Flats Fishing the Unexplored Coast of the Red Sea

An African fishing outfitter says these northern Sudan shallows are safe to visit and unforgettable to fish

Giant Trevally GT fishing Red Sea

Nubian Flats Giant Trevally on Fly

Large GT prowl these flats as well as a chain of small atolls just offshore.Mark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

As long as there are new fishing frontiers to explore — and those seem to get fewer every year — there will be anglers who’ll heed the call.

Knowing that, Tourette Fishing — an African-based anglers' outfitter — has for the past couple of years been offering adventures to explore what it calls the Nubian Flats — vast, uninhabited, untouched coastal shallows of the Red Sea in the northern Sudan.

Rob Scott, with Tourette, says: “Until recently, North Africa, and especially the coast of Sudan has never been considered a viable fishing destination.

Red Sea Nubian Flats map

Where in the World Are the "Nubian Flats"?

The fishing grounds is roughly in the middle of the Red Sea on the Sudan coast.Courtesy Google Maps

"Political unrest in neighboring Southern Sudan has cast an image that has been badly portrayed and dampened the potential for Sudanese tourism. Along the Red Sea coast of Sudan there are countless islands and wide expanses of shallow-water flats. These offer the adventurous fly angler a treasure chest of fly-fishing opportunities. In 2013, Tourette Fishing began the long process of exploring as much of the coast as possible in order to evaluate the fly-fishing potential.

"It didn’t take long to see the massive potential, as the flats were home to incredible numbers of triggerfish, bluefin, GTs, bohar as well as shots at bonefish and permit.

Despite the bad reputation of the country, Sudan is a very inviting, friendly, and safe place to travel, and for years has been the center for an exploding diving industry. In the future there is no doubt that the Nubian flats of the Red Sea will become a well-recognized flats destination as fly fisherman experience the magic of the Sudan coast.”

The U.S. State Department does have a Sudan travel warning in effect since June 2015, though it does agree that the greatest risk is in the south Sudan (these flats are in the north). Certainly, any American traveler will want to review this information, though Scott insists, "There's always a travel warning [for Sudan]. Unfortunately, the whole country gets lumped together, but northern Sudan — where we visit — is a completely different country. It's probably one of the safest places I've visited (and I visit a lot of places)."

Whether one decides that visiting the Sudan is currently a viable option or not, it’s interesting to see the potential of this untouched and fascinating area in these excellent photos.

The (very blue) Red Sea abuts the Nubian Desert of northeastern Sudan. The land is as dry as it looks, receiving a scant 5 inches of rainfall in an average year.

Northeastern Sudan fishing Red Sea
Where Turquoise Sea Meets Parched DesertMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

Tourette's adventures to fish the Nubian Flats depart by boat from Port Sudan (into which regional airlines fly).

Nubian Flats map
Point of DepartureCourtesy Google Maps

U.S. anglers are used to spotting the tails of feeding bonefish or permit or redfish. But here, the aggressive, hard-fighting yellowmargin triggerfish are a dominant flats predator, attacking anything that it might eat. That certainly includes the flies anglers throw their way.

Yellowmargin triggerfish tailing fishing Red Sea
Tailing Fish Not What You'd ExpectMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

A quick pre-release photo shows clearly the crab fly that fooled this colorful trigger in the warm, clear, sandy shallows.

Triggerfish fly fishing Red Sea
Yellowmargin Triggerfish on FlyMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

Smaller targets such as triggers and permit often end up in a landing net before they're released.

Triggerfish fishing Red Sea
One in the NetMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

Fabulous gold-tipped permit rewarded this angler fishing water barely deep enough to cover the fish's back. There are definitely larger permit here but, like permit everywhere, they're elusive and spooky.

Gold-tipped permit fishing Red Sea
Gorgeous Red Sea PermitMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

"One cool thing about my job is that I get to meet interesting people from all walks of life," says photographer Mark Murray, shown here with Nubian friends. "I got to spend some time mixing with the locals and got invited onto their boat for a cup of local chai. Its experiences like these that stick with you for the rest of your life."

Photographer fishing Red Sea
The Photographer Takes a BreakMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

The photographer's photo-sorting station is visible in the foreground, while anglers and crew relax over drinks in the salon.

Mothership fishing Red Sea
Aboard the Mother ShipMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

The group heads out on the Nubian Flats, leaving the mothership at anchor early on a hazy morning.

Wading anglers fishing Red Sea
Flats ExplorationMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

A dry spit from the Nubian Desert juts out in the Red Sea as an angler explores the coast.

Fisherman exploring Nubian Desert fishing Red Sea
Walking a Desert SpitMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

A big yellowmargin triggerfish displays a remarkable pattern over its dorsal surface.

Big yellowmargin triggerfish fishing Red Sea
Trigger ReleaseMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

This first of three sequential shots shows angler Peter McLeod hooked up to a big trevally as guide Federico Castignolli watches the fish try to work down, into the hard edge where the flats drop off in a coral shelf.

Giant trevally fishing Red Sea
Big GT on the Hard EdgeMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

With skill, hard work and luck, MacLeod has managed to work the big trevally up onto the flats where he now has a real chance to land the trophy.

Angler trevally fishing Red Sea
Over the EdgeMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

A tough catch in any conditions, the challenges here made this release all the sweeter.

Fishermen celebration fishing Red Sea
Moment of TriumphMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

Fly rodder works the flats as the sun sinks toward distant Nubian Desert mountains of Sudan.

Fly fishing Red Sea
Spectacular SunsetMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

Trevally this size, especially on fly tackle, is worth crowing about.

Giant trevally fishing Red Sea
GT ReleaseMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

"If there was a hole in the flat," says Mark Murray, "a triggerfish would find it." As a result, "Swim goggles became a very important piece of guiding equipment." Here, guide Stu Harley is recovering fish and fly from a hole in the sand.

Anglers fishing Red Sea
Recovery OperationsMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing

The stunning blue of a bluefin trevally contrasts with the dark ferocity of a giant trevally. Double and triple hookups happen often on the pristine Nubian flats.

Fishermen holding bluefin trevally fishing Red Sea
Trevally DoubleMark Murray / courtesy Tourette Fishing