26
Apr 15

Not Fishing

I’m up in my hometown on the trout opener (although the river is now open all year). We are up with the family to visit my dad since we haven’t been up in ages. With a recent calf rupture, I can’t really walk around the banks and rocks of the Upper Sacramento on this trip. So, this is a non-fishing trip to a fishy place on a fishy weekend.

Dunsmuir is a mountain town and you can feel the difference.

Up here the mornings are crisp. That crispness is just not in the air down by the Bay, down in the flats or valleys. Maybe it’s the lack of moisture in the air, I’m not sure, but the sharpness of the morning air and the hit of evergreen it carries is something that feels unique.

Sunsets are hastened and sunrises delayed by the canyon walls.

We went to the Fireman’s Breakfast on Saturday morning. A very small-town thing. The fire department here is all volunteer and they move a couple of trucks to make way for tables and chairs. At the breakfast I managed to see an old day care provider from when I was tiny, an old football coach and the son of one of my classmates (who, it appears, is now one of the volunteer fire fighters). I have no idea if there is such an event in Alameda and if there was, it wouldn’t be the same. There would be hundreds of people instead of dozens and I wouldn’t know any of them.

Hanging out in the Ted Fay Fly Shop is almost as good as fishing. Seeing the folks coming in and preparing to head out on the water is something I’ve always enjoyed. The conversations are easy, interests are aligned and people are in a good mood.

It is getting harder and harder to get up here. Between careers and kids it is just not easy. But I enjoy it when I’m here. I’m making a home down in the Bay Area, but this still feels like home to a part of me.

Next time, there will be rods in the car.

Swing Time

Swing Time


22
Apr 15

Saving the Oceans

Since it is Earthday and all… a video about saving the oceans, those little places that are special and far away and most folks don’t think of too much. Except us, anglers, we think about them all the time.


20
Apr 15

Abaco Magic Fly – UV Ghost Reverse Gotcha

When I fished with Tom Albury in Abaco a couple weeks back I started off with a fly that looked super sweet (and I was kind of proud of) and the fish absolutely hated it. I tend to be a Presentation > Fly Selection kind of guy, but there was clearly something about the fly they stabby, stabby hated.

I opened up my three fly boxes for Tom to select from the hundreds of flies I had brought along. He picked out a fly I tied on a whim and had never fished. It was a gotcha, but it had no craft fur or bunny wing. Instead, it was a wing of just more UV crystal flash. When that fly entered the water it looked like a little firework suspended in time at the moment of explosion. It lit up brilliantly, all sparkles and glitter.

The first cast with that fly and the fish charged it down, eager and determined to get it in its belly.

Kept that fly on the rest of the day and every fish that saw it ate it.

Here’s a version of that fly. Pretty simple. I put a strip of black crystal flash down the back (to mimic the vein on a shirmp) and put some UV cure goo on the back, giving it a keel and a “glass back.”

The UV Ghost Reverse Glassback Gotcha. Say that 3 times fast.

The UV Ghost Reverse Glassback Gotcha. Say that 3 times fast.


15
Apr 15

Treasure Cay, Abaco – Family Vacation Spot

I now want a golf cart. I want to drive around Alameda in one. That’s how you get around Treasure Cay on Abaco. It isn’t a big place and maybe you could walk, but why would you when you have one of these?

The local ride for the week.

The local ride for the week.

Treasure Cay is located about 45 minutes or so from Marsh Harbour. It has it’s own airport, but probably you’ll fly into Marsh Harbour as there are more options on flights.

We flew direct from Ft. Lauderdale via Silver Airlines. Silver is, not to be too blunt, but a horrible airline flying out of FLL. They seemed to have no idea what was happening with flights heading anywhere and there were lots of delays. The problem seems to be FLL, as we had no issue heading out of Marsh Harbour at all. I’ve heard some real horror stories about folks headed to Abaco via Silver, so, if you have other carrier options, take them.

