The adrenaline rush begins to fade and the angler slowly readjusts back to the calm search for the shadows in the water. The line is back in the boat, the fly is checked and then pinched between finger and thumb ready for the next cast, the polarised glasses are readjusted, the line coils are checked again – no snags – everything seems to be OK. The boat is slowly punted along the flats and then the guide murmurs and points to the left. Quickly the angler puts out a thirty foot cast, waits and slowly strips the fly back – and then BANG! There’s another hook-up and everything goes explosive as the reel screams off more and more line and backing into the far distance of the warm Bahamian flats!
This is Bonefishing at its best – and believe me – it’s better than anything that you could possible imagine.
The island of Andros sits in the beautiful blue seas of the Caribbean – a 45 minute charter flight from Fort Lauderdale in Florida (alternatively you can hop via Nassau – but it’s at your risk as the flights are best described as ‘not always as per schedule’) and it provides what can only be described as some of the best Bonefishing in the world.
The island is split into 2 halves – north and south. I stayed in the south but I am led to believe that it doesn’t make a gnats hair of difference as the fishing is excellent throughout. However, I will make the point that the comfort, friendliness and quality of Bairs Lodge in the South will take some beating, whilst the guides must be some of the best on the island.
Managed by Nervous Waters (what a great name for a Bonefish organisation) the Lodge has fully air conditioned rooms with all the comforts of home – including cooks, maid and a laundry service. If you want to make your stay as enjoyable as possible Bairs is the place to be. The Lodge provides a fully guided day with up to 2 anglers per boat, all food and drink, and a great setting and base for a week’s Bonefishing.
The boats leave from the front of the lodge at 9 each morning (all of 20 yards from your room) and return at 5, but before and after that you can enjoy the great fishing on the beach flats just in front of the lodge – if you haven’t done enough during the day that is!
“Big bone, 30 feet, 11 o’clock, CAST”
Those words will begin to echo in your head as the calm frenzy of a day on the water sinks in. At first the novice Bonefisher may not have a clue what he is casting to and will be placing blind trust on the Guide. Not a bad thing to do – as their years of experience and high vantage point mean that they will be able to spot fish fifty yards away – fish that you would never see.
He will tell you where to cast and how far – and then “Wait, Wait, Strip, Strip, Slowly, Stop, Strip, He’s got it!” at which point you should strip-strike and the fish will be on. Sometimes you wont’ have a clue where the fish was . . . . . but sometimes you will!
Bonefishing is a mixture of trust, spotting and skill. Trust your guide, Spot your fish and have the Skill to cast, present the fly and hook and land the fish. If you are new to the game you will not be able to spot a thing until the fish is nearly upon you, so the guide will be your eyes, but as time progresses the mists will lift and you will begin to spot the fish too, sometimes even before your guide! To enjoy the sport fully you should be able to single and double haul to get a long line out quickly and gently, but generally if you can get an 8-weight floating line out 20 yards you will be in the money nine times out of ten (longer casts are the exception rather than the rule). (If you can double haul 30 yards over your left shoulder into the teeth of a sea breeze then you will be a contender for the Golden Shot and you WILL be at a massive advantage over nearly every other fisherman with you).
Bonefish are like silver ghosts in the water.
|Their scale colours and patterns (colours which can change depending upon the conditions in the sea) makes spotting them almost impossible. Their silver sides act like mirrors and reflect everything around them, whilst their back patterns blend superbly into the flats bed – so you rely on their shadows. These shadows are usually the only initial give-away to spotting the Bonefish and it is these that you must train your eyes for. When the hot Bahamian sun is up and beating down – the sea and flats light up and the fish become visible as their shadows flit and move across the bottom.|
Then, the sun can go behind a cloud – and the lights will switch off – 100 fish only 30 feet away suddenly disappear in front of your very eyes.Spot the shadows, find the fish and fix on it – take your eyes away for an instant and 9 times out of 10 it will have disappeared when you look up. As you progress and gain experience you begin to find that your lights can be switched on as well – and you too can spot the fish – but never as well as the guide (hell, – if you could spot a tenth of the fish that the Guide spots you would be good)! What you will find however is that when your guide says “Big bone, 30 feet, 11 o’clock” you can say – “Got him” and cast.
You never know you may even hear ‘Good Spot’ when you point to a fish out there that he didn’t see (but he was probably not looking at the time to be honest)!
Note for the worldly wise – invest in a great pair of polarised sunglasses – don’t be afraid of spending well on these as it can make the difference between spotting fish and not seeing a thing.
Picture the scene. The saltwater flats glitter in the hot Bahamian sun as the boat slowly manoeuvres through the channels.
There is total peace as the white eagles ride the thermals overhead, the only sound being the gentle lapping of the water as the pole is raised and lowered back into the water moving the boat slowly forwards. The mangroves to the left and ahead sway gently in the breeze and swarm with insect life, giving shelter to the blue shape of a Barracuda as it hangs in the water awaiting its lunch. The black shape of a small shark makes you raise your rod to cast as you see it slowly cruising through the water, but you then realise that it isn’t your expected quarry and you lower your rod and resume your search for the shadows.
Then ahead and you see them, hundreds of silver and black tails standing proud of the water reflecting the hot sun, flicking and wavering as the Bonefish burrow and feed on the crabs and shrimp life in the sandy mud bed. At first you can only marvel at the sight as the fish move across their underwater dinner table, and then of course when your guide has poled the boat closer you raise the rod and cast to the edge of the group and slowly strip. . strip . . .STRIKE.
Bonefishing In Andros
This has to be some of the most spectacular fishing on the planet. Be warned however that once smitten (as I well and truly am) your other fishing may be ruined forever, as nothing compares to the thrill and beauty of Bonefishing in Andros. If you are looking for Tarpon and Permit here you may look for a very long time, but if you are looking to hook into six or more Bones a day ranging from (what seems to be a minimum) of 3lbs to well over 6lbs . . 8lbs . . and the rest, then this is the place to be.
|Don’t forget that there are other species there as well – and if you haven’t fly fished for Barracuda – I suggest that you try it as it is great fun! Be prepared for some fantastic sport on the fly and some great evenings with the rest of the Bonefishing party as you relax in the evenings with a drink and a smile.|
From the UK there are regular flights to both Nassau and Fort Lauderdale, from there fly to Congo Town airport on Andros. The lodge can organise taxis or transport from Congo Town airport to the Lodge.
Beware of your luggage allowance – some of the (smaller) flights may impose a weight limit – therefore be prepare to pare your luggage down to a minimum – but remember – unless you are planning to hoot it up in Nassau – fishing gear and casuals are the order of the day – and the lodge has a laundry service as well.
Make sure that you have travel insurance. Remember that you will NOT be able to take any fishing gear on the flight as hand luggage (rods, reels, lines, flies, etc) – so pack carefully and well – and remember to pack the rods in tubes or in a Kis case. The lodge has spare gear that can be bought if required.