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Guide to the Bahamas

TheFlyShop ISSUE NO.

guide to

the Bahamas

.com

THIRTY SIX

2021 Fly Fishing Destinations T H E F LY S H O P ISSUE 36 2021

When & Where toGo in the Bahamas

An insightful look into pursuing bonefish with a fly rod

Discover the top lodges, and learn a bunch about fly fishing in the Bahamas


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This magazine is dedicated to helping you spot the right place in the

Bahamas!

At last count, there were 76 lodges in the Bahamas and several hundred independent guides. There are more than 20 “fishing lodges” on Andros Island O B V I O U S L Y , S O M E destinations are alone. Add to that number all of the hotels and resorts better than others; some locations are more appropriate or attractive to particular fishthroughout the Bahamas catering to the occasional ermen, fit their budget or match their interangling guest and the choices are staggering. ests. Considerations that should weigh into the choice include the time of the season, The Fly Shop® is here to help. availability, level of accommodations, the quality of the guides, the price of the package, and the style of the fishing. Helping you wade through those issues and making the right decision for you and your friends is where we come in. The Fly Shop® represents the fourteen top lodges in the Bahamas. They’re a terrific cross-section that bridges the islands from the far north of Abaco and Grand Bahama to the southernmost angling on Acklins. We’re proud our portfolio of lodges includes the best of the Bahamas and are confident every place we recommend delivers a first-class experience. The Fly Shop® was there when Deep Water Cay was a private club and Charlie’s Haven was the only alternative on Andros. We’ve matured with the sport and are partially responsible for both the rise in bonefishing popularity and the exponential growth of saltwater angling. Along the way we developed an enviable reputation as experts and as people you can turn to for reliable help and honest answers to your questions and travel alternatives. Our team has spent, collectively, a lifetime doing the groundwork, the homework, and the hard work so you won’t have to waste your time researching the difference between the right lodge and Shinola®. The Fly Shop® team will help you pick the right place, the one that matches your interests and your budget. We’ll make sure you show up at the right time, prepared with the information that’ll make travel easier, and with the gear you need and little else. That assistance doesn’t cost a cent and, in the unlikely event that there are problems along the way, The Fly Shop® will have your back.

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You supply the passion. We’ll help you find all the right places!

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Bahamas Update Two years ago many of the islands surrounded by some of the most popular bonefishing flats on Earth were devastated by Hurricane Dorian T H I S N E W M A G A Z I N E is dedicated exclusively to fly fishing in the Bahamas. But days before it was scheduled to print in the fall of 2019, Hurricane Dorian, a catastrophic, category 5 cyclone packing 185 mph winds hammered the Caribbean. It stalled over Grand Bahama and destroyed much of the island. More than 84 confirmed deaths and 245 people went missing, and the tiny island nation suffered over $5.1 billion in damages. Deep Water Cay Club, arguably one of the most famous bonefish lodges in the world and neighboring East End Lodge were reduced to splinters by Dorian. Oliver White’s Abaco Lodge was literally wiped off the map, and Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge on Crown Point suffered major damage. But, just a few miles away the luxurious Delphi Club didn’t lose a shingle. Likewise the popular North Riding Point Club and H2O Bonefishing (Pelican Bay Resort) were spared completely. Go figure. Some lodges (Abaco Lodge, Deep Water Cay Club and a few others) will never be rebuilt. Surprisingly, most of the Bahamas (Andros and the “Out Islands”) avoided the ravages of Dorian completely. Bahamians are resilient, and have been through hurricanes before! Not surprisingly, most spots that took indirect hits were rebuilt quickly.

Then, like much of the world, just as they began to recover from the hurricane, Bahama tourism was gut punched by the Coronavirus and the tiny island nation was locked down for much of the past year. Folks like Robert Neher (East End Lodge) took advantage of the down time, rebuilt their operations, and reopened this spring having added four double rooms, six (single) premium rooms, a larger dining and bar area, and expanded outdoor seating. Mangrove Cay, Andros South, North Riding Point, and all the other great lodges used the opportunity to make their places better than ever, and prepare for this next year. The fish have been left unmolested for the greatest part of the last two years and angling should now be better than ever! What’s happening right now is: As of August 6, 2021, those travelling to the Bahamas from other countries who have been fully vaccinated will be required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test (Rapid Antigen or PCR Test), taken no more than five (5) days prior to the date of arrival. For more information about COVID-19 requirements and the re-opening of the Bahamas, you can visit their website at https://www.bahamas.com/travelupdates If you’d like to learn more about the Bahama’s bonefishing opportunities, pricing, availability, or other details, just give us a call. We’re the experts and we’re here to help! Pat Pendergast, Director The Fly Shop International Travel pat@theflyshop.com

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Little Bahama Bank

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Grand Bahama 6

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● freeport

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Florida

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marsh harbour

Great Abaco

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Bimini Island

Berry Islands

Straits of Florida nicholls town ●

nassau ●

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Eleuthera

New Providence Andros 1

● andros town ● ● ●

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Cat Island ● congo town ● ●

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Tongue of the Ocean

San Salvador Great Exuma

Rum Cay

● george town

Long Island

Great Bahama Bank

Crooked Island

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Acklins Islands

Ragged Island

Cuba T H E F LY S H O P ’ S S E L E C T I O N O F B A H A M A F LY F I S H I N G L O D G E S

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Andros Island Bonefish Club

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There are nearly 1,000 square miles of flats surrounding Andros Island

Andros South Lodge

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This part of Andros Island is far off the beaten path and anglers interested in a remote bonefish adventure should take a serious look.

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Bair's Lodge

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Bair's lodge is situated on the east side of South Andros, between Deep Creek and Little Creek.

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Crooked & Acklins Trophy Lodge

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These shallow, firm flats are home to abundant schools of bonefish averaging three to four pounds, and a ten pound fish is a daily possibility.

East End Lodge

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East End Lodge is a new flats fishing lodge located at the far east end of Grand Bahama Island

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H2O Bonefishing

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First and foremost, H2O Bonefishing is about flats fishing for bonefish.

Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge

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Located in the fishing village of Crown Haven on Little Abaco Island. Bonefish, barracuda, sometimes permit and tarpon can be found.

Mangrove Cay Club

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Andros Island is divided almost in the middle by the North, Middle and South Bights.

Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge

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Mars Bay is at the southern end of Andros, and have the closest access to miles of hard sand flats, where schools of bonefish roam the flats.

10 Soul Fly Fishing Lodge

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This new lodge will finally allow anglers a chance to fish the hallowed flats of the famed Berry Islands.

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11 North Riding Point Club

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North Riding Point Club is located on 6 acres of pristine, beach-front property on the southern shore of Grand Bahama

12 Robby's Place

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Located on the far northern tip of Andros Island, allowing the best access to the remote, pristine, endless miles of hard white sand flats known as the Joulters.

13 Swain's Cay Lodge

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A true escape to peace and tranquility situated on a pristine white sand beach laced with swaying coconut palms and gin-clear water.

14 The Delphi Club

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The fabled Marls on the west side of Abaco offer more than 200 square miles of backcountry bone fishing flats, just minutes from the lodge.


The Bahamas has it all!

When it comes to spectacular bonefishing opportunities, outstanding lodges, skilled guides, and a wide range of flats experiences tailored for both experts and beginners, the Bahamas sets the standard.

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It’s true that Bahamian bonefish aren’t as WHEN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS big as those found in the Florida Keys. But, set foot on the tiny island of San Salvador on the average, they’re good-sized fish, far in 1492 he was glad to see terra firma. He more easily caught, and found in far greater knew where he’d been, but not where he numbers in the Bahamas than Florida. was. Chris sailed away from the Bahamas Too, there is very little argument among in search of where he wanted to be, the experienced anglers that the chance to West Indies (Spice Islands) without knowland a true trophy bonefish (8 -10 pounds) ing the globe was bigger around than he is probably better on the flats that surthought, and that he hadn’t a prayer in round Grand Bahama Island or Andros hell of ever hitting his target. than any other saltwater Fast forward five centuries destination in the western and you’ll find that the spice in The Fly Shop® doesn’t hemisphere. the lives of many modern day pretend, or to try to be There are fewer footsaltwater fly rodders is boneprints in the sands of the fish, and that the Bahamas is all things to all anglers, “Out Islands” and, for the most reliable spot on Earth and our portfolio of whatever reason, the repto find them. utation of the more isoThe Bahama archipelago is Bahamas destinations lated and difficult to reach an ecological oasis sprinkled includes only what locations include larger over 100,000 square miles of numbers of less sophistishallow sea, with more than we’ve found to be the cated bonefish. 700 islands and over 2,400 top-rated lodges in the Add to that the fact that islets and cays (only about 30 few great fly fishing destiof which are inhabited). Caribbean island nation. nations beyond our The flats of the Bahamas coastal borders are easier appear to have been customto reach. There are convenient daily tailored by Mother Nature for fly fisherflights and regularly scheduled charters men, and the fishable area of the Bahamas from Florida and New York, and the eastdwarfs the combined size of the all of the ern seaboard to the main Bahama islands. flats of Belize, Honduras, and the the enQuite a few of the lodges featured in this tire Mexican Yucatan. magazine can be reached in a single day There’s something in the Bahamas for from nearly anyplace in the lower fortyeveryone. Serious, hard-core fly fishermen eight states and many returning travellers can find just the kind of action they’re after, clear U.S. Customs and Immigration while while anglers travelling with their family or in Freeport or Nassau, and hit the ground non-fishing companions have several choices running in the States. No lines; no waitthat will put a smile on the face of everyone. ing; no hassle. The Fly Shop® doesn’t pretend, or to try Earl Cohen photo to be all things to all anglers. The portfolio of top-tier Bahamas lodges in this magazine only includes those time-tested destinations we’ve visited and that have proven to be up to the most discriminating standards — ours. - Mike Michalak

Wading for bones on the west side of Andros in ‘81.

Mike Michalak is the proud owner of The Fly Shop®. He began fly fishing the salt and took his first bonefishing trip to the Bahamas in 1978, soon after expanding the famous retail store to include what has since become one of the largest fly fishing travel companies in the sport. The Fly Shop® has since been instrumental in the development of a number of the most popular fresh and saltwater lodges in the world fly fishing.

Also featured in this issue Timing your trip to the Bahamas Page 26 We’ve been fishing the Bahamas for over 40 years. We know the right times, moon phases and tides to target in the Bahamas. Put that experience to work for you. Spotting fish on the flats Page 12 Sight fishing for bonefish is the ultimate hunt with a fly rod. We’ll give you tips on how to spot the grey ghost of the flats Gearing Up Page 56 The Fly Shop has been outfitting bonefishers around that world for forty plus years and knows what gear you need to be successful. Wading Tactics Page 54 Wading a skinny water flat, sight fishing for bonefish is what it is all about. We’ll share our tested wading tactics to ensure success. Dressing for the flats Page 42 Wearing the proper flats fishing garb makes a difference – in comfort, sun protection and being a successful bonefisher. Bonefish and Tides Page 16 Now that you have hooked a bonefish, what comes next? We’ll outline what it takes to fight and properly land your fish, so that it can be caught again. Teamwork in the skiff Page 18 You and your guide are a team and with a little pre-fish tune up on expectations and communication, you and your guide will function like a well oiled machine. The right spot to take your family or spouse Page 58 Family vacations to a warm tropical paradise, or the wild maritimes of remote British Columbia and Alaska will keep the entire family entertained, happy and forge strong memories that last a lifetime Choosing the right fly Page 63 Just like choosing the right fishery, guide, moon and tide phases, having a selection of the proper bonefish flies is critical to making your trip successful. These are our favorite patterns. Cover Spectacular macro shot of an Abaco bonefish by talented photographer Matt Jones.

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GRAND BAHAMA

Grand Bahama Island Where bonefishing in the Bahamas all began

Considered one of the best bonefish haunts on Earth half a century ago, most of this island is surrounded by shallow, light-colored flats. It was the logical selection as the site of the first, most deluxe, and the most popular bonefishing resorts created in the Bahamas

If there’s a hometown chosen for the sport of bonefishing, it’d have to be on Grand Bahama! W H E N T H E S P O R T was taking root among spin and fly fishermen in the 1950’s, bonefish lodges started popping up in the Caribbean like mushrooms, and in the most logical places. Cuba was one of them, but that’s a different story. The first great bonefish resort on the Bahamian map was Deep Water Cay Club, and it was a club in every sense of the word. Guest privileges were limited, and it was considered an honor to be invited to fish there. The reason for the choice of location? The flats surrounding this island were perfect for fly fishing and light tackle spin fishing. Half a century later, Deep Water Cay Club is gone. But those flats are still the standard by which all the other bonefish resorts are measured. Freeport (on Grand Bahama) is only 52 miles from Palm Beach, Florida. It has an ultra-modern, international airport and has always been easy to reach from the States. In fact, most East Coast residents can put in a full day of work and still arrive on one of the late evening jet flights scheduled every day of the week. Even those of us out West and in the Rockies can usually make it to Freeport in a single travel day.

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But the main reason fishermen have always flocked to Grand Bahama is that the flats, cays, and islets that flank the entire northern shoreline of the 95-mile-long island are shallow, hard, light-colored, and usually covered with bonefish. The open water separating McClane’s Town (at the east end of Grand Bahama) from Abaco to the northeast, is about 28 miles. Passage is both a sailor’s nightmare and an angler’s dream, because few spots are more than 25 feet deep. The shallow shelf that surrounds nearly all of the north side of Grand Bahama Island is ideal bonefish habitat, and those points where the flats fall off into deep blue water constantly replenish nearly 800 square miles of picture perfect, shallow flats with what seems like a never-ending supply of good-sized bones. There are two outstanding, traditional, bonefish lodges on Grand Bahama Island, a bunch of top quality independent guides, and a fine luxury resort hotel that does a terrific job of catering to fly fishermen. It’s a great spot, and the fish are waiting.

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Grand Bahama came into view below the left wing of the jet as we dropped altitude and began our final approach to Freeport. It was stunning. There were clear, white sand flats that seemed to stretch along the entire island shoreline and across to Abaco. The water was calm and there wasn’t a boat or angler in sight. John Randolph Editor emeritus Fly Fisherman Magazine

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F R E E P O R T, G R A N D B A H A M A I S L A N D

H O Bonefishing 2

Superb angling for very large bonefish and a vast network of superb flats coupled with excellent guides, top-tier skiffs and a luxury resort location with packages that can be custom-tailored!

Freeport, Pelican Bay Resort, and H2O Bonefishing are all very easy to get to from anywhere in the USA! Daily jet flights arrive as late as midnight from many stateside hubs. There’s no need to overnight or waste time in airports on the way to this bonefishing Mecca. at Pelican Bay Resort and H O Bonefishing deliver more than just superb guides and great bonefishing. Their basic package includes guide service, breakfast, lunch, and very nice resort accommodations that can be upgraded to luxurious, or modified to match the needs of anglers who are traveling with non-fishing friends or family. It’s perfect, too, for couples on holiday. T H E

P R O F E S S IO N A L S 2

The deluxe resort amenities include several restaurants, bars, pools, a spa, all only footsteps away from the white sands of Lucaya Beach. s Space at Pelican Bay Resort is not limited, and packages can be modified to share (or not share), guides and accommodations, or upgrade lodging. s It’s the perfect spot for a couple of anglers who want to share a boat and guide and bring along their wives or girlfriends, (or a single angler). s Guests are on their own each evening and can choose to dine at the resort or walk to nearby Count Bassie Square where they’ll find a variety of restaurants, lively bars, a casino, and an evening of entertainment. s Anglers may want a mid-week day (or two) off from flats fishing and just relax, SCUBA dive, snorkel, or head to one of several golf courses. s It’s a super destination for the whole family – with lots of fun things for them to do at the resort or on the island while the guys are out fishing. s

H2O Bonefishing guides meet their anglers at the resort each morning after breakfast. These seasoned, native fly fishing experts can quickly trailer to more than 60 miles of seldom-fished shoreline (West End to Halls Point). Though the island of Freeport is easy to get to, its northern shoreline sees less pressure than most “remote” spots in the Out Islands. In fact, this part of Grand Bahama has the second-largest unbroken stretch of mangroves in the Bahamas (only the West Side of Andros is longer). Grand Bahama runs west to east, sheltering its northern shoreline from the most common tradewinds and helping it enjoy an exceptionally calm, long season. And while other spots lay questionable claim to big fish, recent fishery research has documented that the rugged, mangrove-lined, north shore off Grand Bahama is home to the largest number of true trophy-sized (8 pounds+) bonefish in all of the Bahamas.

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B O N A F I D E F L AT S S P E C I E S

The Mutton Snapper This species most certainly deserves respect.

Bones Bar at Pelican Bay Resort is the unofficial clubhouse for fly fishermen on Grand Bahama Island and the most popular aprés angling rendezvous spot in the Bahamas!

