The Bahamian Rhapsody II
The gang of four is back
Each night I slept like a baby and each morning I woke up ready for action. This one was no exception. And same thing goes for the beautiful weather. How can it be that bright all the time? That’s the answer why everybody is a great photographer and everybody takes such great pictures over there.
At that time we decided to split the day in two sessions and leave the hot midday for siestas, rum&coke and Kalik's.
But someone forgot to tell Cheef about that. So Paul and I were there, ready in front of the house "guideless", watching the other duo "flying low" to the flats with Inch.
The "Don't worry, mon – rather have some rum..."-attitude had already settled in by then so we decided to "chill" for a while (again).
That day I lost that "fulldressed" outfit from my first days and in the morning sessions from then on, I always went barefoot and with shorts and short sleeves. So we sat on the front
porch in our cozy outfits sipping that rum. Not bad at all and for those of you who don't already know - Paul is ALWAYS great company.
So we missed the best fishing time in the morning – big deal...
Baring in mind that the morning session would be over fast for two of us, we decided to try some luck on the inner flats. BTW: that's MY favourite type of bottom, unfortunately fish seemed to disagree and were seldomly there in big numbers.
We found only few schools, but they seemed to be moving a bit fast just like they were already on the way out – leaving the flat.
So we concentrated on the spot that looked like the »outlet«. Selective fish, a difficult time and I only managed to present the fly properly once. Fish were moving faster than normal and the length of that cast was not more than 8 meters.
Fish turned towards me when I was stalking them and I had to go down to my knees, cast right away and I managed to hook the leading fish just few moments before the characteristic “stampede”.
Normaly this happens when I get up or when the fish realizes something is pulling it.
I think Paul was a little more successful using his secret fly, but for me, that was the toughest bonefishing day of the week. One fish caught in the morning, not many schools seen and the same thing happened in the evening session.
I think the water temperature in the inner flats was rising steadily because of the stable sunny weather and light winds. Combining the effect of full moon and poor mixing of the water, fish probably started to feed on the flats at night - and early mornings and late evenings.
On the way home we agreed that we had to go out much earlier and start our evening sessions later. Not that easy because that messes up the working day of a guide completely – but hey, who could ever say NO to us, right?
Meeting the sharks
Almost the same thing happened next day as well, except for a little earlier start. I managed to get two fish in the early sunny morning using MWOS and Paul’s fly. And three in the afternoon session on the same two flies and my modified Gotcha.
Well – almost.
I had a terrible time taking photos of the fish – alone. Standing there in the middle of the flat, holding the camera in the big underwater housing in one hand and playing the uncooperative fish in the other, turning around in circles like an idiot and because of that the water was getting muddy - all in all - biiiig problems!
I lost one after few attempts to get a picture, (fish just decided to run again) and the second one was eaten by a lemon shark not more than 15 meters or 45 feet from me. Bugger took my fish and my fly! And completely ruined my leader with it’s skin or teeth. I’m not really sure about the cause but the result was changing the whole leader on the spot.
Next day was a special one. Time for a change! We couldn't affect the weather tho...
Si, Inch and I decided to broaden our horizons a bit and to go to the Atlantic side of the island to do some bluewater fishing. Main target was dorado on the fly, which was Simon's wish #1. For me? I would be OK with anything... but the "mean green fighting machine" on the fly would be great. They appear on my Adriatic sessions only when I leave flyrod at home anyway.
I took my Shimano Stand up rod and TLD reel, to have some fun with that too. We also took some chum with us which was (surprise for me!) a couple of cans of sardines! Where I come from, we need at least few hundred times more stuff to attract local predators.
That was the first idea how rich with fish that part of the world is. Baring in mind the fact that some people consider Atlantic ocean "poor" in comparision with Pacific – I can only imagine the life on THAT side!
Surprisingly Inch asked us what to do and he told us that he was on that side first time in his life doing this kind of fishing!
"No problem, mon", (that's what I learned to say first in local accent) I took my 30 lbs outfit out and started trolling on the way offshore. Since the only rod holder was already "taken", we added some teasers as well, by wrapping them "the local way" all around the boat.
