I have a new hobby. I go out and stand in the SF Bay with water pouring into my waders like a cold brew coffee and I practice my casting for an hour or so. I don’t catch fish. I guess that’s not a thing I do anymore.
I got skunked yesterday. Much as I’ve been skunked the last 8-12 times I’ve been out in this particular stretch of water, after finding that bit of water productive for the previous couple years (in this case 2017-2018, my bad luck started in 2019. I’ve seen fish caught here in the last year, so I can’t say “it isn’t me.” It is clearly me.
I don’t know if the fish gods are mad or if I’ve put some kind of hex on my flies or if the smell of my waders is driving away the fish… but, something isn’t right.
Who had Pandemic on their 2020 list of possible shit that was going to go down? Not I.
And now… I’m looking forward and kind of wondering what the rest of 2020 is going to look like and what maybe even 2021 might look like.
I have to imagine there is a whole lot of economic damage being done all over the world. Guides from California to Louisiana to the Keys to the Bahamas are all (or very much mostly) client-less. Since those jobs were more associated with the view and the lifestyle as opposed to the paycheck and benefits, I can only imagine how much hurt is being felt out there.
The threats are real, of course. Here in the US we are at 22K dead… either 1/3 or 1/4 done with the dying, depending on the model you prefer. That’s a pretty grim number. No, the hurt isn’t just financial.
My wife, a physician, things we won’t be flying anywhere until there is a vaccine and that is probably a year out. There are a lot of unknows as well. Testing is scarce, but eventually we’ll be able to get people tested for antibodies and that will give you a bit of a “OK, you can go about your business” pass, at least in theory.
I don’t know when next I’ll be on a flat somewhere throwing at a bonefish. Heck, I don’t even know when next I’ll be floating in my own raft. Maybe this summer?
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter much when I next fish. The real world has intruded on my fishing fantasy life.
Hope folks are doing well out there, staying safe and healthy and I hope we get through this and back to fishing sooner than we expect, but not sooner than we should.
COVID might not have the destructive winds of a hurricane, but it may have just as dire a landfall in the Bahamas. You are being asked not to travel to the Out Islands, which I don’t think many folks would find easy to do anyway these days with restrictions to travel happening all around.
I’m not heading to Abaco in May. We’ll see what this thing looks like in 4-5 months.
Here’s something from the Out Islands Promotion Board:
Dear Bahamas Out Islands Sun, Sand and Sea Adventurers,
With your health, safety and wellbeing in mind, we urge you to postpone your travel plans to the Bahamas Out Islands until such time as you are advised by your country’s federal, state/provincial and/or local government that it is safe to travel and we are in a position to safely provide you with our warm, Bahamian hospitality.
Two key reasons for our recommendation:
In addition to our safety concerns for all, we share our recommendation for two key reasons: 1. Most countries in the world have urged their citizens to postpone all non-essential travel, including the U.S., whose State Department on Thursday, March 19th issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory urging Americans not to travel overseas and to return to the United States.
2. While, as of March 23rd, the Bahamas Ministry of Health confirmed just four (4) cases of COVID-19 in Nassau, on Thursday, March 19th, the Most Honorable Doctor Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, in an unprecedented move to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our islands, issued Emergency Powers which took effect on Friday, March 20th at 9:00 AM and will remain in place through March 31st, 2020 declaring the following (which is not a comprehensive list):
I. A country-wide curfew extending each night from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM;
II. All establishments, institutions, businesses, offices, stores and organizations shall suspend operations to the general public except for a list of “essential businesses” which will operate from 6:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Travel Flexibility and Support:
We understand the need for increased flexibility with travel planning right now. To assist our guests in their travel decisions, we have encouraged all of our hotel members – for bookings made directly with them – to relax their cancellation policies. Please contact your hotel directly. Guests who booked via online travel agents or other third parties are advised to contact their booking provider for information on their policies and for assistance.