The original super grand slam involved the mutton snapper , M A N G R O V E , G R A Y , Cubera, Lane, Yellowtail, and Mutton are not really household names in sport fishing circles. For the vast majority of anglers who do recognize a name or two, they only conjure up visions of lemon wedges and panko breadcrumbs, proof that they’re more commonly associated with the kitchen than a shallow water flat or reef. Where you live and fish may filter your perspective on snapper, as might your saltwater fly fishing experience.Though the image of these fish as a food-only item will likely never change, a little history of one species in particular might prove this way of thinking to be inaccurate. In any case, of all these very tasty species of fish there is one that stands out, both for its beauty and (more importantly for fly fisherman) its lifestyle, which sets it apart from its snapper brethren. The mutton snapper (as well as the cubera, but that is a different story for another time) is truly far more than just table fare – it is a bona fide flats species. Their range has not changed over the years, though their availability has, and for all intents and purposes they are now extinct from the flats in some of their historic habitat. Case in point – and where it all began for this species on fly – would be the Florida Keys. Not many anglers know the original super grand slam involved the mutton snapper – a bonefish, permit, tarpon and a mutton snapper, all on the same day. The snook has, over time, superseded the now defunct mutton snapper, relegating it to the table rather than maintaining its status as a legitimate flats gamefish. Sad but true. This demotion came about more through necessity than any organized effort, as shallow water muttons gradually disappeared from the Florida Keys flats where they were once seen with enough regularity to warrant recognition and inclusion as a targeted flats species. Their demise

HO G

Photo cour tesy of H 2 O Bonefishing & Greg Vincent photos

The new fleet of H2O Bonefishing tunnel hull skiffs are specifically designed for maneuvering swiftly and silently poling in shallow water. Much of the Grand Bahama experience can be done in shallow water, and on foot covering white sand flats and assisted sharp-eyed guides. Stalking a large bonefish in only inches of water, then watching as that trophy picks up the fly and scurries furiously toward blue water with a roostertail coming off your line is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. Angling guests interested in testing their skills against tarpon, jacks, permit, and other species may opt to travel further to the remote Little Bahama Bank in H2O’s specialized 21´ hybrid skiff/bay boat more appropriate for speed and deeper water. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling package $1,495 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

on the flats is assumed to stem from them being quite literally eaten out of house and home; and that while there are still plenty available in deeper water, those species of muttons inclined to travel the flats have lost the genes that made them do so. There is no scientific proof of this as the cause – such a broad assumption would probably best fit as an educated guess. Regardless of the actual reasons, the net result is that mutton snappers are now a thing of the past on the great flats of the Florida Keys…I would imagine most guides these days have never even seen one on a flat feeding, or tailing, or piggybacking a stingray. Likely only those of the first guard of flats guides still have the memories of this great gamefish on the flats! Yet all is not lost. Anglers do still have a chance to pursue shallow water muttons, but will be largely limited to only two countries to tick their mutton “box”. The Bahamas is one of them – here they are still seen and occasionally even targeted on the flats with the long rod. We at H²O Bonefishing still see the mutton snapper as a true flats fish and our respect for them carries the same weight as their more elevated flats relatives, bonefish and permit. So if your guide ever mentions wanting to take a shot at finding a mutton snapper on the flats, take him up on it. Give this snapper the same respect and consideration in the stalk and capture as you would a permit. It most certainly deserves that respect.

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Greg Vincent

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4 tips for Spotting Bonefish 1 . L ook f or mov e me nt W H E N Y O U F I R S T S E E A B O N E F I S H , it’s very unusual that you actually see the clear

outline of the fish. Bonefish generally first appear as dark spots, moving slowly and steadily. They’re almost always moving, so keep your eyes out for moving dark spots. Ripples on the water and the movement of your boat (if you’re poling) can sometimes make it difficult to tell if that dark spot is actually moving, so if you see a spot that might be a bonefish, try to find another object on the bottom as a reference point, and compare the ‘movement’ of the spot against that point.

2 . L ook whe re y ou ca n se e T H I S M A Y S E E M O B V I O U S A T F I R S T , but you should spend most of your time looking in the direction that you can see. The angle of the sun and the color of the bottom will make for better visibility in one direction and one area – look there! If you can’t see well 100 feet out, look 50 feet out. Focus on the bottom near the boat and slowly raise your field of vision. A periodic quick scan of areas with tough visibility never hurts, but most of the time you should systematically search the areas where you can see well. Don’t waste your time looking where you can’t see.

3 . Pa y a tte ntion to the mud L O O K A T T H E C O L O R O F the diatomaceous marl being kicked up by the guide’s pole, or

the bottom you are disturbing as you wade. It’ll help you sight the location of actively feeding fish.

4. If y ou ca n’ t se e the bottom, look a t the surf a ce Photo cour tesy of H2O Bonefishing

I F C L O U D S A N D / O R G L A R E P R E V E N T you from seeing the bottom, look at the surface of the water. V-wakes, nervous water and certainly tails and/or fins could indicate the presence of bonefish. Cloudy but calm days can actually produce some fantastic fishing if you learn to look for movement on the water rather than trying to look in the water.

Photos cour tesy of Andros South

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GRAND BAHAMAS

North Riding Point Club This luxury lodge rates at the top of the great trophy bonefishing resorts on Grand Bahama Island. Anglers spend their time in seclusion on the legendary flats separating the island from Abaco where bonefish are very, very large on average, with the occasional shot at a true monster! D A W E S , who managed Deep Water Cay Club for decades, left the east end of Grand Bahama Island in the mid 1990’s, taking with him a wealth of accumulated knowledge and the pirated core of his former employer’s guide and kitchen staff. Then, armed with what may have been the most skilled team of flats professionals ever assembled, he set out with a group of investors to set a new standard in saltwater angling resorts.

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North Riding Point chose as its new location a spectacular beach roughly midway between McLean’s Town and Freeport. Every facet of the lodge, the location, the staff, and the services were designed to meet the needs of sophisticated angling travelers searching for a top quality flats experience and when it opened in 1996, North Riding Point Club fulfilled its grand promise to become the “Rolls Royce” of bonefish lodges.

The flats surrounding the northeast flank of Grand Bahama Island rate as among the most beautiful and productive in the world of bonefishing. L O D G E A T N O R T H R I D I N G P O I N T has large living and dining areas, a beautiful oceanfront veranda, well-stocked library, and a first class tackle and gift shop. Accommodations are duplex cottages, all facing south and overlooking the ocean. Each guest cottage has two queen beds, table and chairs, A/C, ceiling fan, full bath, mini-fridge (stocked with water, beer, and soda), a coffee maker, and a private screened veranda. A beautiful oceanfront freshwater swimming pool and patio separates the lodge and guest cottages. On the day it opened its doors, North Riding Point Club easily qualified as one of the finest lodges in the sport. Though deluxe by any standard, the emphasis at NRPC remains focused on providing outstanding fishing, superb guides, state of the art skiffs, and a creative system to offer its clientele miles upon miles picture-perfect flats loaded with trophy bonefish. The guides are waiting after breakfast to load their skiffs with gear, ready to trailer to one of the several ramps on the island. Driving time to the launch sites vary from fifteen to thirty minutes, and runs to the flats are typically 10 to 20 minutes. The flats on the north shore of Grand Bahama offer opportunities to fish for some of the largest bonefish in the Bahamas, many exceeding the ten pound mark.

T H E

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Photos cour tesy of Nor th Riding Point Club

NRPC has developed near-exclusive access to a huge expanse of seldom-fished flats on the northeast side of Grand Bahama Island and the outer cays which separate the island from Abaco. The area is very shallow with a consistently clear bottom, and harbors incredible numbers of trophy bonefish as well as a sizable population of permit. The majority of the fishing is done from the boat, but a great deal of wading opportunities exist for the angler who prefers that method of flats fishing. The lodge uses a fleet of Hell’s Bay Marquesa skiffs powered by 90hp Yamaha outboards, with padded seats, dry storage lockers, a leaning bar on the casting platform, and cellular communication. Guides at North Riding Point Club remain among the best in the Caribbean, They are all talented and experienced, professionals who understand all of the intricacies of putting fly rodders on fish. North Riding Point Club is now a well-established flats lodge with more than two decades of experience under its belt providing anglers with world-class fishing and service. Their location in the middle of Grand Bahama Island affords them quick and easy access to both sides of the island and the daily menu of fishing options is enormous. There are other wonderful choices to be made in the Bahamas, but none that are better than North Riding Point Club. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling packages $2,850 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested. w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m s p h o n e 8 0 0 - 6 6 9 - 3 4 7 4

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Bonefish and Tides A T A N Y G I V E N T I M E , only abut 10% of the fishable water harbors bonefish. So figuring out how to eliminate the fishless 90% from your search area is far more than half the battle. Understanding how bonefish react to tidal flow will go a long way toward finding the productive 10%. A full description of tides is a monumental task, but it is important to know a few basics

Tide Basics Tides can be broken into spring and neap tides. Spring tides relate to the full and new moon stages and are when the highest high and lowest tides of the month happen; and when the difference between high and low tides is greatest. Neap tides occur during the quarter moon stages and are when there is the least difference between high and low tides. There tends to be less water moving during neap tides, and some areas flooded during spring tides may stay dry, or barely get covered. A flat experiences spring tides every two weeks of the month, and neap tides on alternating weeks. Because of interactions between land masses and the angle of the moon and sun, tidal range differs among locations. But even when the tidal range is small, bonefish are strongly keyed in to the tides. Water depth in portions of the Caribbean, for example, may change only a few inches during a neap tide, but bonefish may react to these tides as strongly as bonefish in locations where there is a 2-foot tidal range. Barometric pressure can affect the tides and cause levels to be different than predicted by tide charts. During periods of low pressure, there is less atmospheric force pressing down on the water, so overall water levels may be higher. Low barometric pressure is often associated with either a warm or cold front, so an area may have a simultaneous changes in weather and barometric pressure. Conversely when the barometer rises, tides may not be as high as predicted. Wind can also have a distinctly dramatic effect on tides. Strong, onshore winds can make high tides higher than predicted and, in extreme conditions, even prevent low tides from occurring – in effect creating a “ghost tide”. Of course winds may have the opposite effect with low tides lower than predicted. When the wind and tide move in the same direction currents can be especially strong and attract bonefish to the edges of flats where those strong currents dislodge prey.

Strong winds might not prevent a tide from occurring, but instead delay the onset of the ebb or flood. A strong onshore wind might lengthen the duration of high slack tide, but eventually the force of the ebbing tide is too great and the water level drops quickly in the short amount of time left in the ebb. However, if the wind is very strong from one direction for days or weeks, the average water level may become higher (with an onshore wind) or lower (offshore wind) than normal, with high and low tide fluctuating around this average water level. For this to happen, however, there usually has to be some type of large land mass to allow the water to pile up or drain. So, where do you look for bonefish during strong offshore winds that empty the flats? Focus your efforts on the edges of flats, deeper holes and troughs between flats, deeper grass beds and sand basins. Even deeper water on the back sides of fringe coral reefs may attract feeding bonefish. In contrast, when a strong onshore wind or approaching strong low pressure creates higher than expected tides, it gives bonefish a wider selection of locations and longer time to forage on the flats. So, you’ll want to adjust your search strategy and venture farther up on the flat than normal.

How Bonefish Use Tides Bonefish use the tides to establish their feeding cycle, spending more or less time on the flats in a tradeoff between feeding and avoiding predators. I guess you’d expect this from bonefish – they’ve been perfecting this for millions of years. Like many predators, bonefish try to get away with as little travel as possible in their search for a meal. There is no reason for them to expend energy swimming long distances unnecessarily. This is why when bonefish retreat from a flat during low tide, they don’t stray far. In fact, at low tide or the earliest stages of flood tide, you’ll often find a bonefish or two feeding slowly along a shallow edge of a flat. Like all fish in thin water they’ll be skittish and can be tough to catch. Too, these early arrivals to the flat are often not feeding aggressively because the tide hasn’t begun to move. In contrast, after the tide has been flooding for a while, you’re likely to find more and larger fish on the flat. These fish are always more comfortable in deeper water, and with the tide moving more strongly, they should be feeding more aggressively. Bonefish follow predictable routes on and off the flats using the small troughs and depressions that cross a flat. My favorite bonefish avenues are the troughs that are only a few inches deeper than the surrounding flat, and lead from the periphery to the flat’s interior. These channels are hard to spot when the flat is flooded, so if I am able to visit a flat on a dropping tide, I’ll make a mental note of where the fingers of water are draining the mostly-dry flat. These troughs are also the first to fill on the rising tide, and are usually where bonefish will show up first. Of course it’s not always that simple – the routes might vary depending on the tide height, the strength of the current, the differences between spring and neap tides, or on windy vs calm days.

Photo cour tesy of The Winston Rod Company

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Fishing the Spring Tides When spring high tides flood the shallows, bonefish are quick to take advantage of higher water and the ability to forage in areas they normally can’t access. The access to shallow habitats coupled with the limited time they can remain there can result in bonefish grouping along the edges of flats in anticipation of the incoming tide. Early in the rising tide and late in the outgoing tide, find the bonefish travel avenues and you should have brief but intense periods of casting to cruising fish. As the tide rises, move up quickly onto the shallow sand and grass flats, shorelines, shallow mangrove flats, and the shallow ridges of sand flats that are only accessible to bonefish during spring high tides. Bonefish know these spots hold a lot of prey and they should be productive places to fish during spring high tides. I think bonefish feed more heavily during spring tides between the midrising and early falling tide. Bonefish often feed so actively near high tide that they may actually rest, or feed leisurely, as they move off the flat and wait for the another feeding opportunity during the next incoming tide. During low tide, bonefish often rest in flat-side channels waiting for the next flooding tide. From their perspective, why expend energy unnecessarily? In the hour or so on either side of the low tide, stalk the edges of flats, searching for bonefish laid up, or cruising slowly in slightly deeper water. I’ve even landed some bonefish blind casting into these channels that are just a bit too deep to sight fish. Fishing during the Neap Tides The skinny water where you found tailing fish at high tide just the week before might not be deep enough during a neap tide to hold fish. Those same shallow mangrove flats that attracted so many fish may still hold water, but are probably empty of bonefish. Even areas that seem to have enough water may lack bonefish, because they are too far to travel from deep water for bonefish comfort during neap tides. This means you’ll need to change where you search for bonefish and focus on deeper areas. Bonefish will still move from the edges of flats onto a flat as the tide rises, but won’t venture as far onto the flat, and there will be fewer large groups of fish along the edges of the flat. Perhaps because bonefish aren’t willing to travel as far to get to those shallows accessible only during spring tides, they’re more likely to feed throughout the tidal cycle during neap tides. Edges of flats are good places to search for cruising bonefish during weak neap tides. And bonefish may be actively feeding in deeper areas, over grass beds, along channel edges, and in depressions and troughs between flats, providing productive fishing opportunities throughout the entire tidal cycle. Some final thoughts... The full and new moon phases are coupled with extreme tides. During full moon spring tides, bonefish venture into the shallows at night to feed. and forage less aggressively during the day. One way to combat that problem is to fish at dawn and dusk, when night-time feeding bonefish may be ending or beginning their feeding. During warm times of year, when shallow water warms above the fish’s comfort level, tidal currents carry cooler water from adjacent deeper areas onto the flats with the rising tide. As the tide rises, the cooler water flows first along the edge, and if the incoming tide is strong enough, the cooler water will also flood the flat. Under these conditions, bonefish will initially remain along the edge of the flat, moving onto the flat only with the cool water of the rising tide. In other words, it may take a little longer for bonefish to move onto the flat during warm weather. In contrast, during cold seasons, sunny days may warm the water in the shallows, or water flooding onto a flat may absorb the warmth of the sun-baked bottom, bringing bonefish into the shallows as the water temperature rises.

Fly Sink Rate Make sure your presentation is in the zone

T H E M O S T I M P O R T A N T considerations when selecting a fly in fresh or salt water are size, color, silhouette and weight. Not always in that order. When you are presenting a fly to a bonefish, your primary focus should always be getting the fly within their field of view as quickly as possible. After all, these fish aren’t notoriously selective feeders and it stands to reason that a fish, any fish, can’t eat what it doesn’t see, right? For bonefish, that field of view is generally on, or near, the bottom. Sure, there are circumstances when bonefish will feed throughout the entire water column, but more often than not, they’re looking down to feed. That’s the reason most expert saltwater anglers agree that weight (and thus the sink rate) is the most important variable when selecting a fly for bonefish. The sink rate of the fly not only determines the depth at which the fly will be fished (or stripped), but it also becomes extremely important when deciding how far ahead of the constantly moving fish one should present the fly. How exactly can you be sure how fast your fly is sinking? Here’s a simple tip. As you wander onto a flat, step on board the skiff, or anytime you change fly patterns, take a quick few moments and drop your fly in the water you’ll be fishing with the fly you’ll be using. Watch it closely as it sinks to get an idea of how long it will take to reach the bottom at the general depth you’ll be fishing. Want a more accurate estimation? Try counting the seconds before it hits bottom. Photo cour tesy of DeepWater Cay Club

This’ll give you a better idea of how long it takes for your fly to reach the target zone. Then consider how fast the fish is cruising, add that sink rate and lead a fish appropriately. A fly in the hands of a veteran fly fisherman, when properly presented to a feeding, unwary bonefish will connect 80% of the time. That’s your target! Eric Ersch Saltwater Travel Sales Specialist eric@theflyshop.com phone 800-669-3474

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Sharing the Boat Photo cour tesy of Mangrove Cay Club

Working together as a team in the skiff will make the experience more successful and fun. ’ V E G O T F R I E N D S who insist on having the flats boat to themselves. While I do enjoy the occasional opportunity to take every shot and focus selfishly on my own fishing, I much prefer to share the boat. The experience is intensified when there’s more than one person involved. And since we usually share the boat with people whose company we enjoy, the adventure of the day is magnified and that much more pleasurable – even when it’s vicarious. But everyone on board needs to know their part in the saltwater theater and, whether your on the bow or riding shotgun, there is a certain etiquette and (often unspoken), there are rules of behavior that rule the day in the boat. W h e n t h e b o a t s t o p s and the guide moves to the poling platform, be ready. That isn’t the time to start slapping on sunscreen, putting on a new leader or search through your boat bag and half a dozen fly boxes to begin the fly selection process. Make the most of the day and get all your stuff organized before you leave the lodge and get in the boat. Screwing around with your gear when it’s your turn to be up front just eats up valuable fishing time and is inconsiderate. Move promptly to the casting deck, strip out your line (a few feet of line more than you can comfortably cast), make a practice cast to prove that everything is in order. Once you’ve got your rhythm don’t stand there endlessly, practicing with dozens of unnecessary false casts. Strip the line in. Seize the day. Focus on what you need to do to, and get ready for action. D o n’ t m o n o p o li z e t h e d e ck Agree right away on how often you’re going to switch places. Some of my pals prefer to change places every half hour while others (myself included) would rather relinquish the casting deck after either making or missing a legitimate shot at a fish. When you hook up, or screw up, it’s the other guy’s turn. I