Treasure Cay itself is a fairly small settlement, on the East side of Abaco. There aren’t any big resorts there, but there are several smaller hotel operations and many private condos to rent. When we were looking for a family vacation spot we picked Treasure Cay for the following reasons:

  • Three bedroom condo meant everyone had their own room (Wife and I, my daughter and my dad… our son was in a pack and play in the big closet).
  • Nice beach. Didn’t have to drive anywhere to have a nice beach. It was right out in front.
  • Pool + Pool Bar. Drinks available at the pool.
  • Places to eat nearby. There was a little outdoor restaurant AT the pool, so we had that covered.

Things we found out that we liked about Treasure Cay once we got there:

  • The place came with a golf cart and that is the way most people got around. Made it kind of fun to go and pick up breakfast or go out to dinner or go anywhere. I invented reasons to need to drive that thing around.
  • There were a couple of bonefish flats I could get to in the golf cart.
  • There is a little bakery that had some good fresh bread and cinnamon rolls every morning.
  • There were lots of families and lots of kids around so my daughter pretty consistently had other kids to play with.
  • I caught a few jacks casting from the shore with a spinning rig.
Happy Wife... you know the rest.

Happy Wife… you know the rest.

Things we didn’t too much care for:

  • Airfare. Holy wallet buster. We picked the Bahamas Beach Club in Abaco because it was about $1,500 less than a place in Playa del Carmen in MX, but when we went to book tickets to get there we found the savings in the lodging was destroyed by the cost of air fare. Ours cost about $1,200 a ticket, which was… um… tough to swallow.
  • Cost of food. On the last night we went to a restaurant that was only open Fri-Sun. There we ordered a pizza for my daughter and son. That pizza was $25 and came on the cardboard circle it had been sitting on in the frozen pizza box they pulled it from. Every meal was $100 or more with “Pasta Night” being about $250 for 4 of us. A hamburger was $18, cracked conch $25. It was just pricey. You have to be prepared for that. The food was pretty good at the places we ate, it was just expensive and, after a while, not that varied.

In terms of a family-friendly place for a vacation, I kind of loved it. It wasn’t too built up. It wasn’t the Atlantis. It wasn’t too crowded. We had plenty to do and plenty more we could have done (hard with a 15 month old to really get after seeing the sights when he needs a couple of naps). The beach would have been a lot more enjoyable too if my son hadn’t been intent on trying to drown himself if left unsupervised for more than 5-10 seconds. He’ll grow, though, and by the time we plan our next Caribbean trip he shouldn’t be hellbent on throwing himself in the water.

The girl had a good time.

The girl had a good time.

There were a lot of fishing options too. I took my daughter out for a half-day down to Cherokee Sound and that was fun. It was a bit far though and I’d probably opt for a closer fishing trip if we head back. You can rent a boat in Treasure Cay, with a captain, and go out and soak bait and catch all sorts of stuff. I’d look at doing that in the future. There were a couple of places to soak bait off docks in Treasure Cay as well and there are even a couple/three tarpon living in the Marina.

Heading out in the Marls

Heading out in the Marls

Just a good time.

Just a good time.

My dad went out birding and saw a few “lifers.” We also had a day of bonefishing out of Abaco Lodge, which was fantastic.

From the fishing, to the digs to the vibe of the place, I’m kind of sold on Treasure Cay. I hope to get back. We’ll see.

 

 


13
Apr 15

The threat to Abaco

It is easy to see that a lot of Abaco is for sale. There are enough new developments being dreamed up, one has to hope that half of them (at least) fail or the island is going to lose some real character.

Right at Treasure Cay you can see what some particularly bad development looks like. There is a creek right there, what used to be a good bonefish flat. Someone decided it would be a good place for a bonefishing lodge. So, what did they do? They dredged a path through the bonefish flat to make a way for the bonefish skiffs to get in and out the creek.

Well... isn't that ugly!?

Well… isn’t that ugly!?

From what I heard the dredging was not permitted, but since the company doing the destruction belongs to a Bahamian senator, no one is going to stop it.

Here is some more about what is going on.

This isn’t the only example. Another flat I looked at had a nice paved road and a dredged dock and path for boats to get out into deeper water and the whole things sits abandoned.