Our Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board Support Team takes great pride in the role we play in the business of our hotel members and you, their guests. Rest assured that as circumstances continue to develop, one thing will remain constant: we will make our decisions with the health and well-being of you, our hotel members and our island communities as our highest priority.
Sincerely, The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board Support Team
A trip to the Bahamas in May is starting to look as unlikely as it would be unwise. What a unique moment in history we are living through.
Of course, this is insult to injury to the people of the Bahamas, to survive Dorian and then to have the flow of business shut down by a virus originating half-a-world away. Unfair on top of unfair.
We are a bit of a rough spot here too, of course. We have a “Shelter in Place” order, my son’s schyool may not re-open until the next school year and my daughter is doing distance-learning. I’m working from home, stuck in sweatpants and on conference calls, and maybe this is the new normal.
It is straight out of a movie or book plot. The reason for that is it was always possible. And now… it is here.
How I’d love to be on the flats looking for bonefish right about now, even if the winds were howling at 20. Sure seems like that would be social distancing, if you were doing it right.
But… with no school in and no childcare available and a wife working in medicine (and working in healthcare myself) it seems a very poor idea to go anywhere. I stand a good chance of being a vector for someone else’s misery and maybe even their death. That isn’t a part I’m willing to play in anyone’s story.
Maybe I’ll imagine what that trip would be like and write it as if it happened. In fact, I’ll probably do just that.
Saw this segment on 60 Minutes about the Bahamas going solar. Great idea. While in Christmas Island (about a million years ago, although actually just about a year ago) I talked with a couple of guys looking to instal solar on small Pacific islands to replace diesel generators. It was part of a World Bank or government project. Tons of sense… inspiring, even.
Then there is the Bahamas… they don’t have an Australia or New Zealand to fund those projects and passing the costs down to the consumers isn’t really that realistic in a place where the median household income is officially about $33K in many places and probably well below that number in reality.
The solar array they are putting in Ragged is supposed to cost $3,000,000 to get power to about 100 people. That’s awful math. That doesn’t scale particularly well. I don’t think the 100 people of Ragged Island are going to be able to actually buy that power.
I’d love for this story to be real, but it has the feeling of a lot of window dressing. Still a long, long haul for the people of the Bahamas to recover from Dorian. The housing situation seems poor, at best, and the government seems to be all red-tape and sound bites. I’ll be there in a couple months and I’ll be curious if my impressions change after being there and hearing from the people directly.
The airfare is purchased. The lodging is secured. Now… two months of overthinking gear and fly selection.
Right now there are three of us. Four makes a good, round number. Let me know if you are interested.
While part of Abaco looks like this…
Other parts look like this…
I can’t say I’m “looking forward” to seeing the destruction Dorian brought to the Bahamas, but I’d like to see it for myself and to contribute to the economy in a direct way. That’s what we’ll be doing.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while and today was the day. I put the raft into SF Bay and went fishing.
The tide was falling, and a bit faster than I would have liked. We had some trouble settling/finding a place to launch, but new friend Josh and I made it happen. Josh is getting into raft fishing himself and MacGyvered a trailer for himself, which we used to launch my raft.
Worked well. I want one.
The wind was up, about 17-20, and cutting cold, but we fished with the wind to our back. I was worried the wind would make it impossible to row, but it didn’t and it wasn’t.
When we finally got on the water we noticed fish… rising? Certainly a lot of fish were breaching in one form or another and it wasn’t long before Josh was onto a fish. It got off just before he landed it, but I thought I knew what it was. It wasn’t a striper and it wasn’t a halibut. It was the third and lesser of the fly-eaters in the Bay. It was a Jack Smelt. There were thousands of them.
So, we wailed on the Jack Smelt for a while and it was entirely entertaining. I don’t know how many we caught, but it was more than Skunked and less than Too Many. It was just a good time. – Side Note: I caught all of mine on a bonefishing fly.
