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.


26
Feb 16

A perfect moment, Abaco style

On our first day of DIY on Big Huge Bonefish Flat the wind was up. Way up. The water off the flats was full of good size swells and the lee we found didn’t have the fish we were looking for. Someone forgot to tell the wind it was supposed to be coming from North East, not East. Silly wind.

We saw fish as soon as we got to the flat. Big fish. Bigger than seemed likely, really. Moving away. Moving 70 feet away in a 20-25 mph blow. This was going to be hard.

We walked up the flat toward the creek system. It was a long, slow walk. There were no targets to cast at.

The flat looked like a place bonefish would be and there were plenty of signs they had been there recently. That was promising, but still, they remained elusive.

In the creek, and close to the end of what would seem like a good college try of finding fish here I actually found some. Two, to be exact. These were nice fish, backs out of the water on the extreme edge of the tide who had not gotten the “fish leave the flat on the outgoing tide.” They were going in and I was following them.

I didn’t think I’d get a shot. They were going in, I was behind them and I never have been a fan of the “over the top and back toward the fish” presentation. Fish, generally, dislike that… a lot.

Then, they turned and were now heading back toward me, backs still out of the water in about 4″ of outgoing tide at about 35-40 feet.

I put the cast in ahead of the fish and waited. I twitched the fly as the fish swam almost on top of it. It pounced, pinning the fly to the mud. I striped slowly, only to feel the fly pull free, gently, of the fish’s grasp. The fish, determined to eat that damn shrimp, spun in circles looking for the prey. I twitched the fly again, but he didn’t see it. The fly was traveling further from the fish at this point and he was unlikely to pick it up again.

I picked up and re-cast closer to the fish. Again, he pounced with a sudden charge and then stillness meaning the fly was being crushed in the mouth of this bone. I strip set and the fish exploded.

Two long runs confirmed this as a 2X backing fish. Aaron actually thought I had lost the first fish and was landing a second, but it was all one fight and one very nice bonefish.

When landed the fish looked huge, although the measurements I got put the fish more toward 7 pounds than the 8 I first thought. It was my second largest bonefish ever, but the way it was hooked, the closeness, the intimacy I had in the whole affair, makes it one of my favorite bones of all time.

Purdy.

Purdy.

It was a perfect moment.

It was the only fish we caught between us all day and it was worth it.


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.


20
Jan 16

Playing the Odds and a Bit of Trust

 

I’ve talked to a few people and here is what I’m going to say is the current state of affairs.

The bill will not come up for a vote in February. It isn’t ready. No one has seen it. The most recent comments from Gray are pure politics in the worst sense of that word, which is saying something.

There is no reason to hold off on planning your trip.

When and if ANYTHING happens, there won’t be some short little window of notice. Folks in the know don’t think anything is likely to happen, or at least nothing that really impacts the DIY angler more than maybe buying a license.

So… while Gray’s comments are irresponsible, he is a politician and that seems to be mostly what they do.

See you in the Bahamas.


01
Jan 16

What is going to happen in the Bahamas in 2016?

bahamas-marine-life

2015 saw some pretty acrimonious discord for the Bahamas. Efforts to shut down the DIY fishery in spirit, if not in fact, were brought out and paraded around and the ensuing arguments left no one happy.

And then… nothing happened. It has been at least a couple of months since the Attorney General’s office took the proposed legislation and we’ve heard not a peep out of them. The potential reasons for this are many. Here are a few possibilities:

  • The AG’s office is waiting for US anglers to be distracted by something shinny before breaking out something really controversial.
  • The AG’s office is waiting until they deal with more pressing issues, like hurricane relief, before picking something like this up.
  • The powers that be are just letting it die a quiet death, knowing there is no interest in estranging Yank and European anglers who come to the Bahamas and drop some serious coin, year after year, especially with Cuba coming on-line and other destinations like Belize and Mexico still being pretty competitive.

All of that is just total speculation and speculation is all I can really conjure up because the news out of the Bahamas is just the sound of the wind through the mangroves.

As I write this, here on January 1, it seems very likely nothing much will change in the Bahamas in 2016. So, plan your trip. If anything does happen, it won’t be over-night and you’ll have plenty of time to alter if things go badly, but I think the odds of the most odorous of the proposals coming to pass is fading away like that school of bones moving off the flat into deeper water.


26
Jan 14

The DIY Bible

I recently received a nice package in the mail containing the book “Do It Yourself Bonefishing,” by Rod Hamilton  (with Kirk Deeter). I spent some time with it last night and I have to say, I wish I had this with me on a few previous trips to the Bahamas.

The risk, with this kind of book, is that the locations listed will get more traffic. The more traffic a bonefish flat gets, the worse the fishing. Bonefish visit the same flats relentlessly and if you teach one school of fish not to eat a Gotcha, that same school will remember it for the next angler… and the next angler… and the next.

Good Book Rod!

Good Book Rod!