It is easier to dream up these sorts of projects than it is to do it well and there seems to be some pretty shoddy development going on in Abaco, which is a shame. Abaco is a fantastic bonefish fishery. It is beautiful, vast and charming. I sure hope things are encouraged to go in a more sustainable direction. It makes little sense to destroy the thing you are trying to showcase.


12
Apr 15

Dinner at Abaco Lodge

The view. Photo by Anna Stromsness

The view. Photo by Anna Stromsness

I had been in contact with Oliver White about coming to Abaco. Even though he wasn’t going to be there he offered us dinner at Abaco Lodge for the whole gang (me, my wife, 8 year old, 15 month old and my dad). So, on Tuesday, the clan got in our dumpy rental minivan and headed to the Lodge.

Dinner... it was good.

Dinner… it was good.

Oliver left the logistics in the capable hands of Anne and Ken Perkins, the managers of the Lodge. Anne was great helping us prepare for the trip, providing a name for me dad to go bird watching and providing us some hints and tips for making the most of our trip.

Ken, Abaco Lodge Manager

Ken, Abaco Lodge Manager

We had tapas night, which worked out well and all the guests were very generous with my 8 year old.

Dinner was excellent and the staff went above and beyond to make sure my 8 year old had something she was OK eating, they even cooked her her own meal.

Thanks!

Thanks!

Abaco Lodge

It was great to go and see the Lodge. It is a really beautiful place. The vibe is exactly what you’d expect and want from a lodge like this. The guests are from all over, they are there to fish and have a good time.

We got to talk about the Lodge, the Island, the pressures being faced by development, the range of topics you’d expect to cover at a bonefishing lodge of this caliber. It was great talking to Ken about Abaco. He’s very knowledgeable and easy to talk to.

Abaco Boats

A nice view. Photo by Anna Stromsness

Abaco Lodge, a good place.

 

 

I’d very much like to get back there.

Thanks for dinner Oliver, Anne and Ken. Great place you have.


10
Apr 15

Girl Power in Abaco

On Thursday my daughter (8) and I met up with guide Dana Lowe to go fish for a half-day down in Cherokee Sound.

The girl liked this part.

The girl liked this part.

Dana is the only female guide in all of the Bahamas. She guides for Delphi, Abaco Lodge and independently. Dana is soft spoken and she knows her home waters very well. She picked us up in Marsh Harbour and brought us down to Cherokee where we got on her skiff and were quickly on the water.

Now, this trip was different from any other bonefishing trip I’ve taken in that we used… get ready for it… bait. Yup… in the interests of making this something my daughter could actually do, we used bait, specifically conch. I had never bait fished for bonefish before, so that was a first.

I used to think I’d be a purist. I don’t think that anymore. The right tool for the right job. For the 8 year old in the salt, the right tool was not the 8 weight.

It worked. The girl got to reel in a couple of bonefish, her first and second.

The girl's first bonefish.

The girl’s first bonefish, and my finger.

The half-day was varied and enjoyable. We caught two bones, some mojarra, a nurse shark, a cuda and some snapper. We saw three blue holes, a bunch of eagle rays and my daughter got to hold one of those huge sea stars.

The nurse

The nurse

The zen of it all.

The zen of it all.

A cuda, trolled, the only fly caught fish of the trip.

A cuda, trolled, the only fly caught fish of the trip.

It was a great time. Thanks for a good day Dana!


08
Apr 15

Fishing out of Abaco Lodge

I got to fish a day out of Abaco Lodge (located, you guessed it, in Abaco) with my dad and guide Tom Albury.

Abaco Lodge. Photo Credit Anna Stromsness

Abaco Lodge. Photo Credit Anna Stromsness

See, that has all the ingredients for a pretty good day to begin with. Great operation, good guide and my dad.

I’m 40, my dad is right at 73, we don’t even get to fish for trout that often, so getting my dad out bonefishing in the Bahamas is a real treat. Bonus – he gets tired after standing up for too long so I get more bow time! Yay!

My dad’s first two bones were over in Grand Bahama, same day I got my first, and BOTH of his fish were quasi unintentional. Happy to say our day of fishing got my dad two legit bonefish. He made the casts, set the hook and didn’t lose either. So, job well done on all front for Pops.

