Tag Archives: featured

Bonefish Ain’t No Brook Trout

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.

Epic Hatches and Other Rural Legends

Results

“The hatch is just above the bridge!” said the voice from the phone.  While this may be a rather innocuous phrase to the non-angler, in me, it induced an involuntary fist pump, a silent whoop, and a sudden onset of Steve Martin’s Happy Feet in the middle of my office cubicle.  I was calling the fly shop in Ashton for the sixth consecutive day, asking about the salmon fly hatch.  Ignoring the strange looks from my fellow office workers, minutes later my friend and I were escaping the gopher farm and racing our way across the Idaho desert toward an afternoon of casting orange bellied behemoths, more akin to miniature Goodyear blimps, than the delicate creations normally presented to Henry’s Fork trout.

The guy in the shop answering the phone each morning understood completely and likely would have had a similar reaction to mine if the roles were reversed. Surely he had been tolerating the daily inquiries, in anticipation of the fulfillment of the unspoken agreement that we would be stopping into the shop to purchase a few of his handmade creations in exchange for the information we anxiously pursued.  It is my adherence to this type of arrangement that helps to explain the many boxes of “local flies” that continue to fill every pocket, pouch, and sleeve in my fly vest.  Indeed, you can never have too many flies. You just don’t have to carry ALL of them with you everywhere you go. Last year, I consolidated some of these into boxes that would only be inserted for a trip to that specific locale.  The alternative being a vest more suited for combat training than fly fishing.

Eventually, every angler decides to target a specific hatch of insects.  Sometimes it is on local waters; sometimes great distances are traveled in hopes of fishing the often finicky, always ephemeral, and like most things in nature unpredictable, and yet potentially epic insect hatches.  I once shared a flight home to Idaho Falls with a couple from New Zealand who were targeting the Mother’s Day hatch on the Madison.  We all found it amusing that we both wanted to circumnavigate the globe to fish each other’s home waters.

Some believe that these epic hatches are nothing short of urban legends; or perhaps rural legends as it were.  My wife has yet to experience a true dry fly hatch of any kind.  Last June, in an effort to remedy this situation, I scheduled a guided trip for us in Yellowstone National Park.  The week preceding our trip it rained nonstop causing the rivers in the park to swell well beyond their banks.  I still remember the look on our guide’s face as he implored us saying “please don’t make me take you into The Park today”.  We gladly changed our plans to float the Madison and had a fantastic day throwing rubber legs.  While my wife landed countless trout that day, an insect hatch remained in the same category as our elusive friend Sasquatch.

Trout Food...I find it interesting that while trout play a critical role in this pursuit, the primary focus is on a species of insect. This change in focus allows anglers to tolerate what, under other circumstances would be considered unbearable conditions.  Combat fishing; which is normally avoided by all but the most oblivious, some might say imbecilic, of anglers, is suddenly kosher.  It seems that when the fish are eating flies as if they were a bunch of skittles that have been strewn about the floor of a day care center, an occasional tangle with another angler is abided by all.  The solitude so often sought in our sport becomes a party where proximity is only limited by the propensity to catch each other, wasting precious fishing time.

Ed and I had a blast splashing down sofa pillows that day on the Henry’s Fork.  Despite having wings, salmon flies are clearly not designed for flight, especially in the windy conditions of Eastern Idaho. I have to admit that having giant bugs crash land into your head and proceed to crawl up your body in search of who knows what, is a bit unnerving.  Eventually I discovered that the brim of my hat is their preferred vantage point.

Whether it be cicadas, green drakes, salmon flies, bikinis, stones, or sallies, chasing something that may or may not happen when and where you end up adds another dimension to an already fascinating obsession.   I just heard that the green drakes are coming off on the Middle Provo and my happy feet are shuffling toward the truck…

Desert Trout Oasis

The Plight of a Desert Fly Fisherman

Nothing short of “ironic” describes the situation that I find myself in. I am a fly fisherman and I live in the desert. I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, home to the heritage brook trout and the fabled waters of the Ausable River that were haunted by the likes of Fran Betters. Although I spin fished the lakes for pike and bass, I curse myself now for the years I wasted not fly fishing, while living in that East Coast trout-Mecca. After bumping around the States for a year or two after college, I settled in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, married, and put down roots…then I discovered fly fishing.

Finding myself in this predicament, just means that I have to get creative. Arizona is a large state and despite popular opinion, is not just a giant sandbox with saguaro cacti and rattlesnakes. Here are a couple of fly fishing options that feed the insatiable hunger that most fly fisherman are afflicted with.

