Bahamas Bonefish Log - Long
Thursday September 1, 2005 – Monday September 5th, 2005
Headed over to the Bahamas with my eleven year old daughter,nephew and his dad Scott.The trip was Maggie and Matt’s reward for nailing straight A’s last year in the 5th grade. The kids practiced fly casting diligently over the summer and endured numerous strategy sessions with both dads. By the time the trip rolled around it was hard to tell who was more excited about the trip, the kids or the dads. Since we had the kids this would not be the typical hardcore trip where we fished from 6 to 6 instead we planned on fishin 5 to 6 hours a day. Our main goal was to spend some quality time with the kids walking the flats. Although the kids are getting better with the long rod our goal was to pair off and go over the basics of presenting, stripping, hooking and playing the fish. This meant that we would more than likely end of casting the fly and let them do the rest.
The week leading up to the trip, as with all September trips was nerve wracking. Two systems had developed off of the coast of Africa but fortunately both had either broken up or headed out to the North Atlantic toward Bermuda. The night before we left Radar looked good and I was hopeful that the weather curse (4 straight trips) would be lifted. It seems like it has been forever since I have seen Blue skies and sub 10 mph winds.
Weather: Cloudy (70%)with scattered Sun (30%)
Wind: Non existent
LT 1:17am, HT 7:10 am, LT 1:09 pm, HT 7:34 pm
We touched down at the Airport at 10:15 and were in the rental car and on our way to the Flats by 11:30. As with all of my previous visits the drive to the Flats on that first day seemed to take forever. I am not sure of the KMPH to MPH conversion is but I am sure that 135 KMPH is definitely over the recommended speed for a 2000 Nissan Sentra with 137,000 Miles on it.
We arrived at the “Dogleg” Flat by 12:30 and were rigged and on the water by 1:00. The skies were partly cloudy and we had plenty of “Ambient Light”. This light combined with a 4 mph wind out of the North made the conditions excellent for spotting fish. Since Low tide was at 1:09 the flat was empty. We started to walk the outside Bar and focused on the cuts that led up to the flat. Scott came up with a very effective tactic in which I shall call the “Borders Method” (I’m sure this isn’t ground breaking but since Scott introduced me to the tactic he gets credit). Scott stationed himself on the shallow edge of an ocean side cut and would focus on the deep blue water that met the portion of the flat that turned white. You could clearly see fish moving from the deeper water into the intermediate water. This area was deeper than the water that we traditionally spot the fish while wading, but the smooth as glass surface really allowed us to see into this water even without light. I accused Scott of secretly reading Brown and Kaufman’s books he denied it. I of course know that he is lying. Scott and I each end up landing 2 nice sized fish. This along with numerous missed opportunities kept us busy. The air and water temp was hot so it made sense to work the outside bar where the cooler ocean water was flowing onto the flat. We fished until five and then headed back to Iza’s where we had a fine Chicken dinner.
Weather: Cloudy (80%) with scattered Sun (20%)
Wind: Non existent
LT 1:53am, HT 7:49 am, LT 1:50 pm, HT 8:11 pm
Woke up to an overcast sky that had rain written all over it. We loaded up the car and headed to Pat’s Creek. This flat is bordered by a shallow creek on one end and runs for a good 2 miles to a rocky point that has permit written all over it. I have been dreaming about this flat for the last five months since I first ran across it last April. The conditions in April included overcast skies and 30 mph winds. We could only manage 1 fish between three anglers and we excited that the count was that high. Today was better wind wise but the clouds and weather ended up being awful. Once we arrived at the parking spot it became clear that no one had accessed this flat via foot since the last time we were here – weeds and sandspurs had grown to a height of four feet. The sun appeared as we were gearing up and it seemed as if the temp hit 180 degrees while we were rigging the gear for ourselves and the kids. After a brisk 50 yard walk down a little used footpath we arrived at the Flat. We had been on the flat for ten minutes when the rain started. Instead of risking the trek back down the trail we decided to wait it out on the flat. To my delight this turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip for the kids. It rained for a good hour and 15 minutes, but the wind stayed down and it actually cooled the flat down considerably. The rain stopped and we had flashes of sun which allowed me spot and stalk a group of four Bonefish moving across a “pan” portion of the flat. I could not get the fish to turn and finally managed to get a shot perpendicular to the fish on the right. The fly landed three feet to the right of him and he attacked it and almost flipped over while pinning it to the ground. Scott also picked up a nice Bone on the same flat. After missing two feeding Bones in 7 inches of water I spotted a Tom Tom that looked to be about 2 and half feet long. One well placed cast later and I managed to foul hook the thing which resulted in every Bonefish on the flat taking off (Scott never thanked me, but I know he was appreciative). After that we lost the sun again so we decided against pushing further towards the point. Scott decided to stake out the far end of the creek where it dish panned out onto the flat. Scotts yellow lens gave him a strong advantage especially since the black clouds were blocking almost all of the ambient light. I had on my photo chromic Clearwater coppers but they simply were not as effective when the low black clouds hung over the flat. I could spot fish but it was always once they were within 20 feet. Frustrated I worked my way back up to the creek. I stood back on the sandy dry potion of the flat and I managed to pick up two fish cruising in the shin deep channel that ran parallel to the main channel (The beauty of hooking a Bonefish in the fast moving water pouring out of the creek is that 4 pound fish suddenly feel like 8 pound fish) before the light made it impossible to see. I saw plenty of fish here and had a number of presentations as did Scott. Proximity to the village might have something to do with this. It was probably a mistake to stick with the #2 Silly Gotcha with large Bead chain eyes. I think a smaller fly with mini or mono/no eyes would have probably yielded more fish. Then again the moment I switch to a #4 or #6 I know that a double digit bone will cruise by. We ended up the day at J's Conch Stand in town – let me tell you this guy gets it when it comes to Conch salad. He uses 21/2 conchs in each salad so the bowl is 75% conch. Perfect!
