30
Jul 15

Christmas Looks Nice

I want to go to Xmas Island. Christmas is one of those places that has been on my list for a while. I am on the Pacific side of things and I’m supposed to be oriented out that way for my fun in the sun, right? I’ve thought about my 2016 trip being to Christmas. I may just begin the negotiation process here at home to make that happen.

If I go, I’d likely do it through a booking agent and stay at a lodge and go with guides. It is a long way to go to not be on the right flats. However, if you want to do it solo, it would appear that is an option as well.

It sounds to me like things aren’t that expensive once you get there, it is just that the getting there is kind of a hassle with an overnight in Honolulu. Could be worse!

Also… there are GTs. I’d very much like to break some gear on a GT.

 


25
May 15

A young man’s game

I’ve been thinking about the trout fishing I’m not doing right now on my home waters of the Upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers. I see the pictures come through on Facebook of friends up there, getting after it, fishing those waters that once so captivated me and still hold a very special place in my heart.

I was remembering a trip over a decade ago I took on the McCloud at the close of the season. I was hiking up the river, fishing solo, and I came to a section where the banks meet high rock walls as the river flowed out of a gorge section. As I hiked up the trail along this section of river I looked into one run far below and saw a massive trout. The thing had to be 10 pounds, almost certainly a brown trout, and it marauded around the pool like it owned the place. I wanted that fish.

To get to the fish I had to scale down a rock cliff, which I did, rod in my mouth to keep two hands free to grab the rocky cliff face. When I got down to the water I got one cast into the pool and one of my flies (an egg pattern) was immediately hit by a good trout. It was a good fish, not 10 pounds good, but a good fish nonetheless. After a couple minutes I landed a beautiful 19″ rainbow. The big brown didn’t like the commotion and had vanished.

The way I fish for trout on my home waters and how my home waters fish best is by aggressively covering the water. You get in and walk up the river, climbing over rocks and logs and whatever else is in the way. It is a tight-line, short-line nymphing technique using two flies and one more split shot than you might otherwise consider wise. You pound the pockets and the runs and you strike on everything. Sometimes there is a fish when you strike. That’s why you do it.

I was thinking about that episode on the McCloud recently from my perspective today. I realized I wouldn’t have climbed down there now. I’m more cautious. I have two kids and a wife who depend on me and I can’t do foolish things. My body also doesn’t respond as well to challenges as it once did.

While I wouldn’t have made it down to the bottom of the gorge, I know if I did the cast I would have made would have been better than the one I made all those years ago. I’ve lost some of my aggressiveness, but I’ve gained some skill.

When out on the flats there isn’t much of a place for aggressiveness, but skill gets you everywhere.

I wonder if that’s one of the things I like about bonefishing, that shift in focus, that shift in what ends up being important.

I can still wade semi-irresponsibly and cover the water, but I find myself on my rivers much, much less often and the call I hear is usually from the flats in places too far away and too expensive to visit frequently.

Fly fishing is still a huge part of my life and I imagine it will be until I can’t fish anymore. Maybe the trout will come back around for me in terms of importance and maybe one day again I’ll get to know a river’s pulse and hatches and moods like I used to. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate different aspects of the trout game in the future that don’t rely on the aggressiveness so much.

Maybe I’ll seek out spring creeks or take up lake fishing. Maybe I won’t and I’ll still pine for bonefish and skinny water flats and the need for long and pretty casts. We’ll find out.


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.


04
Mar 15

Lies and Statistics

There is a new-to-me on-line fly fishing magazine called Tail that I got turned onto to see an article by Michael Larkin (yeah, he’s a Ph.D.). The article is all about bringing statistics to break down the elements that influence if you are going to catch a bonefish or not.

Fishing is good.

Fishing is good.

It is an interesting read, looking at data from Keys fishing tournaments over a number of years. This may, or may not apply to your average day on the water, but it does provide some food for thought.