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An impossible cast to a distant or fleeing fish that spotted the boat before it was seen and took off like a bat out of hell, or some similar scenario doesn’t qualify as a legitmate opportunity. But if you blow a good chance at a fish or drive your line like a rock into the middle of a school, you are out of there and the next batter is up. Mind the line Just because you’re not fishing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be helping. When the angler on the bow strips line into a pile in the boat, you make sure the pile is tidy, not coiled on itself, and definitely not hooked around stray sandals or extra gas tanks or the butt of the ‘cuda rod. And when there’s a hook up, make sure the loose line that’s been stripped into the boat doesn’t snag on cleats or is underfoot until that line is all picked up and the fish is tight on the reel. In the meantime there are other things to do. B e q u i e t No matter what you do – whether you’re eating your lunch or rigging another rod – keep the noise down. Conversation isn’t the issue, it’s slamming the cooler lid, dropping anything on the deck, or banging rods in and out of rod holders. Sound in the water is transmitted by compression, and noise created in the boat will spook the fish and piss off the guide and angler. Hou se k e e p in g The rule of thumb is that if it can snag fly lines it will, and usually at the most inopportune moment! Be vigilant and insure that area on and behind the deck of the boat is clear of stuff that the fly line could get tangled on. Help keep things tidy by putting loose flies back into their boxes, zipping up boat bags, putting away lifejackets and raincoats, tucking sandals up into storage areas, picking up water bottles (just toss them in the cooler), bottle caps, and small pieces of debris that may have been tracked or blown into the boat. Every little bit helps. He lp s p o t f i sh Certainly it’s more difficult to see a fish from a position lower in the boat than the guide, and farther back than the angler in the back, but you can still help. The guide and active angler can each only look in one place at one time – 6 eyes are better than 4. Both the guide and angler will generally be focused on what’s up ahead. So, pay particular attention to the water behind the boat and in the distance, especially on broad, shallow flats. Scan the surface first for disturbance. B e r e ad y Once you friend is up there and ready (but not before), you can work on rigging your own gear. That’s the time to replace the leader or tippet, check your knots, or change your fly.

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GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND

East End Lodge Veteran anglers agree that the East End of Grand Bahama is one of the top flats locations in the Caribbean and East End Lodge is one of the best operations and top bargains in the Bahamas. The guides are top notch, the food and lodge are terrific, the fishing can’t be beat, and the location is spot on. D E S I G N E D F O R serious flats fisherman more concerned with fishing than frills, East End Lodge has spent the last decade building a stellar reputation among hard-core anglers in search of a top-quality, reasonably priced destination with access to the bone fishing that made the east end of Grand Bahama famous. East End guides are seasoned professionals. Most are multi-generation products of McLean’s Town who have been surrounded by the fly fishing ethic since birth. They usually show up early, and stay late. They pack their 16´ Dolphin Super skiffs full of “can do” attitude” and push them with modern 85HP Yamahas. These aren’t your typical clock-watching flats guides and you can count on them to keep a smile and do their best to deliver a full day of action-packed fishing. They’ll be ready when guests finish breakfast and, because the flats are so close to the lodge, boat travel time is minimal. The eastern portion of Grand Bahama is called “the horn”, bisected by five large bights traveling northeast to southwest. The common tradewinds are easterlies and the direction of the bights offers protection from the winds and ensures a longer, more productive season than is found elsewhere in the Caribbean. Perhaps more important, the geography of the bights and the huge complex spiderweb of flats enables the guides to fish optimal tides from dawn to dark. The most distant flats aren’t far from the porch at East End Lodge and guides don’t have to waste valuable fishing time traveling in boats, or searching for fish in unproductive areas (due to bad tides). And anglers don’t have to listen to bones splashing out of reach deep in the mangroves, apologies, or excuses.

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Guests at the ultra-comfortable, newly rebuilt, beachfront lodge enjoy a large, comfortable bar and spacious dining room where local Bahamian favorites highlight the menu each night. Fresh seafood, cracked conch, lobster, baked fish, chicken, pork, salads, homemade soups, a variety of side dishes, and locally grown produce are every day fare. Cottages are a short cast from the water’s edge and house four double rooms and six single premium rooms which accommodate a maximum of fourteen anglers. They’re comfortable, spacious, and kept immaculate. Each suite is outfitted with two queen size beds, porcelain tile floors, and private baths with granite counters, dark native hardwood vanities, and a large walk-in shower. The only spot better suited to enjoying the cool evening breeze and a cold cocktail or Kalik than the full length cottage porch might be the casual, palm frond-covered “Sand Bar” where anglers gather at the end of each day to reminisce about the day’s successes and failures. Travel is easy to Freeport and East End Lodge is an attractive destination for quick two and three-day trips for mid-American and East Coast anglers, as well as week-long fly fishing holidays at the best price point on the island. In a nutshell, at East End you can expect to fish permit and routinely cast to large bonefish with an experienced guide staff; returning each day to great food, a full bar, and spacious air conditioned rooms overlooking the water. Everything but your bar bill and gratuity, including the transfer from Freeport is included in the package. If you want to treat yourself to a super bonefish trip and get a lot of bang out of your buck, seriously consider East End Lodge, give us a call, and plan on a great Bahamian fly fishing holiday. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling packages $2,395 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

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Photos cour tesy of East End Lodge

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Andros

Thirty years ago it was hard to get to Andros, the guide pool was shallow, and it was difficult to find a decent room. Today, Andros is a world-famous bonefish Mecca with half a dozen excellent lodges scattered on the island.

Photo cour tesy of Wild Outdoor s Media

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A N A R C H I P E L A G O within the Bahamas, Andros is the largest of the country’s 26 inhabited islands. It’s three major island components, North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros are separated by broad, deep channels, or bights. When reckoned as one island, the total land area is greater than the other 700 Bahamian islands combined. To put the size of Andros into perspective, consider that Andros (by itself) is only a bit smaller than Puerto Rico and that it is the size of both Rhode Island and Long Island combined, only with a population estimated to be less than 8,000 and declining. Nearly all of the island inhabitants live along a narrow strip on the eastern shore of the island near the Queen Elizabeth Highway. That entire eastern shore of Andros is bordered by the 6,000 foot deep “Tongue of the Ocean” which, in turn, is one of the two main avenues of the Great Bahama Channel and provides some of the finest off-shore, blue water angling in the world. The town of Fresh Creek is opposite Big Wood Cay and the United States Navy’s Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) where the Navy conducts Special Operation training, sonar and submarine research (in the deep Tongue of the Ocean) and the United States Coast Guard operates its drug interdiction program. There are several deep arterial troughs, or bights running northeast to southwest connecting the blue water on the Atlantic shore to the west side of Andros. Most of the famous flats fishing of Andros is done in those bights and on the extensive flats of the Great Bahama Bank which lies off the west, northwest, southern shoreline of the island. That area has more than 1,100 square miles of flats, estuaries, and tidal swamps with several hundred more square miles of flats found in those creeks, bights, and on the island’s eastern periphery. Together the flats of Andros constitute a phenomenally large flats fishery and though there are nearly two dozen lodges and a number of independent guides on the island, it is quite possible to spend the entire day on the flats and not encounter another angler.

Fisheries biologists estimate that only a fraction of the bonefish found in the sea come to inhabit the flats. And it is thought that the deep creeks (or bights) connecting the blue water found off the island’s eastern shoreline to the shallow mangrove-lined flank of Andros’ west side are responsible for the constant replenishment of those flats with a huge population of bonefish that are, arguably, larger on average than found elsewhere in the Caribbean.There are areas of the island that are notorious for large schools of smaller bonefish, but sighting a trophy on any of the flats of Andros is a common occurrence. Much of the west side is a bit too deep and often too soft to wade. Veteran Andros fly fishermen call this hunting ground “The Land of the Giants”. There are no roads, power, or communities on the western shore. The only way to get there, and the best way to fish there is by boat. There is some permit fishing on Andros, and the occasional tarpon that makes its way onto the west side flats are aggressive, easy targets. But this is considered the capitol of bonefish country with an astonishing number of trophy fish and six or eight great lodges on the shoreline or near the creeks knifing through the island. Like elsewhere in the world of fishing the best time to be there is when you can. The most reliable weather is from March thru the end of October. Mid-summer weather can be oppressively humid but the bonefish don’t care. If hurricanes are going to come it’ll probably be in September. But the odds are they won’t come, and if you’re there on Andros any time from January first to the next January first and you get to enjoy three or four good days of sun in a week with little or no wind you can bet on it being a terrific bonefishing experience.

The Big

Island

It‘s been Andros Island in the Bahamas, not Cuba, not Belize, Key West, or Christmas Island, that has produced more trophy-sized bonefish than any other spot on the angling map! w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m s p h o n e 8 0 0 - 6 6 9 - 3 4 7 4

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T H E F L Y S H O P ® S I G N AT U R E D E S T I N AT I O N

Robby’s Place Welcome to Robby’s Place, a lovely beachfront lodge and guest house for anglers on the north tip of Andros, just a rifle shot away from shallow, easily waded flats that stretch to the horizon. A G O , on a series of busman’s holidays, I accompanied Rupert Leadon (Andros Island Bonefish Club) to the top end of his island. We’d launch on some secluded beach, motor even farther north and wade together on the shallow flats of the Joulters until we couldn’t see the bonefish tails in the failing light. Remarkably, 35 years later there are still no lodges near that northern point of the island. There are a few cute little beachfront hotels and guest homes, along with a couple of funky bars where you can grab a conch burger and an ice-cold Kalik, but there still aren’t any formal fishing lodges nearby and the few guides who cover the area have to spend hours each day trailering boats on washboard roads to get to the Joulters. Imagine our pleasure then to meet Dr. Nigel Lewis, a prominent Nassau dentist and to be offered exclusive use of his lovely Joulters beachfront vacation home. “Doc” calls it Robby’s Place (after his grandson) and the beautiful 3-bedroom villa looks out beyond the beach to a turtle grass bonefish flat that opens up into a narrow bay with a small reef in the distance. The “home flat” is inviting. After several visits by The Fly Shop® staff we’ve got a pretty good handle on the angling. Guide services are provided by local experts that arrive in their skiffs on the beach in front of the house to begin your day. Runs to the flats are short and the fishing begins in as little as ten minutes. No wasted time! The longest run time is forty five minutes to North Josie Cay, the northernmost cay in the Joulters. There are miles of expansive flats, far more than any one angler could hope to fish in a lifetime. And because very few other lodges are on this end of the island (none right on the water), it is rare to see another angler or skiff. Y E A R S

Mic hael Caranci photos

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’ S P L A C E is a fully furnished, airconditioned private fishing retreat. It is perfectly comfortable for seasoned saltwater anglers with or without non-angling companions or families.The modern beachfront villa features a full, 360-degree wrap-around covered porch with a spectacular view of the bay, and three spacious, air-conditioned guest rooms, each with two queen beds and private baths. Robby’s is equipped with stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and a selection of quality masks, snorkels and fins in varying sizes. The unusually calm bay and nearby reef are great swimming and snorkeling destinations, and non-anglers and families will enjoy the idyllic, care-free atmosphere as much as serious anglers will revel in outstanding bonefishing. Guides are pre-arranged as part of the angling package at Robby’s. The length of the stay can be tailored to any number of fishing days. A superb Bahamian chef is available to prepare delicious on site meals. Each culinary experience pairs island flavors locally sourced meets, conch, lobster, grouper and fresh garden vegetables. The fishing program at Robby’s Place involves long days wading the endless white sand flats of North Andros Island and the Joulters. Bonefishing here is almost exclusively wading, though the guides can pole if guests prefer, and when they’ve targeted the deeper flats on the West Side.

R O B BY

If anglers wish to fish the famous trophy flats of Andros’ West Side, guides will pick up the guests and trailer their boats about an hour to Red Bay. There are fewer wading opportunities on the West Side, but these flats are notoriously home to some of the largest bonefish in the Bahamas. A unique feature of the Joulters is that tides vary on each of the ultra-shallow flats and channels. Some flats are frequented by large schools of fish while others commonly harbor only singles and pairs. Anglers can literally move just short distances (5 - 10 minutes) to spend the entire day fishing incoming tides, sight casting in shallow water to foraging, tailing bonefish. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling packages $2,000 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

In the gallery of saltwater flyfishing locations, there are only a few natural masterpieces that, as if designed by committee, combine all the elements to create a dream destination. Hard, shallow flats, remarkable numbers of cruising bones, and great accommodations are the magic ingredients of the formula at Robby’s Place

The fishing at Robby’s begins only a few steps from the porch. It’s the perfect destination for the angler in search of a private Bahamian experience and the ideal spot for a few friends or a family. w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m s p h o n e 8 0 0 - 6 6 9 - 3 4 7 4

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PLANNING YOUR TRIP

Whether it’ll be your 1st time or your 50th ask yourself a few basic questions before you sit down and begin your search for the perfect spot in the sun. Y O U ’ V E B E E N there before and know where you’re going, or if you’ve done a lot of these kind of trips, then you’ve already asked and answered these questions without much thought. But if you’re a rookie, or want to find and check off a new spot on your bucket list you’d be wise to ask the right questions and reflect on the answers in your decision-making process.

IF

Whether they think about it consciously or not, these are the simple criterion most angling travelers use in the decisionmaking process: s Advice s Time of the season s Reputation s Lodge location s Equipment s Infrastructure s Atmosphere of the lodge s The quality of the guides s Level of accommodations s Price s Style of fishing you most enjoy (wading or poling) Understanding how you prioritize those items will go a long way in helping you choose the right spot for your next trip. The directory of the top locations in this part of the Caribbean isn’t a long one. Nor is the roster of great guides. At the same time, the list of bad destinations and bad guides is an even shorter one. Why? The community of saltwater fly rodders who take the sport seriously enough to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to catch a fish and let it go is surprisingly small. How small? Consider that the entire universe of retail fly fishing is about equal to the sales of the Titlist Pro V1 golf ball and it puts things into perspective. Those of us who fly fish and travel for a living and who go lots of places find that we’re running into many of the same, familiar faces all the time. You can bet that if a lodge does a terrific job everyone in the sport soon finds out right away. And if they pass gas, everyone smells the stink. Reputations, both good and bad, are usually well-deserved and, in the tiny, rarefied world of fly fishing travel, only the strong are going to survive for long. It’s not a coincidence then, that the largest and most reputable angling travel agents all represent a remarkably similar, very short list of lodges, and the reason is simple...we’ve been there and they’re places we know we can count on, and will deliver what’s been promised – week in and week out; season after season. Yet with every place and every guide in the Bahamas saying they’re the best. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Well, after guiding thousands of my friends and clients to fly fishing lodges, rivers, and flats for more than four decades, my advice is to consider your own priorities, and then ask an expert for help in getting exactly what you want. Coming from an angling travel agent, that sounds self-serving. But the truth is that, beyond getting reliable advice from someone you can trust, using a reputable angling travel agent adds experience and objectivity to the decision, as well as a level of protection from some ugly but infrequent problems. And if you weigh the consequences and cost of a bad decision, it can be a lot more expensive to make your reservations with anyone other than travel professional. At some of these spots, tides are critical, the calendar window with the best chance of success is a narrow one, parts of the year are oppressively hot and humid, or the weather is unreliable. Who do you really think is going to give you those answers?

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Peak seasons and weather in the Bahamas

Target Species

The formula for a great flats fishing trip is simple. String together three days of consistent weather (no matter what it is) and great fishing will follow.

Fly fishermen destined for the Bahamas are usually targeting bonefish. You’ll read and hear about the opportunities for permit and tarpon, but don’t get confused, distracted, or misled. Bahamas means bonefish and if your primary goal is permit, tarpon, snook, or a grand slam, go somewhere else. Sure, it happens. There is some terrific, isolated, permit fishing in the Bahamas and anglers stumble onto the occasional lost tarpon here and there, but other spots on the fishing map are lots better for both species. Nowhere else on the map has better fishing for bonefish and it’s getting better – in fact the government of the Bahamas has responded to the growth and value of sportfishing tourism by enacting progressive regulations to protect their bonefish at the same time that there is less native pressure on the resource. There’s never been much in the way of industry in the out islands and, after a series of devastating hurricanes, there’s less opportunity for employment than ever and all but a few of the 700 islands in the Bahamas are decreasing in population.

The months generally predicted to offer the best weather are considered Peak Season. Prices are often tiered to coincide with the best of that predicted weather. Of course, weather is unpredictable and there are no absolutes. Timetables, graphs, averages, and other generalities related to “normal” climate conditions are inexact. HHH January HHHHH April H July HHH October HHH February HHHHH May H August HHHH November HHHH March HHHHH June HHH September HHHH December s July and August can be oppressively hot and humid. Many Bahama lodges just close their doors because it’s an unpopular time. However, fish don’t care, just move to deep water, and fishing can be superb.

s But, the finest full week I’ve had in forty years of bonefishing was on Grand Bahama Island (the northernmost part of the Bahamas) in the month of January - which can be a questionable month to travel.

s Lodges north in the northern Bahamas are farther from the Equator and their peak season may not arrive as early in the spring. Too, their winter weather might not be as reliably calm as destinations farther south in the archipelago.