LT 2:27am, HT 8:27 am, LT 2:29 pm, HT 8:45 pm
Weather: AM Sun (80%) &PM Cloudy (100%) with scattered
Wind: Non existent
Woke up to serious cloud cover again (this would turn out to be the start of the formation of Tropical depression Nate). Turned on the TV and as if on cue the first thing that I see is a picture of Jesus walking across what looks like a massive Bonefish flat on one of the Christian Cable Networks. If this is not a sign from above - I reason, I do not know what is. I proceed to wake up Matt, Maggie, and Scott but they seem skeptical. We arrive at Desitin Alley and as we rig I restate my firm belief that Bonefish do indeed hug the shoreline during certain parts of the high tide. Scott assures me that he believes me even though I seem to only encounter this situation when I am alone. The plan for today is to walk the beach for a mile or so and then turn around and wade back. Scott & Matt confirm my shoreline theory within the first 10 minutes of the walk by hooking and landing a nice Bone. We walk another half mile and then make our way to the outside Bar. Scott actually starts to work the middle bar but it proves too deep to spot fish. The outside bar is different story. Scott and I proceed to have what I would consider one of the best days wading that I have ever had. I lost count but my best guess is 14 fish between the two of us. The vast majority of these fish were all taken using the “Borders Technique”. The fish coming from the deeper water were absolutely attacking the flies when presented in front of them. I also managed my first double hook up after 32 trips (Now that’s what I call a curse). These fish came as the water was falling and they were stacked up on the middle bar feeding out. I spotted them – Scott and I each got our flies in front of the school within seconds of each other and we were on! We handed the rods off to Matt and Maggie and they played the fish to the beach. It was Nirvana, absolute Nirvana. We lost the sun shortly after that and decided to make our way back to Dogleg to finish the day. I think that Scott and I each picked up one more Bone before calling it a day. We showed back up at J's for the traditional Conch salad and Fritters. I think J was a wee bit disappointed that we did not bring back any additional Conch from the flats and as punishment our conch salads shrank considerably in size. We finished the night off with a trip to the straw market where Matt practiced his negotiating skills and Maggie got her hair braided, Scott and I took the opportunity to down some some cold Kalik's and burned a couple of Cigars to celebrate the end of a great day on the flats.
Weather: Cloudy (70%) with scattered Sun (30%)
Wind: Light in the am – we were on the Lee side, 10 mph pm
LT 3:00am, HT 9:03 am, LT 3:07 pm, HT 9:19 pm
How could we not go back to Desitin Alley? After the day we had previously and another weather forecast that indicated heavy cloud cover. Desitin Alley was really our only option. Instead of getting on the flat immediately Scott and I decide to push all the way to the point. After walking for a good half hour to 45 minutes we reach a spot where the shoreline becomes Rocky and the flat was intersected by some fairly deep cuts and correspondingly high sand bars. We are greeted by a five foot Lemon/Blacktip shark that came a little to close for comfort and continued to hang around in the general vicinity. We send the kids back to shore where they busy themselves hunting Hermit/Blue/Ghost/ crabs while Scott and I stake positions on the Middle bar. Within 10 minutes I have a shot at a nice double. My presentation is right on the money but I strip to fast and pull the fly out of the Bonefish’s mouth and they disappear back into the trough. Another group of 4 Bonefish make their way towards me and once again I get off a nice presentation but pull the fly out of the fish mouth. The fish semi spook and disappear into the trough. At this point I turn to Scott and tell him that I have missed to fish and I wonder if I am stripping to fast. He tells me it looks that way and I thank him for waiting until I have lost two fish to bring that to my attention. I turn the other way and scan back towards town, after 10 minutes or so I turn back toward Scott and I see 4 Bonefish headed directly towards me 30 feet away. I make a short cast to the larger fish on the right and he swings in directly behind my fly, I of course am still stripping to fast and proceed to pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth again. Fortunately the Bonefish Gods are smiling and the fish goes after my fly again and this time I actually manage to set the hook. 10 minutes later I bring a nice fat 24 inch (Tip to fork) Bonefish in. Maggie and I continue to push to the East while Scott and Matt stake out an intersection. I end up catching three more fish, and Scott at least equals that number before we head back to Dogleg to finish up the day. Once at Dogleg, the conditions deteriorated with the wind kicking up and the sun becoming a distant memory. Scott bagged another Bonefish and repeatedly reminded me that he could indeed see better with his Yellow Costa Del Mars in low light conditions. As much as it pains me to admit it, He is 100% correct when it’s late in the day and the sun is covered or low – yellow gives one a clear advantage. Since I cannot see I make my way back up towards the shallow pools near shore. I spotted and presented to 1 nice tailing fish (at least 5 different shots) but eventually spooked him with a shot about five feet in front of him. I also had one more shot at a fish in which I presented the fly at least 10 feet ahead of him and it spooked him as well. In hindsight – I have to start using weightless flies when fishing in ultra skinny water. Passed on J’s today – we had some Pork waiting for us back at Iza’s.