What are the elements that matter the most? Experience of your guide? Your own experience? Wind? Cloud cover? Moon phase? It all gets put into the mix.

Check it out. (I think you have to register to see it, but you can do so for free)


27
Feb 15

Nicklaus loves the bones

“I think that bonefishing combines hunting, it combines calculation of where the fish could be, what the tides are, what the moon is, time of day,” Nicklaus said. “It forces you to figure out what’s going on.”

Turns out, Jack Nicklaus loves bonefish too… and for many of the same reasons I do.

I’m not a golfer… in fact, I tend to think along these lines:

“I am not against golf, since I cannot suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout.” – Paul O’Neil

Maybe I’m just a hater, but it really isn’t my thing… and then there’s the runoff and the way people have of taking some bit of natural beauty and thinking they can improve upon it by putting in 18 holes and a clubhouse.

Maybe you fear what you don’t know and I don’t know golf, but I do know fishing and have fallen in love with bonefish over these last few years… OK, and tarpon a bit too.

Jack seems like a good guy… like for this –

Earlier this month, the foundation pledged $60 million to support the growth of the Miami Children’s Health System. In recognition of the grand gesture, Miami Children’s Hospital will now be known as the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

Good on ya Jack… go get some bones.

 

 


01
Jul 14

The going away shot

The line is flying.

The line is flying.

Let me paint the picture for you.

You are on the flat. The fishing has been maybe a bit slow. The shots are few and far between and the fish are not happy fish.

You see a fish, it is coming closer… maybe you get a shot in, not dice, the fish turns, slowly, not spooked, but now headed away. Maybe it is turned 45 degrees away. Swimming slowly.

In this situation… do you make the cast?

Points to consider.

1. Bonefish really hate it when flies move toward them. Prey does not sacrifice itself to the predator and a shrimp does not swim into the mouth of a bonefish. A bonefish that gets an uncomfortable feeling is a bonefish that swims away very, very fast. Sometimes, bonefish turns again and comes back if he isn’t freaked out. So, best to not fire off the Hail Mary and wait and see if it comes back around.

2. Things happen. A bonefish might, just might turn and pounce on the fly and gobble it up. You can’t catch the fish if you fly isn’t in the water and if the fish was moving away, it probably was going to be a shot you weren’t going to have again anyway.

Where do you come down on this?


20
Feb 14

Trips

Trips seem to come at inflection points. They mark the passage of time.

The trip to Andros marked the end of my first marriage.

My second Hawaii trip was freedom.

The Cuba trip coincided with the start of the relationship with my current wife.

My second Belize trip was my honeymoon.

My last Bahamas trip was maybe the last trip we will likely have had with my mom with us and it was when we first found out we were pregnant with our son.

This upcoming Bahamas trip takes place with her home, fighting cancer.

Trips… I look forward to each and every one and as I look back, I plot the arc of my life by the coming and going of those experiences.

I’m eager to get out there on the flats… I’m already packing.

Three rods in there already, one to add.

Three rods in there already, one to add.


10
Dec 13

Where you are thinking about going

I thought I’d share a little bit about what is getting the search traffic here at BOTB and what that reveals about you, the angling public. Below are the 10 top locations searched for on Bonefish on the Brain.

10. Kauai – I’ve been there. I’ve seen fish. I’ve cast at them. Sadly, I haven’t caught them there and I doubt I’ll be back. Kauai is part of my past. Beautiful place though.

This thing was cool.

This thing was cool.

9. Costa Rica – An odd one, since there are very few bones there, so far as I know. I guess people are searching for bones there and so they find this blog in the search.

8. Water Cay Lodge – A very specific search. I’ve been there and certainly have written a bit about it. Grand Bahama is a very, very fishy place.

I'll be walking onto this dock in February.

I’ll be walking onto this dock in February.

7. Andamans – I had to look this up. I have written a post about the Andamans (Indian Ocean), but it certainly isn’t top of mind.

