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Second part of a three part harmony about a fantastic trip for Bahamas bonefish Introduction to the article
By Paul Slaney
Part 2 - The Mother of all hangovers and the greatest fishing spot on the face of this earth
I was hurting for several reasons, firstly I had sunburn. Despite liberal applications of factor 30, the left hand side of my face, and left ear had caught it bad. So bad the skin had blistered and split in several places. Secondly, I had been bitten by some bug on the foot. It had swollen grotesquely, and ached like a bastard. That morning I had slipped on the dock and cut my hip, elbow and the palm of my casting hand. The inside of my right forearm had a bruise the size and colour of a plum from the fighting butt of the rod and the 3 bonefish I had landed and the several I hadn't the day before.
I tell you! Bonefishing ain't for the faint hearted. And to cap it all, I had the Mother of all hangovers!
A flat just south of Moletown, that we named the Bonefish Bank had been very kind to me the day before and with some spotting help from Phillip we'd managed to hook into several fish. This happened late on, after a fruitless day. Sure, I hooked a lot more fish than the day before. One at Needlefish Island, my leader broke. Another two down at the Honey Hole. One broke me again, the other, the tippet knot gave way (bloody sun cream) These two were the biggest fish of the trip, both would be in the 8-10lb class. At the Fishing hole, we managed to spook two large shoals of fish after serious time spent stalking em. I was kicking myself, I was fishing like a novice, tangles, duff knots! "What you doing Mon, stop goofing about!" said the back of the boat on more than one occasion.
Bonefish Bank is a long exposed sandbar at low tide, perhaps a mile long and starts at the Northern end of the Fishing Hole. You can get out of the boat onto dry land, walk up the bank and spot tailing fish moving up wind from a mile away. It was just perfect, I could relate to this, just like fishing a lake. You still had to stalk 'em when you were close, but the dry sand meant you could cover ground fast. Lots more opportunities, lots more hook ups and low and behold I actually managed to get fish in my hand. I still can't understand how such a small fish can put up such a big battle.
It's stunning! If you haven't tried it, start saving and do it! They were even coming to a fly that I use on lakes back home. The whoops of delight could probably be heard back in Nichols Town. I don't know who was happier, Phillip or I.
Enter the hangover. On the way home that night Phillip suggested stopping at a bar he knew for a celebratory drink. I knew I should have said no, but...
By 10pm the Big Shop (strange name for a bar) was rocking and Phillip and I with it. It seemed like everyone in the neighbourhood was there, all full of Christmas spirit (in more ways than one) These folks know how to party for sure, I felt as welcome as I would have been if I lived there. You know how it is? All them pretty island girls on the dance floor and you don't like to be rude. The following dawn came all to quickly.
A few minutes later, Phillip pulled up. I knew he felt as bad as I did. He was wearing his Maui Jims in the rain. "Where the hell happened to us Mon?", "Umnn? Not sure mate?"
It was a grumpy, not to mention queasy pair of bonefishermen that headed out to the flats that morning. But then I discovered Moletown and the Back Of Beyond.
Moletown is a great big, tri-angular expanse of water, cornered by three small islands. At high tide it's about waist deep "But you got to hit it just right Mon, an hour each side of the low tide". At low tide a tongue of deeper water, again only a matter of inches, cuts into the flat from the base of the triangle. That's where the bonefish are. Lot's of them. Indeed I saw and caught more bonefish at Moletown than all the other spots put together. All tailers and all as spooky as they come. As far as I'm concerned it's the greatest fishing spot on the face of this earth.
It stopped raining and immediately the sun started to burn, I put on my flats hat, you know the ones with the stupid neck flap. (wish I'd worn it from day one) And looking like a sniper I started to slowly move across the flat, eyes peeled, hangover long forgotten.
The wading at Moletown is a little tricky, the flat has a different bottom again.
Imagine a million sandy molehills about a foot high and 2 feet wide, all within a foot or so of each other. In the little channels between, imagine a whole host of shrimps, funny little swimming crabs, thousands of puffer fish, millions of tiny gobies, fish fry, whatever. The tips of the molehills are exposed to the air and the bonefish are working their way up the watery channels, munching on anything that moves, digging in the sand with their snouts (you can clearly see where they have been feeding, another lesson) And imagine those tails waving in the air, shoals of fish in front of you, to your left and right, behind you even more fish. I was quivering like a gundog as Phillip waded over "What did I tell you Mon. Quiet water now, lets go catch some".
What followed was a fantastic days fishing. For the first time since I'd been there we didn't have to worry about the wind. The rain storm had put a stop to that. All that was needed was a careful, low and quiet approach. A very accurate cast, as the fish couldn't see your fly if it was on the wrong side of a Molehill and a light fly that didn't spook them as it arrived from above. Bonefish don't like things arriving from above. It took just a while to get the hang of it and I don't remember exactly when or how we got it together, but all of a sudden I was transported into fly fishing heaven. The stalk, the cast, the excited fish chasing and taking the fly (the best part of bonefishing in my opinion) the strike, that first searing run, the laughter, the preying for your line not to tangle and the tippet to hold, the long dogged fight, the beautiful mirror bright fish in your hands. Time and time again.
Just as easily as it started it stopped, not a tail in sight, nor a molehill for that matter. Immediately, I heard behind me "Time to move on Mon, we'll come back tomorrow". The voice made me jump, I'd forgot Phillip was there , they were the only words he'd said since we'd started getting hot. I felt great, the sun was shining, the scenery stunning, the sky freshly washed of clouds, we still had a whole day ahead of us. We started to laugh and joke our way back to the boat.