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s Weather patterns in the Bahamas usually last about three days.

September & October is hurricane season.

s But they’ve occurred during this century only once every four years on the average. During the last century, they averaged only once every nine years. This is one crap shoot that many veteran anglers rate high on their calendar.

Infrastructure Lodge Location Whenever or wherever you’re fishing in the Bahamas, if your trip coincides with good weather (little cloud cover and light winds) you are going to have a terrific bonefishing trip. s Some locations afford far more and far better wading opportunities than others. s But, every destination in the Bahamas offers some wading, just not a lot of it. In some spots it is very tide dependent. In others the bottom may be too soft, too deep, or too dark to make it a great wading experience. s Flats with proximity to deeper water usually afford more trophy opportunities and those spots with deeper water often have more shots at trophy-sized bonefish.

s Trophy bonefish are where you find them. It won’t be in the Mexican Yucatan, and they are less common on shallow flats, but you are bound to run across some big fish once in a while just about everywhere in the Bahamas. s Some destinations are a stone’s throw from the fishing, while other lodges might run some distance or trailer each day. The tradeoff may translate into less time on the water, versus a greater variety of alternative flats conditions.

Accommodations & Price There are some travelers who won’t accept anything less than the best and others who don’t care how many stars are attached to the place. Discriminating travel takes many forms and while it’s a fact that a more expensive lodge doesn’t necessarily translate into better fishing or more fun it is usually associated with a higher level of both accommodations and amenities.

Without exception, every lodge The Fly Shop® represents is worth every cent. Sure we have our favorites, but there aren’t any destinations in our portfolio that doesn’t pride themselves on their fine fly fishing flats experience, the quality of their guides, the food delivered from their kitchen.

There are few things worse in salt water than defective or substandard equipment. Having back up motors and properly maintained boats, trailers, motors, and essential gear are critical to the success of a lodge. Too, it is essential that the skiffs and motors guides choose is appropriate for the water they fish, the distance they’ll travel each day, and whether they’ll have to do it in open water. These are among the first things we check out when we visit the places we represent. We do the homework, so you don’t have to!

We take our job seriously We’ve been there for 40 years, helping anglers choose the destination that best suits their interests and fits their wallet. The Fly Shop is there to help decide where to go, what tides and moon phases are productive, pick the best guides, and offer insights into the correct tackle. We’re also there in your corner, as your advocate, to make sure things go as perfectly as possible and to help in those rare situations when things go wrong.

Photo cour tesy of Adam Bsrker and Abaco Lodge

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ANDROS

Mangrove Cay Club In the gallery of saltwater flyfishing locations, there are only a few natural masterpieces that, as if designed by committee, combine all the elements and create a dream destination. D E V E L O P M E N T of Mangrove Cay ushered in a new era of comfort for Andros anglers with lovely cottage accommodations, private rooms, an inviting clubhouse, great bar, superb kitchen, top-flight service, an exceptional group of personable guides, and ultraprofessional management that anticipates the guests every need. Fishing either begins or ends each day at the dock, and it is a relatively short run to the west side – a run that is hardly necessary with more than 600 square miles of superb flats within easy striking distance. The numbers of fish in the area can be overwhelming, opportunities for trophy-size fish are routine, there’s very little other angling pressure on this part of the island, and there is no better lodge on Andros than Mangrove Cay Club.

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The lodge is located on the north shore of the Middle Bight of Andros. From that near dead center Andros location the guides have easy skiff access through the creeks to the North, Middle, and South Bights and the remote West Side. They’re able to travel to the best of Andros without ever having to trailer a boat or run in the open ocean. The action-packed days are spent with a fly rod on the platform, not wasted. The expert guides commonly tailor the day to the anlger’s interests, planning their day around the changing tides or to prospecting the protected, lee shorelines. They’ll either run some distance and fish back to the lodge, or begin nearby and spend the day seaching for bonefish in the local flats, channels and lagoons.

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The facility is perfectly designed – eight identical suites with verandas overlooking the sea are contained in four beautifully landscaped duplex cottages spread along the shoreline. Each suite provides spacious and comfortable accommodations for two fishermen, with two queen-sized beds, air conditioning, ceiling fans, plenty of storage space, and an adjoining sitting room that allows the early-riser to prepare without disturbing his roommate. The meals are expertly prepared and get rave reviews. Capacity is 16 anglers. Their new swimming pool is a wonderful way to relax after your fishing day. This place is at the top of our list. It is a five-star lodge, and a first-class fly fishing operation. We couldn’t priase it or endorse the Manfrove Cay Club more strongly. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling pkg $2,675 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.


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The newest thrill in Bonefishing – Paddleboards Paddleboards offer great access to the places where wading is out of the question! They’ve opened up angling to skinny water often no more than inches deep, to those bonefish-filled backwater lagoons to shallow too pole and too mucky to wade. U N I Q U E and fascinating new form of bonefishing, offering access to fish that have rarely if ever seen humans, is being offered by the Mangrove Cay Club on Andros Island in the Bahamas. Custom made fishing paddle boards allow adventurous anglers to probe deep into super shallow bays, creeks, and lagoons in search of albula vulpes. These boards are not “beach toys” but serious fishing tools. My spouse Jeannette and I tried them this year in mid-February and found the boards to be very stable, easy to paddle and maneuver, and offered great access to extremely skinny water often no more than inches deep. We are both in our 60’s so this option is for more than just agile 20 somethings. Andros Island regulars have looked longingly at waving silver tails and waking fish out of range in thin water back bays and creeks. Traditional bonefish skiffs could never reach these fish and wading was out of the question unless you wanted to sink deep into primordial muck and ooze. Out of sight from the skiffs, Andros is also laced with hundreds of square miles of mostly impenetrable interior saltwater lagoons that are fed by small tidal creeks. The few of these that could be reached by slurching through deep muck and spidery mangroves were teeming with bones. Years ago I fished one that was full of hungry fish but after being pulled from waist deep mud I was in no mood to ever go back. A Google Earth view of Andros reveals vast areas yet to be explored via the boards. They offer a safe way to reach these almost completely unfished waters – and return that evening to a sumptuous lodge for a shower, drink and fine dinner. Think wilderness bonefishing without deprivation! The 12 foot long boards employed at the Mangrove Cay Club are designed for fly fishing and manufactured by Dragonfly of laminated marine plywood and layered fiberglass with a bona fide chine and bit of keel.

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Photos cour tesy of Mangrove Cay Club

An ice chest, that doubles as a comfortable seat, is fixed to the board about two-thirds of the way back. In front, there is good non-skid surface to stand or kneel on; it also does a fine job of holding stripped out fly line in place. The stern holds a small anchor that can be used to stop the board. We found that paddling standing up or sitting down was easy and in real shallow water the paddle can be used like a pole. Fishing from the boards turned out to be surprisingly simple after a few adjustments. We stripped out 40 to 50 feet of fly line and stacked it front of us.The rod could be balanced on holders behind the ice chest/seat or laid on the deck on top of the line. When fish are spotted the drill is to quietly put down the paddle, pick up the rod, and make the cast. I botched my first group of tailing bones by getting too close and not giving myself enough time for the put down – pick up; it took about 5 or 10 seconds to switch from paddle to rod. Playing, landing and releasing the fish took the most balance. My first bone did circles around the board and moving carefully while doing the do-si-do posed no problems. Kneeling in the center let me reach the fish and remove the hook without taking a swim. Visibility from the vantage of the board is far superior to the lower wading perspective and I found myself getting much closer to the fish than when on foot. That is likely a function of the stealth feature of the boards and unsophisticated fish. It was intimate angling at its best. Mangrove Cay Club is busily exploring nearby skinny water bays and lagoons to discover which ones hold the best fishing and offer the easiest access. The Club has a swift pontoon boat to carry the boards, the anglers, and an veteran paddleboard guide (who accompanies each two fisherment on his own board) to the launch locations.

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Bill Horn Mangrove Cay guest

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ANDROS ISLAND

Andros South

Andros South puts their emphasis exactly where most of our dedicated crowd of saltwater anglers feel it should be, right at the end of the fly rod. The diversity and size of the fishery offers a I F YO U ’ R E L O O K I N G for white completely different fishing experience every linen table cloths, you ought to search elsewhere. day of your trip and it’s the variety of fishing in But this terrific lodge is just the right place for the southern part of the island that provides a the angler after a top-tier bonefishing trip! In great deal of the attraction. fact, not enough wonderful things can be said The South Andros region is a complicated about the Andros South location, their expert maze of tidal creeks and inland flats, all home guides, the work ethic they bring to the boat, and to a large population of the job they do to ensure that their hungry, aggressive boneguests have a smile on their faces. fish. It’s only a short ride Begin with the fact that the locafrom the lodge to the first tion of the Andros South lodge is of miles and miles of easincredible. Their home water, near ily-waded white sand flats, the settlement of Kemp’s Bay, is the hidden mangrove creeks, southernmost and the least inhabited part of Andros island. They’re The Bahamas dime has two bonefish and a vast interconnected flanked to the east by The Tongue engraved on it! Bonefish are vital in network of inland lagoons that fill up with eager of the Ocean, a deepwater trough the Bahamas, contributing $169 schools of bonefish on the that drops to more than five thoumillion to the country annually. change of every tide. Add sand feet less than a mile offshore – to that access to the expansive ocean-side flats the place scientists and saltwater fisheries bi– the playground for double digit bonefish ologists consider responsible for providing the from the deep interior flats of Andros with it’s amazing popAndros South Lodge is intimate and very ulation of foraging bonefish. Along the edge of comfortable – a perfect bonefish basecamp. that saltwater precipice lies the third largest Guests enjoy air-conditioned, accommodabarrier reef in the world.

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tions and each angler has their own private room, with private bathrooms and plenty of space to unpack and get comfortable. The home-grown Andros South guides are a flyfishing-savvy crowd who know the water like the backs of their hands. They’ve built an enviable reputation for talent and an enthusiastic work ethic. This expert team is responsible, in large part for the popularity and reputation this lodge enjoys among the sophisticated crowd of serious bonefishermen. The excellent home-cooked meals are prepared by local ladies that specialize in (you guessed it) Bahamian Creole and delicious fresh seafood dishes. Don’t plan on losing any weight here, these ladies know how to lay it on…And there’s always plenty of cold Kalik (the national beer of the Bahamas) on hand to quench your thirst. Andros South is a hands on fishing lodge for anglers looking for clean, comfortable lodging, outstanding service, and some of the finest skinny-water bonefishing in the world. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling pkg $2,900. Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.


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Andros South photos

photo cour tesy of Winston Rod Company phone 800-669-3474

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Y21P32-33_BAH_Andros_MarsBay.qxp 8/26/21 8:27 AM Page 1

SOUTH ANDROS ISLAND

Mars BayBonefish Lodge Photos cour tesy of Mar s Bay Lodge

The isolated, near-uninhabited, southernmost tip of Andros has something for every angler! R O A D E N D S at Mars Bay lodge on the southern tip of Andros in a vast uninhabited complex of hard sand flats and cays. It is a trackless saltwater frontier with little fishing pressure and very few humans. The water surrounding the lodge is home to giant schools of aggressive 3-5 pound bonefish, as well as double-digit single trophies – the trademark of Andros Island. If there’s a secret to the success and popularity to Mars Bay it is the variety and the guides. There’s something there to suit every anglers interests and the scene changes with every tide. If it’s a flood tide in the morning, you might start the day poling the mangrove edges, or run west chasing the last of the incoming. On a low tide you could pole the deeper edge of a flat, or wade white sand flats that stretch for miles. The guides are all local talent, born, raised, and living in Mars Bay. They’re as comfortable in a boat as they are on land and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the surrounding fishery and bonefish behavior. With a wide variety of habitat within easy striking distance it’s an easy chore to accommodate everyone’s fishing preferences. The fishing days begin early and they are usually action-packed. The runs are short and little time is spent wasted motoring long distances. The exception is when the weather is perfect and both anglers and guides choose to head for seldomseen, seldom-fished parts of the famous southern flats of Andros. The home water flats in front of

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Mic hael Caranci photo

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the lodge fish well, particularly on lower tides and bones are caught there on a regular basis. There is nothing pretentious about this beachfront lodge. With a maximum occupancy of only eight anglers, Mars Bay fills quickly. They don’t operate from June through October and open their doors only in the height of the season – November through May. Mars Bay accepts reservations for singles, doubles, and is the perfect place for a bunch of friends after the whole place. The fish-savvy guides specialize in different parts of the massive complex of tidal flats and backcountry lagoons. Assignments are made each evening and guides are rotated every day to insure fairness and a diverse experience. The whole operation has a carefully cultivated, casual atmosphere. It wears the fingerprints and has the feel of its American owner/operator, Bill Howard. He maintains the boats and equipment, makes all the repairs around the lodge, orders supplies, fuels the boats, and carries the coolers. He’s hands-on and on-hand with a well-earned reputation as the hardest working lodgeowner/operator in the Bahamas. The lodge has a laid back vibe but don't let that mislead you. Everything goes off on time as scheduled. One entry in the guest book said it all,

“The lodge runs like a Swiss watch with great food, a great staff, clean rooms, excellent guides, well maintained boats, great fishing. We’ll be back!” The superb kitchen serves classic Bahamian dishes, cracked conch, conch salad, fritters and chowder, lobster, and fish a couple different ways. They also serve grilled ribeye steak and New Zealand lamb rack, and occasionally a stuffed pork loin or chicken. It’s certain that you’ll never leave the table hungry and wanting for more.

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Like all South Andros and most out island lodges, Mars Bay requires connections in Nassau or on one of the several regularly scheduled Watermakers Air flights out of Fort Lauderdale. Of course there are optional charter flights. 4 night/ 3 day dbl occ angling package $3,350 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

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Mic hael Caranci photo

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Y21P34-35_BAH_Tips HATCH AD.qxp 8/26/21 8:29 AM Page 1

HOW TO

Tips - Casting Strip Setting The best thing you can do to get ready after booking your bonefishing trip is to practice your casting. A C C U R A C Y O F C A S T is far more important than distance. Speed of re-casting is also very important as saltwater fish tend to move across the flats. If you have an accurate 40-foot cast and can pick that fly up and re-cast (for example, from 12 o’clock to 2 o’clock to get in front of a moving school of fish), this is far better and will hook more fish than a wild 60-foot cast. Your guides are there not only to get you into fish but to help make your fishing trip go as smoothly as possible. They are well-versed in fly fishing and know their fishing grounds. Some guides tend to be a bit more shy than others and don’t want to be presumptuous, so if you need something, let them know. If you need help with your casting, most guides are experienced in fly casting and fly fishing tackle. The guides will also make fly recommendations and help rig rods. When fishing, you are on the bow of the skiff and the guide is normally on the platform at the aft. Guides use the “clock” system and foot measurements to help you locate fish. If standing facing forward on the skiff, the bow is 12 o’clock, hard right is 3 o’clock, and hard left is 9 o’clock. For foot measurements, your fly rod is approximately 9-feet. Your guide should go over this before fishing so you are both referring to the same thing. After you cast, let the fly sink to the bottom, and make your first strips long and slow to get the fish’s attention. Now you are going to “read the fish” by observing its behavior. If it moves quickly to your fly and stops, it probably ate your fly. Make a long strip to set the hook. If there is no resistance, stop, let the fly sink, and begin stripping again. If you do feel resistance, pull on your line to set the hook without lifting your rod, and prepare to “clear your line” as the fish runs. The first run often takes all the line quickly off the deck or water surface, and it is important that you guide the free line back onto the reel. Your drag has been pre-set, so hold your rod tip high and enjoy the run! Occasionally the fish will turn and run towards you. If you can’t reel or strip fast enough to keep a tight line, put your rod tip into the water and the drag of the fish pulling the line through the water will keep tension on the hook.

Bonefish have tough mouths and having sharp hooks is important. Check your hook point regularly by pulling it across your thumb nail. If it digs into your nail, it’s sharp. If it drags across your nail without sticking, it’s time to sharpen the point. Be certain to pinch down the barbs on your hooks. This makes it easier to release fish with minimal handling, and it also minimizes the risk of injury to yourself and others. Now you have successfully spotted, stalked, hooked, and released your first bonefish. The best thing about it is that you get to do it again and again. And finally, guides are people and none have the same personalities. Most guides know fishing and the areas to fish, and most guides will work hard to get you into fish. They like when you catch fish as much as you do, if not more so. If your guide is not living up to your expectations or not putting in the effort needed for an enjoyable day on the flats, please speak with the fishing manager. Sometimes the weather or the fish themselves are not cooperative, and this is not the guide’s fault. Working harder to find fish in bad weather conditions is what a good and hard-working guide does. Suggested Reference Books: Practical Fishing Knots II Mark Sosin & Lefty Kreh Fly Fishing in Saltwater Lefty Kreh Fishing the Flats Sosin & Kreh Fly Fishing for Bonefish Dick Brown Saltwater Fly Fishing Jeff Currier Fly Fishing for Bonefish Chico Fernandez

Matt Jones photo

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Y21P36-37_BAH_Andros_Bairs.qxp 8/26/21 8:30 AM Page 1

CONGO TOWN, ANDROS

Bairs Lodge This ultra-comfortable South Andros lodge doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to providing a first-class Bahamian holiday. T H E S O U T H A N D R O S shoreline is famous for hungry, trophy-sized bonefish. That’s where the really big babies pop out of blue creeks and drift onto the shallow, peripheral flats to forage for crabs. A bit farther down that same unpopulated shoreline is Grassy Cay, the haunt of huge schools of remarkably large bonefish. Continue on around the corner of the island and anglers are met with the largest mangrove-lined flat in the hemisphere – the West Side of Andros and hundreds of square miles of white, fishladen flats that seem to stretch to the horizon. This part of Andros has long been synonymous with the biggest bonefish in the Caribbean. The South and more particularly, the West of the Island have built a reputation as the place to search for a monster. The flats on Andros are some of the largest and most varied in the world, offering both opportunities to wade or fish from the boat, in the ocean flats or creeks and bights. This incredible choice of classic bone-fishing environments, as well as the numbers and size of the bonefish is what makes South Andros the bone-fishing capital of the world.

