Welcome to The Bonefish Flat

There's a stiff wind in your face as you squint in the sun trying to see what the guide sees. "Bonefish at 12 o'clock about 90 feet, do you see it, mon?" You don't and keep squinting, your hat pulled low to keep the sun out of your eyes. "Bonefish at 11 o'clock 70 feet out. Come on man, do you see it?" As the guide is calmly shifting the skiff into position, this time you spot the fish, "I got, it," you reply.

"OK, Mon, Bonefish 50 feet at 10 o'clock. Cast when you're ready."

Cast when you're ready. And with that you drop your fly, roll out a cast, false cast once, and then...

Welcome to the bonefish flat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Long Island Bonefishing Report March 4-9, 2012

I travelled to Long Island, Bahamas on March 4-9 as part of a writer’s week hosted by the Long Island Bonefish Lodge.  The conditions were tough, but my new friend Glenn Pittard from Midcurrent had the best perspective on the elements.  He said,

Travelling anglers have to play the hand they are dealt.  If you’re fishing at home and the weather is bad, you can go fishing another day.  When you’ve travelled and have a set time to fish, you have to go fishing.

Long Island, Bahamas.

I arrived on Sunday, March 4 to weather that was postcard perfect.  Hot sun and a cool breeze spelled a great week ahead.  Several of us even did some bonefishing on the flats near the lodge.  Sitting on a plane for a few hours coupled with the thought that bonefish are swimming outside your front door calls people like us to ation.  We really didn’t know the tides so we wanted to scout the area.  I was thinking, “How cool would it be to leave Washington, D.C. in the morning and catch a Long Island Bonefish before dinner?”

Bonefishing before dinner.

March 5
I woke up early with great expectations. From my bed I looked out the window for more of those postcard skies.  Instead, wind gusts made the palm trees sway back and forth against the gray sky. My first bonefishing trip looked like this and I knew it didn’t look good, but I also came to fish and didn’t plan on wasting a minute worrying about weather.  It would clear up and blow out, right?  I got my flats gear on, slathered up the sunscreen, and met my fellow comrades around 6:00 for a cup-of-joe.

In the lodge, Pinky informed the group that the wind was going to be blowing steady all day and that it was going to do so until Thursday.  My optimism told me that a cold front would only last a day or so and that today might be tough, but I had plenty of time.  We ate breakfast and walked out to the boats where we split up, braved the elements, and went bonefishing. 

Once out on the flat, I quickly saw a fish. But… my quarry swam upwind into what felt like a 20 mph wind.  I took a shot but the wind grabbed my line and pulled the fly way off target, and the fish spooked.  Even though I missed, I still felt confident because I was seeing fish.  If you’ve done this before, you know that’s not always easy. 

My boat had two fellow anglers.  Pinky, our guide, waded with me while Rod Hamilton (DIY Flats Fishing) and Don Causey (Angling Report) waded together. 

Pinky quickly spotted another fish for me, but he was headed away from me. I paused hoping he would come back.  But as bonefish will do, he slowly worked his way away from me up the shoreline.  With no real shot, that was the last fish I would see that day.  The clouds continued to role in and the wind picked up.  By the end of the day, we were facing 30 mph winds.

Rod spotted a fish early for Don which lead to a good hookup.  Back at the lodge, a few guys had caught fish but most of us were left with anticipation for tomorrow.  

March 6
Woke up again to gray skies and more wind.  (Are you getting the pattern yet?)  Today, Pinky had a new plan. We headed south by way of a van with a trailer full of kayaks to fish more secluded and protected flats.

The area we were fishing was really an elaborate maze of canals, roads, and flats that had been used as part of an aquaculture endeavor.  The plan was to raise red drum and shrimp and use them for food.  The project didn’t work out, but instead resulted in an area with protected bonefish flats and canals full of baby tarpon.

One spot held rolling baby tarpon of a decent size.  Several of us made a few casts at the tarpon, but nothing bit. A couple of us made our way around the canal that eventually flowed to the beach.  The beach was beautiful and just like you imagine in those commercials you see all winter, but still the wind howled. 

Beach on Long Island.  Notice the gray sky.

We headed back to the canals where a few of the guys had luck with some juvenile tarpon next to an old lock.  A perfect way to save an otherwise fishless day.  And, now I can say I’m a tarpon fisherman, right?  I will say that for such small fish, these little tarpon still jumped three feet out of the air when hooked.  This is a really neat thing to see. 

Don't Laugh.  In 30 year's he'll be a monster.