We couldn't go more that about 10 knots in that part of the water and it seemed just about right for surface lures. After few minutes I lost the best lure in my opinion. Some big popping yo-zuri from Paul was taken in the middle of the "explosion" and I realised that the heavy sviwel was broken! I also realised a bit later that the wire from my friend back home was well underestimated too *"&%#"%$...
But I managed to land first fish and missed few takes during the first hour using the popping fly about 6'' long in green and yellow/white. It was a skipjack about 10 lb. After that I had a nice fight, pumping up a little bigger fish but it came off while lifting it vertically. I had to pull much harder and I think it was much bigger than the first fish.
The biggest are always lost, right?
Later we saw that getting the fish out of the water was a big lottery because of the sharks, but we got some toothy mackerel anyway. Next one was a nice yellowfin that was cut completely, right behind the pelvic finns by the toothy beast!
Since trolling was not our main task we started flyfishing by chasing the birds hvering above the schools, and spent practically the rest of the day doing it. Inch did just about everything for us in order to get our flies in front of the fish. Great job, but casting the big fly and making your maximum length casts while swinging your body in front of the boat is not that easy.
One time I almost fell in that dangerous water full of sharks and after that I did all my fishing from the inside of the boat.
I expected the fish to be selective but I managed to have only one short take and LDR from a dorado and so did Simon. He was using clouser I believe and I was using small bluewater babysardine on a heavy hook – my invention for fooling our little tunnies. Late in the afternoon we decided to go back since we were quite far from the shore. Oh yes, on the way back we met a fisherman that just got spooled by marlin somewhere between our boat and shoreline. At least that was what he said. Whatever it was, it must have been big because his trolling reel was at least twice as big as mine!
Battle at the "wounded ankle"
I started early morning with a good laugh. Ian served me a nice sandwich right away with a special "serving" gesture.
"What was that?" I asked.
I almost fell of my chair when I got the answer:
"Presentation is everything!"
He he he "You got it, mon!-)"
Proof to the last of the sceptics: - flyfishermen minds ARE "one track – 100%"!
We changed boats again. Still no changes about the weather, maybe even a bit calmer than the day before and therefore even more hot!
Paul and Ian went into the blue and Simon and me to the flats. First two did wery well listening to our advices and experiences with trolling. They landed some really nice fish – few mackerel, baracudas (including one nice and tasty dorado) and an 8 foot shark that brought Ian the famous T-shirt for the prize.
They were using heavy wired balyhoos and didn't really waste much time flyfishing. Simon and me went to some different types of flats that day. Cheef was confident about them and that was enough for us since we trusted him completely. As usual we went "casual" as we did on our previous morning sessions. Shorts, short sleeves and barefoot. The only difference was that I carried along Simon's videocamera too. Big mistake!
The bottom was darker and the colour didn't mean sand, but small shells, and that was not easy for walking at all! Seeing fish was also very difficult task, because they were not that numerous and this kind of hard bottom was something completely new for me.
Cheef went to get the boat in front of us and we walked for about an hour looking for any signs of bonefish. The most painful 60 minutes of the trip.
Simon suddely began to cast and lowered his profile. After few moments, out of nowhere he had a fish on. I had no idea where he found them but as I said - he did a really good job by spotting them in the first place. He showed me later what to look for and I needed some time again to "accomomdate" my eyes to this kind of bottom.
I also realised that the fish were moving a lot faster that normal and in smaller schools. Cheef finally brought us our shoes and told us that the fish there take the fly more likely than on the softer flats and the fly can be much bigger.
Good information it was and soon Cheef helped me find a small school of fish that were just begging to be caught! The poor creatures were tailing! Unfortunately it didn't really help me at my first casting attempt there, because in all that excitement and wind from the back, I managed to tangle the leader like a 5 year old on his first flyfishing trip. The really bad thing of the whole situation was that this was one of my only two attempts that Simon recorded on his video!
I think it took me about 20 minutes to fix that leader mess, BUT at least I saw the fish.
