Here at Fishwest we are excited to be carrying Abel reels and other great Abel products! Check out our offerings by clicking HERE. More to follow soon!
Here at Fishwest we are excited to be carrying Abel reels and other great Abel products! Check out our offerings by clicking HERE. More to follow soon!
Authors Note*** I am in no way a trained, licensed, or certified entertainment critic so if there is such a program that prepares or credentials individuals to review movies, I have no knowledge of it. But I do watch quite a few movies and most of the time, I tend to disagree with those reviews that find their way into print, so, there is the disclaimer.
We (my wife and I) had the opportunity to watch SOULFISH and SOULFISH 2 this weekend as a result of the combination of having to work and the weather being what is was made it a premier chance to stay inside and live vicariously through other peoples accomplishments.
You want to see fly fishing action of the world’s largest Salmonid in Mongolia? These movies have it. Dry fly action for steelhead, bucket mouths on fly rods, inshore action in both gin clear water and the stained backwaters of the marsh delta, fish with chompers that would frighten a dentist, huge bones within line of sight of populated vacation areas, these movies have them all.
Both SOULFISH and SOULFISH 2 provide incredible insight to fishing corners of the world that most people would never have the chance to see (or even able to find on a map) let alone fly fish. This is not the made up, fantasy land of professional actors, these are fly fishers doing what their passion is, fishing pure and simple. If you take in the sights during the movie, it can give the viewer a feeling of inner peace. If focus on the action is the impetus of watching it, it can instill a sense of envy. But instead, take the cues from those fortunate to be part of the videos expertise in the areas fished to provide an insight of their knowledge of the sport that must be paid for through years of fishing or hiring a professional guide(s).
On a note, SOULFISH 2 gives credence to the human spirit that obstacles are not life stoppers, but challenges, that if met head on, can increase the total fly fishing experience. Mike is a true model of resilience.
I give SOULFISH three dry flies; SOULFISH 2, three dries and a nymph.
In June last year, Dustin Carlson sent my wife, LeeAnn, and I an invitation to join him and other Fishwest customers for a week of bonefishing at Deneki’s Andros South Lodge in March 2013. LeeAnn got real excited about the prospect of going to the Bahamas and we immediately committed. We are both freshwater fisherpeople with saltwater experience limited to surf fishing, we really didn’t know what to expect.
With nine months to prepare, Dustin and the Fishwest staff gave us all of information, advice and guidance we needed, from tackle selection (they found an 8wt rod that Lee could throw all day and not get worn out) and casting lessons to advice on packing lists.
After much anticipation we finally arrived at the lodge and we received the warmest welcome from the Andros South staff (see the post from JC about his sage advice on international travel) Now I am not the kind of guy that likes the white table cloths, fancy furnishings and swanky cuisine, I like the simple approach with a local flair and this place really fit the bill, it exceeded our expectations. The trip was all inclusive and cooks and staff were local residents that treat the guests like family. The food was AWESOME, fresh spiny lobster (crawfish), fresh conch in both fritters and fried, grilled grouper that was swimming 2 hours before it hit the home made BBQ, ribs and fried chicken, fried plantains, kasava root boiled in jelly coconut milk, made to order sandwiches for lunch, and coconut macaroons made with shredded coconut that Lee just had to get the recipe for, the best beer (Kalik) that has crossed my palate in a long, long time. The beach that was postcard perfect and not a soul on it judging from no footprints was just a few feet away from the lodge’s self serve Sack Tide Bar (a tiki hut) and the ocean that’s the most beautiful shade of blue. The Slack Tide has an interesting piece of memorabilia, a broken poling pole, but more on that later. We found the guides just wonderful, all of them have their personalities, and are willing to coach and help with casting and catching as long as you listen and you may have to ask for it, depending on the guide as they don’t want to intrude or be pretentious. Each one of them expressed a genuine concern for being stewards of the environment and only take from the sea what they need, never more and they protect those bonefish like they are their kin.
We got there the day we were supposed to start fishing, on Sunday at 1030 as we were delayed over night in Florida due to weather on the island and the plane could not land (the international airport in Congo Town is very small) and the lodge staff swooped down on us and rigged everything up so we went fishing on our travel clothes and our guide, Freddie, got us on fish within an hour. There is an old defunct Navy Sub base on an island not far from the lodge that we fished around the early part of the first day and it reaffirmed why I don’t scuba dive, we had a gianormous bull shark that looked bigger than the 17 foot skiff we were in swim past us. Believe it or not, when I saw the shark I immediately, actually said to the guide without any thought, “We need a bigger boat!”. Freddie said not to worry, he has seen and dealt with bigger sharks than that “small” one.
