My last morning in Grand Bahama I packed up, left the hotel/motel and headed to the East End for some fishing before my flight left at 2:45. After the impossibly windy day before I was hopeful that conditions would be better… and they were. The huge flat was at high tide, but it was only barely rippling in about a 5 mph wind. Partly cloudy skies revealed slices of the flats, sometimes staying sunny for 20 or 30 minutes.
I quickly found my first fish, up tight against the shore. I then spooked my first bonefish of the day as they took one look at my offering, knew exactly what was happening and indicated that they’d rather not play.
So went my morning. I found fish, had maybe 10-12 legit shots and time after time the fish either diverted smoothly and calmly, or high-tailed it. I found fish mudding, and even those fish were super wary.
I also saw Captain Perry and his wife walking along the beach. We stopped and chatted. As we were talking, Captain Perry pointed out a single bonefish cruising towards us and then past us, 30 feet away. I made a cast in front of the fish and it calmly turned toward deeper water.
“If that’s how the fish be acting, I don’t think you gonna catch anything today.” said the Captain.
He was right… although only just.
I found a pod working in a corner against some mangroves. I blocked their exit and waited. They eventually came my way, a small grouping of 4-6 fish. I had on a one of my velcro crabs. I twitched the fly and the lead fish passed. I was getting ready to recast, felt one of the trailing fish take the fly and, as a reflex, lifted the rod tip. I trout set on the one fish I could get to eat all morning.
So it went until it was time to head to the airport for what would turn out to be delays upon delays, eventually landing at SFO at 1:30 AM, pulling into my Sierra Foothills driveway at 4:30 AM.
- The trip would have been a near total failure were it not for Captain Perry. He found me dumb fish and I caught some. I highly recommend him.
- On my own, the flats I found held fish that were much, much more educated than I’d have liked.
- I only managed to land 2 DIY bones in 3 days of DIY fishing. I probably had 50 or 60 shots.
- If a really hard wind is coming from the South, GBI is a tough place for the self-guided.
- My interest in bonefish does not remedy my lack of experience.
- Bahamian speed limits are clearly suggestions that pretty much no one takes heed of.
- The Bahamian economy is in the pits, simply because ours is.
- Folks were surprised to have a Californian there.
- Dogs are not on leashes, seem to be mostly wild and not to belong to anyone.
- The number of derelict, abandoned or partially destroyed homes/buildings between McLeans Town and Freeport is remarkable.
- The micro-compact car I had was not suited for real off-roading.
- The amount of trash at some of the East End beaches was troubling.
- The Inflatable Kayak was wasted due to high winds, although it cost me nothing to bring along.
- The further East you go, the dumber the fish get. The guides go WAY East… places only boats can go.
In the end, it was a good trip. It was tougher than I had hoped for and I had fewer fish to hand than I had been dreaming of. Basically, I have to do this more and it would help if I either had more guiding or were in a location with dumber fish. There are lots and lots of places I didn’t get to. I felt pressure to be fishing just about every possible moment, so didn’t explore as much as I probably should have. I’ll be thinking of those fish for a long time to come and I will likely start really planning my next trip sometime this evening.
- If you liked the story above, check out these stories below
- Grand Bahama - Day 2 - Captain Perry (1.000)
- Interview with Captain Perry, Grand Bahama (1.000)
- Grand Bahama... one more option (0.987)
Tags: bonefishing, Captain Perry, flyfishing, Grand Bahama
Dude, way to go on the DIY. That stuff can be really, really hard, even when you’ve got lots of experience under your belt. But it’s also rewarding as hell. My experience is that the more out of the way the place is, the better the fishing is, cause (no matter how much we may believe we’re blazing a trail) we’re not gonna be close to the first ones there… and bonefish get funny about that.
My first thought is that maybe Grand Bahama wasn’t the ideal location. What about somewhere like Long Island or Acklins? Even parts of the Exumas have good DIY, if the bonefish out back of my beachfront cottage back in the early 2000’s was any indication. Still, 50-60 shots is good for a place with smart fish.
If you ever encounter a similar situation, here are a few tips for educated bones:
1. Use smaller, less flashy flies.
2. Move the fly less… lots lots less than you’d think. Bones will pick a fly up on a dead stop, especially crab flies (as your story re. the last day exemplifies). Typically I’ll start with a 2″ (and I mean 2″, not 6″) twitch, not too fast, and keep that going if the fish don’t spook from it. If a fish follows but won’t take, stop the fly for a second and then strip sloooow and long.
