A First Look At Abaco, Bahamas

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Photos by Louis Cahill

Abaco, Bahamas is a fly fishing destination that’s been on my radar for a long time.

Like most anglers, I have my home waters. Places I know well and can find fish without starting from square one, and like most anglers I tend to spend a lot of time fishing those places. Since I fish in, and write about, the Bahamas a lot, folks assume I’ve fished every inch of it. I wish that were true and I’m working on it.

An island that I’ve consistently heard good things about over the years is Abaco and it took me way too long to get there and check it out. I finally made it and, as is often the case, now I’m asking myself why it took so long. Abaco has quickly become one of my favorite destinations and I’ll be spending a lot more time there.

Here are a few reasons why Abaco is topping my list of saltwater fly fishing destinations.

_DSC8779Abaco first caught my attention when I started hearing about the diversity of the fishing. A friend of mine was fishing there regularly and catching permit on every trip. Permit are all over the Bahamas but not always in numbers high enough to target and on many of the islands the guides don’t know how, or don’t care to target them. Abaco seemed to be different on both counts.

 

When I got there I found that the opportunities exceeded my expectations.

I asked to fish permit and was consistently put on permit, in good numbers and size. I hooked a 40-pounder and you can read about the HERE. Permit were not the end of the story. The guides easily put me on tarpon as well, making Abaco a legitimate destination for a grand slam.

DSCF8816Bonefishing is of course the big draw for any Bahamian fishery and Abaco certainly doesn’t disappoint. There are a couple of unique opportunities for my favorite species. The Marls is an expansive system of keys and soft flats which offer consistent and interesting bonefish action. The average fish on the Marls runs 3 to 5 pounds with outliers in both directions. Unlike many Bahamian fisheries where fish travel and feed in huge schools, Marls fish are found in small packs. Not only does this make for more interesting fishing, it means more shots at fish. It’s much more fun and rewarding to cast to 500 fish in 100 packs of 5 than one school of 500.

DSCF8408There are large fish on Abaco, too. Like large fish anywhere, they are not easy and if you choose to pursue them you’ll spend more time looking and less time casting. But if you want to catch a 10+ pound bonefish, the ocean side of Abaco is a great place to do it. The number of fish and diversity of the fishing make Abaco a top notch fishery.

 

There are several ways to approach fishing on Abaco.

It’s a doable DIY fishery, but less than ideal as wading options are limited and heavily fished. There are independent guides, of varying quality and several lodges, including some of the biggest names in the business.

I chose Abaco Lodge for several reasons. Oliver White, who owns Abaco Lodge, has become a friend. I respect his approach and the good work he does supporting fisheries and indigenous people around the globe and I know he runs a top notch operation. It was a simple choice that served me very well.

DSCF8727I can honestly say that Abaco lodge is the best fishing lodge I’ve ever visited. On every count it exceeded my expectations. The facility itself is ridiculously nice. Huge single occupancy rooms with big plush beds and fine linens. Luxurious baths with every amenity. Doors that open onto decks overlooking the water. A beautiful pool and fire pit, large covered communal deck with a superb bar. A well-stocked fly shop and a selection of fine cigars. The whole place shines like a new penny, including the sweet Hell’s Bay skiffs.

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The staff is friendly and extremely well trained. It’s impossible to keep an empty glass and the food is remarkable and catered to guests’ specific needs. The tap water is filtered and drinkable and taste great, which you can’t get in most expensive Nassau hotels. The commitment to the guests shows in everything they do, right down to a cheery message written on your cookie bag at lunch to the neatly rolled moist towel that meets you at the dock. I can’t tell you how nice it is to wipe the salt off your face before you even step off the boat.

The fishing program shows the same attention to detail.

DSCF8544The goal is that you receive the same kind of service that you’d expect from a top notch guide in the Florida Keys. The guides are knowledgeable, hard working and fun to fish with. One of the nicest things about the fishing program is that each boat has its own trailer. You may step on the boat at the dock right in front of the lodge, but if you’d like to fish a far flung part of the island, your guide will put his boat on the trailer and you’ll take a short, comfortable ride in a truck rather than a long hard ride in a boat. You’ll have more time to fish and feel a lot better when you get back to the lodge. I cannot overstate what a great service this is.

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Another thing that makes Abaco a tempting destination is the ease of travel.

Especially for American anglers. Abaco has a very nice airport with some direct flights from the US on major carriers. I can fly Delta direct to Marsh Harbor from Atlanta, ride the 10 minutes to the lodge, and be fishing that afternoon. For anglers coming from the west, this makes it possible to travel to Abaco in one day with no expensive overnight in Nassau and no puddle jumpers.

It all adds up to make Abaco a pretty sweet Bahamian fishing destination. I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to get there. If you decide to try a DIY trip to Abaco, I’d highly recommend Rod Hamilton’s book DIY Bonefishing. It’s a valuable resource and I wouldn’t plan a trip without it. If you decide a lodge is your thing, I’d highly recommend Abaco Lodge. It’s the perfect amount of spoiling with no stuffy jacket at dinner stuff.

I will be hosting a trip to Abaco Lodge March 7-11 2017  and doing my Bonefish 101 class there. I’d love for you to join me. Cost $4250. Email me to reserve a spot. HOOKUPS@GINKANDGASOLINE.COM

YOU CAN GET MORE INFO ABOUT G&G HOSTED FISHING TRIPS HERE.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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8 thoughts on “A First Look At Abaco, Bahamas

  1. Great place, Louis. Fished it many years ago and loved the place, the guide, the people, and most of all the fishing. I have stories from back when and a personally designed bonefish fly for you to try.

  2. Not to mention the mutton snapper that can be found tailing on the flats at times…good sized ones as well!

  3. Good write up. There is no link to the permit story. I went to Blackfly Lodge a few years ago and had a fantastic trip. We did have some wind issues in April but we made the best of it and caught lots of quality fish. My average size for the trip was 6 lbs which is impressive for the Bahamas.

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