africa and the Middle East. It’s this narrowing that forms raging currents as the water flows in the Red Sea. The water is warm and deep, ideal conditions for the ocean’s predators  congregate and hunt. Giant GT patrol the islands and drop-offs in this area and offer some of the best GT fishing on the planet.

True to form our best laid plans were destroyed half way through our trip but the result wasn’t any less spectacular. We ended up discovering a hidden gem.

 Exploring Djibouti - Our travels

Map of Djibouti
Map of our travels through Djibouti

After landing at midnight we spent the first night in Djibouti City. The next morning it was up early to fetch the hire car, an old school Toyota land Cruiser, then to the shops for supplies and head out into the unknown.

That first day we drove right around the gulf to the a camp site just outside the town of Tadjoura. It was a 180km drive that would take roughly 2.5hrs if driven straight but we detoured on the way. Our first stop was to Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa and the second saltiest lake on Earth. If you ever want to feel like you’re on another planet this would be it and is well worth a visit.

Lac Assal
The white salt plains of Lac Assal stretch for miles

From Lac Assal we continued to a derelict harbor at the back of Lake Ghoubet. It was the first time the road had come close to the water’s edge so we decided to get the tackle out and wet a line. We weren’t expecting much but straight away I got smashed but a monster GT. Hooks straightened and left stunned while it disappeared into the deep. A few casts later I landed a good size barracuda. Couple that with follows from bonito, we were off to a good start. With the afternoon winding down we were forced to carry on to our camp for the night.

Night 1 & 2 - Tadjoura

The first two nights we camped at a local run, tourist camp named Campment de Ras Ali. It was a basic but pleasant enough setup, the guy that runs the camp was very friendly but didn’t speak English so communication was an issue. More our issue than his because English is generally not spoken in the country, French is the national language. If you’re looking to stay in this area I’d rather recommend Sable Blanc which is just around the corner on a lovely white beach.

Sable Blanc is the place to stay in Tadjoura

We fished the coast around the camp and caught a variety of fish but it was difficult. A coral reef forms a shallow ledge that then drops off. There were fish around, no doubt, but anything decent just bust us off on the coral. It quickly became an expensive exercise. The best of the fish I landed was a 7kg Grouper on stickbait. For the rest the fish landed were up to 2 or 3kgs and included GT, Napoleon wrasse and a few different species of grouper, bream and trevally.

Campment Ras Ali
The reef around Campment Ras Ali is beautiful to dive but difficult to fish from the side.

Night 3 - Obock

Day 3 was when our initial plans were thrown in the dumpster and plan B was made. Our plan was to continue up to Obock and beyond so we were up early and on our way. Our excitement levels were high as we were finally getting toward the area that we hoped would produce really good fish.

About half way to Obock there was a rocky point we’d identified on Google Earth which we aimed to fish for the morning then carry on. We spent a couple hours trying different roads to reach the point but all were washed away and impassable. The closest we could get was a beach  3km away with a rocky section between that required rock-climbing skills to pass. With that idea halted we decided to carry on up the coast.

Exploring Djibouti - Driving offroad
Traveling off road to try get to the point we’d spotted

The moment we drove into Obock the hairs on our back went up. It was that bad! Its a small disgusting harbour town, dirty roads, buildings falling apart and almost every person high on Khat. Chewing Khat is an almost national past time in Djibouti but Obock takes it to the extreme. We needed diesel so were forced to deal with these drugged up stoners to find a filling station and  let me worn you, there’s only one pump in town. Its built into the wall of a half broken house. You’d drive past it without even realizing it which is what we did three times. With that done we wanted to get out of town asap.

The Infamous Road Block

The roads in Djibouti are generally good tar roads but Obock is where that ends and they turn into non existent dirt roads. Resorting to driving off road through the back end of town we finally made it out the other side, onto a road we had spotted in the distance.

Not long out of town the road was blocked with stones, barbwire and four men with AK’s. Friendly enough, these guys turned out to be the local army stopping people driving further, particularly white foreigners. The area beyond is still fraught with tribal fighting and tribes from Eritrea raiding local villages. They wouldn’t let us past without a local, armed guard. With directions where in town to find a guard we were sent away. We spent a few hours trying to find one of these elusive guards but with everyone stoned out their tree it wasn’t going to happen.

