Mar 16

The story of two trips

My recent Abaco adventures involved two very (VERY) different parts.

Part One – Abaco Lodge.

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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.

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Shooting the breeze after a day on the water

Shooting the breeze after a day on the water

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.

Where we stayed.

Where we stayed.

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.

ablocx store

ablocx main road

ablocx bar

ablocx nice house

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.

Feb 16

When the wind is up

The flat was loaded with fish. Wave after wave. It was the most fish any boat out of Abaco Lodge would see that day and likely more fish than we saw for the next 4 days on our own.

The problem, as is often the case, was the wind. The wind was blowing the water off the flat and not even the skinny riding Hell’s Bay could get us any further after the fish. Luckily, the fish were frequently coming to us.

Fishing in a 25 mile an hour wind is a challenge. Maybe it is a cinch for Lefty, but most of us mortals have a hard time casting into 25. Things go really wrong. Every shortcoming is magnified and your cast becomes defined by that shortcoming. In a 10 mph wind you can get away with a lot. In 25, you can get away with very, very little.

damn fly line is everywhere

damn fly line is everywhere

This day was the opposite of my first day. That day I saw the fish early. Every cast I needed, I had. It felt like almost every fish I threw at ate.

This day, however, I never saw the fish first. There were some I didn’t see at all. Casts asked for often didn’t pan out as asked for or envisioned.

They say when you feel like you need to speed up, that is exactly when you need to slow down and while I know that, deep down, in my gut somewhere, my animal brain was calling the shots, extolling me for blowing shots and telling me what I really needed was just a little more pepper in the cast. The animal brain is an idiot and a liar and a fool and its casts were “poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

As the tide kept falling, water kept getting pushed off the flat, the fish became even more spooky. From 60′ one fish spooked when the guide pointed at it. Fish seemed to be able to tell when we were looking at them and they’d run, panicked, darting this way and that until they were out from under our gaze.

Amazingly, we caught fish. Against the odds and in spite of the wind, we actually won a few of those contests.

One of my most rewarding fish followed about 20 minutes of fish spooking at every motion. Motion of the boat, the fly line, the fly itself, everything seemed to sew terror. And then there was a string of fish just getting up on the flat and they weren’t bothered and the first fish in that string to see my fly charged it down and ate it with relish.

Nice to be vindicated. Nice to do it in the face of a 25 mph wind too.



Feb 16

Freddy, Mike and Me

The weather on our first day at Abaco Lodge wasn’t ideal with a dash too much wind and a bit overkill on the cloud cover. It would also be the best weather we saw all week. Breakfast was good and filling, the coffee was hot, the rods were all strung up, initial bonefish flies had been selected and our fishing partners for the day were set.

This day I would share a boat with Mike Sepelak, who can also pen a pretty fine description of a day on the water. It was a lucky stroke Mike was going to be there when I was, as we’ve written plenty of facebook messages back and forth, but had never met in person.

As I got down to the dock I met our guide for the day, Freddy. I thought he looked familiar and when he broke out with a bit of song I knew I had met Freddy before back at FIBFEST II down at Andros South.

This was that Freddy.

Freddy, doing his thing at Abaco Lodge

Freddy, doing his thing at Abaco Lodge

Freddy had been my favorite guide down in Andros South because he was the most relaxed and fastest to laugh. He sang, often, from the poling platform and nothing seemed capable of beating back his enthusiasm or his sense of humor. He’s just good people. He’s the same Freddy now that he was then. Abaco Lodge has picked up a bit of an all-star.

Mike and Freddy and I got to work in the Marls and while Freddy hasn’t been over here from Andros for too long, he demonstrated that a life’s work spent finding bonefish in Andros translates very well to finding fish in Abaco. He put us on fish, pretty consistently, most of the day.

This was a good day for me, fishing wise. Every cast Freddy called for I served up. I saw most of the fish either before Freddy said anything or just as he did. I was seeing the fish, making the casts and wasn’t screwing things up. It felt like I knew what I was doing. I was on my A Game and it felt really good. I had a couple of fish taken on relatively long casts, maybe 60-65 feet and even dropped one fly about 6 inches in front of a bonefish that ate it immediately.

Mike with a bonefish hooked and playing.

Mike with a bonefish hooked and playing in a rare moment of fantastic visibility.

I love it when things work out.

Mike was into fish, but was getting in his own way a bit, finding new and inventive ways of screwing things up (probably because he didn’t want to use my flies), which we dealt with using humor. Mike is a fine angler and it wasn’t a skill issue, just an off day. I’d have my own version of that kind of day on my next angling day. It happens to us all.

Good times were had. It was a day I’d repeat a hundred times and enjoy every one.

