Interview with Stephen Vletas

If you bonefish you have likely come across the Fly Fishing the Bahamas book at some point in time.  Authors Stephen and Kim Vletas put in some major time to get all of that right.  I’d love to have that breadth and depth of Bahamian knowledge (I guess I do, kind of… since I own the book, but that’s now what I mean). I contacted Stephen about doing an interview for the blog and he agreed.  I hope you enjoy.

Kim and Stephen, your book, Fly Fishing the Bahamas, is a pretty important book for anglers.  Is there anything you’d put in the book now that didn’t make it in the first time?

There are always new lodges or resorts that open, some lodges and guides that fade away, plus new travel options in terms of flights, etc. We use our web site to keep our readers updated as much as we can. The web site is the first place readers should check for updates and changes since the book was last published.

For example, on Andros, Charle and Fatiah Neymour now have their own lodge on Cargil Creek, and Andy Smith has his own private island lodge in the North Bight; Broad Shad Cay Lodge. Nervous Waters, the company who owns Bair’s Bahamas, has opened a new lodge on Abaco to access the Marls. Abaco, in general, has really developed, much more so than any other island. You have the Winding Bay Club, the huge Baker’s Bay development on Great Guana that has caused environmentalists to hit the roof, and the new Delphi Club, as examples. Links to all these new projects are on our web site.

On Bimini, Bimini Bay Resort has transformed the island of North Bimini. The resort is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, and offers world-class marina services and luxurious home and condo rentals. Many anglers don’t like this development, but the fishing is as good as ever. Check it out.

On Eluthera, Harbour Island has become even more luxurious, with additional hotel remodels (the best being Coral Sands) and some top new restaurants. Surprisingly, the fishing on the town flat to the north remains fantastic. Kim and I recently stayed at Coral Sands (wouldn’t stay anywhere else now on Briland), and I fished the town flat twice. Never saw another person, and I caught a over half dozen nice bones each day. They were spooky, as you would expect, but a longer fluorocarbon leader worked fine with a standard #6 Gotcha.

OK, see the web site for more updates and recommendations.

Fishing with Frankie

Since you’ve spent some quality time getting to and from the Bahamas, do you have any travel tips for anglers heading that way?

If you are flying to the islands from the East Coast, it’s easy to arrive in one day, even to the Out Islands. >From the West Coast, or from Mountain time, it’s difficult to reach the Out Islands in one day. Central Time, depends on where you are coming from or going. So….we like to fly to Nassau and spend the night. That way we can enjoy a fun night out in Nassau (At Café Matisse or Greycliff or Café Martinique), relax, and arrive at our Out Island destination the next day, and if you are eager to fish, you can arrive early enough the following morning to fish a full day. And if your time is important, we highly recommend you considering using charter flights from Nassau to the Out Islands, and especially between the Out Islands. You’ll save many hours in time, and a lot of aggravation, and you’ll be able to spend those hours fishing. Check out our book and the web site for the best charter flight operators.

Also, Kim and I are now back in the Bahamas fly fishing booking business. We book a very select group of lodges and guides, with the idea of matching up each client with the location that is best suited for them. If you are interested, contact Kim.

“The One that Got Away” is a story most anglers carry around with them. Do you have a bonefish that got away that still haunts you?

