Jul 18

My favorite fish from Grand Bahama

It was the second to last day and we were on the skiff with Cecil. The tide was coming in, the fish heading up into the mangroves, some hanging around the edges. I was up on the bow and Cecil called out two fish cruising in and out of the mangroves, just 40 feet away. It seemed they might move further in and the shot would be gone.

I had a window to make a cast. There were two mangroves about five feet apart and a dinner table sized area of white sand. The fish were cruising left to right. I made the cast, didn’t hang up in the bushes and the fly (a tan shrimp) landed well.

In cases like this I figure you hook the fish and then see where things go from there.

The fish jumped on the fly, I managed not to trout set or pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth and the game was on.

The fish ran back into the mangroves, line screaming off the reel and I tried to lighten the drag to give the fish less to pull against.

We could see the fish thirty feet from the mangroves, back over the sand, unable to move any further. We tried to find the leader or line, but couldn’t see either, so we went back to where the line went into the jumble of roots and twigs. I put on my boots and jumped out of the boat to trace the bonefish’s route back to open water.

It worked. I followed the backing back to the line and then back to the open water. The fish still had some gas, but not much. He came to hand moments later, a nice fish, about 5.5 pounds (maybe 5).

The cast, the fight through the mangroves, landing the fish, the good release… that was my favorite fish of the trip.

Jul 18

That time Rob tried to kill me with rum

Back from a week of fishing at East End Lodge and my liver is thanking me for the respite.

The set-up at East End Lodge has a bar in the common room/dining room where you can normally find Rob, co-owner of East End Lodge, working away at his laptop in the morning as he pours over weather reports, or in the evening as he mans the bar pouring a cocktail or two.

Let me just say, I’m pretty sure Rob tried to kill me one night with rum. Every time I looked away (and even when I didn’t) my glass was magically re-filled, an impish grin on Rob’s face. Luckily, his plot failed and I survived, able to fish the next day with no ill effects.

OK, that may be a bit of an overstatement.

Truth is, the place had a great vibe, Rob and Cecil (business partners and friends) are great hosts. The whole staff was friendly and accommodating.

Missing these two right about now.

Rob and Cecil


Jul 18

The joys of July

I got back home just a few hours ago from East End Lodge. This is the second week of July and it closed out their season. After six days of fishing this last week, here’s what I can tell you about fishing the Bahamas in July (experiences may differ).

There are trade-offs in everything… opportunity costs. To get thing A you give up thing B.

What you get by fishing in July is silky smooth conditions, the only breeze being the boat ride from one spot to the next. Previously, I think I had seen one day of flat conditions and in the six days of fishing I had there was only a half-day of light wind.

Glass is forged in heat.

I didn’t know it could be like this.

The last morning

That’s what you get, but what do you give up?

The July sun without wind is a baking kind of heat. It is a “Your phone is too hot to properly function” kind of heat. If you can deal with the hydration-stealing, sweat-dripping heat, and there are those who simply can’t (I’m looking at you dad), it may be the most wonderful time to fish (I’ve heard conditions are similar in October, but I haven’t fished that month).

You also have storm cells which build in the heat of the day and can unleash torrents of rain and sheets of lightning. We were driven off the water a couple times, ending the day an hour or two early, but that seemed a small price to pay.

We did find some water which was simply too hot. When water temps get to 85 bonefish will find cooler, usually deeper, waters. There were plenty of places still getting a good flush of tidal water.

The geography of Grand Bahama and the alertness of our guide, Cecil, meant we simply dodged the storms. We could go North or South and weave our way around the dark clouds. We got rained on for a grand total of about 45 seconds, which is all credit to Cecile.

If the fishing is so good and the conditions so inviting, why do pretty much all the fishing lodges close down? Hurricane season? Maybe, but while we were there Rob, co-owner of East End Lodge, turned down several trips for August. People are still willing to come. So, what is it?

One word… lobster.

It’s pretty much about the lobster. All the guides will be out checking their lobster condos come August 1. I’d be surprised if there was a guide in all of the Bahamas who won’t be out collecting lobster once the season opens. It is a critical component to a Bahamian’s income and even more so a part of Bahamian culture.

If you are a wind hater and enjoy hobbies like smelting or glass blowing, July just might be for you.

Jul 18

OMG… Grand Bahama is NEXT WEEK!

I didn’t fully fill up my new fly box, but I did put some good Grand Bahama meat in there. I have the rods and the lines and all my gear. I have my sunscreen and my Body Glide to prevent that inner thigh chaffing that can straight up ruin your trip.