My dad and me in Abaco

My dad and me in Abaco

Abaco Lodge has been around for a few years (2009?) and is owned by Oliver White, a good guy who I did not name my son after. The lodge is just well done with a great stable of guides, good boats (all Hell’s Bay Waterman) and a great location, right on the edge of the Marls. I’ll write more about their operation and the dinner we had there in another post.

Our guide on the day was Tom Albury, who, it turns out, I had previously interviewed. Tom was good fun, never got worked up about anything and kept finding us fish. He put my dad in great positions and got him fish. It was a good day on the water.

For me, the day started out a little slow. We found fish (and by “we” I mean Tom). However, my awesome fly was pissing off the locals and after about 7 legit shots (I flubbed two of those casts, but made the other 5) set the bonefish fleeing in panic, we decided to change flies and that made the difference.

(I’ll just add that this goes against my “the right presentation trumps the right fly” line of thinking rather directly, but I still believe that, even if it goes against the evidence.)

We were waiting for the sun to poke back out and just as it did I spotted a dark shape and quickly realized it was moving. I love that moment. In that moment the world is full of potential and magic. I called out the fish and made the cast and was rewarded with that kind of aggressive charging-of-the-fly you get when you’ve done the thing well and have a happy fish in front of you. One long run and he came in, was admired and (poorly) photographed and sent on his way.

My first Abaco Bone

My first Abaco Bone

That one episode was the reason I wanted to come to the Bahamas. I can’t say it enough… I love bonefishing.

I caught a few more, got a small cuda on the spinning rig, cast at some sharks, saw a blue hole and pretty much enjoyed the day with Tom, my dad and the Marls.

Looking Good Mr. Bone

Looking Good Mr. BoneAbaco

I highly recommend both Abaco Lodge and guide Tom Albury. I want to come back.


01
Apr 15

Abaco Vice

It seems in years past, earlier years, as a slightly younger man, my trips would loom like mountains in front of me casting long shadows and dominating the landscape. I’d feel their pull like black holes, like the clink, clink, clink of the roller-coaster as you approach the top and are about to dive off the other side.

Now, a bit later in life, with one and sometimes two kids and a physician wife and my own pretty interesting job, my trips are almost like a surprise party, or a mugging, but a good mugging, one where your assailant gives you a hug and a crisp five dollar bill and then moves along. I don’t see them coming until they are right there, right next to me. I’m almost shocked to see them, a little confused, happy, for sure, but wondering if I have enough clean underwear for the trip.

So it is with Abaco. I leave in TWO DAYS. I have no idea what my leader situation is. I haven’t unpacked my rod from the last trip, so I’ll just leave it like it is. And flies… I have almost no idea what I need, except I’m sure I need something and I had better get to work.

That means I busted out the vice and finally unpacked my fly tying supplies and had to sit down and get after it a bit.

I like tying. It is just about the only creative thing I do, beyond maybe cooking dinner every night. I like it, but when I need to tie a bunch of flies, I still find myself procrastinating a bit.

I’m out of diamond braid… so, that’s not ideal, as just about every fly I tie uses some. I got around that by just using crystal flash, which looks good, but isn’t as durable. Still… when in a pinch, it works. I never have the exact size of bead eye I want. They are either a bit too big or a bit too small. What works on a #6 is a little dinky for the #4, but what works on the #2 is a little too big for the #4. Doesn’t help that I’ve found a wide variation in what some suppliers call a small, medium or large. I can’t seem to get it right, but I’ll make due.

So, I have been tying. It does come back, but I find I have to relearn a couple of mistakes at the beginning before I settle into a groove.

Abaco is coming. I’m not sure if I’ll be totally ready, but I’ll be mostly ready and I’ll enjoy the bejezus out of the trip because I’ll be in the Bahamas and bonefish will be nearby, even if I don’t get to fish every day.

Can’t wait.

That should work.

That should work.

And one more.

Yup. That'll do.

Yup. That’ll do.


30
Mar 15

Bonefish by Eric

Got a care package in the mail (more people could do this, if you want).

The package was a couple of pieces of bonefish art by Eric English.

Awesome. Thanks Eric!

Awesome.

Awesome.