17
Apr 18

Almost impossible fish

On Caye Caulker at the Sea Dreams dock, the dock light makes things just work. Once the sun is down the bonefish mill around and they can be caught. The last night there I caught six before deciding to call it a trip.

However… in the daylight those fish are a different story. It is the same school of fish, or the same few small schools of fish (maybe 30-40 fish total), and when the lights are on they just won’t be fooled.

I tried some of the Hawaii tactics from last year. I tried going small, but the current would just carry the fly away before the fish could even see it. I tried taking out the flash and going neutral colors, but it seemed any fly, of any color or shape, would send the fish scurrying for cover. I tried leading the fish by 9 feet, but as soon as the fly line landed on the water the fish would just turn around and swim slowly away from the offending line.

So, size didn’t matter, color didn’t matter and you couldn’t cast within 9 feet. They really were pulling out their inner permit.

I, after a few hours of trying over multiple days, finally gave up.

Those same fish would eat a heavily weighted tan shrimp at the fringes of the dock light’s glow with savagery usually reserved for barracuda eats.

I fished at night.


27
Feb 18

A return to the Bahamas… on the books in 2018

I’m going back. I’m going back to the Bahamas in 2018… July.

I’m going to spend a few days at the East End Lodge, very close to the waters where I caught my first bonefish. This is the place I’ve spent the most time of any one place in the Caribbean. This is a place I kind of love a bit and want to know better.

I’m excited to be going back. I’m excited to stand in those waters again and look for something moving toward me there in the shimmering shadows of currents and water.

It is going to be a very, very fine year.

Grand Bahama… I’ll see you soon.

A Grand Bahama Bone


16
Dec 17

2017 – A review

What an odd year it’s been.

I got out, I went some new places, I had some different experiences, I caught some new species, I met some new people.

It was another year where my days fishing for trout diminished. I think I fished for trout exactly three days… all with my daughter and a bit with my son (who landed his first trout), and for fewer combined hours than I’d normally fish in a single day. It just gets harder and harder to get away and make the drive North or East to find trout water. Kids. Work. Wife. It just isn’t fitting into an increasingly full life. I can’t really even complain about that, it’s just an observation.

I continued to find some time around the edges to get to the Bay and fish for stripers. I didn’t do this as much as I would have liked to, but I caught some, even the odd halibut. I saw plenty of seals and pelicans and very few other anglers.

My first trip of the year was to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami. It is a trip I’ll look back on with sadness, given the later actions of my fishing partner, but the fishing itself was pretty interesting. I caught my first Peacock Bass, which was pretty fun, as well as my first Mayan. I went night tarpon fishing in Biscayne Bay (remember, my son’s middle name is Biscayne) on a night of high winds and low expectations. We didn’t catch anything more than a single jack, but we did have tarpon rolling on the shadow line of the bridge and it is something I really want to do again. I got to fish with David as well, who showed me one of his spots.

Just a fun, fun fish to catch on a fly rod.

A Mayan on David’s water

My second trip of the year was to Belize for Spring Break with my girl. We went to Caye Caulker and stayed at Sea Dreams. It was a pretty awesome trip, full of bonefish caught from the dock and very little time wearing shoes of any kind. The day of fly fishing resulted in one nice snook and a really good soaking from the rain. Lots of great memories from that trip.

My Belize Snook

One of the highlights from Spring Break 2017.

Awesome

Nice cuda.

My third trip of the year was to Oahu for a family vacation. I had a day to fish and I managed to break my O’io curse, landing three, hooking seven and seeing my first adult Giant Trevally and my first ever milkfish. It was a pretty good day on the water… opened my eyes a bit to the Hawaii bonefish game.

My fourth trip was to Mexico, Mahahual, with my dad in July. I think it was maybe a bit too late in the year as it was HOT. This was, in retrospect, not the best trip for my dad. The heat and unsteady footing were not his friends. Still, he caught his first tarpon (baby) and had his first grabs from adult tarpon. I caught some babies, had more than one eat from the big guys and caught my first trigger fish. It was a good trip that would have been made better by maybe 8 degrees less heat.

Nick with my trigger

Dad’s First Sabalito

My fifth trip was down to the marshes of Louisiana, DIY kayaking for redfish with a group largely from Alabama. This was a great experience. I had never fished out of a kayak like that and was a bit shaky, but managed to catch three reds and my first speckled trout. I met James, another blog reader, and enjoyed our day on the water.

My first DIY redfish

Don’t you love the hazey GoPro pictures?

