02
Oct 16

Matthew looking particularly bad

Matthew is shaping up to be a pretty bad storm. It is about to slam into Haiti (oh good, like everything was going well there to begin with) and will hit Cuba pretty hard, although it looks like it will largely miss the Garden of the Queen, instead hitting the east end of the island.

After hitting Haiti and Cuba the storm should head into the Southern Bahamas and the path that is being predicted could see it really hit most of the Bahamas, although it is predicted to weaken somewhat after it starts to impact the Bahamas. Inagua, Crooked, Acklins, Mayaguana and Turks and Caicos look to get particularly hard hit, but the storm could also bring winds of over 100 mph to Andros, Long Island, Exuma, Eluthera, Nassau, Abaco and Grand Bahama. Basically, there aren’t many folks in the Bahamas that will not be impacted by this storm.

Current Watches/Warnings

Here’s from the Weather channel.

 


30
Sep 16

Here we go again… Hurricane Matthew heading for the Bahamas

This one does not look good. This one seems to be opening his arms to give a big, destructive hug to most of the Bahamas. Here’s the link to follow what is happening. 

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]


15
Sep 16

Interview with Captain Perry, Grand Bahama

(Posted in 2010. Recently it was announced that Captain Perry had passed away. I always wanted to get back to fish with him. He was a great guide and a very decent person. It was an honor to fish with him, even if I only did it once.)

This last January I had a few days of fishing in Grand Bahama, one of those days I got a guide and the others I went on my own.  I mostly had my arse handed to me on the  self-guided days, but had a great day with the guide I booked, Captain Perry, out  of McLeans Town on the East End of Grand Bahama.

I recently called up Captain Perry and asked him to do an interview and he agreed.  Because of this know I need to get some sort of recording device, as I missed a couple comments (at least) and didn’t catch some of the local flavor of his remarks.

If I make it back to Grand Bahama, I hope to see Captain Perry again from the bow of his flats boat… wouldn’t mind being there for a day to equal his most memorable from below.

Captain Perry, Grand Bahama Guide and Good Guy.

Do you have a favorite place to eat on Grand Bahama?

I go to a place in Port Lucaya, Le Med.

Being out on the water a lot you see odd, interesting or strange things.  What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen?

The shark eating the bonefish is pretty interesting, the speed of the bonefish is amazing, but the sharks hunt them down.

Do you have a guided trip that stands out in your memory?

Back in 2002, caught 127 bonefish in a day, wading. I’ll never forget that one.  It was all to do with the weather.  We’d had had some messed up weather before that, but that morning, the weather was nice.  We fished for 8 hours and fish were everywhere.

The following year I went out with the same guy about the same time of year and we saw one fish all day.

What do you think makes GBI a destination that bonefish anglers should check out?  Give me the top one or two reasons.

You can take almost a direct flight from the East Coast.  That’s it right there.  There is no need for a charter flight, no need so spend the night anywhere.

What’s your favorite tide to fish, or does it matter?

Around here, the incoming tide is good, but we have two tides, so we can get to find an incoming tide on one side or the other of the island.  A low incoming tide is really good.

What’s your favorite month to fish?

You can fish year round as long as there isn’t a cold front.

Do you have any lodging ideas for anglers looking to stay and fish the East End?  Freeport is pretty far away.

There’s a place called Ocean Pearl in High Rock, it is half way. That’s a good place.

On my trip with you in January, I landed 12 bonefish… I’m guessing that a more accomplished bonefisher might have had 20.  Sound about right?

Yeah, I think that’s about right.

I was impressed with how careful you were in handling the fish, never even taking them out of the water. You certainly are up to speed on the best practices for handing and releasing bonefish.  Are you seeing more anglers and guides being conscious of bonefish handling or is there still a lot of ignorance out there?

There is some way to go, for a lot of the guides, a long way to go…   a long way to go.  I think it will take some real knowledge about what’s going on with the fish.  They need to experience it themselves. If you tell them, they don’t get it. They need to get the knowledge themselves.  I see two or three guides that really get it, but there are still a lot that have a long way to go.

Drop the Grip and Grin and the fish will live to fight another day.

Thanks Captain Perry.


06
Jun 16

Interview with Tom Karrow

Tom Karrow is gathering up guide stories, histories and knowledge all for a pretty cool project.  I asked him to share some information about this project and to lend some of his insights gained thus far.

