Friends Don’t Let Friends Fish Muds

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Kent Seals The Deal Photo by louis Cahill

Kent Seals The Deal Photo by louis Cahill

“This is the kind of bonefishing that ruins you. The kind of fishing that impairs your ability to make good decisions.”

The sky is a perfect robin’s egg blue. Reflections of the morning sun dance on the underside on the mangroves giving the bright green leaves an unnatural glow. A breath of breeze cools my face in contrast to the warm sun on my back. Sixty or seventy yards in front of the boat there is a small school of nice size bonefish moving our way along the edge of the mangroves. It is a perfect morning on South Andros.

This flat is called Dodum. Dodum flat is a large white sand flat adjacent to the ocean at the mouth of Dodum Creek. The sand of the flat is as perfect as fresh snow and the water is a uniform depth of one to four feet depending on the tide. With the tide out, it’s a great wade and with it in, you can spend a whole day poling a boat around it. Dodum is big. Picture a Wal-Mart. Now picture the piece of land a Wal-Mart sits on, parking lot and loading docks included. Dodum is five times that size.

The tide is just beginning to fall and Captain Freddy is poling Kent and me along the mangroves at the edge of the flat. We are picking up fish as they come out of the mangroves with the tide. They are nice fish, averaging five or six pounds and there are plenty of them. We’re putting good numbers on the board early.

This is Kent’s first trip to South Andros. It’s my favorite place in the world to fish and he’s listened to me go on about it for countless hours. It’s our third day of fishing and, though the fishing has been good, Kent has yet to have one of those South Andros ‘magic days’. Almost anyone who has fished this place knows what I’m talking about. When the stars line up, things happen on South Andros that make your friends call you a liar.

Though Kent and I fish together all the time and have made some truly epic trips together, it just hasn’t worked out for us to make this trip. I’ve lost count of the days I’ve spent on Andros, but for me this trip is special. This time I get to show my best fishing buddy my favorite water in the world. Any fish I catch is a surplus to my excitement. Watching Kent, a look of child-like wonder on his face, soak in the beauty of this place and feel the power of these fish, that’s what I’m here for.

“You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille,” Freddy bursts into song as Kent hooks up and is instantly deep into his backing. “Four hungry children and a wife in the fields,” this is hysterical in a Bahamian accent. Kent now has to stifle a fit of laughter while having his ass handed to him. As the fish turns sharply back towards the mangroves Freddy starts in on a chorus of “Baby Please Don’t Go.” It’s not yet 10 a.m. And this is already one of my most memorable days of fishing.

As the sun climbs into the sky and water spills into the Tongue of the Ocean, Dodum reveals its true beauty to us. The sand glows a bright yellow as far as the eye can see. With only the slightest wind the water is transparent, moving only enough to give the illusion that the flat is alive. Like a mirage on the desert. Standing on the bow of the boat, endless white sand in every direction, you feel more like Lawrence of Arabia than a bonefisherman. You feel like you are on a quest, not a fishing trip. You feel the sun, the air, the water. You feel alive.

Freddy is giving us a lengthy dissertation on the art of keeping a woman happy. A subject on which he is, in his own mind at least, the leading expert and I have heard some anecdotal evidence to that effect. He trails off in mid-sentence as if he suddenly forgot what he was saying. His eyes are fixed on the horizon in the direction of the creek mouth. Without diverting his eyes, Freddy plants the end of the push pole ninety degrees to port and turns the boat sharply. With newfound urgency he poles the boat toward the center of the flat as his dissertation resumes.

It is several minutes before Kent and I see what Freddy sees. A school of bonefish pouring from the creek onto the flat with the falling tide. At first we think our eyes are playing tricks on us. It can’t be what it looks like. But this is South Andros, where the flats are paved in gold, and anything is possible. Soon, there is no question. Our hearts race and our breath becomes short as we watch a thousand bonefish close on the boat.

Captain Freddy is a savvy guide. He poles us past the line of the school of fish and turns the boat 180 degrees so the sun is at our back. We are as excited as children. Only once or twice have I seen a school this big and never under such perfect conditions. I can’t believe how lucky we are. “That’s a huge school of fish Freddy!” I say, my voice full of excitement.

“Yes it is.” Freddy is grinning like a Cheshire Cat. He gestures to his right, “so is that one.” A second school of fish, as large as the first, is moving onto the flat from the ocean side. The two schools converge and a feeding frenzy ensues. Two-thousand bonefish rooting like hogs in the sand of Dodum flat. They flash like glitter in a snow globe. A cloud of mud spreads over the flat. The flashing of the fish becomes muted, like lightning in a thunder cloud. Kent makes a cast.

“Friends don’t let friends fish muds.”

That’s what my buddy Andrew always says. It’s a joke that Kent doesn’t yet understand but he soon will. This is dangerous fishing. Like the kid who thinks he’ll just try meth this once to see what all the fuss is about and finds himself six months later, toothless and holding up a liquor store. This is the kind of bonefishing that ruins you. The kind of thing that you never quite get out of your system. The kind of fishing that impairs your ability to make good decisions. And when Kent is sitting drunk and dirty at the boat launch, his house and family gone, selling conch shells, I’ll be the one who is to blame.

Kent hooks up and jumps down into the cockpit to fight his fish. I take the bow and hook up immediately. When Kent releases his fish I jump down and he takes the bow, hooking up on his first cast. And so it goes, like some industrial bonefishing machine until our arms tremble with exhaustion. An hour and a half, maybe two. I tell my friends that we each caught seventy-five fish but in my heart I know it was more.

When the school finally moves on we stop for lunch, dripping with sweat. We look at each other and say, “man, unbelievable.” We take a bite of our sandwiches and say it again, several times. Even Freddy is beyond words. I wanted to show my friend my favorite place. I wanted him to see the magic. I wanted to show him South Andros, and South Andros showed us both something. And now we are both ruined.

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Friends Don’t Let Friends Fish Muds

  1. Amazing! I can close my eyes and see the sky, the sand and the fish. If you’ve held a fly rod long enough it is so special to get a blessed moment like you’ve described. I think what makes it so special is most fly fishermen really appreciate the combination of a beautiful environment and and the heart stopping moment when you hook up. Great post – keep it coming!

  2. Love your writing style Louis. My son and I had the privilege of encountering a mud once near Abaco, but the size of the event pales with your experience. Our mud took place in a deeper cut between mangrove islands with a large school of smaller fish. The number of fish we landed was not nearly as impressive as your day. But multiple doubles and lactic acid pain in our arms are not normally associated with bonefishing, so we count ourselves as very lucky to have experienced a mud. I could be wrong, but I think our interaction with the fish extended the event by stirring up more activity in the school and frenzied feasting.

  3. Wow. Sweet read Louis! I’ve only been bonefishing once, and it by far exceeded my expectations with the conditions, number of schools that I saw, and the number of bones I brought to the boat. I was grinning from ear to ear, and giddy with laughter the entire day. It was insane. During one fight I even handed off the rod to my captain after spotting a huge single, jumped off the boat and waded after it. I couldn’t get him to turn on my fly, but man it was fun. Even still, I can imagine just how crazy the day you guys had must have been. Even catching 25 bones would’ve been insane. Seventy five is just wicked! If you ever had a day like that again, you would be truly blessed! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Friends don’t torture friends who are chained to their desks! My memory reminds me of a similar day as a kid on Flaming Gorge reservoir with rainbows before the lake had finished filling. I know it wasn’t the same as bonefish on the flats, but to a twelve-year-old with a 3 weight…

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