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Bair’s Lodge, famed for its access to the vast and largely under-fished flats of the South and West, is strategically situated between the South Bight and Water Cays, near Little Creek. Their location provides guests with easy access to the flats of the South, while at the same time the ability to take cover within the interior of the island in sheltered locations irrespective of wind. Fish here reach legendary proportions and most veteran Andros anglers consider that the largest bones in the Bahamas frequent these picture-perfect diatomaceous feeding grounds. Understand that these western flats are exposed to tradewinds and are not always on the angling menu, but even when all but the worst of winds plague anglers at other destinations, there are massive leeward, protected flats within easy striking distance of Bair’s Lodge via a complicated labyrinth of shallow creeks and huge inland lagoons. Bair’s Lodge, a coral-pink, plantation-style outpost is set hard against a sliver of white-sand beach on the eastern edge of Southern Andros.


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Bair’s offers deluxe ocean-side lodgings in an attractive setting surrounded by palm trees. The bright, airy lodge is nestled on an inviting white sand beach. Two of the six rooms in the house open to a long veranda facing the ocean, furnished with comfortable benches and tables to sip coffee in the morning before the breakfast buffet is served, or sip cocktails in the evening on comfortable lounge chairs and hammocks. The beautifully decorated, spacious bedrooms have terracotta tile flooring, white cotton sheets, as well as tropical-weight duvets and plenty of down pillows. Guests enjoy A/C, and universal outlets for recharging phones and computers. En-suite bathrooms and full baths are standard, hot water is plentiful, and daily, complimentary laundry service is provided. Single angler accommodations are available at no extra charge when occupancy allows and top quality loaner fly rods and reels can be reserved at no charge. There are rod racks beside the outdoor showers, and from the veranda you can walk to the beach, where the armada of state-of-the-art Maverick skiffs are moored. Dinner begins at Bairs with conch ceviche appetizers and homemade soups. The menu mixes local dishes with light fresh seafood recipes or a choice of pork, chicken or steak. Desserts vary from chocolate decadence to key lime parfaits and house wines include superb Malbecs from Argentina, Chilean Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon served with dinners. After dinner, liquors are taken in the sitting room and Bairs is happy to cater to special dietary needs.

Aprés angling, guests stretch out and relax on the verandah, enjoy a cocktail from the fully stocked bar, relax, and become part of the laidback South Andros scene. Don’t be fooled by the comfortable, air-conditioned rooms, gourmet meals, and quaint Bahamian décor. This is a purpose-built fishing lodge, run by true professionals that are ready and waiting to provide access to some of the choicest bonefishing waters in the world. The operation offers a perfect mix of high-quality bonefishing, a veteran staff of guides, delicious food, comfortable accommodations and warm hospitality. The ideal picture is completed with a collection of some of the islands’ most experienced guides. The Outdoor Channel fishing show Buccaneers & Bones was filmed here and the destination is considered one of the finest lodges in the entire Caribbean. Since the early 90’s Bair’s has become highly regarded as providing the best fishing Andros has to offer. The lodge has also come to represent the bench mark in terms of quality guiding, delicious food, comfortable lodging and a Bahamian version of old-fashioned, courteous hospitality. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling package $3,595 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

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NORTH ANDROS

Andros Island Bonefish Club A brief history of “The Bonefish Capitol of the World” B E H R I N G P O I N T , is the nexus, where the North Bight of Andros Island meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is, arguably, the most famous spot on the Bahamian bonefish map, and was proclaimed “The Bonefish Capitol of the World” by none other than the legendary Charlie Smith when he opened Charlie’s Haven in 1968. It was the first Bahamian-owned fishing lodge in the island nation. While other spots on other islands were better financed and more successful, none for a time, were more popular with the hard-core crowd of serious fly fishermen than The Haven. Over the course of his career, Charlie pushed around a number of the Bahamian prime ministers, George H.W. Bush; Ted Williams; Benny Goodman; Jack Hemingway; Dag Hammarskjöld; and a laundry list of elite fly anglers. As a protege of Bob Nauheim and Frank Bertaina (Fishing International) and the owner of one of the largest fly shops in the States, I was lucky enough to fish with Charlie and his incredible team of guides more than a dozen times and proud to call him a friend. The place burned to the ground in 1983 and was later re-built in stages. The plumbing, the electricity, and other critical parts of the infrastructure didn’t always work, but the guides did. And how! In fact there was never a better team of bonefish guides assembled anywhere than those that worked out of Charlie’s place in the mid to late 1980’s. However, the Haven was never able to arrive at its potential, perhaps, because (as he readily admitted) despite all his charm, strengths, talents, and skills, Charlie wasn’t much of a businessman.

There’s no question that Charlie Smith, who passed away in December of 2018, left a legacy to the world of fly fishermen and to his countrymen. His impact on bonefishing in the Bahamas has been profound. He shepherded the sport in its infancy when the audience wouldn’t fill a large theater, was instrumental in the development of the only saltwater fly in Wikepedia, and inspired thousands of anglers. Charlie taught his children to speak the language of fly fishing (three of them now own lodges on Andros) and trained his guides so well that several of them became famous in their own right, opened lodges of their own, and became his competitors. None was more talented as a guide, better understood the complexities of bonefishing, or was more personable than Rupert Leadon. He was also the first of the gifted cadre of Haven guides to strike out on his own when, in 1984, he began building Andros Island Bonefish Club. He took with him the support of George Hommel (founder of Worldwide Sportsman) and (his benefactor) the legendary saltwater fly fisherman, Billy Pate. Rupert and his new lodge also had the prestigious endorsement of Lefty Kreh, Mark Sosin, and A.J. McClane, as well as the muscle of the leading angling travel agents in what was then a small saltwater fly fishing market and little competition. What was responsible for the remarkable success of Andros Island Bonefish Club (and the fourteen other lodges now located on Andros) wasn’t just Rupert...it was the location at The Bonefish Capitol of the World.

Photo cour tesy of Andros Island Bonefish Club

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What was once one of the only games in town in the 80’s has since been challenged for supremacy by more than a dozen other new additions to the roster of Andros Island bonefish lodges. But the Andros Island Bonefish Club continues to provide guests with quality accommodations, exceptional guides, and world-class bonefishing, all at a great price point.

Andros is made up of three different major islands (North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros) and hundreds of cays joined by mangrove estuaries and tidal swamplands. The Behring Point location of the Andros Island Bonefish Club is on the southernmost side of North Andros Island. It is a great site, chosen when Rupert Leadon had pick of the litter of locations and could build just about anywhere. Rupert carved out the lodge site with a machete in 1984 after purchasing the land from the government, and his decision to make Behring Point his home put the lodge in the fly fishing limelight and has kept it there for more than thirty years. From that base, using a fleet of swift Mavericks, and shallow-draft Dolphin Super Skiffs, the expert guides at Andros Island Bonefish Club don’t have very far to go to get their clients in front the bonefish that made this island famous. Over the course of those three decades, Andros Island Bonefish Club has established a stellar reputation as place you can count on, year after year, for great bonefishing.

Andros Island Bonefish Club overlooks the water and their dockside bar, The Watering Hole, has been a favorite gathering place for serious bonefishermen since the doors opened. And there’s no question in the minds of the guests – This place is all about bonefish. No frills, nightclubs, or Boll & Branch bedsheets, just good food, good guides, and a steady focus on more than 450 square miles of nearby bonefish flats. The lodge is easy to get to and is conveniently serviced by several daily flights from both Nassau and the USA mainland. Transfers from the Andros Town airport are included in the price. Like the rest of the Bahamas, the Andros Island Bonefish Club fishing is at its best between early October and the end of June. The single most popular window for fly fishermen envelopes the spring and early summer months. The weather is usually great, winds are infrequent or light, and the sun is high enough in the sky to help spot fish until late in the day. Early July bonefishing can be outstanding, but warm and humid. Andros Island Bonefish Club is a swell spot and remains one of the best bonefish lodge values in all of the Bahamas. The current AIBC rates reflect one of the best values in the Bahamas right now! 3 night/2 day dbl occ packages $1,452 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

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Andros Island Bonefish Club and its team of fine guides has built a stellar reputation over the last thirty-four years for reliable service, great fishing, Photo cour tesy of H2O Bonefishing

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Y21P40-41_BAH_SwainsCay_GLOBALRESCUE AD.qxp 8/26/21 8:33 AM Page 1

ANDROS

Swain’s Cay Herle Hamon photo

The peaceful fishing lodge at Swain’s Cay uses top local independent guides and delivers some of the world’s best bonefishing. The accommodations and angling packages can be custom-tailored for everyone from hard-core fly fishing fanatics to the casual angler looking for more than flats fishing. Guests can schedule as many or few fishing days as they want during their holiday. Anglers, their companions, or the entire family can choose from a broad range of activities that include reef and off-shore big game fishing, terrific snorkeling in the shallows surrounding nearby reefs and blue holes, kayaking, exploring the island by bicycle, or just kicking back with a book and relaxing in a swinging hammock under a swaying palm tree. A N G L E R S A T T H E Lodge will find it is uniquely positioned on Mangrove Cay and affords easy access to both the South Bight or fabled Middle Bight of Andros. You and your guide will decide each evening which end of the Cay to target the next morning and rendezvous close to the area you’ll be fishing, reducing the run time, extending the fishing day, and ensuring you are always a short run to the day’s fishing flats. The system enables a quick boat ride through the Middle Bight to the remote wild West Side of Andros and access to flats that are seldom fished and home to some very big bonefish. The Reefside Restaurant & Bar is a community gathering spot, adding a wonderful cultural element to every stay at Swain’s Cay. It is right on the beach and opens early for breakfast. The kitchen serves up delicious threecourse dinners nightly that feature fresh lobster, locally caught fish, conch, ribs, chicken and steaks. Guests order from the menu and revel in being able to make nightly selections and repeat their favorite dishes. Non-fishing companions or family can enjoy lunch or a snack at their convenience. The beachside terrace is the perfect spot to relax with an ice-cold Kalik or tropical cocktail after a successful day on the flats, eco-touring or relaxing with friends while enjoying stunning sunsets over the water.

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Swain’s Cay Lodge is, perhaps, the ideal spot for the angler searching for a top-tier fishing experience with a festive, intimate holiday atmosphere not common to most fishing lodges. With a variety of accommodation options, and a flexible schedule that can be modified to allow mid-week days off from the flats, and the opportunity to enjoy other activities on the menu it may be the ideal destination. Certainly, it is the most flexible and diverse.

Mic hael Caranci photo

Guest accommodations are tastefully decorated and provide every tropical comfort imaginable. The air-conditioned rooms, suites, and garden apartments are close to the beach and all feature private bathrooms with hot showers, queen-sized beds, high thread count linens, WiFi and private patios.

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The time to be there is from October through June, which are typically the best months to book a bonefishing trip. The weather and water temperatures are ideal, and tropical disturbances are least likely. The variety of flats in the middle and south bights include firm white sand, mangrove clad islands, connected to the ocean with emerald green channels. You’ll have the option of wading skinny water for tailing bones, and casting from the deck of a classic skiff, depending on your preferences and the tides. No matter what the tides are doing, or what the weather, excellent bonefishing opportunities abound at Swains Cay. Fishing packages at Swain’s Cay include airport transportation, and most standard items with the exception of license, VAT tax, gratuities, bar bill, and items of a personal nature. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling package $1,769 Shorter and longer packages, pricing for non-angling companions, family packages, custom-tailored schedules, and optional activity pricing is available.


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Y21P42-43_BAH_Dressing for the Flats.qxp 8/26/21 8:34 AM Page 1

Dressing for the Flats When I was a kid and mother nature turned up the heat, we would take off our shirts to stay “cool”, little did we know then the damage we were doing to our skin. Then we started lathering up with sunscreen, only to learn years later that the chemicals used in our favorite sun protection may be causing more damage than that sun itself. N O W W E K N O W that one in every two Americans will be inflicted with cancer in their lifetimes and the most common type of cancer is melanoma – skin cancer caused from exposure from harmful UV rays from the sun. Fortunately, we live in time with amazing technical fabrics that can protect us without any of the harmful side effects from the blazing ball of fire or the chemicals used in sunscreens, meanwhile taking the burn off our skin making us much more comfortable when fishing. Most flats fishing destinations find us on or near the equator where the intensity of the sun is magnified. Sun protective apparel is as important as your favorite rod or reel or the hot fly you tie on your leader. After all if you’re comfortable on the flats you’re worried about your next cast and not about being too hot/cold or wet! I get asked all the time for advice on flats fishing apparel, and here are my favorite solutions from head to toe.

Your head

Covering your face

Start by selecting the right headwear. My choice is the Simms Superlight Flats cap or Simms Superlight Solar Sombrero. They both are made with a lightweight nylon UPF (Ultraviolet Protective Factor) 50 fabric, which provides total sun protection as well as maximum breathability. They have dark wide underbills to maximize shade for your face and eyes. Your favorite trout cap isn’t a good idea for two reasons. One, if it’s a trucker the back of your head is exposed to the sun unless you have the thickest locks. And the brim on those caps offers minimal shade over the eyes for enhancing your vision on the flats.

Technical clothing for your face has exploded in popularity in the past decade and SungaitersBuffs are an essential for face protection.The Simms Sungaiters taper to ergonomically fit the face correctly, and lock on your hat when ripping across the flats in a boat. They are armed with Solarflex UPF 50 fabric; breathe great, dry quick and have laser cut breathe holes over the mouth that keep your glasses from fogging up. When worn up, there is zero need for facial sunscreen

Eyewear Speaking of eyes, your choice of eyewear is a critical gear decisions for your next flats trip. Glass lenses provide the best optics and are less prone to scratching. Copper is a great flats color. It provides a high level of contrast that will help differentiate that flats ghost from a turtle grass or sand bottom. When the light gets low or tough with clouds and copper lenses are simply too dark. I choose a pair of Costa Sunrise silver mirror lenses. These glass lenses give maximum light transmission and contrast for challenging lighting situations, and important eye protection.

John G . Sherman photo

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Choosing a fishing shirt When it comes to technical fishing shirts there are many excellent options out there. Be sure to pick a shirt that has at least a UPF 30, dries quickly, wicks moisture, and is antimicrobial (a fancy word for doesn’t stink). Choose a shirt that’s designed for fishing with ample range of motion in the arms and torso to accommodate fly casting. The Simms Intruder Bi Comp shirt has the functionality of a performance knit under the arms to allow the angler to easily slide up the sleeve (no buttons) and the comfort and look of stretch woven button down shirt in the core of the shirt. It shines in warm humid climates and it is a winner for those that want a classic fishing shirt light enough for the Bahamian heat. My favorite fishing shirt is the Solarflex hoody, a technical T-shirt with a built in sun hood. The hood shields most of your noggin from intense UV sun rays and the fabric is incredibly light and versatile and performs well in the heat! The 2021 model is even better with a new Scotchguard Stain Release treatment that helps wash out any stain the shirt might get without sacrificing the breathability of fabric.


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Technical shorts and pants

Don’t forget your hands

Add the right socks

I usually take a few pairs of shorts and at least one pair of pants for week long flats trip. My favorite are the Simms Timunu Board Shorts. They are superlight, incredibly breathable, and dry in minutes. Superlight Shorts are more traditional. Both are the lightest and most breathable shorts on the market. A pair of the Superlight Pants will give your legs a welcome break from the intense sun. They’re designed for warm weather – wet wading applications with snaps on the cuff to help keep sand from entering into your flats sneakers.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed my hands “aging” much faster than the rest of my body and started wearing sun gloves religiously. Not surprisingly, Simms has two great solutions here. The No Finger Solarflex Sunglove has no coverage over the fingers, but provides full protection over the back of your hand and has an open palm to better connect you with your rod. A second option is the (standard) Solarflex Sunglove with full finger protection, an open palm, and stripping guards on the inside of the first two fingers to protet your fingers from line cuts from super-hot fish.

Combine the Sneaker with the Simms Wet Wading Sock and you have a combo that will keep the sand from finding an entry point inside the shoe. The wet wading sock is quick dry mid-calf high nylon socks that doubles as a gravel guards by folding them down over the top of you flats sneaker. Make sure you have 23 pairs of these for you next flats trip.

Biting insects Disease carrying mosquitos have killed more people than grizzly bears, sharks, and big cats combined. And all of those amazing, lightweight fabrics we discussed have one drawback: they’re thin, and mosquitoes can bite right through those shirts and pants. Simms Buggstopper apparel using Insect Shield Technology, a Permethrin based formula bonds to fabric fibers. It is safe, effective, and lasts over 70+ washes (basically the life of your favorite fishing shirt). Buggstopper will repel all of nasty biting flats insects you will encounter and offers a much safer alternative to deet based repellents. Simms Buggstopper apparel is found in flats hats, sungaiters, shirts, pants, socks and sun gloves!