I’m ready to head to Grand Bahama and East End Lodge.

It’s happening.

Sometimes the anticipation of the thing is better than the thing itself. I’m betting this is NOT one of those times.

Jun 18

Florida’s Red Tide Taking a Toll

Approximately 140-pound tarpon photographed by Capt. Tommy Locke outside Cayo Costa

Things are not going well in Southwest Florida… not well at all. Below is BTT’s press release about what they are seeing.

Red Tide is Causing Unprecedented Fish Kills in SW FL

Once again, Florida’s fisheries are suffering from the legacy of long-time mismanagement of Florida’s water resources. Southwest Florida is plagued by an unprecedented red tide that is causing kills of gamefish. Reports from those on the water estimate that tens of thousands of snook are dead – all of them adults in the peak of spawning season. Breeding-size redfish, as well as tarpon, which usually seem to avoid red tide, are also being reported dead. The ongoing red tide is a sign of the ‘new normal’ in Southwest Florida because too many nutrients are entering Florida’s estuaries and coasts due to water mismanagement. Here are the facts:

  • The organism that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, has been present in southwest Florida as far back as written records go – the Spanish wrote about it.
  • Karenia brevis does not benefit directly from the extra nutrients flowing down the Caloosahatchee from polluted Lake Okeechobee, or from the extra phosphorous entering Charlotte Harbor from phosphate mining. This is because other plankton organisms are better initial competitors for those new nutrients.
  • Karenia brevis DOES benefit secondarily from the extra nutrients – once the nutrients have been used by those other plankton species, and then are cycled back into the ecosystem when those organisms die and decay, Karenia brevis goes to work. Consider this the Legacy Effect of water mismanagement.
  • The ongoing red tide is unprecedented in modern times in intensity and duration.
  • Although red tide has always been in the region, the frequency and intensity of red tide events have increased, and red tide events last longer. This is becoming a new pattern, which means events like the ongoing red tide will become more common.

The excess nutrients in Southwest Florida waters are from two sources. First, they are from the high-nutrient water from Lake Okeechobee that is discharged into the Caloosahatchee River as part of water mismanagement in South Florida (the same mismanagement that is killing the Everglades and St. Lucie River). Second, the phosphate mining industry in the Charlotte Harbor watershed produces runoff high in phosphorous, which feeds red tide and other plankton organisms.

Southwest Florida is home to Boca Grande Pass, part of Charlotte Harbor, the Tarpon Capitol of the World. Tarpon gather in Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor during May and June in association with spawning. It is likely that this red tide will negatively impact tarpon spawning.

Charlotte Harbor is also home to an amazing snook and redfish fishery. During summer months, snook spawn in passes and along beaches. This red tide is impacting spawning snook directly, which will impact the region’s snook population.

This red tide event is the new normal unless the state’s water management policies are changed. This is about the future of Florida’s $8 billion saltwater recreational fishery.

We urge readers to contact their political representatives at the local, state, and federal levels and tell them that policy change is needed immediately.

Jun 18

Simon’s Revenge – A post by Nick Denbow

(This post is written by guide Nick Denbow, who I had the pleasure of fishing with in 2017 down in his home-waters of Mahahual, Mexico)

I first met Simon Chapman over 25 years ago Carp fishing in the south coast of England. Even in my youth, it was obvious to me he was a thinking, methodical and patient angler respected by all of the local angling community for his fishing accolades. I was thrilled, after our lives had taken us so far apart, when he got back in touch. Simon, now living in Canada, had a gap in his work schedule and had picked up a copy of my cowritten book as he was planning a trip to the Yucatan. He recognized my name, picked up the phone and we were planning his trip immediately.

Simon’s trip coincided with one time client now friend for life Ryan from Colorado. We met the evening of Simons arrival which coincided with me buying a large Cobia from a local spear fisherman. Over the ensuing banquet we hatched a plan to fish that next morning on a lake I hadn’t launched in for 15 years. I knew the put in would be bad, far worse than I could take most clients, but I also knew these guys were the ones to do it with me.

How Nick gets it done.