That rounded out my fishing for the year. It is now approaching mid-December and I might, might get another day or two of throwing for stripers in the Bay, but beyond that, my fishing is pretty much wrapped up for 2017.

New species: Peacock Bass, Trigger Fish, Speckled Trout
New guides fished with:
New fishing friends made:

 


15
Aug 17

The Nadir

Bonefish are awesome.

My last trip is in the books for 2017. It is done for the year. I won’t have another chance to wade, mid-calf deep, across a broad flat, of sand or turtle grass or broken coral, looking for bonefish silhouettes slipping silently through wind and tide disturbed water.

That’s a little bleak.

Damn.

It got me thinking about what I like about it, about bonefishing. I got to thinking about what stirs my soul about these fish.

I love being there.

I love the gear. The flies I’ve tied. The leaders I’ve put together. The knots I’ve tied.

I love the act of searching, not as much as the instant of recognition, but I love the looking.

I love that moment when you realize it is all going to come together. You are going to get a shot. You can’t think about it. You have to act. You have to make it happen.

You get to see the eat. You get to see the fish light up. You can tell, from 50′ that the fish is going to eat you fly.

That little capsule of preparation and skill and luck and action… that is why I love bonefishing.

I’ll see you again, bonefish. Here’s to fishing trips to come.


02
Aug 17

Mahahual 2017 – The Report Part III – Things that didn’t go as planned

Not everything went awesomely in Mexico. Here are the things that didn’t end up in the plus column.

Donde estan los bonefish?

I fished on the flats for two days without Nick and on those two days I saw one group of 3 bonefish (I saw other fish, but just not many bones). I was on flats that certainly LOOKED like they were going to hold bonefish. The habitat looked right. The depth was right. There were other fish around… saw a lemon shark and a nurse shark and several cudas… a jack… and just almost no bonefish. I know they are there. People see them. People catch them. I am not a novice. I can spot fish. So… what the hell was I doing wrong? To be honest, this was the single biggest disappointment of the trip. I has thought it would be kind of like Belize, which isn’t too far away, and the bones would be, ya know… kind of everywhere. It wasn’t that way, at least not for me in late July.

come out bonefish… where are you?

Hot much?

Dear god it was hot. I needed to hydrate like it was my means of providing roof and sustenance. It was hot. It was center-of-the-sun kind of hot. The heat was a bit of an issue for my dad. The last day he had to stop fishing before most of the fishing was really even started. Keeping my dad from having heat exhaustion was a priority and we certainly came close, or crossed over, that line… fast.

Sargassum

There was a lot of the stuff. It clogged a few flats that should have produced. It seems when there is 30 or 40 feet of the stuff at the shoreline, it heats up and discolors the water near it. I think that might have discouraged fish to hang around. Sargassum is a hit or miss thing. Some flats were free of the stuff. Some were full of it. One flat I went to was so full of sargassum there was a cliff of the stuff, three feet high.

The future is plastics

My god. There is a lot of plastic on the beaches. Washed up from who knows where, it has ended up in Mexico. Tons of it. Roughly a bazillion, gazillion tons of it. A bit depressing. So, when do we start using this stuff to 3-D print houses and stuff?

dude… that’s a lot of plastic

There it is… the getting there, the good and the less good. Mahahual 2017 is in the books and I’m facing a long lay-off until I end up somewhere salty with a fly rod in my hand. It was a good trip. It was a tough trip. It was a memorable trip.

Thanks Mexico.


02
Jul 17

Hawaiian Bonefish Exception

Hawaiian bonefish are super, super spooky. But… sometimes, they aren’t.

One fish that fell well outside the norm (the norm here defined by guide Kenny and from my own observations on the day) was a fish that I basically dabbed. (dab. verb. While fly fishing, to present the fly without casting by simply placing the fly in front of a fish)

I had just broken off a fish (something I did twice on strip-strikes) and Kenny was tying on another one of his flies I never would have selected (just totally different from what I cast at bones, not because they weren’t good looking). We were on a narrow little flat, maybe 30 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, connected to a larger flat. The fish were coming up on the flat from the deeper water on both sides and moving down the little flat towards us.

As Kenny was mid-tie, a bonefish of 3-4 pounds came towards us and about 15 feet away, it just stopped and milled around a bit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so it wasn’t clear if it actually saw us or if it felt us more. Either way, it didn’t spook.

Fly attached, I simply put the fly in front of the fish and the darn thing promptly ate, right there in front of us.

Both Kenny and I laughed pretty hard at that as the fish sped away. What the fish lacked in predator detection it made up for in defensive maneuvering. Off the flat the fish fled and right around some coral, deeper than we could get to. The fish got off, but, it was hard to be upset about that one.