The alternate view one could choose to adopt would be that by alerting the DIY set to the truly large number of possibilities, the few hardest hit flats might see less pressure. I also have to consider that really, there aren’t too many of us out there looking for a DIY bonefishing flat. It may seem like there are, but I think there are a far greater number of anglers who hope to take such trips than number of anglers who have wet their toes in pursuit of bonefish, on their own, in these far flung locations.

So, I say again that I wish I had this book prior to my earlier Bahamian DIY efforts. It would have helped a lot. The book is full of information and even gives cautionary tales when needed. I’d say it is a must-have if you plan to visit the Caribbean on your own, on foot, in pursuit of bonefish.

Just a little reminder… the more you fish a spot, the worse it is going to fish. If you find fish one day on one flat, don’t go back. Find a new spot. Explore. Expand. It’s the only way to keep the good spots good.


08
Aug 13

Flatswalker on the DIY Debate

Yesterday’s post was about the DIY debate from This is Fly. Flatswalker waded (see what I did there?) in with a thoughtful reply.

“If I can slip back into my guide boots for a minute, I can attest that I’ve seen a flat take over 2 weeks to recover after being pounded every day for a week by a single DIY angler.”

Some good stuff there. Go read it (please).

Leutra04_DnJenkinsFlats(GrnChnl)


07
Aug 13

The DIY Debate

The most recent issue of This is Fly includes a debate about DIY bonefishing in the Bahamas. There are some interesting voices… Aaron Adams from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Oliver White from Nervous Waters, Vince Stegura from Skinny Water Culture, Scott Heywood from Angling Destinations and, well… me.

It’s worth reading. (page 101)

I’ve done some DIY, I’ve done some indie guides and I’ve done lodges. They each have something to offer. They each have up-sides and down-sides. The debate is worth having.

A special fish. My first DIY fish. Not big, but my own.

A special fish. My first DIY fish. Not big, but my own.


01
Aug 13

Matt and I and the DIY Day

I’m sure there are people who can do it. There are plenty of people who are either luckier or better at this stuff than I am who would be unfazed by a DIY day in the Keys. They’d go out and smack a half-dozen bones and still have time for a nap.

I’m not that guy… not in the Keys.

The logistics for the Keys trip were mostly spot on. There was just one day we had a boat fall through. Not wanting to strand my fellow trip-mates, I took on the non-boat day and that meant Matt also had a non-boat day.

A tarpon hanging up at FKO.

A tarpon hanging up at FKO.

We started off as a group having breakfast at the Green Turtle. Damn fine food there and right next to the Florida Keys Outfitters, so it was one stop shopping. As we left to head off in search of fish we felt excited, but not overly-optimistic. As we got out of the rental car and rigged up the sky was mostly blue and it improved our outlook.

This was a misplaces sense of optimism. By the time we walked the trail to get to the water the clouds had appeared, dark and heavy with ran. The next several hours were spent wading through squall after squall, casting at any nervous water we could find, which meant casting at sharks and mullet, which, sadly, were not super grabby.

It was really, really wet.

It was really, really wet.

We put in some time though. We put in a good deal of time and all we got in return was wet.

At one point while wading, temporarily out of the rain but still deep in the darkness of the squall, I heard a strange sound. I wondered if the wind was making the rod or the line hum. I held up the tip of the rod to my ear and could hear a buzz.

I called out to Matt and asked him if his rod was buzzing. He looked quizzically at me and then confirmed that yes, his rod was buzzing too.

Wisdom would dictate we left the area immediately. Foolishness kept us there, casting at more mullet. Bad move.

I’ve never been in the heart of an electrical storm before like that and looking back at it the idea of standing there with a 9 foot piece of graphite was just stupid.

We left the flat eventually and made our way to another flat. This had a bit more life on it and it wasn’t too long before I saw a dark shape move over the light bottom. It was a bonefish… an honest to god non-baby Keys bonefish. I cast. I stripped the fly. The fish lit up on the fly, followed it and then… then… the damn thing didn’t eat.

I’ve never seen a fish react that way to a fly before and NOT eat it. I was pissed. I was actually angry. I cursed. I called the fish several unflattering names, some of them in French.

It passed and we walked on.

Then, it happened again. I see the fish, my second spotted Keys bonefish. I make the cast. The fish lites up, follows the fly and then, frustratingly, doesn’t eat.

This was a hard lesson, but a critical one. It seems the bonefish I’ve been trained on, the bones of the Bahamas and Belize, are not a good proxy for Keys bones. You can’t present the fly to them in the same way, I’ve been told. You have to stop moving the fly to get the eat. I didn’t do that and I didn’t get the eat.

Tough.

The whole day was tough. Wet and tough and largely fishless. I landed one little cuda and that was all that we had to show for about 9 hours of fishing.

Skunk saver.

Skunk saver.

The Keys didn’t surrender their fish easily to us. All we can hope is that the time we put in is a down payment for future inches and pounds.

At least lunch came with beer.

At least lunch came with beer.


29
Apr 12

The Fin – T&C Part II

The Fin recently went to Turks & Caicos for round two of his DIY adventure.

the one hour of fishing you get when the sun is high enough to see fish until the first kid runs through the flat can be awesome.