Second attempt was more like it and the fast swimming leading fish took Paul's Bahamas Special after a very agrressive move. When the fish stopped I just set the hook. Pulled the line of course four or five times, and it seemed to be the right moment. The big fly was already deep in the mouth. Just like hooking brownies in my favourite local rivers. As always when you are the playing the leading role of the movie – everything went wrong and it seemed that I needed ages to land that fish. At least Si had a good time laughing while he was recording me trying to get that fish to cooperate.
So I had one more wish fulfilled – video of me casting, hooking and landing a bonefish. We will have some laughs and good time when I (finally) get the tape (Simon!) and watch it during the long cold Slovenian winters with my friends.
I immediately paid back the favour by recording the same thing with Simon as a "Oscar nominee". The only difference was that the ##%$%$#$#rd did just about everything right. Baaaaaaah, boring...!
I bet it was the fly that made the difference.
So if you want to cast to and land the fish on that bottom properly, ALWAYS use the fly called "The Bonefish Turd" and not "Bahamas Special"!
I managed to land one more on the same fly later and started to seriously doubt my previously written theory. It must be that cameras simply don't love me.
That was it for the morning and Al Pacino and me went back to the lodge to heal our wounded feet. Hmmm, maybe we should call that spot "The wouded ankle"? and "my" film – "The battle at the wounded ankle"?
Naaah. I must find some other title. After all it's a comedy!
Evening produced two fish for me and two LDR's using MWOS on the Cheef's secret flat again. Last one was the only "loner" I caught so far. Decent sized fish was feeding in unbelieveably shallow water. I don't think it was more than 15 centimetres or less than 8 inches. I had to cast several times and was almost lying in the water few meters from it when the fish finally saw and took my fly. Fight was long and at the end I had to help the fish get out to the deeper water because it couldn't do it and just kept rolling on the side in the shallow sandy parts. After that one we went back.
Dinner was special again – dorado on the BBQ! Of course with conch-salad. In one week in Bahanas you'll probably try "conch-everything".
KEWL! The relaxed regatta
Sunny Saturday morning I was on the hard dark bottom flats again. Cheef and Ian were my company. I had my wading shoes on, some basic ideas where to look for the fish and what flies to use. At least fish-searching was not painful and I could concentrate on interesting spots.
Bigger lagoons had small outlets and inlets between them and on the sides of those "doors" that were facing downwind I could see small calm spots of the water near the bushes. I decided to look for fish there bcause even smal disturbances of the surface were very easy to detect.
Ian and Cheef had few shots at the school first, but fish were again moving randomly and a little too fast for feeding. No luck there, but cheef shouted to me
"Big school, Tom, coming down in the other lagoon!" (Wow a whole sentence!)
I ran out of the water and did some fast walking on the hard shells. At the end I kneeled down behind the bush again and started to get te line out. I was in the hurry because the nervous water was coming down to me very fast. I didn't see the fish – just the waves and made a false cast and landed my "Bahamas Special" about 12 meters or some 30 feet from me. My plan was to leave it there until the real cast was needed. Suddenly I saw few leading fish about 3 meters or 10 feet from my fly already, but the disturbance of the water referred to as "nervous water" was about 5 meters or more than 12 feet behind them!
The fish were moving really fast and were a little bigger in average than on the sandy flats. I couldn't afford to make another cast so I hoped the fish would keep moving in the same direction - straight to the fly.
That was exactly what happened and I made a short strip to get the attention of the fish. One of them accelerated immediately and I had it on and set the hook few times as usual. Then (I have no idea why) I released the tension on my line in the left hand and gave the Cheef a sign that I had a fish on and that they should come quick. Still hiding behind the bush I heard him say something about me having a fish on... I think I wanted Ian to come and have a shot at the same school too. Well, this experiment cost me a nice bonefish because on the first run, without a real contact with the fish I lost it with a classic LDR making the exact huge stampede that I wanted to prevent.