So, you need to lead Hawaiian bones by a country mile, until you find a fish that doesn’t mind at all (there aren’t many of those).


29
Jun 17

My Hawaiian Bonefish Skunk is Dead

It is a family vacation we are on, but, of course, there is a little fishing in the mix.

We are on Oahu and I managed to convince my wife to part with me one day so I could try and break my Hawaiian bonefish hex. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times and I’ve seen bonefish, but caught none, until yesterday.

I saw my first bonefish ever in Hawaii about 9 years ago. I didn’t catch any.

I spent four days on that same beach a few years later and I got 4 casts in the whole time. I didn’t catch those bonefish.

I went with a guide in Maui last year. There are bones there, but I didn’t catch any.

I had always heard the fish are big, but there are few of them and it isn’t unusual to get blanked. All that was in line with my past experiences.

This year on our family vacation I went out with Kenny from Hawaii on the Fly. He has a modern flats skiff, is from Florida originally and has been guiding out here for several years. He found, almost immediately, one of these elusive Hawaiian bones, known as o’io locally. He then found another, and another and another and… hey, wait a second… these things are all over the place!

He warned me these fish are particular. You have to lead them by 9 feet. Not 6 feet. Not 3 feet. And dear god not on their heads. I can tell you this is almost entirely true. They knew the difference between 9 and 6 feet and were out of there if a cast was anywhere near them. I made a LOT of casts too near the fish. Kenny can tell you.

I caught my first o’io and my second. I ended up hooking 7 and had maybe 40 legit shots out of the 200+ bonefish I saw on the day.

I had no idea you could see so many bones in Hawaii in a day.

While you can find them, you are not likely to catch them. Fly selection was very different from what I’d normally cast. In fact, I doubt a single fly out of my 200+ would have been appropriate. They just act differently. Presentations that would have gotten eats in Abaco or Andros freaked these fish out.

They make me think of the bonefish I saw at Crab’n Bay in Grand Bahama. An easily driven to and waded flat, the flat is full of bones, but they are epic in their toughness and that has everything to do with the same bonefish usually returning to feed on the same flats. These fish are trained. They are weary. They are wise to us all… unless you break out some top level angling.

It was windy, really windy (Hawaii is kind of known for that), but the shots were fairly close (some at redfish distances). The wind ended up being way less of an issue than I thought it would be.

Bonus was seeing about a 40 pound GT and a not-small milkfish, two fish I had not seen before (no casts made at either).

It was a great day on the water. Kenny was easy to spend time with. He’s not a yeller. He’s easy with conversation. He worked hard and he put me on fish after fish after fish (and didn’t complain when I broke off four of his flies on fish).

I have a whole new appreciation for Hawaiian bonefish. Thanks Kenny.

To book go to Hawaii on the Fly. (No promotional exchange for this post, I paid full fair, and would again.)


24
Jan 17

Tutorial on how to ruin a good thing – Belize edition

Honeymooners, Belize, 2012.

Belize is not a big country. It’s 330,000 people, plus or minus, makes it smaller in population than the city I work in, Oakland, which has some 400,000 residents. In terms of economics, the city of Oakland has an income per capita of about $32K, give or take, while the income per capita for the whole nation of Belize is just over $7,000.

So, it is easy to guess some of the things Belize does not have. There are some things Belize has in spades, however. Belize has in Mayan ruins what it lacks in Walmarts. The one big, big thing Belize has is a barrier reef. In fact, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It is massive. It is a treasure. It is probably the lifeblood of the Belizian economy, accounting for about 12% of GDP.

If you were to make of list of activities which could really mess up a barrier reef system, you might put offshore oil drilling high on that list. Cynics would be unsurprised to hear the government of Belize has moved in that direction,  giving the green light to start oil exploration off the coast of Belize.

I mean… why would you do that? That’s not a real question. We all know why. It is money and greed and the power someone(s) might be able to accumulate in a country with a population smaller than the city of Oakland.

Belize… I hope you don’t do it. I hope you build on your assets and don’t lose them under a slick of oily greed and shortsightedness.

Belize… I need you to be Belize.

 


02
Nov 16

Master Guide of Biscayne Bay passes at 91

Bill Curtis was a guide and pivotal figure in bonefishing and the development of salt water fly fishing. He passed at 91. Here’s a story about his passing from the Miami paper.

“Man was born to hunt, fight and make love. Anything else is just a complication,” he once said.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article112149762.html#storylink=cpy


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.