Feb 13

Smooth as Keith Stone

I thought we’d start off the week with a cool little story from Scott Heywood over on the Fly Paper blog.

A day like this is a rare gift. These islands own a hot sun, making wind a constant companion for the bonefisherman. Learn to live with it or quit… it’s your choice. But this morning had dawned calm and it was still dead calm. There was not the slightest exhalation coming off the big island of Andros. These are the kind of days you dream about… a few wispy clouds, a few small thunderheads way off on the horizon and a sea as slick and quiet as a marble slab in a morgue.

Glassy days. I haven’t seen many of those, but I did have one in Belize for my honeymoon. I know the conditions he’s talking about, even if he actually had good fishing that day and I got skunked.  Still, calm days can be really tough. The fish see you from a mile away and the lack of wind, that same wind we curse when it blows in our faces, makes the air bake, and you with it.



Scott’s story is from Andros, which, among all the islands in the Caribbean, is special for the miles and miles of mangroves which serve as a nursery for all manner of species.

Love this place.

Feb 13

How not to handle an 11 pound bonefish

I would love to catch an 11 pound (and 12 ounce) bonefish. I’d really, really love to. My largest fish is maybe 7 pounds (I was told 7.5, but that means it was probably 6). At some point I might actually achieve this dream if I keep after it and fish in places where hogs like this live.

I can imagine that this guy was really very happy to have crossed paths with such a magnificent creature, to have hooked it and to have landed it. I mean, come on… that thing is huge. It is the fish of a lifetime.

So, I was kind of bummed to see this fish held up by a boga grip.

Damn nice fish and damn poor idea to boga that damn nice fish.

Damn nice fish and damn poor idea to boga that damn nice fish.

Boga grips are bad news for bonefish. They should not be used.  It is likely an education issue. People see fish being gripped with a Boga and they think “well, this must be how things are done.”

It isn’t.

Knowing is half the battle. Spread the news.

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Aug 12

For the Ladies – Bonefishing School

The folks at Deneki are hosting a bonefishing school for women down at Andros South.


At the school will be Kara Armano and Bruce Chard, as well as the guides and good folk at Andros South.

Building on the success of our very popular Bonefishing School program, our Women’s School will be co-hosted by Kara Armano and Bruce Chard.  You’ll get hands-on instruction from the best in the business, plenty of time on the legendary flats of Andros Island, and the company of a bunch of women who love fishing as much as you do – what could be better?

Now, I think my future Mrs. Bonefishonthebrain might not be totally set for this just yet and won’t have the vacation time anyway, but man… how fantastic would it be for her to have a safe and supportive place to connect with the flats and the fish that live there?

I’ve been to Andros South and it is still a place I keep close to my heart/soul. The wildness of the place and the beauty of the countryside are really mind-numbing.

Hope it fills up and creates some lasting impressions.

Andros South, for the ladies.

Jun 12

The Passing of Rupert Leadon

There are a great number of amazing people I won’t get a chance to meet and last night another one such man passed on. Rupert Leadon was one of the pioneers of bonefishing in Andros Island and owner of Andros Island Bonefish Club.  He was an inspiration to a great many anglers and his absence will be felt by those who knew him.

This story talks about both Charlie Smith and Rupert Leadon (Rupert is talked about more in the second half of the piece) and it gives you a sense for some of what he’s contributed.

 “Andros Island is the richest island in the world,” he said. “We’re the untamed spirit of the Bahamas, and we need to bring people back to fish here.”

Rupert, in the place he made.

While Ted McVay may have actually created the Gotcha, it was Rupert Leadon who named it.

Pink Gotcha with some white fox tail


Godspeed Rupert.

Mar 12

Tory does some casting

Pointed out by Davin at Flatswalker… Knowledge.

Of course, Tory is a guide at Andros South. I know that beach. The Slack Tide bar is about 40 feet to the right of the camera. Love that place.

Feb 12

Flatswalker went to Andros

I do like a good read and Flatswalker is pretty much that.

What wasn’t perfect was the weather. Andros was under the same weather system as the Florida Keys we’d just left. Upon arrival we rigged rods and checked leaders while Charlie mixed drinks and regaled us with stories of monster bones, massive schools, and, well, everything we’d dreamed of for months. We went to bed early dreaming of giant bonefish and worrying about the weather, both with good cause.

Check out the full story here.

Feb 12

Andros – Give Norman some help

I got an email from Andrew at Deneki today.  His outfit owns and operates Andros South and it turns out one of his guides, Norman, has encountered a tragedy. Norman’s young daughter Nala died last week in an accident on South Andros. I’m pretty sure I talked to Norman about Nala when I fished with him during FIBFest last year.

Norman is a really nice and quiet guy. He comes across as professional, honest and knowledgeable in his guiding and I got the sense from him that he was a pretty solid all around guy.