With our dreams dashed we were forced to find accommodation just outside town and make plans for tomorrow. We stayed at Auberge Mer Rouge which run by two local woman and was surprisingly good considering the mess of a town just down the road.

Night 4 - Exploring Djibouti Plan B

With our plans out the window and forced to turn around we now had to decide what to do. It was almost dejectedly that we decided to head back to the point we didn’t reach the day before.

Beach Djibouti
The beach we slept on with our disappointing point in the distance


Back at the beach with the point in the distance we made plans to reach it. With day packs and rods we waded through water and scaled over rocks nearing on a cliff until we made it. Was quite a walk in that heat.

The water looked amazing and I’m sure there’s good fish to be had but we didn’t find them. Very disappointingly we only caught small GT and pick handle barracuda. We caught a few but didn’t get anything big. That night we sleep under the stars back on the beach. At beautiful night and the number of stars you see on a dark night in Africa is spectacular. It almost made up for the slow day’s fishing. The next morning we were heading back down to Lac Ghoubet which we’d passed on the first day.

Rocky Djibouti Coastline
Rocky Djibouti Coastline


Night 5 - Lac Ghoubet

Arriving back at Lac Ghoubet early that morning we were immediately struck by the bait balls and action on the surface. We fished a small section at the back of Lac Ghoubet that day and the next until heading back to the airport. To say the fishing was phenomenal is an understatement. The fishing blew us away. We caught a variety of fish and got stuck into the big GT.

We caught fish, we got bust off, we saw even bigger fish. It was amazing. It was everything we’d hoped for and more. It was the reason we’d come to Djibouti. We’d discovered a little piece of fishing heaven. These last two days deserve an article to themselves to which I’ll duly oblige. Read it see why I’m bubbling about the fishing we found.

Djibouti GT
Djibouti GT, One of the many fish we got while exploring Djibouti


Fishing in Djibouti - The First Impression

Arriving in Djibouti

After the weeks of planning and dreaming about the potential fishing in Djibouti may hold we were finally on our way. One minor hiccup left, making sure our luggage wasn’t over weight. I have enough gear to equip an army so there’s always the challenge of keeping to the weight limit. Needless to say there was some last- minute repacking at the check-in and sweet talking which would make Casanova proud but we made it through without paying an extra. With that taken care of it was time to hit the lounge for quick beer to get into the holiday spirit. 

Landing in Djibouti at midnight we were greeted by a typically African airport, old, rundown and the only plane on the runway but still took an age to get through customs. 

Rocky Djibouti Coastline
Rocky Djibouti Coastline

Getting through customs

 As with most African countries the customs officials have some strange ideas. Firstly they want your boarding passes from your home country till arriving in Djibouti, not just the last flight into Djibouti. Took some convincing that we had SA passports but lived in Qatar and hence had only flown from Qatar to Djibouti. Secondly and most strangely they ask for second ID to check your passport against. One passengers in front of me produced a library card because that was the only other ID on him. The customs officials seemed happy with that. TIA - This is Africa, don’t ask questions if it works for you.

That night we’d booked an Airbnb accommodation with Tom, an American guy that had lived in Djibouti for the last 14 years. He was a decent guy and was at the airport to meet us once we got through. He did charge us $20 for what was a 4km drive back to his place but hey it was midnight.

Getting Organized and Heading out into the unknown

After hardly sleeping  we were up early the next morning to Rachel, tom’s wife, making a breakfast which hit the spot. With breakfast done it was off to pick up our car, an awesome old school Land Cruiser.

Next it was to the shops for food, supplies and 20lt containers for fuel. Then back home, packed our gear and we were off, all before 10am. Dam good going and way quicker than expected.

