My recent Abaco adventures involved two very (VERY) different parts.
Part One – Abaco Lodge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.