Urban Water – The greater Phoenix area is spotted with scores of golf courses and housing developments that have urban ponds full of warm water species of fish from bass, bluegill, tilapia, and even some roughfish for those interested in brownlining. The Arizona Game and Fish stocks their urban ponds with trout in the wintertime, which offers a great opportunity to introduce a young angler to the joys of fishing.

The Warm Water Lakes – Several rivers have been dammed up in a couple areas to create reseviors of water to keep Phoenix hydrated during the long hot summers.  These lakes include Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Lake Mead, and Lake Havasu just to name a few. These lakes are pretty amazing ecosystems with a plethora of warm water fish most notably the big strippers that often grace the pages of the Arizona Game and Fish website.

The Mogollon Rim – One of my favorite places to run to on a weekend is the Mogollon Rim. Not only are the cold water lakes, like Woods Canyon Lake and Willow Springs Lake, growing big trout, but the Game and Fish stocks several small streams that can offer the small stream nut some remarkable views and fishing.

Oak Creek – This little creek that flows cold and clear through the Red Rock country of Sedona is full of willing stocked rainbows, but has an impressive population of brown trout that are as spooky and smart as any trout you are likely to find. As long as you wait till the summer crowds are gone, a day on Oak Creek will offer an amazing day of fly fishing in one of the most unique settings in the United States.

The White Mountains – The White Mountains of Arizona are home to some of the most beautiful and magnificent waters in the Southwest. A mixture of tribal and public land, the White Mountains suffered from one of the worst fires the state of  Arizona has ever seen. Although the Wallow Fire ravaged a good chunk of this area and priceless timber and ecosystems were destroyed, there is still hope for this area and many of the streams and lakes were spared. When you hear of big trout being caught in Arizona, 9 times out of 10, they were caught somewhere in the White Mountains. Apache, Rainbow, Brown, Brook, and Cutthroat trout along with Grayling are present in different waters in the White Mountains and gives the angler a wide range of fish to present flies to.

Although being stuck in the desert is most likely a fly fisherman’s worst nightmare, all hope is not lost. If you know where to look and are willing to put some miles on your boots, fish, even trout are findable in Arizona.

Map

Maps

Living in the state of Arizona, most people don’t think about trout fishing. Truth be told, there is more than rattlesnakes and saguaros in this desert state, and with a bit of work, some very respectable fish can be found.

The one key tool that any respectable fisherman needs when exploring in Arizona is a good map. A good map can take many forms, and often times, the best type is a topographical map. Topos are worth their weight in gold when trying to find an access points into the rugged canyons through which Arizona’s creeks flow. That same map that was beneficial accessing the creek can be a lifesaver when trying to get back out to the truck, as steep rock walls seem impenetrable.

Although the topographical map is arguably the most accurate, it may not be the best tool for the job. The most valuable maps are often drawn by hand and exchanged with a solemn oath to never spill their secrets. Typically, they include hastily scribbled odometer readings, forest road numbers, and notes that read “if you see burned tree next to the dinosaur-egg-rock, you’ve gone too far.” These hand drawn diagrams are treasure maps where “X” marks the spot full of hungry trout ready to gobble up a well-placed fly. Fly fishermen don’t share these readily and typically after a trip or two, they are left in a safe place at home, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

Every state and locale has their honey holes that only the locals know, but it seems in this digital age that more of these locations are being leaked.  I married an Arizona girl and will likely be here for life, and I can tell you quite easily, those hastily scrawled maps are tucked away in the safe next to car titles, birth certificates, and the rest of the other valuables only to be passed on to the next generation of Smiths.

A night with Clear Cure Goo

Product Review: Clear Cure Goo

A night with Clear Cure GooI have used many different types of epoxies throughout my fly fishing and fly tying careers. And I agree that at the end of the day, they all do pretty much the same thing. However, after coming to Fishwest, I was introduced to Clear Cure Goo epoxies. They are relatively new in the world of fly tying epoxies, but have quickly gained popularity amongst tiers in both freshwater and saltwater realms. Their product line offers tiers a wide variety of epoxies, covering all tying situations from small nymphs for trout, to large saltwater baitfish patterns.