The new Simms Flats Sneaker Footwear is one more critical gear choice. Going cheap or buying the wrong size footwear can turn your dream trip into a nightmare. The new (2021 model) Flats Sneaker is lightweight and extremely comfortable. It’s designed for wading miles on the flats or to double as a sneaker on the deck of the flats boat. The sneaker incorporates Simms Right Angle Foot bed – a foundation which aligns your foot at the right angle and helps eliminate common knee and back fatigue from standing or walking all day. The Flats Sneaker incorporates durable, quick dry, non-corrosive materials, and has a non-marking sole which any flats guide will appreciate.

Affordable Rain Gear For sure you’ll want a lightweight packable rain jacket and pant for the flats. Being wet in high winds and/or boat runs can quickly reduce your core body temperature and create a-dangerous situation. Some of the coldest fishing experiences of my life have come from being ill prepared when a tropical squall hits. Simms Waypoints Jacket and Pants are lightweight, breathable, waterproof. and affordable. They pack into their own pockets and easily stuff into a boat bag. There when you need them!

Is color important? While brighter, flashy-colored shirts make look great in a photo, blending in with the background will help you catch more fish! Simms recently partnered with Veil Camo to produce three new proprietary angling camouflage patterns. The new Riparain Camo print is for freshwater trout fishing situations while the Grey Cloud Camo were designed for flats fishing situations after years of studying how flats species see to help the angler blend with the bright tropical sky and get them closer to wary flats species.

John Sherman is a globe-trotting angler and the West Coast Sale Representative for Simms Fishing Products, Hatch Outdoors, Solitude Flies, Waterwork Lamson and St Croix Rods.

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Y21P44-45_BAH_Out Islands.qxp 8/26/21 8:35 AM Page 1

Grand Bahama ● freeport

Atlantic Ocean

● marsh harbour

Great Abaco Berry Islands

Bimini Islands

Eleuthera nassau ●

New Providence Andros Cat Island

San Salvador

The Bahamas’

Great Exuma

● George Town

Out Islands

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Ragged Island Acklins Islands

I S L A N D in the Bahamas, except two – New Providence Is-

land and Grand Bahama Island is included in the Out Island category. There are more than seven hundred of the Out Islands (sometimes referred to as the Family Islands) in the archipelago and most of them are uninhabited. The size of the island doesn’t matter in the slightest; it’s all about population. New Providence Island is where the capitol of the Bahamas, Nassau, is located and Grand Bahama Island is where the only other Bahamian version of a metropolis (Freeport) is situated. The most populous of the Out Island group are Abaco, Andros, and Eleuthera; all the others are more sparsely inhabited and far less economically developed than New Providence and Grand Bahama islands. The Out Islands tend to be less populous as one moves southward. In 1905, at the beginning of the 20th century, more than 75% of all Bahamians lived in the Out Islands; by the 1970’s, two-thirds of all the Bahamians in the island nation lived in Nassau or elsewhere on that one small (New Providence) Island. The dramatic population shift was related to a lack of stable job market in the Out Islands where there is little, if any, industry, and very little agriculture. Only pineapple cultivation and salt-raking provided steady wage jobs, and even then that work was found only on a few islands. Honestly, I think those population numbers and percentages are now dated and inaccurate and the forces that drove even more of the remaining Out Islanders to the Grand Bahama and Nassau was Hurricanes Hugo (1992) and Irma (2017). On a recent reconnaissance visit to Acklins and Crooked Island, and the sparsely populated north end of Andros to evaluate angling opportunities and visit the Lodges we represent, it became immediately obvious that whole regions of the Bahamas continue to de-populate. It was explained that Out Island residents who were living nearly off the grid and enjoying a modest subsistence lifestyle lost a great deal of what little they had as the result of those devastating hurricanes and the plethora of abandoned homes on the roadside was testimony.

Long Island Crooked Island

The Bahamas is one spot in the world of fly fishing where the fishin’ ain’t what it used to be. It’s better! E V E R Y

Rum Cay

Mayaguana

Turks & Caicos

Today, tourism, health, and the service industries drive what little economy Out Islanders have left. There are lovely hotels and beautiful resorts on Eleuthera, Abaco, Long Island, and Great Exuma. Tourism continues to prosper in a smaller and more intimate fashion on the smaller and more remote cays of the Out Islands. Their beaches, snorkeling, and scuba diving are the catnip that draws most of the tourists. And, of course, sportfishing! Saltwater sportfishing takes on two shapes: in-shore and off-shore. And in those situations where there is a large population and a very accessible in-shore fishery it is decimated quickly. Southeast Asia, Fiji, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti are prime examples of islands, or island nations with historically vibrant in-shore fisheries that have been virtually wiped out by unregulated netting and commercial harvesting of in-shore species. We have only to look at the bonefishing on Christmas Island as another example of a mercurial decline of a flats fishery with a corresponding rise in population. Fortunately the implementation of species-oriented regulations with draconian penalties has reversed that pendulum, but the question remains – In this very quickly changing world, with all of its population and climate change issues looming, what does the future hold for our sport? In the Bahamas my prediction is constant improvement of a fishery that is already wonderful. Progressive catch-and-release regulations, licensing, professional peer group pressure, and the self-regulating aspect of a small, slow-growing group of participants are already having their effect.

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Weather Facts in the Bahamas Average Temperatures in the Bahamas As a tourist, this is weather that you could quickly get used to. The trade winds have blessed the Bahamas with warm year-round weather. Winter lows average a comfortable 70˚ Fahrenheit and summer highs with high humidity at around 80˚–90˚, with a gentle dip at night of just 5˚ to 7˚. The result? A climate you can enjoy fishing most days of the year. This graph is for Andros Island and represents a 10 year average.Temperatures shift slightly from North to South in the Bahamas. Plan on slightly lower (1 or 2 degrees) temperatures in the northern islands in the winter and slightly higher (1 or 2%) humidity in the southern Out Islands in the summer. Average Monthly Temperatures on Andros January February March April May June July August September October November December

High 80º 81 82 84 87 88 90 90 90 87 85 81

Low 65º 64 66 69 73 75 76 76 75 73 71 68

Humidity 74% 73 70 69 71 72 73 74 75 75 75 74

Wind & Rain in the Bahamas Even paradise needs to cool off with a little rain now and then. The islands have rain yearround, which explains the lush vegetation. May and June are the months with most rain, typically with about twice as much falling in the northern islands as in the southern ones. Average monthly Wind, Rainy Days & Precipitation January February March April May June July August September October November December

Wind 8.9 mph 11.2 mph 11.2 mph 11.2 mph 11.2 mph 8.9 mph 8.9 mph 8.9 mph 8.9 mph 8.9 mph 11.2 mph 8.9 mph

Rainy days 6 6 8 6 10 13 17 16 19 15 9 7

Precipitation 2.0 inches 2.1 inches 2.8 inches 2.0 inches 6.2 inches 9.3 inches 5.7 inches 7.6 inches 7.6 inches 5.6 inches 2.7 inches 1.8 inches

Consider the potential for rain ranges from 20% to 50% during the most popular fishing months in the Bahamas. It is going to rain. But the squalls and thundershowers usually pass through quickly and the day resumes its glory. If you’re properly prepared with a comfortable, breathable, fully rain-proof jacket and pants, rain never has to ruin your day.

A final word of advice...If you are serious about the sport and plan to make fly fishing the flats a regular event in your life, invest in the best quality rain gear you can find. It will pack away to almost nothing, be there when you need it, last a lifetime and add a great deal of comfort your holidays. Cloud cover in the Bahamas The average percentage of the sky covered by clouds varies over the course of the year. The clearest part of the year begins in October and continues through mid-May. On March 6th, the clearest day of the year, the sky is clear or mostly clear 74% of the time and cloudy or mostly cloudy 26% of the time. That usually occurs during the rainy season, June through September. On the cloudiest days of the year, the skies are clear about 35% of the time and cloudy 65% of the time. Cloud Cover Categories January February March April May June July August September October November December

Clear 68% 69 68 68 65 41 44 44 41 65 68 69

Cloudy 10% 11 11 10 12 29 39 39 2 12 1 11

Overcast 22% 21 22 22 23 30 22 22 30 23 22 21

Hurricanes in the Bahamas Officially, the hurricane season in the Caribbean lasts from June through November. But the worst in history have all occurred in late August and early September. There are 5 classifications, based on wind speeds and potential to cause damage. Hurricane Andrew Hurricane Katrina Hurricane Sandy Hurricane Irma Hurricane Dorian

August 16, 1992 August 23, 2005 October 22, 2012 August 30, 2017 September 2, 2020

Cat. 5 Cat. 5 Cat. 5 Cat. 5 Cat. 5

Over the past century they’ve occurred, in various strengths (classes), on an average of about once every 4 to 5 years. By definition, hurricanes are large, spiraling tropical storms in the Atlantic that can pack wind speeds of over 160 mph and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day. The difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane is wind speed – tropical storms usually bring winds of 36 to 47 mph – hurricane wind speeds are twice that. Though they last only a few days, their devastating effects at the individual level can be tragic, are felt for generations, and have changed the course of this small island nation.

Consider that much of the cloud cover is transient and a great deal of it (and clear skies) occurs at night. You can’t prevent cloud cover, but you can compensate for it by choosing the correct color of polarized glasses.

Write it in stone... When the weather is good, any where in the saltwater world, the fishing is going to be great!

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Y21P46-47_BAH_Crook-Acklins_UFM_V2.qxp 8/26/21 8:37 AM Page 1


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T H E F L Y S H O P ® S I G N AT U R E D E S T I N AT I O N

Crooked &Acklins Islands

This star-crossed pair of islands is truly the Bahamian outback. It’s been blessed with great weather, picture-perfect flats, a variety of permit, tarpon, and large numbers of excellent-sized bonefish! C O L U M B U S , in his search for gold in the Bahamas, once sailed carefully through the narrow, shallow, channel that separates Crooked & Acklins islands. Two centuries later marauding Dutch pirates temporarily established a stronghold on Acklins, using it as a base to attack trading vessels in that same passage before being annihilated by the British navy. Then, at the conclusion of America’s fight for independence, Crown loyalists fled the south and attempted to re-establish their antebellum life in parts of the Bahamas (then still part of the British empire), building more than forty, short-lived, cotton plantations on these two near-connected islands. None of these unsuccessful explorers, brigands, or Tories, had any premonition that in the twentyfirst century, this boomerang-shaped pair of islands would become one of the greatest sportfishing treasures in the Caribbean. Though separated by a deep channel, the two islands are surrounded by a massive, shallow lagoon (Bight of Acklins) and Crooked & Acklins are usually referred to in the same breath.

C H R IS TO P H E R

Together, Crooked & Acklins islands cover about 200 square miles of the Earth’s surface. Their combined north and eastern shoreline borders a shallow, fisherman-friendly, sand-covered shelf that drops off quickly into blue water and providies a constantly replenished parade of permit, tarpon, and some very large bonefish. Crooked & Acklins are located in the extreme southeast of this tiny island nation. It’s where the spring comes early, the winters are predictably mild, and the weather is ultra-reliable. The massive, Bight of Acklins connects Crooked, Acklins, and the much smaller Long Cay like a subsurface umbrella. This monstrous shallow, lagoon covers nearly forteen hundred square miles, and over a thousand square miles of flats that are protected from the prevailing Easterlies by atolls on three sides. The bottom color of this picture-perfect bonefishery ranges from white, to pink, to tan, and turtle-grass green. Much of the Crooked & Acklins flats are firm-bottomed, wadeable, and covered with exceptional numbers of good sized bonefish, and the more than occasional trophy.

If there’s been a lack of notoriety about Crooked & Acklins, it is undoubtedly due to the fact that there’s little else here but great fishing on an array of flats so immense that it’s a nearimpossibility to explore them all in a single season. There are no up-scale dive resorts, industry or agriculture. There are few, if any restaurants, and no non-anglng entertainment. There’s only one small, great fishing lodge, and very limited, bi-weekly, airline service. The depopulation trend of the Bahamian Out Islands intensified on Crooked & Acklins after the two islands took a direct hit by Hurricane Joaquin in October of 2015 and were ravaged again by Hurricane Irma in September of 2017. The number of permanent, native residents of both islands is now only a few hundred and continues to dwindle. All this translates into very little in the way of pressure, or competition. It is rare to see anyone else on the flats, and the bonefish, permit, and tarpon on the Crooked & Acklins island flats usually live their entire life unmolested. continued on page 48

Herle Hamon photo

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T H E F L Y S H O P ® S I G N AT U R E D E S T I N AT I O N

Crooked &Acklins Islands Featuring nearly a thousand square miles of fish-covered flats!

This seldom-visited fly fishing paradise in the Bahama Out Islands offers non-stop action, variety, and a comfortable, modestly priced, no-frills package for only 10 anglers. This is social distancing Er ic Er sc h photo

with a purpose. Welcome to Crooked &Acklins Lodge!

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Signature Destinations carry our total endorsement. It’s The Fly Shop’s promise of satisfaction and our iron-clad guarantee that the quality of the experience and angling is going to be exactly as advertised.

Herle Hamon photos

continued from page 47

O U R F R I E N D , Herle Hamon, a French outdoor photographer, writer, and vagabond fly fisherman introduced us to the Crooked & Acklins Lodge three seasons ago. The location was superb. On our first visit, we found large bonefish pouring out of the mangrove backcountry onto these firm flats on every change of the tide. There were the occasional shots at permit, excellent meals, clean, spacious, comfortable air-conditioned accommodations, excellent, fly-savvy guides, first-class skiffs, and more flats that were custom-tailored by Mother Nature for fly fishermen.

Since then, our crowd of discriminating angling travellers has had nothing but success at Crooked & Acklins and, like all great destinations, every aspect of the operation continues to improve with time and experience. Getting to Crooked & Acklins Lodge requires an overnight en route in Nassau, but easy connections on the homeward flight. There are no long commutes to the flats, and the nearest fish are just minutes away from the ten-angler lodge.

crooked & acklins island lodge It’s one of the least visited fisheries in the Caribbean, about as far south as one can travel in the Bahamas. So far south, in fact, that it’s below the weather systems common to the northern Bahamas, and December, January, and February are great months to be there. It is also home to Crooked & Acklins Island lodge, a private beachfront lodge that does a great job of catering to fly fishermen, accommodates a maximum of 10 anglers, and is one of the best bargains in the Bahamas. s 7 night/6 day $3,690 s Shorter and single-occupancy packages are available

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TheTurks & Caicos Miles and miles of bonefish flats too shallow for conventional boats

F L A T S S O I M M E N S E and so shallow that these ingenious operators had to get an airboat to cover them quickly and adequately. Even saltwater veterans will drop their jaws when they step out of this amazing craft onto hard, light-colored marl flats that appear to stretch to the horizon in all directions. Everything but the travelling is done on foot, and no time is lost in locating schools of bones with these remarkable watercraft. The experienced pilot/guides skim the shallow flats until they find fish, leaving no doubt there are finned visitors a hop, skip, and a cast away.

IMAGINE

Mark Hatter photos

Pat Pendergast photo

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It’s a different method than anything most flats anglers are accustomed to, but in this part of the world, surrounded by so much skinny water, the technique makes sense and the results are impressive. Bonefish average an honest four pounds, and there are occasional trophy fish that will tip the scales into double digits. The South Caicos flats can modestly be described as vast, rarely over mid-calf deep and often stretching beyond the horizon. This island paradise is made for those of us who prefer to fish for bonefish on foot, stalking them on shallow, white, sand flats. All alone.


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The sleepy and sparsely populated island of South Caicos in the British West Indies is home to some of the sexiest and largest white sand bonefish flats we have ever waded. With more than a hundred square miles of ankle or mid-calf deep flats to explore, the airboat option employed by South Caicos is ideal. It’s capable of accommodating up to six anglers, and there’s just no more practical way to get around. Your guide will circumnavigate the flats in the airboat, until you intercept a healthy number and consistent schools of bonefish. He’ll have you bail out in hot pursuit, and hound the fish until they’re caught, disappear or you get bored and want to go see some new water. Expect long and exciting days on the water and no complaints from the highlymotivated and experienced guides. This relatively undiscovered fly fishing destination is custom-tailored for committed, hardcore bonefishermen, who want to wade and hunt shallow, hardbottomed flats. Something else that’s great There’s no attitude, clock-watching, or bellboy union mentality to deal with at South Caicos. If the fish keep on coming at the end of the day, plan on watching the sun set on their tails instead of high-tailing it for the barn. Paddling for Bonefish As an added bonus, the outfitter has several custom made paddle boards anglers can use to explore and fish deep into the seldom fished backcountry waters teeming with bonefish.

