Friday, March 30, 2012

Bonefishing the Flats

Well, I always wanted to try fishing the flats for bonefish.  The bonefish is a wary, fast, powerful fish that loves to take long runs.  Just what I like. I have caught the elusive Manistee Bonefish in the spring and have wanted to try the saltwater species.

Last year I just missed out on a December Bonefish trip to Belize.  This year, when Bill called from PA to inquire about a trip to the Bahamas for March, I started packing.

This is what I took for my 6 day trip.  Inside I have my 8wt, packrod with a large arbor reel, my wading shoes, a hip tackle box, 3 boxes of bonefish flies, nylon zip-off pants, nylon fishing shirt, fishing hat and couple pair of shorts and a few t-shirts.  You don't need much in the Bahamas.

I kept reading about bonefish flies and heard names like: Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, Sili Charlies, and Mantis Shrimp.   The big name tiers suggested  1/3 lead eyes, 1/3 small dumbell eyes, and 1/3 bead-chain eyes.  So I tied a huge assortment to be ready for anything.

A 9' to 10' leader with a 12 # tippet was recommended since the Andros Island bonefish are larger than the Belize bonefish.  Ok, I bought 2 leaders and tied 2 more.

Bill called and said Annie wanted to come along.....then their son, Chris, wanted to come and go diving.  Now we had 2 cabins reserved and a $800 room discount!  The date was set for the second full week of March.  We decided to share a guide for 3 day and fish out front of the cabins for the other 3 days we will be there.

Check out this place, South Hope Bay Fishing Lodge on Andros Island.

I decided to drive over to PA and visit my son, daughter-in-law and my 2 year old grandson before and after the trip.  This will be my last break before spring.  The steelhead fishing had already started before I left and there was 6" of snow on the ground.

I went to my son's work place in PA and watched him set up his maple sugar project.

This is the evaporator that Ryan build to boil the tree sap to make the syrup.  It usually takes 40 gallons to get 1 gallon of syrup, but this year the sugar content was high in the first run and he was running 28-30 gallons to 1 gallon of syrup.

This was one traditional style of collecting the sap.

This was Ryan's method of tapping 14 trees into one 5 gallon bucket. He will be presenting Maple Madness later this month.

After a nice visit with family and friends, we arrived in Nassau.  I was afraid of getting too many luggage fees so I left my 2 piece 8 wt rod in my car and only took one pack rod.  My luggage fee was $25 to Nassau.  Next we boarded a small plane to for a short hop over to Andros Island.

Two seats on one side and one seat on the other side and about 20-30 passengers on this plane.  Two flights a day; AM and PM ... $100 cash for round trip.

We arrived and our luggage was  unloaded.  Now how do we get to the lodge?  No problem, Mon!  Reverend "Charlie" will take you.  We thought we were going to be picked up but it was such a short trip and 3-4 drivers waiting with their taxis to take you anywhere you wanted to go. 

This was the main lodge, dining area, lounge, and game room.  But first, a tropical drink at the outdoor bar.  Did I mention all-inclusive drinks for the 6 days?????

We got a tour of the buildings and then unpacked our luggage.  This is a low-key place, very friendly staff from all over the place and no TV!

This is the view from in front of the main lodge.  You can see the diving station storage at the end of the dock.  The diving boat picks you up here and goes out to the reef or wrecks.

The cabins were very simple but clean and comfortable. We didn't spent much time here.  We were up at 7:00 AM for breakfast and out with our guide at 7:45 to fish until 4:00 PM.  We road in the truck pulling his boat to the launch area on Fresh Creek.  It was only a 15 minute ride and we were ready to fish.

The first trip out we had windy conditions and some overcast clouds which made sighting the bonefish very difficult.  Bone Fish Jeff would call out "Fish, 11:00 O' clock, 25 yards."  We would cast at 12:00 O'Clock and the fly would fall to 9:00 O'Clock.  After a couple of hours of waiting and trying, I had my first bonefish on. 2 to 3  long strips, pause, 2 to 3 long strips, pause.  You don't raise your rod to set the hook, you strip strike.  After a few misses, you catch on.


The fish were running small as the larger fish hadn't come in yet.  You never know when you schedule your trip how the fish and weather conditons will be.  You take your chances and fish when you can.  These fish fight hard and make several long hard runs before you can bring them in.  We fished from the boat so we were barefoot so we could tell if we were standing on the extra line at our feet.

I couldn't enlarge this picture but this was the average size for this trip.  I caught 8 bonefish my first time out at this sport.

After we got back in, Bill and I would wade along the beach and fish.  Timing wasn't good for fish here.   The cooler spring weather kept the fish away from our beach.  It was fun anyway.

This is a shot of our cabins.  Right in front is the beach.

The grounds were well kept and we had simple but clean rooms.  What more do you need?

This is our dinner, consisting of soup,  several salads, steak, fish, potatoes, veggies, and dessert.  Our Bohemian cook made different local dishes also.

Many of the support staff ate with us we got to know all th other diners also.  Very relaxed and you lingered over dinner to talk with other guests.

The next day was windy and overcast again.  We usually fished in shallow water and tried to spot moving or feeding fish.  The second day was hard fishing.  We worked our tails off and moved around but I only got 3 nice bonefish that day.

Another late afternoon waiting for the Conch Fritters and the veggie and cheese platters.

Bone Fish Jeff always tried to keep the wind at our back and pole us into a good position.  It was a great idea to share a guide as you got tired after 20 minutes of balancing up front looking for fish.  We switched around and after each fish caught.  You needed a break to drink liquids and rest your legs.

A couple of times when it was rough, we would anchor and Bill and I would blind cast to good looking areas.  We actually caught quite a few fish this way.  If the sun was out, we could see them, but sometimes we couldn't.

This was how we wanted the water to look!  But there wasn't much dark bottom here.

After three days of having a guide, Bill and I  fished two more days on the beach in front of the lodge.  We walked down around the point and found Davis Creek.

This is where you have to wade across Davis Creek to reach the beach to fish.  Gary and Bill waded across with water up to waist.  I decided to walk out on the coral point.

The waves and wind were coming from the right and there was a nice drift line straight off this point.  I carefully waded out to my waist and started casting.   I was eying the dark spot in the above picture.   I had two fish on but lost them due to slow hook set.  Finally a hit and a good strip strike.  A long fast run to my backing told me to crank down the drag on this one.  The fish made several good runs and actually circled me twice.  .....a shark?  A few minutes later I gained more line and saw an nice 6+ # bonefish with thick head and shoulders.  I held him up for my friends to confirm my catch.  Then I slowly released the bonefish to fight another day.  This was the highlight of the trip for me.  To catch a decent bonefish on a fly I tied and to do it unguided and wet wading along the surf and in front of my friends.  I had only used two or three flies the whole trip.  "What do you mean, Bill.  You didn't get a picture!"

Back to the bar, the youngsters were busy.  "I'll have a Mike's Black Monkey or  maybe an Erin Go-Braless".  It was near St. Patrick's Day anyway.

Our week was over and we ate our last meals in Paradise.

The ski taxi took us to Nassau and then on to Philadelphia.  I said go bye to Bill. Anne, & Chris and paid a visit to two former students of mine.  Then off to stop by my grandson for some playtime before I headed back to Michigan.

This was another thing to mark off my Bucket List.  I think I'll do some more bonefishing next year.  It was a great trip.   If you decide to go, let me know I have a ton of bonefish flies!