Norman tagging a bonefish for BTT

Norman could use some help right now to cover the costs for the funeral.  If you’d like to help out, you can contribute to this fund, set up by Deneki. You won’t get a tax deduction, but it is still worth doing.

Sending good thoughts to Norman. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.

Nov 11

A trip to Andros (not mine)

OK… so, another video. I have a post I want to put up, but it needs to wait until Monday when more eyes can see it.  Until then, these anglers will take you on their trip to Andros.

Nov 11

Guides making it look easy

Well… guides can really make this look easy.  Here we have a guide in Andros make a backhand cast in some decent wind and hookup pretty much instantly.

Sure made that look easy.

Oct 11

Interview with Ian Davis

Ian Davis is a saltwater addict who happens to have a pretty cool job as part of Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures.  He’s had a pretty interesting life on the water and he took some time to share part of that with BOTB.

Where was your last trip to the salt?

I was in the Yucatan and Belize. Heading to Grand Bahama on Nov. 2nd, then I’m headed to Bimini to fish a new operation and then I’m headed to Mangrove Cay, on operation down on Andros.

That sounds really rough there.

A lot of behind the scenes work happens on those trips that really separates Yellow Dog from a lot of the competition out there. The fact that we take all our own photos takes an enormous amount of time. Jim and I both spend a lot of time shooting the lodges and the food, I was just at the Trout Hunter in Island Park yesterday re-shooting the lodge. I didn’t even fish. I floated a couple of sections and I had an angler with me and I just let him fish, talked with the guide, talked about the hatches and it is the same thing down in the Bahamas. There no doubt it is a great job and we have a great passion for it, but a lot of these trips are hard work. You are ready to come home after your 10 days stint.

Kind of an awesome shot there.

When you are out on the water a lot, you see some strange things. Is there anything that stands out?

One time I was on the West Side of Andros and we were poling the opening of a creek and it is really muddy and silty out there. We were catching bonefish and I think this was probably April or May, and way in the back part of the flat there was this big commotion going on, lots of splashing. It looked like a big old cuda had gotten stuck in the mud and I just figured it had been chasing a bonefish and had gotten in too shallow water and was struggling to get out. The bottom was soft enough that it could probably crawl out of that mud. We weren’t worried about it. It was pretty far away. We just kept fishing and kept catching bonefish. We were fishing about another half hour and finally it started working its way towards us and it’s back was out of the water and we were both saying that it was a monster cuda and we should probably go over there and catch it and take some photos of it. We started poling over to it and it turns out it was about a 70 pound tarpon. It was literally taking a mud bath. We got up close to it and we didn’t even cast to it, at first, and it was utilizing that soft, silky west-side mud to get sea lice off of it, or just literally have a spa day. It just looked like it was having so much fun noodling through the mud like a salmon making a redd and that was really neat. I’d never seen anything like that and when we threw at it, it ate immediately. It was really fun.

Other fun stuff out on the flats. Always have a rod rigged for whatever species you want to target. Invitably, whatever you are not prepared for will roll down the pipe. I’ve seen tuna and dorado up in the Joulters in the Bahamas in four feet of water. If you didn’t have a tarpon rod, you aren’t going to have a shot at that. A close friend of mine saw a sail fish on the West Side of Andros in three feet of water. You just never expect those sorts of things, but when you have shallow water adjacent to deep water, like a lot of the Bahamas, you are going to have a wide range of species that might be coming at the boat.

That was probably a lot of fun.

What’s your current favorite rod and reel.

Nine foot 8 wt., Biiix Winston and Hatch Reels.

I know you guys love the Hatch Reels.

Yup. I’ve also always been a big fan of the Winstons. When I had my fly shop in Colorado, I sold them and I’ve continued to use them. I love the fact that they are made in Montana and they are super a good company and good people. I love the action. I think it is one of the best fish fighting tools out there. So many people focus on casting the rod and they forget that that is only half of it. You have to fight the fish. With today’s stronger tippet in flourocarbon, you can give the fish more work that folks typically do. Stu Apte is the master at that. Stu’s a good buddy of mine and we talk a lot about the proper pressure on fish. I really think that boron butt section really enables anglers to lean on their fish a little bit more and we all know that the importance of that, not only is it fun, but it is conservation based. We want to protect the species so our kids can catch them. The way to do that is to land them quickly. Flouro has aided to that, but often people are buying these wicked fast rods all the way to the tip and they are super quick and brittle and it is hard to put a good fight with that fast action rod because one head shake and it can break. The fast action rods these days are also often difficult to cast within 50′, they are just too fast. That’s what’s always brought me back to Winston. The castability and the fish fighting ability of those rods.