It looked like the mission impossible, now. Once one fish goes – the school goes. That's it. You can do your stuff before that, maybe even have a friend casting and hooking his fish, but once the fish goes, it goes (and they go fast!) and you can forget the others.
Sometimes they slow down and start feeding again, but normally this happens too far away and they start to move in the "travelling" and not the "feeding" mode.
So Ian and I were again looking for fish and Cheef was doing his "getting the boat" routine.
I found a small school in one of those "back eddies" but they were moving way too fast and in the direction away from us. Since running on the flats after bonefish is not the best idea I just kept on looking. I had to walk for about 30 minutes to see about 10 fish moving slowly in the same type of the calm water, close to the bushes. This time I used a bit different tactic. I ran in front of them on the beach on the other side of the bushes and didn't get into the water once I was in the right position. Standing on the a small beach I didn't make a single small wave, just cast the fly and then lowered my profile. The fish were feeding following the same small distance from the bushes, just as I anticipated and soon they were close enough for me to do the classic thing. The Bahamas Special is one good fly indeed, and it was one of the sweetest takes of the week.
This time after setting the hook I never gave the fish a chance, got up immediately and started fighting. We took some photos while playing, holding and releasing the fish and that was the end of another beautiful sunny morning's bonefishing session because the sun was getting stronger and we, we were about to go SAILING!
Yep, you got it, Sailing! Inch said something about wanting to go in the afternoon and guess who will be his team! The boat was a traditional A1, not even close to what I am used to. But we were confident and ready for any kind of adventure as always.
First intersting thing when we arrived was a long wooden stick that was thrown over the boardwalk.
Strange... Throwing mast like that, I thought.
But they knew what they were doing so we had some steaks (and conchs of course) for lunch in the shade. Everybody seemed happy and ready for the party in front of the club that happens there every Saturday evening after the race. Boys in big pickups brought some even bigger speakers and soon everybody was walking the "Bahama way", bumping along with the "rake and scrape" - the famous local music.
The first few Kaliks and Heinekens were not enough for us to start a famous "Bonefish Shuffle", a dance, that we learned on one of our first island evenings for some some special occasion like this. It contains everything from conchs, rum, Kaliks, walking like heron, to double hauling and even strip strike! Long story...
Inch called us and we went to the sailboat with his flatsboat surprisingly slowly. (I realized that the long wooden stick there was a boom and not a mast!)
Despite of our crew being half local and half European, we can say that we worked together as one. What else would you expect when one of the crew (Simon) took a bath during the race to chill a little and beers were served twice before we even reached the first buoy!
Definetely the funniest sailing race I 've ever been to. We proudly reached a second place, just behind the smaller (sober?) winning boat.
Later we bought few more beers for the crew and for participants. Not that much of an investment, counting that we were the only two boats in the competition.
On the way home I think that we stopped at the every possible bar and emptied their stock of certain drinks that were interesting for us.
It was a great night and that's the only thing that I remember from there on. I woke up in my bed thisty as hell and without any headache.
Last day looked like all the rest and I went with Inch and Ian to that tarpon spot again. It was Ian's turn and after some poling around he hooked and landed his first tarpon too! Not the biggest fish but it counted and I tried to get some pictures of it under the water. It was at least funny when I was out of the boat chasing the fish left and right, but without having the head underwater I just couldn't get it right.
My turn was not succesful, not many fish and the same thing happened out on the flats where I didn't make a single cast. We tried the best spots but no fish in sight that morning.
Actually nobody really cared. We had a lot of luck that week already. Sincerely, after such a good week we were all ready to pack the bags and return to the normal life again. Personally I was very pleased. Maybe I'd like to at least see a permit, but that one will just have to wait till next time.
Few more photos at the airport #1 and before I knew it I was at airport #4 in Venice meeting Fishette and the kiddo. Couple of hours driving the fishmobile and I was home at last. That was one long and memorable journey and undoubtedly the best birthday present I ever got.
Of course I'd love to go again. Saltwater flyfishing is great!
But I don't think I'll trade that for my local trout fishing. Not until it is the way it is...
Well... not yet :-)
Did I mention that the weather was great?