Getting the raft back OUT of the Bay was more challenging as the muck and mud were where the water had been when we launched. We made it. We were mud caked and tired, but no one threw their back out. At this age, that’s certainly what victory looks like.
A fun foray with the raft (I’m still working on a name for her). We will do it again.
My buddy Shane just sent me a picture of his big Geet from Christmas. I think he’s still there, but he managed to send me a picture of him, smile stretching ear to ear, holding up a big GT. Pretty cool to see. Very happy for him.
It was a year ago I was in Christmas Island with him and I was looking for my own GTs. I caught a small one (a giant trevally the size of a small trevally), I lost a mid-sized GT to the coral at the Korean Wreck and I cast at and failed to catch a big one.
That last fish I can recall pretty well even now.
It was the last day and we were on our last flat. The light was fading and the water reflected a silvery gray making it almost impossible to peer into the water even a few feet ahead of us. I thought the guide was just running out the clock and I didn’t blame him. We’d been looking for GTs and we never seemed to quite be where the fish were. He’d put in a good shift, but we just hadn’t done it.
Then the guide points.
A fast moving bulge of water, 80-90 feet out, heading our way, pushing water like a snow plow. I made a good cast in front and beyond the fish so I’d pull the fly in front of its nose. The guide was in my ear yelling “FASTER! FASTER!” and I was stripping as fast as my top gear could manage. I swept the rod to add some speed as I’ve done from time to time with cudas and you could see the fish light up on the fly. He was close and you could see the open mouth and see the eye and the water sheeting over his back.
In my mind I was thinking “THIS IS IT! LAST FLAT! LAST DAY and damnit, it is going to HAPPEN!”
Except it didn’t. The fish saw us and just turned off and away and that was the end of it. I was just left there shaking, wondering how this crescendo somehow managed to fall flat. I had seen the fish in my hands, but it had only been in my imagination, a brief projection of what success and joy would feel like.
Shane had that look on his face today in that picture. It isn’t a great quality picture (he’s going to send better pics when he gets a chance as he’s still there), but you get the point, don’t you? Victory. Success. A dream realized.
I was at drop-off this morning taking my kindergartner to school and another dad saw my Patagonia tarpon hat and asked if I fished. I told him I was more than a little into it and he asked me “Are you a huge fly fisherman?”
Of course, he was talking about Ben, who has been pounding out funny and informative videos for a while now. We talked about the videos a bit and I told him I had to once email Ben to apologize for not understanding his whole thing and having a wrong hot-take. I’ve since come around and look forward to seeing Ben’s sense of humor address many of the how-to’s and why’s of the fly fishing world.
Huge Fly Fisherman just hit 10K subscribers and he’s giving away an Orvis rod in celebration. I thought for sure it would be a line straightener, but, I guess a rod is more practical.
Here’s his video about the give-away. Just comment on the video (on Youtube, not here) and you’ll be entered to win.
I was going to skip my annual saltwater trip this year. The beating that Grand Bahama and Abaco took kind of hollowed out a piece of me and it didn’t seem there’d be much “there” there anyway. I got a new raft and figured maybe I’d head to Idaho for that week instead.
However, after watching the trials and tribulations of the folks out there via social media (Cindy, I’m looking at you) I had another thought… maybe this is when I actually should go to the Bahamas. Maybe this is where I should spend that money and time. The Bahamas has maybe never really needed me, but, maybe now they do.
So, this May I’m going to head to Abaco. Probably over Memorial Day weekend with most days falling the week before. I’ll look at getting an indy guide and maybe trying to convince a few others to come along.
Marsh Harbor was hit very, very hard, but the further south you go, the better the island starts to look. Power and water are a concern in lots of places, but not in the south. I’ll be able to crack a cold Kalik at the end of the day and enjoy some Bahamian grub. Flights are starting to come back on-line and if you go, you’ll be taken care of and your business will be appreciated.
I’m happy to share details if you are interested in making the trip yourself, or if you’d like to come along with me as I try to figure out this post-Dorian trip.