For the Mountain West, I have found that the Clear Cure Goo Hydro and Thin epoxies cover most of my trout fly tying needs. The Hydro is perfect for putting a hard translucent layer on chironomids bodies, and topcoats for shells on nymphs. The Thin epoxy has just enough viscosity for situations that require larger amounts such as when building heads for streamers and baitfish patterns. The Thin epoxy does cure with a slight tacky feel, so a final thin coat of Hydro is necessary for a tack-free finish. I would also recommend that if you consider yourself a slower tier, or really want to build larger heads, to purchase their Thick epoxy

No matter which Clear Cure Goo products you use, the final results are a finish as hard, clear, and smooth as glass that I have yet to find crack, chip, or yellow.

Big Fish

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake Ladder Line

We drove the truck onto the beach of Pyramid Lake while it was still dark. Several campers were already parked on the beach, but there were no signs of movement from the dark interior of the trailers. The four of us quietly exited the truck with our waders and Goretex jackets swishing as we gathered our gear. We donned headlamps and secured stripping baskets, gloves, and our fly rods before we finally pulled our ladders out of the back of the truck. Pyramid Lake is a lake in western Nevada known for big Lahontan cutthroats where fishermen perch on top of a ladder and fish the lake’s large drop off.

With headlamps bobbing in the darkness, we waddled our ladder out into the dark lake, feeling the water rise from our boots, past our knees and then to our mid section. Knowing the lake floor makes a sudden drop, we positioned our ladders and waited patiently for the earth to spin a bit more so that the sun could fight off the darkness of night. Waiting with fly rods in hand, other headlights started to appear on the beach, and within moments, more fishermen were walking ladders into the dark water.

The dark sky turned gray and fly rods were put to use, heaving heavy shooting heads and flies into the choppy water. Within moments the first of our group raised a bent fly rod high into the air. We all admired the pulsing line and the eruption on the water’s surface as a heavy Lahontan cutthroat thrashed its way into the net.

In truth we are all there looking for a big fish, and although we never laid a hand on any of the big 10 pounders, we each held very respectable fish. But as much as Pyramid Lake is about the lake, there is also something socially binding about the ladder line. We stand like soldiers in a formation. Your comrades to the right and left hold the line and continue to throw flies in to the biting wind and all pray for the tug of a fish and the glory that comes with it. Fishing at Pyramid Lake is truly an experience, not only for the shot at a big fish, but for the friendships built on the ladders

Green Brown

Guides

When I first started fly fishing I really didn’t have much use for a guide.  Given my age at the time, my macaroni and cheese, top ramen budget would not have allowed me to hire a guide anyway.  I learned how to fly fish using the scientific method; effectively identifying almost every way NOT to catch fish.  My lack of stealth coupled with a tendency to always find myself standing in the place to which I should be casting, and using tippet heavy enough to reel in a Land Cruiser, often times left me wondering why on earth I had given up the night crawlers and Balls of Fire that were so successful in my youth.  I looked upon guides as unreachable gurus who sold the experience that I so desperately pursued.  On occasion, I would come upon a guide carefully instructing a client, and sit on the bank just within earshot hoping to poach a word of wisdom or two.  While this made me uncomfortable, a feeling likely shared by the guide and his client, I was fascinated by a person who could verbally instruct someone from snapping flies off into the bushes all the way to the point of actually landing a trout.  Typically, it only took one sharp gaze from the guide for me to get the message and move on.  A couple of years later, a brother-in-law who was always gifted at catching a lot of fish became a guide.

Suddenly, I knew “one” which seemed to make them more human.  He and a couple of other guys took me on trips to places like the Madison and the Green, etching indelible memories on my very being.  Several years later I moved to Green BrownIdaho and met a coworker who quickly became a friend.  It turned out he was married to a guide who also became a friend.  Fishing with him in his drift boat was akin to fly fishing graduate school.  I learned how to read currents while floating on them, spot and identify raptors overhead, use the wind instead of fight it, how to row, the ever important skill of making a sandwich fit for a drift boat, and the value of a good straw hat.  Slowly I began to realize that guides are not riparian leprechauns fleecing the dollars from the wallets of unsuspecting, yet all too willing Sports.  These people are Sages of hard earned knowledge; passionate protectors of the very waters from which they have been taught so many valuable lessons. I recognized that they have forged a connection with the river that only dog owners can approach in understanding.

Most start guiding for a variety of reasons; the mystique, to get girls, chasing dreams, trying to find themselves, etc.  Most only last a few seasons before they either accomplish their goals, find that there are not many girls to be gotten (re: MANtana), or just get sick of what ultimately is a lot of very  hard work.  Others find themselves watching the years blow by like exit signs on a kamikaze cross country road trip.  I guess that is the point, they find themselves.  They become part of an elite group of our species that “just get it”.  No longer encumbered by the hollow or vain pursuits which infect and distract so many of the rest of us.  They take great joy in helping their clients to feel the joys of angling; appreciate the precious resource that make the art of fly-fishing possible, and form a personal connection with those who will allow themselves to drop the firewall for a few hours.