“South Caicos kicks butt. The flats are literally covered with three and four pound bonefish ”

What’s cool about this place This isn’t your everyday fishing experience.The moment you step into the airboat, you feel that this is something special. When you spot school after huge school of respectable bones, you’re certain. The fishery at South Caicos is varied. . . some flats are bleach white like a sheet of white paper, while others are sparsely covered with turtlegrass producing a mosaic of dark and light patterns across the flat. Every inch we’ve covered is firm and easily waded. On some tides, the guides will venture back into the inland bays and creeks to find bonefish. These areas are often rich havens for humongous schools of bonefish as they try to avoid the barracuda, sharks and other predators that roam the flats on higher tides. south caicos lodge Air travel to Turks and Caicos (in the West Indies, about 650 miles from Miami) is painless. Half a dozen daily flights service Providenciales, where visitors clear immigrations and customs. After a short flight to South Caicos and an even shorter ride to the lodge, guests find their simple, very comfortable lodge, with ensuite baths and air-conditioning. The food is excellent and the outfitter’s attention to detail and execution is very professional. s 4 night/3 day dbl occ angling package $2,995 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

Read about Pat’s British West Indies discovery trip to Turks & Caicos: A Bonefish Story

https://www.theflyshop.com/travel-blog/a-bonefish-story-from-turks-caicos-british-west-indies

Pat Pendergast Director of International Travel pat@theflyshop.com

800-669-3474

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BERRY ISLAND

Soul Fly Fishing Lodge B E R R Y I S L A N D S is a cluster of 30 remote cays, nestled between Abaco Island to the northeast and Andros Island to the southwest, about 30 square miles in total area and adjacent to the Great Bahamian Canyon or “Tongue of the Ocean” whose depths exceed 14,000 feet. The Berry Islands are often referred to by locals as “The Fish Bowl of the Bahamas” because of the wildly rich biodiversity found in these bountiful waters. The population of the Berry Islands is only about seven hundred people, most of whom live at Bullock’s Harbor, adjoining Great Harbor Cay. It’s one of the least inhabited islands in the Bahamas, and has been purposely kept on the low-down for years by the few anglers that fish here. It is now home to the newest bonefish operation in the Bahamas, Soul Fly Lodge. The brainchild of Captain Kyle Schafer, an experienced saltwater fly fishing guide and former manager of Bairs Lodge on South Andros. Soul Fly Lodge’s location on the east side of the island will finally allow anglers access to wilderness Bahamas bonefishing in the Berry Islands. The Berry’s are home to some of the largest bonefish in the Bahamas as well as a very valid permit fishery. The fishing program at Soul Fly Lodge is built around pursuing multiple species in a maritime wilderness setting with access to a huge diversity of fisheries including miles and

T H E

miles of firm white sand flats, backcountry creeks, acres of mangroves, expanses of beautiful turtle grass, oceanside edges, and endless miles of shorelines and coves. The Berrys offer fly anglers a daily chance to pursue bonefish, permit, triggerfish, barracuda, mutton snapper and other flats species from the bow of the skiff or on foot. It’s as diverse of a fishery as there is in the Bahamas, and a target rich environment. The location of the lodge is absolutely dead-center, affording quick and easy access to hundreds of square miles of hard white sand flats that can be waded on foot or fished from a flats skiff. Short runs to nearby flats will have you fishing within 15 minutes in a brand new fleet of Maverick 17 HPX-V & Hells Bay Skiffs, powered by Yamaha 70 hp outboards. The skiffs feature padded seats, a leaning bar on the casting platform and dry storage lockers, as well as radios & GPS locators. The lodge has assembled a team of legendary local guides that are experienced, courteous, instruction orientated and dedicated professionals. Soul Fly Lodge sits 22 feet above sea level, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the east side of Great Harbour Cay. Less than 5 minutes from the newly rebuilt airport and only a few minutes from the marina, their location is ideal. A short, palm lined path leads you past the 20´ x 50´ freshwater pool down to a white sand beach that you can walk for miles.

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Purposely kept on the low down by veteran bonefishers for decades, the Berry Islands is home to the newest flats fishing lodge in the Bahamas – Soul Fly Fishing Lodge. Anglers will now be able to access hundreds of square miles of beautiful white sand flats in pursuit of trophy-size bonefish, permit, triggerfish, barracuda, and mutton snapper.

Surrounded by rugged Bahamian landscape, the easy comforts at the lodge will allow you to relax and set your clock to Bahamas Time. The lodge features four private guest rooms each featuring two queen beds, individually operated air conditioning units, and full en suite bathrooms. Meals are taken in the eclectic Carriearl Roost dining room, and prepared by the lodge’s renowned Bahamian chef. Foodies will be charmed with appetizers like lobster egg rolls, conch fritters, mini fish tacos and entrees of grilled mahi mahi, blackened grouper, stuffed lobster, grilled ribeye and cajun pasta, complemented by homemade desserts like cheesecake or Crème Brûlée. One thing is for sure you won’t go hungry at Soul Fly Lodge. We are really excited about Soul Fly Lodge and finally being able to fish the Berry Islands. Their location is spot on, and their experience operating in the Bahamas along with their commitment to excellence and executing a world-class fishing operation should make them a staple in the Bahamas for many years to come. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling package $2,400 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

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TIPS

Wading the Flats Maybe, it’s the increased degree of difficulty or independence from the guide, but there’s a unique sense of self-reliance and accomplishment that makes stalking bonefish on foot and coming up tight on a fish you’ve found wading more satisfying than pursuing them from a skiff. S A L T W A T E R E X P E R T S rate wading the flats as one of the ultimate angling thrills. Consider the challenge of locating your own fish, positioning yourself correctly with the wind and the sun at your back, working your way into striking distance of the foraging fish, then making an accurate cast in wind that never seems to cooperate. Done right, you’ll have to simultaneously battle both the adrenaline rush, and a panicstricken bonefish that is capable of swimming a one hundred meter dash in 6.2 seconds. It’s when you find out if your rod and reel are worth however much you paid for it. Hard, shallow flats, remarkable numbers of cruising bones and reliable weather are the key ingredients in the ideal flats location recipe. In the vast gallery of the world’s saltwater destinations, there are only a few natural masterpieces, as if designed by committee, that combine to form a dream destination.

MOST

Bonefishing usually is a humbling first-time experience. The lessons are unique, and it usually takes a few days to learn to spot fish. It is no less difficult than trying to pick out a buck in dense brush, and putting a fly in front of an always moving target is as tough as tracking a dove with a 20-gauge. Chasing down a wary bonefish on foot increases the degree of difficulty and perhaps more closely imitates the primal urge to hunt that is buried deep within us all and satiates some primitive spirit. The best in the Bahamas are found on Grand Bahama, Andros, Abaco, and Crooked & Acklins islands. Most all of the quality bonefish destinations have some good wading. But, some places have a lot more than others, along with picture perfect flats that stretch as far as you can see and farther than your legs will carry you. Find your spirit.

Photo cour tesy of Abaco Lodge

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Situations where wading the flats just makes sense: The bonefish are in water that’s just too skinny to pole a skiff. Both anglers in a skiff can fish simultaneously when one takes off on foot. It increases the amount of time that each spends actually fishing during the day and allows both of them to cover distinctly different spectrum of the water column. s The flat has a relatively hard bottom, making it possible to walk without sinking into mud/soft sand bottom/mucky turtle grass.

It’s windy, making it difficult to pole the boat effectively. Stalking bonefish on foot can involve a little more strategy on the part of the angler. This is the fishing equivalent of hunting – each step might get you closer to that fish, but walking also makes noise so your moves need to be chosen carefully. The upside is that when you see that fish, stalk it correctly, make the right presentation, hook that fish…it’s incredibly gratifying.

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1. Walk quietly. Bonefish sense noise and vibration from a long ways away. If you’re on a flat with a hard bottom, step softly – landing on the balls of your feet instead of your heels. And don’t “slosh” your feet through the water – pick your foot up vertically, step forward, and step down. Seriously – it makes a difference. Walk like a heron.

Stripping off a giant length of line isn’t going to be helpful, allow you to cast any farther than normal, and may prevent you from casting as far now. Too, all that line can, and will, cause line management problems. Unless you’re an expert, it’s going to be really difficult to quickly, accurately and consistently make shots on foot that are much over 50 feet.

4. Walk where they came from. When you’re wading, you should those on South Andros, there are generally be set up so the fish are some really huge flats with all kinds Photo cour tesy of East End Lodge swimming towards you. Not alof bottoms, from hard sand to muck ways, but most of the time, bonefish Half a dozen tips from Andros South Lodge that will improve your odds to nasty limestone. You can get out tend to swim a certain path on a on of catching a bonefish on foot. of the boat and literally walk for flat. When you see a fish swimming hours, and you need to have good at you, don’t just look at where he is – look at where he came from. footwear. No, not an old pair of All-Stars. No, not a pair of “flats sandals”. Chances are, he’s got friends behind him, taking the same path he did. A good, solid pair of boots designed for wading on the flat – like the That’s the direction you need to be head. Simms Flats Sneakers.

2. Wear good boots. In fisheries like

3. Let your line loop behind you in the water. The best way to manage line while wading is the simplest. Strip off a length of line that you’re comfortable casting. Leave enough line out of your rod tip that your rod will load well when you start casting (probably 12-15 feet). When you’re wading, just let that extra line loop behind you in the water. When you see a fish, quietly pull that long loop in the water into a pile at your feet (this way it’ll have less drag when you cast) and make your shot.

5. Try, whenever possible to walk with the tide on a falling tide and into it on a rising tide. At the same time, be conscious of the fact that you will be able to see much better if the sun is behind you – What’s the best direction to walk? Raise your hand and head in the direction your shadow is pointing. If you can’t see them, the odds of catching a bonefish are stacked against you.

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GEAR GUIDE

Tackle Selection Matt Jones photo

Gearing up with the right equipment will make your experience more successful. F L Y F I S H E R S got their start in saltwater fly fishing pursuing bonefish than any other species. One of the nice things about bonefishing is that the proper equipment needed to catch them successfully often comes down to common fly rod weights and size — a nine foot seven or eight weight. Throw in a decent disk drag fly reel filled with plenty of backing, a fly line, and some flies, and you are pretty much good to go. Obviously, if saltwater fly fishing becomes your gig, your gear will get more refined, but to get started bonefishing, your bass or heavy trout rod will get the job done. Another aspect of bonefishing that makes it more approachable to fly fishers is that you can wade fish for bones, just like you would for trout. There are similarities between wading along a spring creek hunting trout and wading a flat stalking bonefish: stealth, accuracy, presentation, and spotting fish are all part of the pursuit. In comparison, fly fishing for permit, tarpon, and snook are usually done from a poled skiff. Fishing from a boat is not easy; everything is moving — the boat, the guide, the fish, the tide, wind, and the angler — so there are a lot of dynamics to contend with. But by wading you cut the amount of moving objects by at least half. So why bonefish and not tarpon, permit, snook, trevally, or some other species of fish that frequent the flats? It’s simple: numbers. Bonefish have a very wide range of distribution from the central and south Pacific, including Hawaii, Florida, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, Antilles, throughout the Caribbean down to Brazil, as well as some West African waters, and in areas of the Indian Ocean. Sure some spots are known for big bonefish and others for smaller fish (schoolies), but generally speaking, bonefish are present in good numbers on the flats, and they are aggressive feeders.

MO R E

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If you have dreamt about getting into saltwater fly fishing, then we suggest you start with bonefish as your target species. We recommend that you start with a destination that has a lot of bonefish, like the Bahamas. You want a target-rich environment, and if you blow a shot, it’s no big deal because you might get 10 or more in the next hour, and practice makes perfect. Later on, when you have some experience under your belt, you can branch out and start pursuing other flats species like tarpon, permit, and snook. R O D : For decades the preferred rod size for bonefish was an 8 weight. However we tend to lean toward a fast action 7 weight rod, (9 foot, 4piece for easy travel) that generates line speed quickly, loads easily and is efficient on a short cast as it is on a hail mary cast. Fly rods like the Scott Sector, Sage Salt HD or TFS Signature H20 are great choices. R EEL : Bonefish are fast and once hooked will run hard and long. Reels specifically designed for saltwater fly fishing are the best, and should hold a minimum of 200 yds of 20lb backing. Smooth sealed disk drags, sturdy aluminum anodized frames are features to search for. Models to consider include the Abel SDS, 7/8 Hatch Iconic 7+, Nautilus CCF8, NV8/9 or NV6/7, Galvan Grip and Torque 7 or 8. F L Y L I N E : Often the most overlooked piece of equipment, but in our minds maybe the most important is your fly line. A floating fly line specifically designed for saltwater is what you want. These lines are designed with a special braided monofilament core that provides the proper stiffness while maintaining shooting capabilities and resisting tangles, even in tropical heat. Scientific Anglers Mastery and Amplitude Bonefish lines and Rio Direct Core Flats Pro lines are game changers in the saltwater fly fishing world and strongly recommended. L EADER S: We typically fish 9´-12´ tapered saltwater leaders made from clear monofilament or Fluorocarbon, with 12-20lb. test are the most popular choices. 12lb. leaders are common, but there are situations where you want to go heavier, 16lb. to 20lb, making the release quick and easy. You should bring along some tippet material, clear monofilament and fluorocarbon in spools of 12, 15 and 20-pound test. Fluorocarbon tippet is a great choice as they are nearly invisible in water, perfect for spooky fish in very clear water.

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ABACO

Little Abaco Lodge Serious Bonefishers need only apply for Little Abaco Lodge

Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge photos

L I T T L E A BAC O L O D G E was purposely built to be small and strategically positioned, surrounded by some of the most incredible bonefishing in the Bahamas. This destination, built by master bonefish guide Sidney Thomas and his wife Keeta, should merit consideration from serious saltwater anglers. Based in the quaint fishing community of Crown Haven, with thirty miles of flats stretching to the south, and fifty miles of ocean-side islands and flats to the north west, the variety of fishing locations surrounding Little Abaco is unbeatable for salties that put emphasis on fishing first and lodging second. The nearest fishing lodge is nearly fifty miles away, so you are assured of unpressured fish and a seemingly endless variety of fishing locations to explore. Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge is owned and operated by master Bahamian guide Sidney Thomas and his wife Keeta. Sidney has an exceptional bonefishing history and prior to Little Abaco, Sidney owned Water Cay Bonefish Lodge on Grand Bahama. Devoted and hardworking, Sidney is the “real deal” when it comes to guiding. Bonefishing is in his blood, and he’s honed his skills to the highest level. Relying on his vast experience and knowledge, Sidney has assembled an exceptional guide staff, reflecting his high personal standards. The flats surrounding Little Abaco are varied, including soft-bottomed backcountry lagoons, islands wrapped in hard white sand; lush turtle grass gardens, and everything in between. Located in Crown Haven, at the very west tip of Abaco Island, the guides can fish the tides on both sides of the island, as tides can vary by as much as four or five hours depending on location. They have a wide variety of fishing options to choose from, with the ability to pole miles of flats or walk and wade until your heart’s content. Depending on the tides, winds and conditions, Sidney and his guides can launch the boats within view of the lodge, or trailer the skiffs to other nearby regions of the island. To the west, east, and north lie some of the best bonefish habitat in all of the Bahamas. Previously difficult to access and demanding either a long boat ride from the east end of Grand Bahama Island or an hour drive from Marsh Harbour, this vast region of prime bonefish habitat is now the “home water” of the Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge! Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge accommodates only six anglers per week in three guest rooms that are tastefully appointed. All the guest rooms have high quality air-conditioners, comfy beds, ceiling fans, and share two bathrooms. While Sidney is master of his craft of guiding anglers to bonefish, his wife Keeta is master in the kitchen and specializes in cooking traditional out-island fare. Anglers will enjoy an eclectic menu highlighting fantastic local favorites including lobster, conch, fresh fish, chicken, pork chops, ribs and spaghetti accompanied with sides of garden vegetables, pasta, rice and beans, and fresh salad or slaw. s 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling package $1,495 Shorter and longer packages, pricing for non-angling companions, family packages, custom-tailored schedules, and optional activity pricing is available. w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m s p h o n e 8 0 0 - 6 6 9 - 3 4 7 4

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Worldwide Fly Fishing Destinations best suited for Couples There are some fly fishing lodges that do a great job of catering to angling couples, families and non-fishing companions, and the staff here at The Fly Shop are experts at creating angling holidays that can be a memorable combination of interests. N O T L O N G A F T E R Bertha and I were married, she read an article in Forbes Magazine penned by my pal, Charles Gaines, titled, “The Finest Fishing Lodge in the World. Period.” It extolled the virtues of Estancia Arroyo Verde in Argentina, the horseback riding in the pampas, the scenery, how the journey led through Buenos Aires and could incorporate birdwatching, wine tasting and tango shows. And there was terrific trout fishing. The trip truly was her idea and it happened years before she developed any interest in my sport. Fortunately it was the right place. It set a standard of expectation, a yardstick for the amenities she would tolerate, and sparked an interest in family fly fishing travel that has helped balance my angling passion with the vacation demands and interests of my wife and children. At the same time these trips strengthened our relationship and brought us together as a family.

Over the course of the last forty years, The Fly Shop® has helped create hundreds of holidays to fly fishing destinations that include variety and activities which expand the concept of vacation for couples who both fish, and anglers with non-fishing companions or kids who would rather watch paint dry than pick up a fly rod. We’ve got places with amazing snorkeling, world-class birdwatching, hiking, horseback riding for all skill levels, and cozy spots for the someone who just wants to curl up with a good book while their best friend is off catching fish. The common denominators at all these getaways include breathtaking scenery, a variety of outdoor experiences, and fly fishing. Give us a call and we’ll find you some great fishing that can be combined with a line-up of non-angling activities that will make you a vacation-planning hero.