The rest of the week we fished the west side as the weather was good, just a little cool, it took an hour boat ride to get there through a tidal creek system, sometimes having to get out and push the skiffs through skinny water. It was like being at an aquarium. We saw hundreds of sharks, alot of stingrays, multiple species of fish, sea turtles, various types of crabs, 5 dolphins herding the bonefish on the shore to eat them.
On Monday we were fishing along in the morning, with our guide named Ellie and he said “Good ‘cuda 9 o’clock, 90 feet”. The locals eat them so I threw a tube lure over it and the barracuda followed the lure to five feet from the boat. Then I saw a blender, the size of a five gallon bucket, full of razor blades open up and all hell broke loose! I looked back at Ellie who was on the poling platform and he looked like this may have been a mistake judging by the look on his face. The barracuda tried to jump out of the water through the fight but it could only get a third of its body out of the water. A half hour later, I got it alongside the boat so Ellie could get it unhooked as he wanted to let it go, he said it was at least 15 years old and full of eggs. He really didn’t want to bring it in the boat but had to in order get the hook out of it. It was five and a half feet long and at least 40 lbs, Ellie said probably 45. Ellie said it was the biggest barracuda he had seen or landed in 18 years of guiding and they work 6 days a week, October thru June. We got a picture of him holding it, he (I) didn’t want me to hang on to 45 pounds of real bad attitude that could take my hand, arm or head off. That fish was the talk of the day in the bar in town and at the resort. Other guides that saw the photo could not believe the size of the ‘cuda.
On Tuesday we fished with Sparkles, a guide who has a passion for big bonefish and seeing his anglers catch them. He wanted Lee to show him what she could do with a fly rod, so she threw a cast for distance, he then told her to cast to a small mangrove so she nailed it first cast. He then did not question her abilities the rest of the trip. Most of the fish we missed, we couldn’t see but Sparkles could, so we were blind casting at his direction. Later in the day, we were motoring out of a mangrove creek when Sparkles pointed in front of us and shut the motor down and got the pole out. He was pointing to a land point that was a convergence between two creeks and there was a great commotion going on in the water against the bank. Three adult and two juvenile porpoises were knocking schools of bonefish against the bank and swimming almost out of the water to get them. He poled us to the point as the dolphins went up the other creek and we watched them feed, breech and frolic in the water. They are loud when they click and sing, we could hear them in the boat. Sparkles said that they knock the bonefish against the bank to knock the scales off them so they cannot swim then they gorge on the fish.
On Wednesday, between me and Lee we caught over 25 bonefish, all thanks to Ellie and his keen sense of fish habits and eyesight that would make a hawk jealous. He took a great deal of pride in our accomplishments that day. Most other days it was between 15-20 bonefish with too many blown casts, mostly because of the wind, but we had some good coaching and mentoring from all of the guides.
On Thursday Lee and I fished with apart with friends from the fly shop, she with Dustin, I with J.C. Dustin is a superior photographer and wanted pictures of Lee to post on his fly shop website. And he got some good ones during the week. In the afternoon, Lee caught a bonefish and was bringing it in when a good sized lemon shark decided to try and eat it. As Dustin reached over the edge to get the fish for Lee, the shark circled around the boat, came underneath it to get the bonefish. Lee kept telling Dustin “get your hands out of the water!” When the shark came out from under the boat, the guide, Charlie, jumped down from the poling platform cursing the shark and hit the shark in the head with the pole and scared it away. Back to the pole at the Slack Tide, if you YouTube “Hammerhead Hammers Boat”, you will see an incident like what happened to Lee and Dustin. The guide in the video is Sparkles. When I was with J.C., he got his first barracuda that our guide, Norman gave a headache too. JC gave me a lesson in casting unintentionally and showed me that he can sing too. We caught numerous barracuda over the week and I lost count of how many we hooked.
On Friday it was slow for bonefish because of a cold front, but great for barracuda, we got into schools of them and Lee caught her first one, a nice 3 footer that fed the locals. But we did catch identical bonefish on two different islands within an hour of each other and have good video of it, both of the bonefish were 26” long and just over 10lbs, which are considered trophies. I hooked mine first and thought it was big, and when Ellie got excited, I knew it was a good one. He was jumping around the boat to get a tape measure and the scales to weigh it. There was a shark that Ellie thought might take it and it got a little intense playing the fish away from the shark. Lee caught hers when we moved to another island and again Ellie got real excited grabbing the scales and tape. He was surprised that it was within 1 oz of the one I caught earlier and gave Lee accolades for her angling skills. He took us over to Leaf Key and I swear we were so far out that I thought I saw Florida. That’s where we got into a school of barracuda and had a heyday casting and catching them.