It was far worse than I feared. It took 3 trips each. Mud to the knees, a Mangrove tunnel the prefect height to hurt anyones back and hungry Mosquitos intent on getting inside your ears. Finally we launched just after dawn. We all drank a beer. I motored until i saw a shoreline that was more pole worthy. Only one cruising fish in 200 yards and I wanted more. We were in the wrong place. I knew they would be there in numbers and didn’t want to waste the early morning advantage. We motored to the southern end of the lagoon. We quickly spotted fish rolling off the shorelines in open water and poled out to investigate. The light was still too flat to spot beyond 20 feet from the Jon boat. We poled passed them and turned our back on the rising sun and were quickly rewarded by a rolling fish coming at us at forty feet. He was visible. Simon led the fish, an immediate and aggressive response, a visual grab and after an explosive fight the first fish came to the boat.

Nice lagoon tarpon.

Ryan took over and raised many small fish to a gurgler until it was flushed into a bigger mouth and Ryan brought a cookie cutter 20lb fish to the boat.

Ryan’s poon.

Having located the cenote (cave entrance) we found it to be alive with fish. The guys went on to land two more nice fish each though the real story was when a huge push of water came up behind Simons fly, was engulfed by a fish in the 60 to 70lb range that jumped, blitzed twenty yards, jumped again and spat our Clouser Minnow high in the air. This was the key moment. That fish threw down a gauntlet Simon’s way and he was going to pick it up. He said nothing at the time apart from sharing the obvious jubilation of having such a close up, visual fishing encounter with a fly rod, but it turns out he was already planning a return.

Both Simon and Ryan went on to land more fish that day amongst the birds and Crocodiles who were as surprised to see us as we were delighted to see them after a 15 year rest.

Simon fished Chetumal Bay and the Mahahual coast catching Jacks, Snappers and many, many Bonefish for the next few days. He had time to plan and the lake had time to rest, it worked both ways.

Simon was staying in my guest house next door and, as he often does, after fishing he came round for a chat. He told me what was on his brain. He had unfinished business in that lake. I should have seen it coming. He had a score to settle and knowing that I was working (and unwilling to go through that launch again) he asked to rent a paddle board and go back solo. With two other boards out, I set him up with everything except an anchor. I said “it doesn’t take much to stop a paddle board so take this spool of 50lb line and find yourself a rock”. He was happy with that. We both thought it would work.

I heard Simon leave at around 4.30 in the morning. I didnt see Simon until 6pm. He had a smile on his face and beer in his hand. The story began well. He carried all the gear on his own in just one trip down the muddy Mangrove tunnel. He fished around, caught a couple of fish and ended up back at the cenote where the one that got away was last seen. He hooks a fish of similar size and as he clamps down to set and begin the battle the 50lb anchor line gives. He’s not free floating though, he’s being dragged. Ive been there to help many people in my boat with fish that size but really don’t know how it must be on a personal watercraft with nobody to help to stop or position the boat and above all without an anchor. After a great fight recorded on Simons GoPro video he gets it board side and they part company on good terms. He had done it. The battle won, the score settled he is now free to move on feeling triumphant. A really big fish to catch from an SUP, another memorable accolade well deserved. Simon is now at the down wind end of the lake time 11.30.

After a long upwind paddle it was 1.30pm when Simon approached the take out. Happy with his achievements but exhausted nevertheless after the paddle. Feet from the gap in the trees he needs to go through, a Tarpon comes cruising casually yet purposefully through the gin clear, 2 feet deep water along the tree line. Whats an angler supposed to do? He swaps the paddle for his rod. Casts, feeds the fish at close range and is attached once more to another good sized fish. Once more he is at the mercy of the fish on his personal lightweight and anchor-less watercraft. In moments the fish runs into open water and Simon and his SUP are back in the wind in water too deep to wade to try to put any sort of meaningful brake on the fishes numerous charges and runs. He’s back to the wind, sailing and being dragged so its not too long until he finds himself all the way back to the bottom end of the lake again. Every yard he paddled hard for on the way back up was stripped from him in seconds on the return. It wasn’t until the water shallowed again at the down wind end of the lake until he was able to take more control. The fish came onboard for a couple of quick selfies and was measured at 44” to the fork before it kicked back off into its domain.

The tarpon that pulled Simon allllll the way back down the lagoon.

Simon, almost out of water in the cooler, now had to make the paddle back up wind to the take out. I am sure the adrenaline from the fishing had worn off before he was even half way back. He arrived to the exit exhausted at 3.30pm. This time it was not guarded by a Tarpon but a Crocodile which he needed to persuade to leave before he could drag himself and the kit back out. Question is… if he had seen a Tarpon instead of a Crocodile, would he have cast?