Check it out.

Tom interviewing Bahamian guide Jeffrey Ferguson, photo by Dan Decibel.

Tell me a little about the project you’ve been working on. What was the inspiration and where are you in the process?

The project I am working on is funded through the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust as well as a series of other industry supporters including Nautilus Reels, RL Winston Fly Rods, FishPond, 12 Weight, Costa, the Fisheries Conservation Foundation and World Angling. I have also had great on-island support from lodges like, North Riding Point Club, H2O Bonefishing, Deep Water Cay, Bairs Lodge, Swains Cay Lodge and industry associations like the Abaco FlyFishing Guides Association.. not too mention the dozens of participating guides including amazing Bahamian elders like Ansil Saunders, David Pinder Sr. O’Donald McIntosh, Basil Minns, and Maitland Lowe. My primary goal for BTT is generating fisheries habitat maps in collaboration with local Bahamian angling guides on Bimini, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Andros. These islands were selected because of the size of their angling tourism sector and the longevity of their fisheries… Bimini became a popular angling destination as early as 1923 with the establishment of the Bimini rod and gun club. While I am working with guides to generate habitat maps, I am also examining fisheries population dynamics for Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit (and more). These populations have changed over time, and it is critical to establish some sort of “baseline” in the absence of commercial fisheries catch rates. Without a baseline, it is difficult as a resource manager to assess increases or declines in populations, the effects of conservation measures, climate change impacts or source point pollution issues like dredging, oil spills, or waste water discharges. Many Bahamian guides have been guiding for decades; their experiences on the water are vital for better understanding ecosystems and the changes that have occurred in these systems. I am also trying to give these Bahamian icons recognition for their tireless efforts in working to learn about the fishery, and establish a world-class fisheries-based tourism destination. Their stories and experiences are being documented both in print and on film for release of a book entitled “Ghost Stories” and an accompanying documentary film. Film shorts and a trailer will be released through the International FlyFishing Film Tour (among other media sources) and will highlight not just bonefishing/fish porn, but the Bahamian culture, its history, food, customs and more. Ghost Stories will tell the story of the Bahamian bonefishing through the eyes of local Bahamian guides. I am grateful for support from Capt. Will Benson and World Angling who bring a wealth of professionalism and expertise to this vital effort. The challenge lies in funding for filming which is very costly.

Tom interviewing Ronnie at Bair’s Lodge in Andros while Dan Decibel films.

What is something that has surprised you about your project thus far?

A couple of things come to mind. Firstly the sheer magnitude of Bahamian generosity, courtesy and willingness to accommodate me needs mention. I have not found more polite, friendly people and I love returning to the islands. Beyond that, I think the beauty of the islands is stunning. Each time I land in a new destination, I say to myself… “this is the most beautiful place I have been”…. it makes me appreciate travelling throughout the islands and reminds me to encourage anglers to try new Bahamian destinations…. there are 700 Bahamian islands after all! I too am guilty of returning to familiar grounds when travelling but I can say, angling diversity throughout the Bahamas is worth seeing and you will become a better angler having had more experiences in a variety of locations with the teachings from local guides. Each destination I travel to holds a place in my heart whether it is because of local people, the geography, the food etc. and I hope some day to return to each place. I am fortunate to have met and interviewed, some of the Bahamian legends that I have; I cherish the time I have had with each of these finest of people.

You have been doing a LOT of traveling around the Bahamas recently. Any tips or tricks for helping get “there” with your sanity intact?

Remember you are on ” island time”, relax, go with the flow and enjoy the journey…. some of the most interesting people and contacts I have made were during “travel days”. Travel with the locals, embrace Bahamian people and their culture. More practically, leave lots of time, carry essentials with you (in case luggage arrives later) and fly direct if possible to avoid transfers, weather delays etc.

Tom with guide Dex Rolle in Exuma. Photo by Dan Decibel.

What do you think the state of Bahamian guiding is in at this point?