3. Long leaders really help if the fish spook from the line hitting water.
4. Try to catch the fish as they come onto the flat where the water is deeper, they’re often more aggressive then.
If you’re typical Gotcha doesn’t work, go to a smallish (#6) crab. I fished a flat in Eleuthera where the bones could be talked into eating a Gotcha, but would nail a crab fly if fished properly (6″-12″ strip followed by a stop, then watch for the pickup… when the fish “bows” on the fly strip sloooow and long).
Finally, not having been there I can’t say for sure, but in my experience velcro makes for a heavy, splashy fly. Yarn lands quieter, and sinks faster too. I just tie a little marabou or bunny fur of the bend, maybe a little flash under, 3 strands of yarn, alternated with 2 rubber/silicon legs, lead or bead eyes and done. You can even leave off the legs on a few and they’ll still love it.
Keep it up, brother, and hopefully we’ll get to fish together some day.
PS A lot of times we think they’re spooking from the fly but they’re really spooking from the strip. To educated fish a typical bonefish strip seems to raise the alarm and they’re gone. Simply switching to a smaller, slower strip (more a twitch or crawl, really) can make all the difference.
Thanks man, appreciate it. Grand Bahama might not have been the best place, but it was still a good trip. I am learning a lot.
You are right about those velcro crabs… they certainly make a splash. I moved to the velcro crab because the fish seemed to despise the gotchas I was throwing… they were in really shallow water, I had seen some crabs and I figured they were looking for crabs. I didn’t spook any of the bones with that fly with the cast and very few with the retrieve. The fish were mostly just not seeing that fly as I was casting way in advance of the fish, trying to predict the path of the fish.
Thanks for the advice!
Sounds like you did all the right stuff, man. Switching flies, leading the fish, and kudos on getting that many shots on your own.
Spotting crabs is why I switched to a little Merkin or Yarn Crab in Eleuthera (which I also don’t recommend as a DIY location), but I was lucky in that the weather was windy so I could cast close and I didn’t have any Velcro so had to tie some up with yarn back at the cottage we were renting. Perhaps with a lighter fly you could have thrown closer to the fish, and had better odds of them seeing the fly. Other than for Permit (which it works great on, by the way) I currently steer clear of velcro flies: hard to cast, bouncy on a long leader, and splashy… all of which is OK for permit where you’re using a #9 or #10 rod, shorter leader and WANT the fish to hear the fly land, mostly.
Anyway, great trip and you’ve got me thinking about a little DIY excursion myself, so I thank you!
Thanks. To be honest, I tied the Velcros because they looked the best of all the crab patterns I tied… got to playing around with the innards, figuring out how to keep it from spinning, where to add the weight, how to get it to land point up… should have tied some softer landing patterns.
I’ve heard the same about Eleuthera… friends of mine who are pretty exceptional anglers went and said the place was full of educated fish from all the DIY’s over time.
I have some ideas about DIY locations… I have LOTS of ideas, just not that many opportunities squeaking through for a while… going to have to live vicariously through others and float on that GBI experience for a while.
Go catch some fish for me!
A bad day bonefishing is better than……..
You know the saying. Part of the fun of bonefishing is the stalk and seeing the fish in their element, especially when fish are tailing happily along a mangrove shoreline.
I’m looking forward to my GBI trip on 2.22 and will let you know how it goes. I’ll be fishing the north side as opposed to the east side. I need to pray that there’s no Noreasters coming in at that time.
Oh, I agree… even seeing the fish was a bit of a victory from my last trip… for the little bit the sun was out I spotted some fish about 50 yards away… just that made me feel great.
Fishing the north side? Staying somewhere up there or taking that crazy-ass road just past the oil tanks?
I agree with a lot of the comments here. I’ve done my share of Bonefishing a la DIY in the out islands and other venues. Remember, if Bonefishing was that easy – there wouldn’t be much interest in it for most fly fishermen, that I know at least, including myself. Been chasing these guys for a long time and every time I think I know everything about them – they teach me something new. The only other fish that can challenge me more are those darn inshore Permit. GBI is not my type of place – not that the fishing isn’t good, but I don’t want the noise, the crowds, the casinos – I just want some peaceful time in paradise, a cold island lager, and maybe hang out with the locals at the late week fish fry – the real locals, doing the real fish fry.
Yeah, I have never done the casino/busy beach thing there. I’ve always spent my time on the far end of the Island, where it has the character you are talking about.