At the end of a day with a good guide, you feel like you have made a friend; having shared something that is truly special.  Good guides seem to have achieved something that is truly God-like; the ability to enjoy the very passion that drives them, vicariously.  To laugh, cry, cuss, and rejoice with a client as if they were the ones holding the rod is something that I am only beginning to understand as I guide my family in their angling experiences while seated on the sticks of my own drift boat.

To Mark, Ed, Leslie, Brian, Monty, Mike, Jimmy, Pete, Shawn, Marc, Steve, Dustin, Dave, Brian, and Craig; I thank you for your guidance both on the river and off. My angling journey continues to be a source of strength, humor, and inspiration as I navigate the turbulent waters of life.

Geofish

Get Your Popcorn Ready: Geofish Volume 1 Mexico Review

Authors Note: I am going to do my best impression of the late Roger Ebert here but by no means am I a film critic. After many years anticipating this movie release, here are my thoughts:

This is the type of adventure that I could find myself contemplating doing with my buddies. Going beyond the contemplation stage is probably out of the question for me at this point. The movie follows four friends, Jay Johnson, Chris Owens, Thad Robinson and Brian Jill (Formerly of AEG Media) as they attempt an 8,000 mile journey from the friendly confines of the Pacific Northwest to the tip of South America. Leg one sees the crew venture off into mainland Mexico.

The trip itself starts off as an adventure with the acquisition of a 1996 Ford F250 off of good ole reliable Craigslist.  They picked up this truck from a Utah dairy farmer who delivered it to them on a trailer. Red flag? Not for these guys, just a minor speed bump.  Running off of a limited budget these guys needed a more economical way of traveling. Knowing that gas prices would be the biggest determent the film budget these guys decided to convert their glorious F250 into a veggie oil powered home away from home. With the extreme generosity of Joel Woolf of Veg Powered systems who helped to do a complete overhaul of their F250 they were finally able to start their adventure.

Overcoming obstacles is a reoccurring theme throughout the movie. From spewing vegetable oil on the streets of Mexico to getting robbed at knifepoint at a Wal-Mart, these guys become good “amigos” with the Policia during their travels. The best part is that even after all these events they still soldier on, and with good reason.

The fishing sequences within this movie can be accurately described in one word. EPIC! First off is Marlin fishing 101. This isn’t your fancy marlin fishing that you see with a giant deep sea yacht and a full crew teasing in fish. The reality is that these guys are motoring around off the coast in a tiny panga with an outboard motor with a “guide” that doesn’t speak a lick of English searching for these leviathan creatures. The fishing starts off slow, but when they finally figure out how to do it the fishing pays off. That day Marlin fishing has to be one of those days that those guys will never ever forget.

It doesn’t end there. From lakes in central Mexico that are the homes goliath Bass to the baby Tarpon and Snook of the Yucatan. These fishing outings are the foundation of stories that become fishing legend and lore. Without giving too much away some of these locations and fish give a new fresh perspective to being “Off the Grid”.

Overall the greatest single thing about this adventure has to be that these guys got to do it together. Friendship and camaraderie is an important aspect of the sport of Fly Fishing. This movie is the ultimate example of that. Four buddies traveling thousands of miles while enjoying a sport that they love along the way. Does it get any better than that? I don’t think so. So get your popcorn ready! If you are interested in this Geofish or other fly fishing films and media please check out the Books & Media  section at Fishwest enjoy!

Shoestring Mouse

Youth & Fly Fishing

Two years ago, the staff at our middle school began to think creatively about activities we could get students involved in. Our goal was to connect students to fitness and promote healthy choices and lifestyles. We considered a wide array of clubs that promoted wellness and fun- snowshoeing, running, tai chi, and yoga.  The idea was to give the students a choice and make it fun, and it’s more likely that the activity and healthy choices will become a permanent part of their life. The same philosophy applies to adults. As a track and cross country coach, I sponsored a “run club” and was pleasantly surprised by the number of students that came early to school to run. The clubs were a wonderful outlet for kids who had varied interests who may or may not already belong to a team sport and a place to make new friends. Feeling, however, that I had omitted one of my life’s great passions, I introduced a “fly fishing club.” I recruited my friend and seasonal guide to come help us out.