Phillip wanted to know if there was anywhere I particularly wanted to fish? "Nope, upto you mate" In that case, did I mind if we went right back into the Cays to an area that he didn't know that well, but had had his eye on for some time. "I reckon the tide will be just right when we get there Mon". Less than an hour later we pulled up on an immense flat somewhere out in the back of beyond. The name stuck.
The Back of Beyond is an immaculate flat, the biggest expanse of shallow water I saw on the whole trip. We hit it at about 2 feet of water, the tide was just about in. The bottom was gently rippling, yellow/white sand, no grass, no molehills, nothing. The only feature is a tiny island, perhaps 15 feet by 8, with one lonely little bush growing on its highest point. When the wind drops, the water in such places takes on a surreal quality, if you look out from the ripples of the boat it's like there is no water there, it's so clear. And on the horizon you can't tell the difference between the sky and the sea.
The bonefish look like they are swimming in thin air as they approach. You can see them 200 feet out. And there are plenty of them in the Back of Beyond.
I changed my fly to a bigger yellow one (I recall reading somewhere that you should try to match the fly to the bottom, it seems to work) and lengthened my leader from 10 to about 16 feet. This turned out to be a good move and I used this length for the rest of the trip as I spooked far less fish. I pulled of some line and settled into the gentle rhythm of the poled flats boat. The boat seems to glide across the water with hardly a sound, you can feel the pole pushing the boat rather than hear it. Both of you are quiet, tense, eyes skinned for the first sign of a fish. Spotting them is almost as
satisfactory as catching them and it developed into a competitive sport, as Phillip and I tried to outdo each other. After a few days you become so tuned into the environment that any movement catches your eye and every now and again "Hey! Bonefish, 100 feet, 11 O'clock, do you see him?"
In that sort of water, with that sort of visibility you have time to think, time to react, time to place your fly and wait for the fish to lead onto it, even time for a second shot if you goof up. Wait, wait, retrieve, that formula 1 acceleration of the fish and it's playtime again! You can watch the run and fight of the fish in the clear water, if it was two or three fish together, the other two fish will follow the hooked fish on the run. It's funny to watch, you can imagine their conversation as they tear blindly down the flat.
"Oh! Oh! what are we running from, Oh! Oh! why are we swimming so fast?"
We spent the next hour or so making two drifts down the Back of Beyond. Again we managed to take several fish, jumping out of the boat to land them. Phillip on hand with the camera, sometimes shouting advice, sometimes stopping the fish winding round the anchor rope or going under the boat by simply splashing the water in front of it. Phillip taught me to watch the fish after it was released "See how it looks Mon, watch when it turns it changes colour, see the shadow?" It makes it easier to spot the next one if you know what you are looking for.
We stopped for a late, long relaxed lunch and amused ourselves talking about our respective homes and lives a whole world apart. It always amazes me how something as simple as fishing can bring people from such different backgrounds together. I think it's the one thing I look forward to the most when thinking about a trip. A lazy old lemon shark enjoyed some of our fried chicken and hung around till we weighed anchor. "Where next mate?" "The Fishing Hole Mon! then Bonefish Bank" I couldn't agree more.
We managed one fish at the Fishing Hole. When I hooked him the sun was right in my face and I couldn't see a thing. I swear that fish had to be the biggest, meanest, toughest, fastest fish on the flats. The Big Daddy of all bonefish. It was only after he took most of my backing 6 times and I got him to my feet that he was in fact a little, skinny bonefish but he had a 2' lemon shark firmly attached to his tail.
The bloody thing was thrashing about in 6 inches of water and would not let go of the bone. Then with a puff of bright red blood and a supple but powerful twist of his body the shark took away a mouthful of tail and disappeared back where he came from. The bonefish quickly bled to death. I felt as guilty as hell. We took the fish back for Lillie Boulet, the lady who was cooking for me, who expressed a liking for bonefish. We left the shoal of fish at the Fishing Hole and motored down to the Bonefish Bank just as the sun was a foot from the horizon. "Still enough light for a few shots Mon"
By the time we set foot on Bonefish Bank we had perhaps some 20 minutes of light left. It turned out to be a repeat of the night before, a walk down the bank into the setting sun and small squadrons of bonefish pigging out on shrimp and crab along the waters edge. The cast for these fish was made over dry land, perhaps 30-40 feet back from the edge. A couple of strips with a bunny fry and of the 3 or 4 that saw it, one took it hard and headed for the horizon. Man! I love bonefishing! One more fish and it was time to wind in, we couldn't see the boat anymore.
The only downside to night fishing for bones is finding your way back, the shallow water is dangerous unless you hit it as full revs and there are small islands you can't see till you are on them. And more frightening is the first part of the run home, when there is no artificial light at all to guide you safely in. All we had were the stars, the compass in Phillips head and his knowledge of the flats. Interesting to watch him pull it off, no hesitation at all! Presently though, the lights of Lowe Sound brought some relief and a smile to my face after the mornings events.
Pulling into Morgan's Bluff I cracked open a couple of beers and thought "it's an early night for you tonight mate" Just then I remembered that at some point during the previous evening Phillips cousin had invited me out to dinner on Thursday night. She is a lovely lady that goes by the wonderful name of Melrose Divine.
But that my friends is another story indeed.
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