Eric R. Schroeder photo

nootka wilderness lodge, british columbia Family-owned and operated luxury wilderness lodge that truly has it all: conventional and fly fishing for salmon, trout, halibut, and rockfish, plus crabbing, surfing, whale watching, and more. It’s the perfect place for family, friends, or corporate groups to get together and bask in British Columbia splendor. The diversity of outdoor activities beyond fishing at Nootka, are extensive, pulling crab and prawn pots, trap shooting, hiking, and landing sites of Captain Cook, whale watching, bird viewing, feeding eagles, bear viewing, float plane or helicopter flyouts, sightseeing boat tours, beach combing, sea kayaking...you could spend a month at Nootka and still not see and experience everything available. w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m

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el saltamontes, chile There’s no more appropriate couples destination in all of Patagonia than this Chilean fly fishing paradise. Guests enjoy beautifully appointed riverside bungalows with breathtaking views of the distant Andes from each room. The fly fishing lodge is the most famous in Chile for good reason and the Gorroño family has been treating its guests to great angling, fine cuisine, and their own wonderful brand of Latin American hospitality for more than two decades. Non-angling options include superb trail rides and hiking in the thousands of acres of verdant Andean foothills that surround El Saltamontes. It is one of the top-rated dry fly fishing lodges under the Southern Cross and gives a new definition to romantic. email:

t r a v e l @ t h e f ly s h o p . c o m


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WORLDWIDE DESTINATIONS FOR COUPLES AND FAMILIES

Saltwater Destinations Saltwater destinations are particularly appropriate for couples and families. Non-anglers can always keep busy in the water with snorkeling, or on the water with sea kayaks. Mexican Yucatan and Belize lodges are deadcenter in the fascinating world of ancient Maya ruins and there is plenty to do besides fish. Many of these Caribbean lodges offer SCUBA packages and instruction, and a full lineup of nonangling adventure that’ll keep everyone busy. Michael Caranci photo

Michael Caranci photo

Trotter’s Baranof Wilderness Lodge is our first choice for couples and families in Alaska and rates as one of the most popular family fishing vacation lodges in the world. The lodge and meals are superb and Trotter’s has both conventional and fly fishing. The activities menu at this sportfishing Mecca includes a mixed bag of fresh and saltwater angling, for salmon, char, and halibut. There is an outpost camp to add a wilderness accent to the trip, whale watching, hiking, and sightseeing. Guests often end their day in the hot springs with a cold drink, and a smile on their face. Everyone ends their day at Baranof happy.

Serious angling couples will find the welcome sign out at all our fresh and saltwater lodges and camps. There’s something for every skill level at destinations that range from deluxe Caribbean lodges to no-frills Alaskan camps and Kamchatka float trips.

Rancho Leonero sits on one of the prettiest swimming beaches in all Mexico located on the East Cape of Baja California, approximately 60 miles Northeast of Cabo San Lucas. Its location in the Sea of Cortez affords it world-class offshore angling for marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo and other pelagics, and shoreline angling for roosterfish, pargo and jacks. It also is a wonderful family and couples friendly beachside resort with a long list of activities, certain to keep everyone happy including kayaking, SCUBA diving, reef snorkeling, paddle boarding, golf, atv rides, full gym, spa and massage, hiking and kite boarding. H2O Bonefishing, Grand Bahama Island Anglers are hosted at the lovely Pelican Bay Resort. It is a wonderful choice for anglers, couples or families, but make no mistake, their bonefishing is as good as it gets. These popular, flexible packages include accommodations at Pelican Bay (one of the island’s finest resort hotels), breakfast, packed lunches, terrific guides, modern skiffs, and easy access to Grand Bahama’s world-class flats. The resort location at Port Lucaya has three swimming pools, restaurants, a swell bar, and is within walking distance of a fine golf course. Fishermen and their family or friends can fashion their own after-angling dinner and alternative guest entertainment plans at any one of dozens of nearby restaurants, or boutiques, golf courses, casinos and renowned SCUBA operations. w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m

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El Pescador is the ideal destination for serious anglers and those looking to enjoy a combination of fishing, relaxing, and eco-touring. The lodge boasts some of the top guides in Belize – and there are FFF-certified casting instructors to help bring everyone’s skill set up to speed. The nearby reef, flats and more distant mangrove-lined shores and bays of Ambergris Cay provide variety and year-round action for resident tarpon, bonefish, and permit. It’s a great spot for youngsters and those new to saltwater fly fishing. Non-anglers can frolic in any one of El Pescador’s three swimming pools, or snorkel in the sea. The lodge features a full line-up of family activity and accommodation options ranging from double occupancy rooms to family-friendly threebedroom villas. There’s even baby-sitting service. Guests can swap fish stories at the historic, well-stocked bar, and the menu of non-angling eco-tour options includes SCUBA diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, Mayan ruin visits, cave tubing, zip-lining, and more. The nearby snorkeling is a world-class attraction and the second largest reef in the world is only several hundred yards from everyone’s doorstep. El Pescador is within walking distance of the beach town of San Pedro where guests have lots more choices of entertaining activities than they have room in their schedule. This spot rates at the top of our Belizean marquee.

800-669-3474

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ABACO

The Delphi Club

, T R A N Q U I L , and surrounded by dense vegetation, Delphi Club stands majestically on a plateau some fifty feet above sea level with a fabulous panoramic views of the Atlantic about twenty miles south of Marsh Harbour. Discriminating travelers searching for a beautiful location with diverse and productive bonefish waters need look no farther. The Delphi Lodge, staff, food, guides and fishing are absolutely first class and gets our vote as one of the top lodges in the Bahamas.

S E C L U D E D

Delphi Lodge successfully weathered Hurricane Dorian. Storm damage was very slight and the lodge temporarily dedicated its facility as a sanctuary for less fortunate neighbors who lost their homes.

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T H E R E M A Y B E other bonefish destinations in the Bahamas that claim to be as good as Delphi Lodge, but none are better! Six of the Club’s eight bedrooms are on the ground floor and two more on the third floor. All have marvelous ocean views and a choice of super-king size beds for single occupancy anglers and couples, or queensize twins for anglers. The landscaped gardens below the veranda surrounding the entire second floor is resplendant with bougainvillea, frangipani, hibiscus, ficus and a variety of palms and decorative shrubs. And just beyond the gardens is an attractive, oceanside infinity pool and patio, the ideal place to cool off after a day on the flats or lounge with cocktails There maybe no more ideal location in the Bahamas suited for nonangling companions. The secluded white sand beach is world class, and the pool and beautiful grounds are wonderful spots to relax. Excursions to the nearby communities of Hope Town and Marsh Harbour are entertaining. However, make no mistake, Delphi Club is more than a luxury lodge, it is a world-class fishing operation. Nothing has been missed regarding Delphi’s commitment to providing nothing short of a toptier fishing experience. A first string team of talented, experienced guides has been assembled that know the flats, cays, and back country surrounding Abaco like the backs of their hand. Each day’s schedule is well-choreographed to minimize wasted time and focus on the world-renowned fishing that has established a stellar reputation among serious bonefishing addicts. Guests are within minutes of the fabled Marls on the west side of Abaco and more than 200 square miles of backcountry bonefishing flats. The area is a massive complex of islands, channels and flats that are home to more bonefish than are imaginable. Still within striking distance in the same direction are the classic, white-sand flats of Sandy Point, and the southern end of Abaco and the trophy-laden water surrounding Gorda Cay, Moore’s Island, and Cross Harbour. This is bonefish country at its best, with shots at permit and the occasional tarpon as well. Other small, intimate fisheries to the north, Cherokee Sound, Robinson Bight and Snake Cay provide intrepid fly fishermen with even more variety and very full menu of angling options.

Photos cour tesy of The Delphi Lodge

delphi club Packages are all-inclusive with exception of gratuities, licenses and beverages. 3 night/2 day dbl occ angling package $2,735 Stays can be tailored for as many nights as requested.

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TFS flies

Eyes can’t be emphasized enough!

Yellow Eyes

Permit find them irrestible Fly design is all about solving problems, and their eyes often make a big difference. They’re “strike triggers”, and adding strike triggers to your flies will convince more fish that your fly is alive and worth eating. J E S U S M A R T I N E Z W A S B O R N to a family of fishermen that survived for generations by harvesting their food from the sea. His elders recognized his skills at an early age and his family utilized young Jesus as a fish “spotter” aboard their sea-going vessels. Jesus fed his family with his eyes. He’s now a talented, veteran fly-savvy fishing guide at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge in the Mexican Yucatan, and recently showed me why his clients have been regularly hooking permit-after-permit on a fly. “It’s the yellow eyes!” and his naive logic makes sense. Juvenile spiny lobsters, mantis shrimp and crabs all have prominent eyes. They’re so important that, as soon as those peepers begin to show signs of wear, Jesus will cut off the fly off and knot on a new one. Few saltwater flats fish are more difficult to entice than a permit and serious anglers have spent decades designing and tweaking their permit flies, trying to “break the code.” The weight and position of the eyes on the fly affect the sink rate and posture of the fly as it sinks through the fish’s window, making it a critical design component. And, if it doesn’t look real, you’re wasting your time. A few weeks later, I was on board a skiff on the shallow coral flats outside of Dangriga, Belize with the permit maestro, Lincoln Westby. He had worked closely with the late Will Bauer in designing the Bauer’s Crab, a “go to” permit fly in Belize featuring prominent burnt mono eyes. It sank level and slow through the water column, with the weight on the bottom of the crab and neutrally buoyant eyes. And it works! Days later in the Punta Gorda region, 60 miles south, the habitat was completely different. Instead of the shallow coral flats on which I’d fished crabs earlier that week with Lincoln, my guide and I were fishing in three to five feet of water over turtle grass. Permit were moving erratically in search of food, often changing direction before the crab sank into their window. We needed a different fly that sank faster, and I could animate it more quickly than a crab. Hoping to get the permit’s attention earlier, and at a greater distance I reached into my box of tricks, remembering the advice of my Mestizo guide. We hooked a couple permit that afternoon, and more the following day, all after I tied on the Jesus Shrimp with the yellow eyes.

– Eric Ersch is a Travel Sales Specialist here at The Fly Shop, an expert on fly fishing from Alaska to the Amazon, and the first guy to turn to with questions about saltwater destinations. ersch@theflyshop.com

See next page for our selection of Permit and Bonefish flies. w w w . t h e f ly s h o p . c o m s p h o n e 8 0 0 - 6 6 9 - 3 4 7

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Permit & Bonefish Flies Money Crab

Size 6 #261F Olive, Tan

$3.95

Contraband Crab

Size 4

$6.95

Fleeing Crab

Size 2, 6

$7.95

#566F

#533FO Olive 533FT Tan

B r i a n O ’ Ke e f e p h o t o

Casa Blanca Raghead Crab

Bonefish Bitters Size 2

$8.95

#211FT Tan 211FW White

Size 8

$3.95

#564FA Amber 564FO Olive

Christmas Charlie

Size 2, 8 $3.95 #264F Orange, Pink

Raghead Crab Size 2, 6 #275FO Olive 275FT Tan

$3.95

Bully Special

Patos Crab Size 2

$4.95

Alphonse Crab

Size 2

$5.95

#314FT Tan

#358FT Tan 358FW White

$3.95 #953FL Lead Eye Size 4 953FC Bead Chain Eye Size 6

Crazy Charlie

Size 6

$3.25

#262FT Tan

Squimp

Size 2, 6 #517F Tan

Bauer’s Flats Crab

Size 4, 6 #272FT Tan 272FO Olive

$5.95

Cathy’s Fleeing Crab

Size 4, 6

$4.95

#483F Tan

Grand Slam Crab

Size 6 #650F Tan

$2.95

$3.95

#262FC Chartreuse

Sandy’s Cracked Crab

Size 4

$4.95

#842F Tan

White Sand Fleeing Crab

Size 2

$7.95

Flexo Crab Size 4

Diving Crab Size 2 $6.95

$7.95

#278F

#262FB Crystal Brown

Supreme Hair Shrimp

#97F0 Olive 97FS Sand

#405F

#262FP Pink

$5.95

#810FT Tan Size 2 810FW White Size 6

#262FW Pearl

Shane’s Bone Kohlector

Puglisi Crab Size 4

$7.95

Size 6 $3.95 #356FB Blind Tan 356FT Bead Chain Tan 356FO Bead Chain Olive

Spawning Mantis Size 2

$3.95

#993F Tan/Orange

Mantis Shrimp

Size 2

$3.95

#790F

#647F Olive

Blue Crab

Size 6 #565F

64

$6.95

Improved Merkin Size 2 #279F Lead Eyes

Teanaki Special $5.95

$3.95

#974FL Lead Eye, Size 4 974FC Bead Chain, Size 6

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email:

Beck’s Bead Chain Sili-Legs

Size 6 #180FC Chartreuse 180FT Tan

i n f o @ t h e f ly s h o p . c o m

Skinny Mini

Size 10 #198F Olive/Tan

$2.95

Skampi

$3.95

$4.95 #443F

Size 6


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THE FLY SHOP’S

Custom Fly Selections The Fly Shop’s fly selections are assembled by experts who have fished these destinations a bunch of times. Nobody in the fly business is better able to help you choose the right flies needed for your next trip.

Crooked & Acklins Island Lodge is paradise for those who prefer to wade hard sand flats for lightly touched bonefish! Call The Fly Shop today and get all the pricing and information on this terrific lodge!

Order all the flies you want for your trip & return the leftovers! Travelling anglers can load up with all the flies they think they’ll need for a trip, and then return any of those flies – unused and in original condition (within 60 days of that purchase) for a 100% in-store credit.

Permit, & Tarpon Fly Selections

Miheves Flats Fly

Size 6

$4.95

#124F Tan

Mini Puff Size 4, 6 #287FP Pink 287FT Tan

Bonefish Fly Selections

Let us know where you’re The Fly Shop knows what headed and we’ll put works and can fine-tune a together exactly what you box of flies for fishing any- need for that spot. #4939 Bonefish $109.95 where in the salt. #7475 Permit $139.95 7491 Baby Tarpon 149.95 4866 Tarpon 169.95 4935 Grand Slam 229.95

Mini Corona Size 6 #335FT Tan 335FO Olive

$6.95

Chili Pepper

$2.95

#238F

$2.95

Bonefish Clousers Size 2, 6

$2.95

Bonefish Junk Size 6

$5.95

Size 2 - 6

#336F

Blind Mini Puff

Size 6

$2.95

#525FT Tan 525FP Pink

Rasta Puff

Size 6

#486F

$3.95

#270FC Chartreuse 270FP Pink 270FT Tan

Crafty Shrimp

Size 2

$5.95

#190F

Supreme Hair Rattle Shrimp

Kwan Size 4 #500F

Size 1 $8.95

Shallow Water Clousers Size 6

#704F

$3.95

$3.25 #266F Size 2 - 8 266FR Root Beer, Size 4, 6 267F Lead Eye Gotcha, Size 4

$2.25

#285F Chartreuse, Tan, Gray

Beck’s Lead Eye Sili-Legs

Enrico’s Lead Eye Spawning Shrimp Size 4 $4.95

#823FC Chartreuse Size 6 823FT Tan Size 4

Early Worm

Size 6

Avalon Permit Size 2 #417FL Heavy Eye 417FB Light Eye

McVay Gotcha

$3.95

Deep Water Bunny Gotcha

Coyote Spawning Shrimp

Size 1/0 $6.95 #758FC Bead Chain 758FL Lead Eye

Enrico’s Bead Chain Spawning Shrimp Size 4

$2.95

#157F

$6.95

#883F Tan, Olive, Transparent, Root Beer

McVay Gotcha

$3.25 #266F Size 2 - 8 266FR Root Beer, Size 4, 6 267F Lead Eye Gotcha, Size 4 Size 4 - 8

$3.95

#224F $6.95

Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp

#209F Tan

Size 2

$2.95

#711F

Bone Jovi #295F

Size 2

$5.95

Popovic’s Ultra Shrimp #286F

Size 2

$5.95

ESB Yellow Eye Raghead Crab Size 2

Reefer Mantis

$6.95

Size 4 #643F Tan/Orange

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phone

#961FT Tan 961FW White 800-669-3474

ESB Yellow Eye Spawning Shrimp $8.95

Size 2 #720FT Tan 720FW White 720FO Olive

$8.95

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GRAND BAHAMAS

10 Ways to Piss Off Your Guide

FlyCastaway photo

In the Indian Ocean, if you are guilty of doing some bone-head thing...your guide will make you wear a banana suit the next day until you catch a fish! Lucky for you Bahamian guides are more forgiving...be warned, they do have their threshold of just how much they can endure. Follow this simple guide...you don’t want to be that guy in the banana suit!

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A F T E R D E C A D E S of helping fly fishers with their trips, one question is constantly brought up: “What advice would you give me to make this trip a success?” Our answer is always the same: “Listen to your guide!” The guide wants you to catch fish! This is their profession and they have spent thousands of hours on the water guiding sports, just like you. If he tells you to stop stripping, STOP! If he tells you to set the hook, SET! Cast again, CAST! Hell, if world renowned Belize permit guide Lincoln Westby told me to hop on one foot, then I would be hopping, if that is what it took to get a permit to eat my fly. Listening is an act of love, so love your guide and listen to them.

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10 ways to piss off your guide: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Don’t listen Mishandle fish Ask to help with the boat or touch his gear Not centering up in the boat Blame the guide for bad weather or bad mouth the fishery Think you know more than he does about the fishery Abuse his loaner gear GPS his fishing spots Eat his lunch Show up on a DIY on the water he guided you on the day before.


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MASA KATSUMAT T TA

The all new Series from Scott. A whole new level of high performance e hand crafted fly rods. Get yours at The Fly Shop. S

Colorado, USA | 970-249-3180 | scottflyrod.com


Y21P01_BAH_cover.qxp_Bahamas Master 8/25/21 4:34 PM Page 1

scientificanglers.com

ABSOLUTE FLUOROCARBON

Saltwater Tippet “There’s no excuse for losing a fish. Especially after we’ve worked so

100% Fluorocarbon FOR SUPERIOR ABRASION

RESISTANCE

AND STEALTH

hard to get a shot at it. SA’s Absolute Saltwater Fluoro Tippet is strong and abrasion resistant, so I am confident every time I set.

• Sizes: 10lb – 20lb

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• Length: 30m spools in all sizes

- Hilary Hutcheson, SA Ambassador

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Profile for TheFlyShopTFS

Bahamas Fly Fishing Destinations Guide  

When and where to go in the Bahamas. An insightful look into pursuing bonefish with a fly rod.

Bahamas Fly Fishing Destinations Guide  

When and where to go in the Bahamas. An insightful look into pursuing bonefish with a fly rod.

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