The quality of guides I have found throughout the islands is unparalleled. The best in my opinion, recognize the importance of the industry to Bahamians, they acknowledge their important role in that industry, they are well versed in local ecological processes and they are tourism and hospitality experts… largely self trained by the way, although there is a ‘tradition’ of guiding in some Bahamian families. In a few cases, the 3rd or 4th generation of family guides are now carrying on this tradition having learned from Bahamian greats.. a perfect example of this is the Pinder family of Grand Bahama who were, and are, lead by phenomenal Bahamian great, David Pinder Sr. Other families like the Smiths, Leadons, and Lowes follow suit. Beyond this, there are some issues with other aspects of the “state of guiding” in the islands. On many islands, new young guides are hard to find. Elder guides tell me, the younger generation finds guiding too hard, too much work and they see jobs in medicine or law as more credible. This will be an issue in the future of the Bahamas. We all have to address this problem as technology takes a greater role in the lives of our children and time in the outdoors is reduced.

Describe one of your favorite flats.

Personally, I prefer angling from a boat. I like diversity in a flat, I like a mixed shoreline and beach, coral and mangroves… I find it more challenging. I also like some access to deep water where species like Permit and Tarpon may travel through on their way to the flat so there is potentially a surprise on every flat. I love the flats of Northern Grand Bahama because they provide such diversity in terms of species and habitats, and I thank both H2O Bonefishing and Grand Bahama Bonefishing for showing me this incredible habitat. Sandy areas mixed with grass flats and everything in between allow for just about anything to happen. If wading, I much prefer a hard consistently white sandy flat so I can get beautiful Bahamian sand between my toes … I think of Exuma for this type of flat and I am on my way there today!

When you are on the water a lot you see some weird things. What’s something you’ve seen on the water that fits that bill?

Last time I was in the field, I had some down time to actually fish… a rarity rest assured! Research and interviewing are the focus of my time in the Bahamas… that is sometimes tough because I do love to throw a line and fly! However, two things come to mind with that question. On a flat on Great Exuma in January, I was wading when I heard and then saw a 5-6 foot black tip shark beach itself while chasing its prey. Right out of the water and well up the beach, it frantically thrashed about as it tried to return to the water which it did. Before that, I had never seen something like that. I also remember being with Androsian great, Charlie Neymour on a strong outgoing tide in about 10 feet of water looking for Permit in June. The water was so hot, that large off-shore permit up to 60 or 70 lbs. came right in on the boat, taking refuge under the boat in the shade it provided… that was crazy and pretty amazing to see. I might have gone in to swim with them had the current not been so strong the fact that some large Bull Sharks had followed the permit!

Where are you headed next?

My research efforts began in 2014 and I am approaching the end of official field work. While there will always be more guides to interview (and I would love to), from a research and funding standpoint I am close to having enough interviews from each of the study islands to accurately represent the local fisheries. Currently, I am en route to Exuma to interview a few more guides and will then travel to Andros for several weeks of travel and interviews from the south end all the way to the north end. I try to interview 50% of the guides on each island so I may return to Abaco in the fall for a few days. I would love to continue this study on Acklins, Long Island, Eleuthera and other Bahamian islands, but those are not in the cards at this time!

Thanks Tom. Can’t wait to see this thing!

 

 


12
Mar 16

The Flyfish Journal goes to the Bahamas

This is a pretty cool trip report. I love this format. It makes me wish I were, ya know, better at this stuff.

Please… check it out.

I love the feel of this. It feels more like what a story on the web should look like in 2016, as opposed to the standard blog presentation.

What do you think?


07
Mar 16

Bahamas Regulations Update Part 3,092

This stuff just doesn’t die, does it?

All is well... not to worry.

All is well… not to worry.

There is a new draft of Bahamian regulations making the rounds.

The link is here.

I’ve read it, thought about it and asked around about it a bit. Here’s my take.

It doesn’t look to bad to me. I think there is a little clarification around boats, guides and exactly when you need one, but for the most part, it looks pretty good.

There is no DIY ban. You’ll need a license, but that’s not going to be an issue. No bans on foreign lodges (that was a dumb idea to begin with as other legislation covers foreign investment). Guides will need to be certified, but that is probably also a good thing.

WHY this all looks good is based on who is in control of all the misc. parts. The Ministry of Tourism is put in the driver’s seat. That’s good. The Ministry of Tourism cares about the whole tourism sector, not just one tiny segment of it. They have the wider perspective needed. They are pro-angler and pro-restaurant owner and pro-grocery store owner and pro-Bahamian.

Of course, the “anti” crew isn’t happy about the new draft, which should pretty much tell you this is headed in the right direction.

If I were a betting man, I’d put good money on this whole thing either not happening at all, or very much breaking our way.