Feb 16

Starting with the cuda

I’m starting off posts about my recent trip to Abaco with a barracuda I caught on a spinning rod. Maybe that’s an odd choice, but that’s what I’m doing.

This was the second day in Abaco and our last day at Abaco Lodge. My fishing partner Aaron and I were fishing with Trevor and the morning was proving tough. Wind (at one point blowing maybe 25 mph). Clouds. Cooler temps on the flats. There are a million reasons why the beautiful flats we were looking at didn’t seem to have any bonefish on them and what few chances we were getting in the AM we were not making the most of. The fish seemed morally opposed to flies.

We weren’t down, just eager and a bit frustrated that what light we had didn’t include the illumination of the bones we were looking for.

Then we saw the cuda.

It was a nice cuda, for sure, but not a record breaker. We saw a lot of cuda on our trip, both in the Marls and where we fished later. They were everywhere, including many places bonefish were not… like this flat, at this moment.

I grabbed the spinning rod with the well-worn cuda plug and launched it fish-ward. It really is amazing how far those things cast. I had just replaced my spinning rod and this was the first cuda the rod would see.

The cuda at first seemed startled, then it seemed pissed as it ran down the plug as I reeled it in as fast as I could. It lunged and missed and lunged and missed again and was nearing the boat when it slashed again, this time grabbing one of the two treble hooks, the water exploding followed an instant later by that brand new spinning rod snapping in (more or less) half.

Things can go two ways at this point. You can either be mad/angry/upset about it, or you can think this turn of events is awesome. We went with the latter option. There I was fighting a 25 pound cuda with half a rod and Aaron and I both started laughing. Smiles, all around. As Aaron said later, “There is just something cool about breaking a rod on a fish.”

A big fish and a broken rod.

A big fish and a broken rod.

That’s striking the right tone. It was a trip highlight, among many. It was a ray of light on a mostly cloudy and very windy day.

Travis went on to find us fish… a lot of them, more than we saw the rest of the trip. We even managed to catch a few, but the day was mostly made with that cuda.

It was a story for the dock when we got back, where we learned we weren’t the only one to break a rod on the day. Another angler broke his 11 weight on a tarpon (yes, a tarpon in the Marls).

Bonefishing is fun. Fly fishing is the way I want to catch them. However, barracuda are also fun and watching one try to murder a 7″ plug is downright exhilarating. I love bonefishing, or course, but I love the whole package with its ups and down and expansiveness.

I’ll be thinking of this trip for a long time.

Feb 16

I had a dream

Oddly, the dream was about tarpon and not about bonefish, but the salt has clearly seeped into my head. Good thing I get on a flight tomorrow night and head off to the Bahamas where I’ll get a good soaking.

In the dream I got an eat from a nice tarpon in shallow water, but the hook didn’t find purchase, which is mostly how I tarpon fish anyway.

Next week it will be about bonefish and exploring and having an adventure. I can’t tell you what it will be beyond that, as the experiences are yet to be lived.

What I can tell you is having a trip on the books makes me feel alive.

I’m ready.

There are the flies I'm bringing. I'm not tying anything else.

There are the flies I’m bringing. I’m not tying anything else.

A little something for our host at Abaco Lodge.

El Dorado 12

The only thing I don’t have is a sat phone. Wish I would have thought to look into renting a week or so earlier.

Something for the next adventure, maybe.

Jan 16

The plan is coming together

The destination is Abaco. The dates are February. The quarry is bonefish. My travel companion is Aaron.

We are getting a handle on where we are going to be when and I’m getting excited.

I’m looking forward to getting a little more time at Abaco Lodge, to meeting Oliver White in person, and to exploring more of the Island (which looks more and more interesting the longer I look).

I know which rods I’m bringing and I’m going through my flies, looking at what I might need to tie up for the trip.

Is there anything better than having a trip on the books to look forward to?

Jan 16

It is on!

I have a trip on the books and it is right quick.

I’ll be returning to Abaco here in just about a month, spending a couple of days at Abaco Lodge and then trying to find some of my own fish and I’ll be accompanied by friend and political opposite Aaron, who was one of the anglers I brought to Long Island a couple years ago.

I’m looking forward to being back in the Bahamas and to get to know Abaco a little bit more. We had such a fast and busy first meeting, this one should be a little more relaxed.

Now down to business… my fly tying desk has not been unpacked and is still in the garage. That could be a problem. I have a few hundred flies I should be tying right about now!

Tickets purchased and fees paid. I’m going to Abaco.

Tickets purchased. That means it is real.

Tickets purchased. That means it is real.