The club generated some immediate interest from a few skeptical/curious students. I can’t blame them; in our corner of the world, if you casually mention “fly fishing” it either conjures images of fishing for or with houseflies or among adults, “A River Runs Through It,” the only connection to fly fishing they have thanks to Hollywood. I guess if they have us fly fisherman equated with Brad Pitt in some form or another then we’re doing alright.

The club met every Friday morning and we had three students that showed up regularly. We covered setup, knots, casting, even some fly tying and entomology. Kids are much better students than we sometimes give them credit, especially when they are interested. I say this with experience as a classroom teacher and a former swim lessons instructor for both children and adults. Adults would come to lessons with pre-conceived ideas or things they have seen which resulted in muscle memory habits that are often difficult to break. The same applies to fly fishing. Kids are interested and new to these skills and are often in the mindset of being a student, that is to say, teachable and willing to learn. It seems we sometimes lose this ability as we grow older.

We culminated the year with a casting competition for a puck of flies that my friend had tied. Nearly all the weeks of casting skills we had taught flew out the window as the students worked to hit the target we had placed out in front of them. They laughed, struggled, and had a great time. The skills didn’t matter- they were having fun, and that’s what it’s about. Eventually one of them, slowed down his cast, hit the target, and was beaming with his new prize. Those are the moments that you do this kind of thing for: the look on his face was reward enough and reassurance we needed to keep the club going.

When school started in August of this year, students were already asking about when Fly Fishing Club would start. A fall coach, I planned on November as a good time to begin, allowing fall sports and that “settling in” time to expire. The club had generated more interest this year, a few newcomers that had talked to me in hall. My favorite line, “Hey Mr. R, I’m kind of interested in fly fishing club this year. I don’t know- fly fishing- it just seems like it would be something good for me to know.”

When November came around we had five attendees show and have had near perfect attendance since. We started with the same skills as last year, spending some Fridays in the classroom on knots and some at our pool, working on roll casts with hookless hoppers. We put our focus on fly tying this year, however. Tying, as we know, involves some tools and some expense, and being no money in the school budget for vises and the pieces of various animals we require, we sought out a grant from our state DNR.

The grant provided us funds for a trip and materials. In the meantime, we reached out to various TU chapters and fly fishing associations across the state for help. These are amazing groups of people when it comes to helping kids. Days after requesting help, I was sent an email from a man across the state who wanted to help out by sending us his old vise and tool set. He shipped it that day (which must have been pricey to do) so that a student could have the opportunity to learn to tie. It’s been used every Friday since. More recently, a man sent us homemade bobbins and threaders to use in our club, and another chapter is setting us up with used rod/reel combos for next year’s club. The generosity we’ve had bestowed on our group is incredible and speaks for the generous attitudes of fly fishermen and women.

With tying, our emphasis has been on making it fun. We chose some beginner patterns to start with and let the students decide the colors. We try to repeat the pattern the next time, so it sticks. We’ve tied a lot of wooly buggers and beetles, flies they can use around town on the river and ponds. Quick learners, they have learned how to use the tools and ask questions when they need help. I’ve been amazed with their excitement and enthusiasm. Every Thursday afternoon they make sure we’re still on for Friday morning and ask to borrow copies of Fly Fisherman magazine or the Feathercraft catalog to look at on weekends. The Friday before spring break, they convinced their study hall teacher to host an impromptu fly tying session during the last half hour of the day. It’s fun to hear them talking about fly fishing in the hall or during free time in class. They talk gear, flies, and where they want to fish. A few of them have really found their creative niche with fly tying, bringing in patterns they’ve tied and the stories of their experiences. They find patterns they like, ask questions, and experiment with hooks and materials they are finding everywhere. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see their ingenuity. I’ll never forget the mouse pattern one student brought in a few weeks ago. He had seen it in a magazine and did a great job replicating the pattern down to the shoestring he creatively used for a tail. He told me how he had glued it, and as I held it, I could still feel some moisture. I quickly asked, “Is this wet glue?,” not wanting to pry my fingers apart. His reply, “No, I just tested it in the sink before I came to school!”

I don’t believe that these kids have a real understanding of how excited we as instructors are to be a part of this club as much as they are. Introducing them to a new skill, helping them to tie a fly and be proud of what they created, and seeing their reaction to a technique has been a rewarding experience.  At the end of April, we’re taking our club on one of our first club fishing trips to trout streams north of us. We’re all very excited to put their skills to the test and looking forward to a memorable day on the water.

Blue Water Shelf (Snapper Central)

No Boundaries in the Bahamas

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.