02
Mar 16

The story of two trip

My recent Abaco adventures involved two very (VERY) different parts.

Part One – Abaco Lodge.

2016-02-19 06.49.41

This place is legendary and for good reason. It is a fishing lodge in the best tradition. The iconic red buildings greet every angler on the way back in after seeing what the Marls have had to offer (which, generally, is a huge number of bonefish). The meals are chef prepared and delicious. The rooms are comfortable, clean and resort-like. The staff, including new managers Matt and Valeska, are warm, welcoming and strive to give you the best stay possible. The guides are knowledgeable, most with over a decade of guiding experience. The boats are Hell’s Bay and ride smooth and float skinny. The dock even had dock lights and a resident swarm of grey snapper (and a few visiting bonefish). It draws anglers, real anglers, and you are likely to hear stories about Montauk, the Seychelles, Cuba and Yellowstone over drinks or dinner or drinks after dinner.

The place is just pure class.

2016-02-17 07.11.02

Shooting the breeze after a day on the water

Shooting the breeze after a day on the water

I’d go back… I’d go back right this minute if it wouldn’t mean losing my job and getting a divorce (I love my wife and enjoy my job, so that would seem to be counter-productive). It is the kind of place that stays with you.

Part Two – Bahamian Fishing Village

We called this “The Real Bahamas.” We stayed at a small motel/guesthouse in a small fishing village (I’m not going to hotspot it for you). Everything in the town was owned by the same man and everyone seemed to work for him in some way or another. The room was simple, if a bit rough. The bathroom had a notable ant problem, but maybe that is what the lizard was there for. There were cockroaches at night if you were foolish enough to turn on the lights when you had to go pee. There was almost no discernible water pressure in the shower. There was trash all over the place, including in the water right below the room. The restaurant/bar (owned by the same guy) sold hard booze in pints that could be collected on the street the next morning drained of their soul crushing nectar. There was often loud shouting from up or down the street. Men carried sticks with them, I think to beat back the potcakes when they got too aggressive. We had six people tell us they were fishing guides and that we could hire them to take us out for $150 a day. No one had a boat though, or much of an idea about fly fishing.

The first comparisons to life at Abaco Lodge were a bit jarring, to say the least. Still, there was more about this little fishing village than cosmetics.

ablocx

Life seemed, and certainly was, hard. The sea provided what livelihood there was to be had. When the weather was good, there was fishing to be done, even on Sundays. Everyone seemed to help with everything. People got us ice or water or beer in the morning and I have no idea how they were connected to us or the owner, they just helped out. Everyone, even the most sour looking locals, said good morning to us, most of them even reaching out a hand and introducing themselves. Everyone shared their best ideas about where we should look for bonefish. Everyone was happy for our business and some even had business opportunities.

Where we stayed.

Where we stayed.

We brought school supplies for a local elementary school and got to meet some of the kids, who were drilled and trained to a T when asked “How are you doing today?” It was equal parts inspiring and terrifying.

ablocx store

ablocx main road

ablocx bar

ablocx nice house

The “Real Bahamas” was something I’m glad I got to see. You don’t see much of that with the Lodge experience. It is good to get out and talk to people and see how they live, see what their challenges are, as well as their joys. I got a real sense of the positives and negatives of life in the Out Islands here on this trip.

I have a new found respect for these people making a hard life in a beautiful place and pitching in to help their neighbors. That’s one of the things the DIY route offers, the chance to get a little closer to the people there in the place you are fishing, to see what life is actually like.

It is hard to beat the lodge experience for pure angling, for the comfort of it, for the ease of it, the quality guides, good night’s sleep and when you just want a solid vacation. If you want to put a little cultural understanding in your next trip, consider a day or two out in the “Real Bahamas” as well.


29
Feb 16

Hope in the Bahamas

Good people

Good people

Well, look who I saw at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show. That is Cheryl Bastian from Swain’s Cay Lodge and Benjamin Pratt from the Ministry of Tourism. They were there from the Bahamas Outislands Promotion Board, doing their part to help convince people that the Bahamas is still the place to be, mon.

I had a good conversation about all that has gone on and I feel positive about the direction things are headed. There is a new draft of the legislation somewhere and it is foolishness-free. All the good stuff is in, all the bad stuff is out and I feel like this could turn into a real positive.

