I sat down with Bob Rich to talk bonefishing recently. By “sat down” I mean to say I called him and I assume he was sitting while I was sitting. Bob is a pretty interesting guy. Not only is he the author of “The Right Angle,” be also has owned a baseball team and a soccer team. He’s a sportsman in a really broad sense as well as a very successful businessman. He also has a home right on a bonefish flat in Islamorada… and if he wanted me to stay there and fish… ya know… I totally would.
He and I have a couple things in common… minus a few billion dollars, he and I both have unlikely grand slams and fishing featured in some way in our respective splits. The book is an interesting read.
Are you motivated to go other places to fish, or when you have something like a great place in Islamorada overlooking a bonefish flat are just motivated to go there as often as possible?
We love our trips to the Bahamas because when you are out on a boat and you are sharing bow time, you know, Islamorada bonefish are so big, but you can fish all day for one or two shots, so if you have two anglers on a boat you can be in that second position, depending on how you set up your rules, you can not see a fish for so long your hand is shaking and I think as people are getting to know the sport, it is more fun to go where the fish are plentiful, albeit smaller. We still love our trips to the Bahamas and I’ve fished bonefish all around the world, the Seychelles, Christmas Island and more, but I would say our two favorites would be right at home in Islamorada as well as in the Bahamas.
Where do you go in the Bahamas?
We used to go a lot off the corner of Grand Bahamas to Deep Water Cay. Deep Water went through a metamorphosis where they sold to some developers and they literally started to discourage people from going there. They based this on a false premise that if they sold all their properties they wouldn’t need their weekend guests like ourselves but what they discovered that there were a lot of people who were going to buy a place, but they were going to spend maybe a week a month there. They literally realized that they needed weekenders so now they have new ownership and have rethought their early premise and now Deep Water is back on our list.
Ironically, Bjorn, there are a lot of places that you go in the Bahamas where you might have a lovely location but you still have to get in the car and drive 45 minutes to get to your put in and one of the nice things about Deep Water is that there are fish right off the dock and you are right on the dock so you can get a lot more fishing time and a lot less car driving time.
I’ve actually gone out of Mcleans Town a couple of times and caught my first bonefish right behind Deep Water.
You can go and have 100 shots a day and it can be off the charts and I think for fun fishing, the Red Bone Tournament has expanded into a couple of locations. It was set up by a guy named Gary Ellis as a celebrity tournament to find a cure for CF which his daughter had and it has grown from one tournament in Islamorada to almost 40 tournaments around the country and they do several really nice locations and places like North Riding Point and Deep Water, but I’m of the school where I refuse to turn a bonefish into a number. I don’t want to be in a situation where it isn’t about the searching and finding and fighting the fish and it becomes about racking up points. Especially in the Bahamas where you can have such great numbers automatically, I guess I follow the school that you may or may not have met guys like me, but I’d rather just fish for the fun of it and I don’t care how big they are either, just to look at each one, when you look at it, as a bonefish.
We used to go to Deep Water twice a year with Sandy Moret and we had a guy on the trip and every day when everyone would come in, people would ask how everyone did. “I did great, I got 6,” “Wonderful, I had 12,” and he’d just wait and we’d finally ask him and he’d always have the highest fish count. We later found out that he paying off one of the guides to back up his lies. He actually got dis-invited on the trips. The guy that got 5, it doesn’t matter what you caught. When you come back to a fish camp, for anyone who hasn’t done it before, whatever you say, half of the people are going to be happy, half are going to be sad, so why do you even need to say how many you caught.
That’s something I’ve learned over time. I used to be so excited about my day that I’d share all the details and now I’ve realized that me sharing the details might make someone’s good day feel like a bad day and there is no reason to do that.
That’s exactly right. Especially, if you are in a bonefish mecca like the Bahamas where you are catching 12 to 20 fish a day or if you are in Islamorada waiting all day for that big slob, that 13 pounder, what you say to people is the least important part of the day. The most important part is your connection to the fish.
When you are thinking of taking a trip, do you mostly go with your wife, Mindy, or is there a core group of anglers that you travel with?
It depends on what species, we aren’t bonefish purists, but having said that, if I someone said to me “you have one day left, where are you going to fish and who are you going to fish with?” I’d choose to fish with Mindy and I’d choose to be wading a bonefish flat somewhere. Wading for bonefish with a fly rod.
I just got back from a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and got my first Grander. It was actually an 1,100 pound Black Marlin. I’ve been looking for him for years and a couple of guys who said “boy, you are going to go home and those bonefish are going to feel inconsequential,” but they don’t, because you are going to light tackle, you are pitting your skills against a wonderfully worthy adversary, so it doesn’t really matter that the fish in Australia would have weighed 1,100 pounds (if we had tagged and weighed it), because I’ll tell you what, I’ve caught 7 pound bonefish that were every bit as exciting as any fish I’ve ever caught.
Are there people you look to bring along because they make you up your game?
Absolutely, no question. Depending on the species I can give you some examples. Sandy Moret and his wife Sue are wonderful travel buddies of Mindy and mine. Sandy’s one of the best fly fisherman I’ve ever met or seen. One of the things where he really excels is that he gets the fly in the water for longer and understands how to get a bit more than anyone I’ve ever seen. You can put him with 10 different guys and he has a feel for the fish and is great at stripping flies.
We’ve gone around the world fishing with Andy Mill. Andy is probably the best tarpon fisherman I’ve ever seen. He’s cut out all of the pieces of tarpon fishing that you don’t need. He’s a great guy to fish with.
The guy I just came back from fishing for Marlin with, Craig Reagor, Craig is a wonderful fishing buddy because he understands the game (he doesn’t get sea sick, by the way), and he understands part of friendship on the water is not just filling the air with words, he understands that you can be on the water with a good fishing buddy and still have solitude and you don’t have to be yacking all the time and telling dirty jokes.
If you mention a species, I have someone like that.
When I think of bonefishing I think of a lot of other things. I think of Kalik beer and cracked conch or Beliken. Are there associations you make when you think about bonefishing that have nothing to do with the actual fishing?
Absolutely, when Walker’s Cay was going, I first started fishing it for bonefish and then got involved in Blue Water fishing. You’d get up way too early and you’d go down the dock and there would be one of the native ladies sitting there and she had a row boat and she was just about as big as the row boat and she’d be selling bowls of Conch Salad for $5 a bowl. That with a Kalik beer… you’re in heaven. You have crappy day, you get skunked, but you just say “I’m going to double up on my conch salad when get in to the dock.” There are memories like that wherever you go fishing I think.