Weather: Cloudy and raining. TS Nate is gaining strength.
Today was considered the bonus day – Our flight did not leave the Airport until 6:20 pm. So we planned to fish until 3:00. The weather had other plans. The overcast conditions and rain over the last week have really cooled the Island down. The outdoor Temp gage read 81 degrees at 9:45 am. This would undoubtedly bring the Bonefish up on the flats but the steady rain and wind made it to nasty to even try to bonefish. So of course, we suited up and headed to the flats again. We got out of the car but after getting our rods rigged we realized that the kid’s teeth were chattering. We called off the last day of fishing and decided to explore some other potential flats.
Observations, Random thoughts, etc…
Weather – Despite overcast conditions we still managed to see and land a good number of fish. The combination of high clouds at times along with no wind allowed us to consistently spot and present to fish.
Glasses: I have to get a pair of quality yellow lenses. Not sure if my eyes are getting worse but my Rose Maui Jims seem to live in the bag. The Smith AA Clearwater Copper are excellent and I have worn them on all four trips this year, but I think that yellow would greatly improve my early am, late pm and overcast sight fishing ability.
The more I fish the less I believe that the fly pattern is as important as how the fly is weighted (Scott would disagree with me on this). I started off with a #2 Gamakatsu Silli Leg Super Gotcha. I later switched to a #2 Gamakatsu Gotcha Clouser with a 2 inch tail. Both consistently produced when presented correctly. It seems like two years since I have thrown anything smaller than a #2. I am just not willing to risk having a #6 sized fly on when double digit bones are present. In the future I will however, switch down to smaller flies with no weighting when presenting to fish in super skinny water. I do need to tie some Crab patterns as well – this might be a good solution for the super spooky shallow water bones.
When fishing the leeward side of the Island, even when light is low Bonefish can be spotted when using the Borders Technique.
I can still do a much better job of forcing myself off of the outer bar and fishing the middle and shore zone. I know the fish are there it’s just hard to pull off of that ultra productive outer zone. Fishing close to shore could give another 2 to 3 hours of productive fishing at high tide. This trip saw us catch 80% of our fish in the outer zone.
Could have landed another nine or ten nice fish if I could throw a curve cast. Between the two of us we landed two fish that were going away (both of those flies landed perpendicular and off to the side of the fish). The fish may not spook when a fly is dragged towards it but it definitely reduces the chances of a hook up.
High percentage Shots:
Swimming directly at me
Swimming Towards me at an angle
Moving from deep to shallow water
Moving onto the flat across the shallow edge of the bar
Groups of three or more
Low percentage shots
Fish was swimming away
Fish was swimming in front and the shot went across his nose
Fish was in skinny water against the shore
Overall the trip was awesome – the Bonefish were simply a bonus. The time that I spent with Maggie talking about school, life, dreams (thank goodness not boys yet) and her aspirations were absolutely priceless.
Last edited by mdbones; 09-12-2005 at 10:53 PM. Reason: Added pic
Long read, but interesting. That's a nice fish in the pic too! How long is it and how much did it weigh?
My passion for catching fish is eclipsed only by the fish's passion not to be caught.
The fish was 24 inches from nose to fork. I would guess somewhere between 7 and eight pounds. It seems like I have hit the wall recently with all of my big fish being in the 24 to 25 inch range. Granted, I could have worse problems but its driving me nuts!
He ate a 2 inch long #2 Gotcha Clouser with XL beadchain eyes.
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