There is going to be a training program (there actually already is, but it is going to get better), certification of guides and a daily license fee in-line with Florida prices. And, key point, none of this will be controlled by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

On my recent Abaco trip we had no fewer than six people tell us they could guide us for bonefish. Each of those people knew something about bonefish, but not enough to take money for a day on the water. None of those people was “professional guide level.” None of those people had apprenticed under any bonefishing guide. If we had been going after snapper or grouper, they would have been great, but for bonefish… not so much. Training and certification is needed.

I’ve known all along that there were good people out there who are in our corner, fighting the good fight and it was good to meet a couple of them face-to-face and to shake their hands and offer my support as well.

I feel more confident than ever that none of the destructive aspects of the first proposed legislation are going to see the light of day.

Your trip is safe.

Get ye to the Bahamas.


26
Feb 16

When the wind is up

The flat was loaded with fish. Wave after wave. It was the most fish any boat out of Abaco Lodge would see that day and likely more fish than we saw for the next 4 days on our own.

The problem, as is often the case, was the wind. The wind was blowing the water off the flat and not even the skinny riding Hell’s Bay could get us any further after the fish. Luckily, the fish were frequently coming to us.

Fishing in a 25 mile an hour wind is a challenge. Maybe it is a cinch for Lefty, but most of us mortals have a hard time casting into 25. Things go really wrong. Every shortcoming is magnified and your cast becomes defined by that shortcoming. In a 10 mph wind you can get away with a lot. In 25, you can get away with very, very little.

damn fly line is everywhere

damn fly line is everywhere

This day was the opposite of my first day. That day I saw the fish early. Every cast I needed, I had. It felt like almost every fish I threw at ate.

This day, however, I never saw the fish first. There were some I didn’t see at all. Casts asked for often didn’t pan out as asked for or envisioned.

They say when you feel like you need to speed up, that is exactly when you need to slow down and while I know that, deep down, in my gut somewhere, my animal brain was calling the shots, extolling me for blowing shots and telling me what I really needed was just a little more pepper in the cast. The animal brain is an idiot and a liar and a fool and its casts were “poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

As the tide kept falling, water kept getting pushed off the flat, the fish became even more spooky. From 60′ one fish spooked when the guide pointed at it. Fish seemed to be able to tell when we were looking at them and they’d run, panicked, darting this way and that until they were out from under our gaze.

Amazingly, we caught fish. Against the odds and in spite of the wind, we actually won a few of those contests.

One of my most rewarding fish followed about 20 minutes of fish spooking at every motion. Motion of the boat, the fly line, the fly itself, everything seemed to sew terror. And then there was a string of fish just getting up on the flat and they weren’t bothered and the first fish in that string to see my fly charged it down and ate it with relish.

Nice to be vindicated. Nice to do it in the face of a 25 mph wind too.

Redemption

Redemption


25
Feb 16

101 Reasons Why There Are No Bonefish on This Flat

We have no bonefish today.

We have no bonefish today.

The last few days of the trip Aaron and I were on our own, doing the DIY thing. We’d look at the map and Aaron would say a variation of “This is going to be loaded with fish.” My reply was a variation on “Maybe.”

We’d arrive on the flat and see the feed marks… the thousands and thousands of feed marks and Aaron would say “They are so here right now!” I’d say something like “We’ll soon find out.”

More often than not it was a shade of “recently, yes,” but mostly it was “not at the present time.”

This visual absence of the main reason we were on these flats and in this country often left Aaron incredulous. I was less so.

What followed each and every disappointment was a spin on “101 Reasons Why There Are No Bonefish on This Flat”

Here… play along.

The water is too cold.

The fish are mudding in deeper water somewhere.

The tide is too low.

The tide is too high.

The barracuda are spawning.

Maybe the bonefish are aggregating.

Maybe they are spawning.

The wind has changed the tide.

Full moon.

They are up in the mangroves.

My favorite…. they ARE here, but this flat is so huge, so expansive and the conditions are so crappy our cone of vision is tiny and we just can’t see them.

I’m pretty sure at least one of those was partially correct on any given flat we found and didn’t find fish on. The truth is that we simply lacked the native intelligence needed to accurately know. Even the guides get it wrong sometimes and we were trying to find these fish on our own in a place we had never been to before. We know a bit about bonefish, but nothing around this particular area so the best we can do fits into the “educated guess” column.

A few times, we even guessed right. Something about a monkey and a typewriter and an infinite amount of time jumps to mind.