Saturday we traveled home, a close to a trip of a lifetime that LeeAnn referred to as “Bahamas Wild Kingdom style”. This is a trip that I would recommend to anyone, the lodge was clean, comfortable, and with a staff that displayed hospitality unrivaled anywhere we have ever been. There were fishermen while we were there brought their wives who didn’t fish, but based on our conversations with them, they thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the beach and shopping in town while their husbands were on the boats.
I had been tying flies for months prior to going on this trip and one of goals I had set was to catch fish on every style of fly that I had tied. That goal was met within the first day and a half and I am already starting to tie for our next visit. In case any of you go, I am taking orders for custom flies.
It is never a comfortable feeling to be totally new at something while surrounded by those who already know the score. To be the only newbie is much like the dream where you wear your pajamas to school. It feels like every eye is on you and you have to act as if you are in complete control when inside you are just praying that you don’t look as foolish as you feel.
That would sum up my trip to the Bahamas in a nutshell. Almost everything I knew about fly fishing was put into question. I am a trout guy. I fish trout streams. And here I stood on a sand flat, in the middle of the Bahamas looking for bonefish.
Our hosts for the trip was Long Island Bonefishing Lodge, and they do something called DIY bonefishing. They load you up on a boat, take you out to the flats, hand you a radio to communicate and then they leave. It is then up to you. That didn’t seem like such a good idea for me…at first. To catch a bonefish, you first have to SEE a bonefish. If you have never done this before, let me try to explain. A bonefish is so shiny and clean that they are a mirror of the bottom which means that when you are looking for them, you might think you see sand when in truth you are looking at the fish. What you have to look for are shadows, tails, unusual movement. And all of this is going on while you try to move as quietly as possible while also dealing with a wind that at times pushes you around.
So there I stood on the flat. My nearest fishing buddy was maybe five hundred yards away. I looked out at the water and the shimmer from the relentless sun, staring into the flat wondering if I will ever see anything at all. The whole flat looked empty. This is the first battle you have to face in that the place itself is so foreign to a trout angler. No riffles, no plunge pools, no risers. Maddening!
Then I see something that looks different, just a flash of a shape. I think it is a fish but I cannot really tell because every time I try to lock in on it, the shape vanishes. Then I see a tail jut up out of the water and I see the fish. It isn’t an easy spot. You actually are looking for a part of a fish. Then I spot another…and another. Maybe five or six bones are feeding thirty feet from me at maybe ten o’clock. The wind is whipping across my left shoulder.
I feed out twelve good strips of line and make a cast. The aforementioned wind grabs my fly line and pushes it to my right, well out of the path of the fish. I strip in some line and try again; only this time I move my cast to compensate for the breeze. This time I get it close. Not spot on…but close.
Then as the fish move in my direction I begin stripping in line. Feeling the take I set the hook and feel pretty good about the fact that I didn’t trout set. Hook up. I feel the frantic shake and raise my rod. As soon as the rod is in the air, I look down at my reel. In seconds, I am already into the backing and the spool is generating some serious RPMs. Then…nothing.
I start to reel the line in thinking that I have lost the fish when it runs again. More backing races out the rod tip. I reel. It runs. I reel. It runs. Then finally, the fish tires and is close enough to grab. I pull the bone out of the water and it is maybe two feet long and solid muscle. This fish is built for speed.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had drawn a crowd. Setting the fish free, I get high fives and hand shakes. I am now part of the club. The club of the adrenaline fueled sport of bonefishing with a fly rod. And I still have no idea what I am doing.
A mountain trout angler. Out of my place. Out of my element. Using a rod that is more than double the rod I usually use. And I am having a ball.
The 20 foot Maverick was immense. If I were a track and field official, I would have demanded a urine sample. Hanging off its back was a 200 horsepower Yamaha framed by twin trolling motors. “They do the work,” said my guide earlier. “The push pole is just for course corrections.”
Nevertheless, I had signed up for what H2O Bonefishing calls its “No Boundaries” program. And at that particular instant in time, it was really well named. We had left Grand Bahama Island about 15 minutes ago and there was nothing but ocean all around us – no cays, no flats, no rocks – just ocean. Apparently, we were headed to some isolated cays. Luckily, it was flat calm.