6. St. Thomas – Another disappointing search for people, I’d think. What I’ve written about St. Thomas (mostly an interview) said there were bones there, but they were few and far between, the structure wasn’t ideal and there were many more tarpon there than bones.

5. St. Brandon’s – Not a surprise. I’ve written a lot about St. Brandon’s and I think about that place often… very often… like now.

4. Christmas Island – Another place that is top of mind for me as well. If you are a Pacific Coast angler, this is likely where you will look to get your Geet.

3. Andros – The search term was actually “flies for Andros,” but I’ll count it as Andros. I’ve actually fished Andros and think about that experience often.

Nice bone, tagged and ready to go. Photo by Cameron Miller.

Nice bone, tagged and ready to go. Photo by Cameron Miller.

2. Culebra – A bit of a surprise. Culebra is not a big place, but it sounds very, very lovely. This Puerto Rican island is fairly undeveloped at this point, although I wouldn’t expect that to stay true for long.

My top location search… drum roll please…

1. Grand Bahama – This is the place I’ve fished the most for bones. It is easy to get to, has a wide range of lodging and angling options and is the place I caught my first bonefish.  Awesome place.

Bone.

Bone.


02
Sep 13

From the Archives – First Day of Bonefishing for Mrs. BOTB

(Originally posted September 20, 2012)

She’s a sport. This was our honeymoon, after all.  It was also her second day of fly fishing ever. That’s jumping into the deep end, pretty much.  Still, I figured if it was going to happen, it stood a good chance of happening here, out of El Pescador in Belize.

I would routinely say that what I wanted, out of the day on the water, was to share with her what it was that I loved, out there on the flats. It is an obscure concept if you’ve never been out there and maybe the selling of it is a bit challenging.  “Hey, let’s stand on a boat for a few hours, looking for fish that are really hard to see, in the sun without shade. Oh, and you can’t have a beer until you land a fish (OK, that’s really more my rule).”

She was kitted out for success. She came walking up for breakfast like she belonged.

Ready for action

We got out on the water and headed up to the park.  It is a nice ride up there and the day wasn’t too hot while we were running. Soon after we paid our fee at the park we went in search for baby tarpon.  This wasn’t maybe the best first stop. First, it wasn’t going to be something that would put her up on the deck and secondly, back in the mangroves it was stiflingly hot.

I was also having a case of the sucks. I couldn’t seal the deal on the baby poons. I swept the rod on the first fish. I cast on the head of the second. I cast behind the third. The fourth wasn’t interested. All the time it was really, really hot. She suffered through it all though without a complaint, which just goes to show what a trooper she is.

We went out into a slightly bigger lagoon, a place with a bit of a breeze, and I managed to blow one last fish. On this fish I made a good cast, got the take, set the beejeezus out of things and managed to just break the fish off. That was surprising because this same set-up had landed my 85 pounder in Cuba. Same knots, same spools of material. Go figure.

Me, casting.

We then left to find some bones and the Mrs. got up on deck. Cesar, our guide set about helping out with her cast.  This was her second day fishing, period. It is a tough place to start. Cesar got her up and running and put in into position to catch fish.  There is a lot to remember though, and it was tough for her to carry it all in her mind.  There is so much we carry in muscle memory and when you have to pick it all up and have to keep it in the front of your mind, well, things are going to get dropped, and plenty of things got dropped. She was unfazed though, mostly because of her awesomeness.

Mrs. BOTB actually hooked two bonefish, which I thought was simply wonderful. She got to feel the fish a bit, but put too much slack into things and both bones managed to get off. She did, however, manage to get a little snapper, so was not blanked on the day and got to enjoy a Belikin.

Earning the beer.

The day ended with Cesar and I out on foot chasing down several schools of bones. That was a fun time.

Another one in the books.

She got to see what I love out there and she understands me a bit better because of it.  That was the goal, so, mission accomplished. She may need a few more days of trout fishing before we head back to the flats, which I’m happy to provide for her.

She’s game, which is just simply wonderful.