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Fly Fishing Milkfish

Milkfish, also known as Chanos chanos, is a challenging and hard-fighting opponent. The origins of targeting this species on the fly stems back to Alphonse Island and the lagoon of St. François where these techniques were first pioneered and developed.

Also known as the fork-tailed devil, the milkfish is characterised by its torpedo-shaped body, large V-shaped tail, disproportionately large eyes and white underbelly which gained it its name. Small, cycloid scales cover the distinct lateral line, giving the sides a silvery appearance, while the top ranges from olive green to blue. Their spineless fins are comprised of a single dorsal and large pectoral fins made up of 12 soft rays. One of the few toothless flats species, their mouth has a slightly upper-facing jaw and their gill arches have numerous long, thin and closely-set rakers due to their specific diet.

You need more than the best milkfish flies, the best rods and the best conditions to catch a milkfish – this is no easy feat!


Milkfish (bangos in Creole ) is the sole living species in the family Chanidae.

  • Milkfish max weight 25 kg
  • Milkfish diet Omnivore
  • Milkfish average length 1 m
  • Milkfish time to maturity 5 - 10 years
  • Milkfish max age 15 years

Finding a Milkfish

Milkfish are usually relatively easy to spot. When fishing on the flats in knee to waist-deep water, they can usually be found in small pods cruising over algae patches with their tails protruding out of the water as they feed on the bottom. When feeding in deeper water, they will swim to a depth where there is the greatest abundance of food. This can occasionally make them tricky to spot as they are sitting a few metres under the surface. For the most part, the fish can be seen making a bow-wake on the surface with their heads out of the water feeding at the top of the water column.


The most effective flies have been the Milky Dream, Wayne’s Milky Magic and a Pillow Talk with tungsten eyes. All of these flies have a few distinct similarities which help mimic the food source of the milkfish.

  • Milky Dream

    Firstly, a combination of an olive, green and chartreuse body imitates the algae that the fish graze on. Often a couple of strands of crystal or UV flash are added to impersonate the copepods that live around the algae beds. A couple of wraps of pink chenille can also be put on the head of the fly.

    available On Island
  • Wayne’s Milky Magic

    This allows the fly to appear more enticing as the chenille represents the egg-sack of a variety of crustaceans that has been caught up in the algae, creating a more protein-rich meal in the eyes of the Milkfish.

    available On Island
  • Olive Milky Dream

    This is a very simple, yet very effective fly. The best hook to use is a Gamagatsu SL12S size 2. A small amount of Olive Lambs Wool to imitate algae and a tiny pinch of UV Crystal Flash/Angel Flash to imitate various Planktonic creatures is tied in at the front of the hook. Just before finishing, the addition of a Tungsten bead is added to make the fly slightly heavier.

    available On Island
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Best fly rods for milkfish

Fly fishing milkfish is an art form that not everyone can master. It takes skill, patience, determination, and knowledge. The right rod will take you a lot closer to catching a milkfish. Milkfish have a reputation for being one of the hardest fighters, if not the hardest fighter out of all the fish that we target. Naturally you will want to have the correct rod that will match the power of the milkfish! Having a 10 or 11 weight rod will enable you to make a quick presentation as well as provide pulling power when it counts.


On the flats, the fish generally push up in the greatest numbers on neap tides. This is due to less water movement and disparity between high and low tide resulting in the flats being mostly covered with water throughout the majority of the day. This gives the fish a longer time to feed.

Milkfish usually congregate during or just after a full or new moon as this is predominantly when their food supply is abundant due to spawning.

During a spring tide cycle, the natural circumstances can lead to the formation of a more pronounced scum line leading to a greater number of fish being found in the area.


Approaching milkfish is very different from most of the flats species found due to the fact that they are not predatory and therefore the fly is not imitating anything trying to escape, but rather a stationary particle. Thus, fly choice is not dictated by the area that one fishes, but rather by the behavior of the fish whilst they feed. Upon finding a school of feeding milkfish, the positioning of the boat is very important. The ideal drift is to have the fish 90 degrees off the bow to cover as many fish in a single cast as possible. The fly placement is also crucial to ensure getting the fly to the correct depth. The key is to move the fly as little as possible; long, slow strips should only occur when slack needs to be taken out of the fly-line. If the line begins to move in the direction that the fish are moving, maintain a low rod angle and make several long strips until the line becomes tight.

Photos of milkfish caught on a fly

Some of the Chanos chanos that didn't get away!
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"What a beautiful fish to catch on the fly"

Want to know some more interesting facts about milkfish? Find out


We choose destinations that meet our anglers’ needs and desires. You can focus on one atoll or combine several for a richer and more varied experience.
  • Alphonse Atoll

    Alphonse Atoll

    A dream destination for any fly fisherman, Alphonse Atoll in Seychelles is renowned for its expansive sea flats, which provide easy wading and world-class fly fishing.  The atolls are regarded as some of the most pristine, untouched islands in the world yet Alphonse Atoll is just a 60-minute flight from Mahé.

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  • Cosmoledo Atoll

    Cosmoledo Atoll

    Cosmoledo Atoll is just a stone’s throw away from the world heritage site of Aldabra, often referred to as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.

    Its ecosystem is pristine with saltwater flats and a huge variety of fish species, attracting fly fishermen from around the world. It is home to an eco-camp, dedicated to the atoll’s conservation.

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  • Astove Atoll

    Astove Atoll

    The home of the biggest giant trevallies in the Indian Ocean, this island in the Seychelles offers superb fly fishing in a shallow lagoon surrounded by sheer drop-offs. Just over a thousand kilometres from Mahe, this atoll forms part of the remote Aldabra group of atolls. Uninhabited since 1969, this atoll has seen very little human presence which makes for a wild and unique experience.

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  • Farquhar Atoll

    Farquhar Atoll

    Farquhar Atoll is the most southerly atoll in the Seychelles chain of islands lying just over 700km to the southwest of the main island Mahe. This remote atoll has a total area, including the large lagoon, of 170.5 km² which is 18 km north to south and 9 km east to west.

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Turn your fly into a fish’s ultimate temptation. The Seychelles, with its 115 islands and deserted atolls, ideal weather and warm Indian Ocean waters, is renowned for being home to some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. You don’t even have to venture too far to break fishing records!

Fly fishing experiences like nowhere else


  • Home of the world's best fly fishing
  • Unique, bespoke trips to suit your needs
  • Located in the pristine remote outer islands of the Seychelles
  • Luxury accommodation and exquisite food
  • Unrivalled professional guides
  • Some of the richest fishing grounds in the world
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