Another 5 minutes passed, and the cays showed up as a couple specks on the horizon. In another half hour, we were hunting tarpon in a shallow bay.
Nothing but a couple of big nurse sharks showed themselves as they lumbered along… We drifted outside the bay to a small point… Tarpon! 40 to 50 pounders rolling luck crazy! I think I got bit on my third cast. Nevertheless, as tarpon are prone to do, it jumped off. And the remaining tarpon, as tarpon are prone to do, got lockjaw.
So off we went in search of bonefish… The rest of the day is a bit of a blur – but a good blur. We fished mostly deeper flats from the boat. We saw huge schools of bonefish, small groups of permit, groups of bones with permit mixed in, singles, doubles, barracuda, sharks… You get the picture. The bonefish weren’t pushovers, but they were pretty grabby. And the 8 or 9 that visited the boat averaged a solid 4 pounds. The permit … Let’s just say they were permit.
It was hard focusing on just bonefish and permit; there were too many other distractions. Like blacktip sharks and barracuda. Don’t let anybody tell you that sharks and barracuda are reckless predators; they knew exactly what I was up to…
I remember one brash 4 foot blacktip and an equally ballsy bonefish. I was winding the bonefish close to the boat when the blackip charged – not the bonefish, but the boat! At high speed! The guide gave it a solid crack between the eyes with the push pole and the shark settled, skulking about 30 feet off our stern. At this point in time, the bonefish ran directly toward the shark. As far as I could tell, the bonefish gave the shark a solid head butt in the flank. The shark, obviously disturbed by the sheer madness of the situation, finally moved off.
Needless to say, that bonefish got unhooked with extra respect.
As we wandered from cay to cay, a lot of fine looking rocks and coral were worked over with a sinking line. The odd jack or snapper was happy to play. Occasionally, a thunderstorm would pop up in the distance, but we’d adjust our course and skip around it.
It was a long day on the water. I left my hotel at 6:30 AM and came back 13 hours later. But those kinds of long hours I can get used to.
* * * * * * * *
The “No Boundaries” program runs during the summer months. It actually consists of 2 days fishing the plentiful flats close to Grand Bahama and 2 more days plying the offshore cays. The quiet summer winds (and the big boat!) help make the offshore forays possible. The offshore cays offered amazing fishing in terms of size, variety, and numbers. (If you’re a gear head, bring lots of stuff!!!) The closer in waters offered excellent bonefishing, although the fish were a smaller and the variety less. The accommodations were in Freeport and boat got trailered to launch sites around the island.
I recently returned from my second saltwater trip and let me start off by saying my second saltwater experience greatly outweighed my first. The folks at Deneki Andros South made this trip amazing in every aspect. Honestly it would be tough to accurately describe how great the fishing is, especially in words. It is something that everyone should experience for themselves. The guides at Andros South were awesome in every way. They are true masters of their craft and will put you in prime locations for countless shots at fish. However the biggest factor in my success came down to one simple piece of equipment. That piece of equipment is not the latest fly rod or fly reel or anything remotely close to that. A flats skiff outfitted with a lean bar made all the difference for me.
The premise of the lean bar is quite simple and self explanatory. A Lean bar is affixed to the front of the flats boat on the casting platform and it gives anglers added support and stability. For me, an angler who has cerebral palsy where balance is an issue anyway, the lean bar setup is the perfect amount of support and it enables me to fish effectively without the hindrance of being able to balance.
The lean bar is not only designed to help people like me that have balance issues but also for anglers who may be a little older and their balance may not be as good as it once was. Also I could imagine that it would be perfect for anyone who needs a little bit of extra help balancing on the front of the boat. Lastly I think everyone should use one on days where the conditions are not the greatest. It would provide the angler an edge to the windy and choppy water conditions.
This lean bar setup is amazing however it is not without its faults. I found two situations while fishing that the bar was a hindrance to getting a good hookup. The first thing I found is that the lean bar can be detrimental if I had a lot of outgoing line at a quick rate because periodically the line would get caught around the bar and the shot would be blown or even worse the fish would be lost. Also the strip set became a knuckle buster of sorts at times because I found that I would sometimes bang my hands into the bar on the set. This was more annoying than anything but the fish made it all worth it.
In conclusion if you are considering doing a saltwater trip and feel like the lean bar is something that you might want to consider don’t hesitate to ask your potential guide if they have a setup like this one. It truly does make all the difference in my book.