Spending a little bit extra on your reel is important because of the way salt eats away at our gear. I stand firmly behind the Hatch. I love that it is an encased drag system, it is sealed. I like that the foot is machined on. Battling the screws is always a bummer if they loosen up. I love that you can take the spool off and nothing falls out. Everything is attached and it doesn’t fall out. I’ve had horrendous times trying to take a reel apart, something jams or trying to change from right hand to left hand retrieve and some little spring goes flying out and lands in the water. Trip over. I love the fact that the Hatch reels are idiot proof.

There are usually a couple of people in our angling lives that really help us grow as anglers. Do you have anyone like that in your saltwater fishing career?

I would say when I had my fly shop my partner was a big steelhead fisherman and I really loved the flats. I’d go down to the Bahamas and bum around and stay at friends houses and I got really lucky and I started fishing with Charlie Neymour and Andy Smith and I couldn’t have picked two better people. They were about my age and their dad’s were the fathers of bonefishing in the Bahamas. Crazy Charlie and Ivan Neymour were really the first two guides in the Bahamas and the pioneered bonefishing in the Bahamas. So, their sons, I grew up with them. They had the same passion for it that we had for it. They weren’t conch or lobster fisherman that guided bonefish in the off season in their cousin’s boat. These guys were serious. On their days off they were fishing. That’s something that Yellow Dog always asks… “What do you do on your days off?” We want to know that they are after it and fishing just like we do. Andy and Charlie had a strong passion for big bonefish. We always want to get our numbers up that first morning, but the rest of the time we’d spend looking for big bonefish and permit and tarpon. They really set the stage for me and enabled me to understand the sport of flats fishing at a grassroots level. I wasn’t reading about it, I was sleeping on the beach and saving all my guide tips to be able to come and fish with these guys. We could only afford a couple of days with them, but we really valued that time and asked a lot of questions. Being guides ourselves we knew not to guide the guides. We let them do their thing. Some years later when I came to Yellow Dog I got to spend a lot of time with Charlie himself, Charlie Smith. That was probably where I gained the most insight on a fishes behavior. It can be so fine tuned that now I feel like if I see a fish I know if I’m going to catch it based on it’s behavior and what the previous fish did. That’s a neat thing, to have that relationship with your guide where the guide starts to turn the boat a little bit or you feel it speed up or slow down and and you look 60′ at 11:00 and there’s a fish and not a word was spoken. That’s how I’ve managed to get with the Smith family and the Neymour family. There’s not a lot of talking in the boat anymore beyond our kids and our families and maybe a little business. We aren’t pointing out fish anymore.

People doing these trips get so focused on how many fish they’ve caught. Please don’t do the math on how much each fish is costing, after flights and package and beer. That reduces your fish count. I really like to promote the cultural aspects of these destinations and first and foremost the relationships with the guides. Those can be some of the strongest relationships you’ll carry though the rest of your life and they are all wonderful people and I really consider the Neymours and the Smiths some of my closest friends. We get to see each other at the shows and throughout the winters and then when I go down there. I’m still trying to get them to come up to Montana, but haven’t had luck on that yet.

What percentage of the flies in your fly box do you tie?

For trout flies, I had a fly shop and when I sold that I pilfered about 30 years of flies.  I’ll tie the basic trout flies, but I love to tie saltwater flies.  I have a vice at my desk and when I’m making pre-trip or post-trip calls, which is about 30% of my time, I’m tying flies. I love the big saltwater flies. The first half of my fishing career I tied trout flies.  Now, as I get a bit older I like the bigger hooks and the bigger flies. I love tying tarpon flies like variations of the toads, cockroaches and black deaths.  Love bonefish flies like clouser gotchas, toad head, I still spin a lot of elk hair… I think that flies pushing water really gets their lateral lines going.  I use a lot of traditional materials. Enrico Puglisi is always blowing me away with his materials. I am using a lot more EP materials in my flies and I love his his flies. He’s a big time innovator. Not only are his flies sexy, but they catch fish and are durable.

Ian showing how to take a good C&R photo here.

One of the things I love about bonefishing is all the other stuff that is associated with it.  The cracked conch and the cold Kalik.  Are there associations you make with bonefishing beyond the fishing?

I would say watching friends fish.  I really get a kick out of watching fish describe their experience and seeing it first hand.  I’m really lucky.  I’ve caught a lot of bonefish and I’ve been in a lot of places where bonefish live. I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t have to catch a lot of fish to be happy.  On the Henry’s Fork I fished about 20 minutes and I just really watched my buddy fish and took pictures.  Photography has really taken over for me in terms of my enjoyment on the fringe. I also really enjoy watching the families associate with these destinations grow. I like watching their kids grow up.  I have three young kids and like I was saying, I kind of grew up with Charlie Neymour and Andy Smith.  Now we all have kids and families and it is always fun to go back to those places and see people growing up.  There isn’t a lot of change in those places beyond that.

Thanks Ian.