Of course, who doesn’t. Kim and I were fishing the shoreline near the entrance to Flamingo Cay with Simon Bain. It was one of those ideal days, sunny, just enough breeze, perfect visibility, and an uncountable number of bonefish eager to commit suicide. We caught too many fish to count in the 5 to 8 pound range. Then….Simon pointed out a huge shape coming down the shoreline. Kim was on the deck. I was sitting down fooling around with a fly box and tying a new leader. I listened to them assure each other that huge shape was a shark. But the kept talking about it, watching it, saying for sure it had to be a shark, way too big for a bonefish. I paid no attention. Then Simon said it might be a bonefish. Kim got ready to cast. Simon said no way, it’s a shark, it has to be. NO, no, it’s a bonefish, he said. Jesus, cast Kim. I looked up. The fish was on the mangrove shoreline, about fifty feet away. It was huge, and definitely a bonefish, dark, broad, lazing along without a care in the world. Big bonefish almost never do that, especially this close to a boat. Kim made her cast….behind the fish. I couldn’t breath. I hoped she could pick up the fly quietly and cast again. She stripped to get ready to recast, and the huge bone, no more than thirty feet away now, and at least 40 inches long, whipped around, charged and ate Kim’s fly. She set the hook and it was on. It went crazy, through up water in large circles and ripped by the bow of the boat, no more than five feet away. We all saw it perfectly, the massive fish that was in the 20 pound class. We occasionally see fish this size on Andros, but usually in much deeper water. This fish just blazed out into the bay, where there was absolutely nothing to break off on. We have this fish, I thought, we all thought. Simon is now screaming, and Kim is clearing the final part of her line as it flies up off the deck. And then, disaster. We had eaten lunch at Flamingo Cay, and after lunch Kim had forgotten to take off her watch. Normally, she wouldn’t have it on, but this day, that watch band caught the last few inches of fly line, and that enormous bonefish snapped the line like it was a string of cotton candy. No one spoke. We looked back and forth at each other in horror. Silence. Heartbreak. Y bueno. Listo.

What’s your favorite rod/reel at the moment for bonefish?

We like Sage rods, especially the older RPLXi series, and the 5-piece models are so easy to travel with. The new 4-piece models are great also. Reel is an Abel Super 8. No reason to fish with anything else.

Having spent so much time in the Bahamas, have you noticed changes in the Islands over the years?

Sure. Abaco has changed a lot, and is probably the best island for overall enjoyment, combining luxury accommodations with sensational fishing. Islands like the Biminis, that were once sleepy, with legendary guides, and the lore of Hemingway, are now party towns with a major resort and luxury marinas. And we hear many anglers complaining of overcrowding in some areas, and more anglers wanting to DIY, yet wanting to be told how to do it. The truth is that some areas have become crowded, but only a very few areas are like this. In many ways, from a fishing perspective, nothing has really changed other than the quality of guiding has improved across the spectrum. The great guides are still the great guides, but you have a lot more very good guides now. You have more accommodation options, and service on many of the Out Islands has improved. With the economic crisis recently, the Bahamas has cooled off on development, and many lodges that were always booked now have some availability. And on Andros, our favorite place to fish, the fishing is as good or better than ever.

Development always seems like an ax hanging over favorite fishing locations.  Is there anywhere you are particularly worried about at the moment?

Not really. People are worried about the reef on Great Guana due to Baker’s Bay, and the Bimini Beach Resort has certainly put more people on the flats there, but overall, Abaco for example, in spite of a lot of development, it’s still the same. The Marls are still wide open, and north of Cooper’s Town, you can be on flats in a few minutes where you always see big tailing bones. The West Side of Andros is still one of the most beautiful flats areas on earth, and many of the areas or seldom fished. If any serious development were ever planned for the West Side of Andros, then that would be something to worry about.

What do you wear on your feet for a day of stalking bones?

Marlwalker’s for coral flats, and simple neoprene booties with socks for sandy flats. The socks are important, and when you’re in the boat, on the deck, you should wear the socks only, to keep the doctor flies from killing you.

Anything else you’d like to add?

People often ask us, if you only had one day left to fish in the world, where would it be, and with which guide? For Kim and I, that is an easy question, and the answer hasn’t changed in 15 years: Both of us would fish on Andros Island (exactly where, we won’t say). Stephen would fish with Charlie Neymour, and Kim would fish with Andy Smith. In the world of flat’s fly fishing, for us, that would be perfection.


Thanks.  I appreciate your time.

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  1. Good read…

    Hope you don’t mind that I shared this interview on my website.

  2. Not at all, the more the merrier. Thanks for getting it out there.

  3. Great interview. Have been considering Bahamas as a destination so interview is timely. FD

  4. “Don’ t save it too long, or it won’t do you much good!” If you want to go – then go!

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