Thanks for the story Nick. Going to have to get back down there!

Jun 18

My first bonefish – Grand Bahama 2008

Soon I’ll be back in Grand Bahama fishing for a week at East End Lodge. This little slice of the Bahamas is the home of the memories created by catching my first bonefish. I’ve been a few times and have found wonders there. Here’s the story of my first bonefish, caught within 5 minutes of East End Lodge back before EEL existed, in 2008.


I had seen bonefish in Hawaii and they were unimpressed. The fish themselves were incredible specimens, to this day, probably the largest I have ever seen. I lacked the skills or knowledge to do anything more that gawk at them, but that was the spark.

This was the bonefish I caught in Hawaii.

Knowing next to nothing about saltwater fly fishing, I asked about the Keys and was told if I actually wanted to catch a bonefish I should look further East to the Bahamas. The Bahamas, I was told, was where a saltwater noob, like myself, could make it happen. A plan was hatched and I roped my dad into the trip, threatening future visits with his granddaughter if he didn’t come along.

We certainly looked the part, there in the Miami airport, kitted out in the flats anglers uniform… the quick dry pants, the long-sleeved muted color flats shirt, maybe from Columbia, maybe Patagonia, maybe from the Ted Fey Fly Shop in my home town along the Upper Sacramento River. You can spot a fisherman in the airport as much by the uniform as by the rod tubes. We know the members of our tribe.

Our guide picked us up early the next morning from a dilapidated, but cheap, motel in Freeport. He did not wear the uniform and did not look the part. His long white tee-shirt, his baggy jeans, the gold chain, the un-laced sneakers… he was not what we were expecting, but was recommended by a Florida guide I knew by reputation, so we were rolling with it.

I have vivid recollections of the van ride out to the East End and the driver and our guide carrying on an indecipherable conversation (I picked up every 10th word) intermingled with conversation directed our way, of which I understood everything. Bahamians have the ability to open the door to you, and to close that very same door, simply by choosing the version of English they employ.

The drive from Freeport to McCleans Town passes through hamlet sized settlements arranged sporadically along the only East-West road on the long, thin island. It takes about an hour to reach that eastern end and this drive was my first real glimpse of the Bahamas. The thin pines stood out as I couldn’t understand, in this land of hurricanes, how these spindly pine trees could possibly beat out all comers and climb their way up the evolutionary ladder.

I also remember seeing the half-built and sometimes half-destroyed homes along the road. I later learned that good years, when the sea proves especially bountiful, a family might lay a foundation or pour some concrete and then the family might need to await another good year to build the next wall or put the roof on. Rocket mortgage isn’t an option for a Bahamian lobsterman. Some of these homes were also the victims to hurricanes or too many down years.

McLeans Town is the largest settlement on the East End, which means maybe a hundred or two inhabitants. The dock was lively as we pulled in. A small boat arrived carrying passengers from Abaco which lay somewhere beyond the horizon. Other small boats were getting in or heading out. Our skiff was waiting and we were quickly away, my dad, me and our guide.

Since this first trip in a skiff I’ve had dozens more. Some rides are long, maybe an hour, and some are choppy, slamming down in the troughs as you try not to injure a back or a testicle. Few trips have been as short. That first run in a skiff was maybe 5 minutes.

The water we found ourselves on was like a spring creek flowing through mangroves. I didn’t have a notion of tidal flows and didn’t expect to be in a drift boat in the Bahamas, quietly gliding over sand and mud and grasses and weeds. It was peaceful and sunny and not too windy, perfect conditions.

I was in the bow for maybe 2 minutes when the guide called out the school of fish.

“Bonefish, 10 o’clock, 60 feet. Do you see them?”

Dumbfounded looking out at shifting currents and the light dancing on the shallow bottom, weeds rippling in the soft current… I saw no bonefish.


“Bonefish, 11 o’clock, 50 feet. Do you see them?”

Still, my eyes straining, feeling a bit dumb, knowing there were maybe a dozen bonefish within casting distance and I had no real notion of where they are outside of these pronouncements from the guide standing fifteen feet behind me, three feet above.

“No, I don’t see them.”

Here, he must have spun the boat, because I don’t recall this as a 12:00 shot, although, this was a decade ago now and the details may have slipped some.

“Bonefish! 11 o’clock, 40 feet. DO YOU SEE THEM?!”

Panic rising in the back of my throat now, I still don’t see them.

“No, I don’t!”

Ray Charles could see those fish mon!”