The day was tough and the wind kept up along with occasional rain.  We fished until about 3:00 and headed back to the lodge.

March 7
Today the sun was out, but the wind still blew at strong clip.  I was optimistic.  Wind, rain, and clouds are next to impossible.  But a little sun, I thought, just might save the day.  We started the day by fishing a few new flats near the lodge while the rest of the group travelled back to the flats we fished the day before. I had two days left so I wanted to be on more traditional bonefish flats as much as possible.  I figured that by staying close, it would give me more fish-time which might increase my odds. When I say new flats, there are literally countless flats in the Deadman’s Cay area, so you could fish here a month and never be in the same place.

Around mid-morning I waded a flat near the lodge that was divided by a creek flowing onto the bigger flat. I finally saw a bonefish moving my way.  I made a cast and watched him charge my fly.  Strip…strip…and game on.  The fish made a great run and I fought him quickly and landed my bonefish.  We continued fishing, but the wind was a constant 20-25 mph.  It was darn tough to see anything.

Me and my bonefish.

Around 4:00 the conditions were just too tough.  We called it a day and headed back to the lodge for conch fritters and cold Kalik.  Finally I had a fish story to tell. 

March 8
Final day and the sun was out again.  The weather seemed like we might get a break.  Three of us headed out early with Leonardo, dubbed D-Cap by Tom Bie of the Drake, to try and catch a good tide.  You have to be careful with nicknames in the Bahamas.  They tend to stick around.  Just ask Pinky. 

It turned out that the tides weren’t quite right and we ended up on a flat at high tide.  In this case it meant the fish were smack in the middle of the mangroves.  And then, of course, clouds moved in and out and a rain cloud came up. 

My rain jacket was in the boat where I’m sure it kept the boat really dry.  Myself, on the other hand, got soaked without it.  To think, I almost left that jacket at home.  Let that be a lesson for you all!

D-Cap moved us around to another flat where we saw nothing happening.  This flat was spectacularly beautiful but with the consistency of quicksand.  Each step sucked your leg down to the knee.  It would have been perfect for a super skinny Hell’s Bay skiff.  But alas, we slogged and didn’t see any fish.  Then it started raining so we headed to the boat and headed out.  

This time D-Cap wanted to make a side trip.  “We need conch for dinner so I’m gonna go dive for conch in the ocean.”  I’m a huge fan of conch, and the fishing just wasn’t happening, so it was really cool to actually go get our conch.  D-Cap dived for the conch and we ended up grabbing a few out of shallow water. 

Leonardo "D-Cap" diving for conch.
Don with a big conch.  You gonna eat that?

We tried another flat but the wind was an honest 30 mph.  In addition, the blowing wind all week had churned up the flats from gin clear to more of a turquoise cloud.  We weren’t going to catch anything, so it was time to head to the lodge and crack the conch.  D-Cap schooled me in the fine art of conch cracking and then was kind enough to make conch salad.  Man, that stuff is so good.  Washed down with a cold Kalik, it saved the day. 

Finished product.  Conch Salad

The fishing was as tough as you’ll ever see during writer’s week.  One member of our group fished the week before and did catch a lot of fish.  I strongly believe that the flat’s of Deadman’s Cay are full of bonefish.  I also believe that our weather was out of the norm.  Although I would recommend going in April, May, or June.  

I play the percentages, and Long Island is far enough South that cold fronts are not usual.  Unfortunately, the weather this week just "blew" so we had to make the best of it. 

Long Island Bonefishing Club offers a unique lodge experience.  If you have a few trips under your belt, it’s a good way to save a few dollars and to elevate your bonefishing game.  Catching a bone while wading that you’ve spotted on your own is the next level in bonefishing. Long Island Bonefishing can help make this challenge a reality.  They help take the guesswork out of tides and provide boats to move you around the flats.  A task virtually impossible without local knowledge (and a boat). 

The food at the lodge and the accommodations are top notch.  In fact, I haven’t eaten that well for a whole week in a while. 

A big thank you to Nevin “Pinky” Knowles for hosting the trip and a big thank you to Rod Hamilton of DIY Flats Fishing for organizing the group and including me.  Even though the fishing was tough, the trip was truly memorable. 

1 comment:

  1. First of all, I love that photo of the baby tarpon. Sometimes the miniature guys make for the best photos.

    Despite the weather (not much you can do when it's blowing 30 knots), it looks like an amazing place to fish and a very good lodge. I love the "assisted DIY" concept and the idea of baby tarpon-filled canals.

    Great report.