Our trusted steed ‘Donkey’ the Land Cruiser

Driving out into the unknown

It was a slow drive getting out of town. Firstly, because the cruiser we’d already nicknamed ‘Donkey’ battled to reach 100km/h downhill and second the hundreds of big trucks that head off to Ethiopia taking cargo from the harbor. Fortunately about 60kms in we turned off the RN9 towards Lac Assal and that road is all but deserted.

Excitement levels were fever pitch, Fred and I bubbling about the fishing that lay ahead when suddenly the mood sobered as we both stared in disbelief at a rocket launcher resting silently and abandoned in the desert not far off the road. Wild thoughts immediately start rushing through your head and you wonder if you’re bitten off more than you can chew. A little further down the road we came across a few American soldiers who had set up post a little way of the road next to their vehicle and with their own rocket launcher. We jumped to the conclusion that the army boys were carrying out a training exercise. True or not we’ll never know but with our minds at ease we plowed on forward. The thoughts of fish overpowering the worries of abandoned rocket launchers. 

Two hours after leaving Djibouti we got our first glimpse of Lake Ghoubet. A stunning view over the whole bay as you descend down the rocky, barren mountains . The sea is beautiful, blue and deep while the coast rugged, broken volcanic rock. It’s quite a sight for a fisherman to behold. 

Detour to Lac Assal

Before reaching the sea we made a quick detour to Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa and the saltiest lake in the world. It’s located at the very top of the Great Rift Valley where the African continent is tearing itself apart. Staring at the lake and landscape around it you can how the rocks are being twisted and tortured as the continents separate. Desolate and other worldly is the only way to describe it. It looks very much how you imagine Mars with volcanic rock surrounding vast white, salt flats and a lake frothing white and lined with crystallized salt. Once on the salt flats we met two young Afar men that made a living selling salt, crystals and most fascinating salt encrusted goat skulls. After the customary bartering we came away with two goat skulls and a few salt crystals as mementos.

Fred in Lac Assal
Fred in Lac Assal

Our First Taste of the Fishing in Djibouti

With out tourist excursion done it was back on our main mission, finding a spot to wet a line and test the fishing in Djibouti. The first place the road came near the coast was at a small, derelict harbor. The harbor was really just a rocky break water that ran out a couple hundred meters.

Habour in Lake Ghoubet
Break water forming a small habour isn’t much to look at but held incredible fish

Normally not a spot we’d stop at but being the first water we reached we decided to give it a bash. Not expecting too much we strolled down to check the water. First thing we found was a monster trigger fish caught in an abandoned fishing net in the back corner of the harbor. After rescuing it we then found a baby turtle also requiring rescuing.

Fred with a Trigger Fish
Fred with the Trigger Fish he rescued

A dream start to the trip

With our good deed done for the day I pulled out my heavy GT setup. More because I wanted to test my new rod and reel, an 11ft Assassin Spinmaster and Shimano Stella 10k, than expecting a pull. Cast, cast then bang! On my 5th cast on the sheltered side there was a monstrous explosion behind my v-shape spoon. A 30kg plus GT smashed my spoon right on the surface and took off towards the old buoy lines still anchored in the bay. Knowing I’d lose the fish if she made to them I locked but after seconds of chaos. The worst feeling in the world, slack line. The hooks straightened by it’s incredibly powerful jaws.

Sprinting back to the car I tackled up properly with GT strength hooks and to replaced the slops with shoes. Minutes later was back casting a chisel nose plug. First cast nothing, second cast smash! On again but this time with a good barracuda. Djibouti had us hooked. What a dream start!

Barracuda in Djibouti
First fish landed and not even in fish gear yet

We fished the wall for another hour with follows from bonito but not more hook ups. Then we had to leave to make it around to our camp site near Tadjoura.

One last evening session

On arriving at camp just before sunset the water directly in front was too inviting not to have a throw.  Out came the lighter setup, 30lb gear and a Rapala long cast stickbait. Fishing in shallow water over pristine coral reef I hooked a 7kg grouper. It dived straight for the coral, every time I pulled it out one hole I dived for the next. Eventually landed it and what a beautiful fish to end the day with.

With that day one was over and we were well and truly hooked on  Djibouti.

Fishing in Djibouti - Grouper
First Grouper of the trip