Then they were there, in front of me. I saw them all at once, a school, almost too many to see an individual fish, 11 o’clock, 40, maybe 35 feet.

I made the cast. The guide told me to strip, strip, strip. I did as instructed.

The fish ate and I don’t recall now, but I’m sure there was a little trout set in there. I don’t see how there couldn’t be, but I don’t remember the set. What I do remember, and what strikes most people on their first bonefish, was the raw power of the run. Only large steelhead had ever made my reel howl like that and nothing had shown me my backing as quickly. It felt like the biggest fish I’d ever had on, ever.

It was maybe a pound.

First bonefish ever caught, horrible handling, I know.

That was it. I was hooked. I loved the visual aspect. I loved seeing the fish as opposed to casting at the place you think the fish will be. I loved the wind in the mangroves and the clear water and being barefoot and the pull of the fish, the power.

More fish were caught that day. The guide proved to be excellent at his craft and truly horrible at making polite conversation. He served us one of the best meals I have ever eaten anywhere. It was memorable in so many ways.

There were more.

That trip and that first fish were an inflection point. Prior to that I thought mostly of large trout, steelhead, with a dream trip being for taimen. I knew rivers. I tight-line nymphed for countless trout.  From that point on I have been pre-occupied by bonefish and saltwater flats, improving my casting, learning to cast in the wind and how to tie gotchas in endless variations.

Since that day, I’ve had bonefish on the brain.

Jun 18

The lessons of Dad

It was an off-hand remark… “fishing pole” I said.
My dad, mild-mannered and rarely stern, went still. He turned and looked at me and in an even voice said “Rod, son. It is a rod.”

I’ve called it a “rod” since then and have made a point of sharing his wisdom.

Happy Father’s Day to the man who first put a fishing rod in my hand, told me where to cast, explained why and told me to keep the tip up and to keep tension on the fish. All good life lessons.

Dad’s First Sabalito

My dad’s best Bahamas fish

The Babine

Heading out in Abaco

Dad and Fred and a nice Lower Sac trout

Here’s to you dad.

Dad and Sam on the flats of Grand Bahama

Dad on the Metolius

Swing Time

Our first flat in Kauai

Celebrating getting there with a beer.

Jun 18

Something might happen, but it might also not. All cleared up?

So… the government might “strengthen” the fishing regs. But, ya know, they might, at some point and, well, yeah… that’s about it.

Two new stories out of the Tribune on the issue.

Gov’t Mulling Amendments To Fly Fishing Regulations


Gov’t Told: ‘Strengthen’ Fly Fishing Regulations

That clears up all that, right?

One thing the govt. is trying to address is the mother ship issue where some operations bring in skiffs and have their crews act as guides for paying clients. That, pretty much, sounds not good. Bahamian waters should be guided by Bahamian guides. I have only seen one person opposed to that during this whole debate and any such restrictions would not be opposed by 99.8% of the fly fishing public. The 2:1 guide ratio was trying to get there, but also caught up the guy who built a home, retired, paid the duty on his on skiff and would be prevented from taking his wife out with him. Clarity and specificity here would be good to address.

Where the rest of this goes… we shall see, which is something it feels like I’ve been saying for about two straight years.

I’m less than a month from my return to Grand Bahama where I’ll be visiting East End Lodge. I can’t express how much I’m looking forward to all of this. It has been a while since I’ve had that many days dedicated to bonefish. It’s been years.

I don’t even need to close my eyes to see the flats. I straight up daydream of those waters with my eyes wide open.

Let the adventure commence!

Jun 18

Next up… Grand Bahama and East End Lodge

My next trip is NOT going to sneak up on me. I started tying for it last night for East End Lodge in Grand Bahama.

I’m tying some meat flies. #2’s. Some with lead eyes, some with bead chain, all with more material that two #6’s use.

The fish of Grand Bahama, to my memory and from my limited experience, are just bigger than most places. The may average around 4 pounds and I’ve seen the photographic evidence of fish will into the 10+ pound range. Hawaii, the West Side of Andros and Grand Bahama seem, to me, to be the best places to look for your 10 pounder.

This trip is going to be an interesting one. I may finally get to meet BTT’s Justin Lewis and I’ll be accompanied on this trip by Elliott Adler, who produces The Drake Cast (the Drake’s podcast, which I highly recommend). Elliott has never caught a bonefish before and he’s going to be in the waters of my first bonefish.

Should be interesting.

A Grand Bahama Bone