Apr 15

Dinner at Abaco Lodge

The view. Photo by Anna Stromsness

The view. Photo by Anna Stromsness

I had been in contact with Oliver White about coming to Abaco. Even though he wasn’t going to be there he offered us dinner at Abaco Lodge for the whole gang (me, my wife, 8 year old, 15 month old and my dad). So, on Tuesday, the clan got in our dumpy rental minivan and headed to the Lodge.

Dinner... it was good.

Dinner… it was good.

Oliver left the logistics in the capable hands of Anne and Ken Perkins, the managers of the Lodge. Anne was great helping us prepare for the trip, providing a name for me dad to go bird watching and providing us some hints and tips for making the most of our trip.

Ken, Abaco Lodge Manager

Ken, Abaco Lodge Manager

We had tapas night, which worked out well and all the guests were very generous with my 8 year old.

Dinner was excellent and the staff went above and beyond to make sure my 8 year old had something she was OK eating, they even cooked her her own meal.



Abaco Lodge

It was great to go and see the Lodge. It is a really beautiful place. The vibe is exactly what you’d expect and want from a lodge like this. The guests are from all over, they are there to fish and have a good time.

We got to talk about the Lodge, the Island, the pressures being faced by development, the range of topics you’d expect to cover at a bonefishing lodge of this caliber. It was great talking to Ken about Abaco. He’s very knowledgeable and easy to talk to.

Abaco Boats

A nice view. Photo by Anna Stromsness

Abaco Lodge, a good place.



I’d very much like to get back there.

Thanks for dinner Oliver, Anne and Ken. Great place you have.

Apr 15

Fishing out of Abaco Lodge

I got to fish a day out of Abaco Lodge (located, you guessed it, in Abaco) with my dad and guide Tom Albury.

Abaco Lodge. Photo Credit Anna Stromsness

Abaco Lodge. Photo Credit Anna Stromsness

See, that has all the ingredients for a pretty good day to begin with. Great operation, good guide and my dad.

I’m 40, my dad is right at 73, we don’t even get to fish for trout that often, so getting my dad out bonefishing in the Bahamas is a real treat. Bonus – he gets tired after standing up for too long so I get more bow time! Yay!

My dad’s first two bones were over in Grand Bahama, same day I got my first, and BOTH of his fish were quasi unintentional. Happy to say our day of fishing got my dad two legit bonefish. He made the casts, set the hook and didn’t lose either. So, job well done on all front for Pops.

My dad and me in Abaco

My dad and me in Abaco

Abaco Lodge has been around for a few years (2009?) and is owned by Oliver White, a good guy who I did not name my son after. The lodge is just well done with a great stable of guides, good boats (all Hell’s Bay Waterman) and a great location, right on the edge of the Marls. I’ll write more about their operation and the dinner we had there in another post.

Our guide on the day was Tom Albury, who, it turns out, I had previously interviewed. Tom was good fun, never got worked up about anything and kept finding us fish. He put my dad in great positions and got him fish. It was a good day on the water.

For me, the day started out a little slow. We found fish (and by “we” I mean Tom). However, my awesome fly was pissing off the locals and after about 7 legit shots (I flubbed two of those casts, but made the other 5) set the bonefish fleeing in panic, we decided to change flies and that made the difference.

(I’ll just add that this goes against my “the right presentation trumps the right fly” line of thinking rather directly, but I still believe that, even if it goes against the evidence.)

We were waiting for the sun to poke back out and just as it did I spotted a dark shape and quickly realized it was moving. I love that moment. In that moment the world is full of potential and magic. I called out the fish and made the cast and was rewarded with that kind of aggressive charging-of-the-fly you get when you’ve done the thing well and have a happy fish in front of you. One long run and he came in, was admired and (poorly) photographed and sent on his way.

My first Abaco Bone

My first Abaco Bone

That one episode was the reason I wanted to come to the Bahamas. I can’t say it enough… I love bonefishing.

I caught a few more, got a small cuda on the spinning rig, cast at some sharks, saw a blue hole and pretty much enjoyed the day with Tom, my dad and the Marls.

Looking Good Mr. Bone

Looking Good Mr. BoneAbaco

I highly recommend both Abaco Lodge and guide Tom Albury. I want to come back.

Mar 15

A day at Abaco Lodge

Part of the general “looking forward to things” is a day of fishing out of Abaco Lodge. I remember seeing Abaco Lodge back on the early episodes of Pirates of the Flats, before they had to switch networks and names to Buccaneers and Bones.

Always has had my imagination. And soon, I’ll see for myself.

I’ll be in Treasure Cay April 3-11. I’ll be the tall, handsome guy with the adorable children and beautiful wife with a grin on my face and as little skin showing to the tropical sun as possible.