Bonefish Heaven

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Owen Plair

Bonefish are a species that all fly anglers dream about, and hope to one day target.

Traveling to a tropical destination and combing the crystal clear flats looking for a grey ghost is something that intrigues all anglers. I have targeted bonefish a few times in south Florida, including areas like Biscayne Bay and Islamorada, with a little success but never brought a fish to hand. After working in a fly shop for 10 years getting anglers geared up for trips or poling clients on my skiff and hearing countless bonefish stories, it was time to feel that excitement first hand. Back in mid November I was fortunate enough to attend the G&G South Andros Bonefish School. The feeling I had, packing my bags, knowing exactly what to bring after helping countless other anglers throughout the years was incredible. Finally it was my turn to fly out for my first experience with Bahamas Bonefish.

South Andros, Bahamas Photo by Louis Cahill

South Andros, Bahamas Photo by Louis Cahill

Little did I know, as I looked out of small plane window at the blue, tropical water, that South Andros would soon change my life forever. We were a group of 12 anglers hailing all the way from Montana to across the ocean in England. All with the same heightened anticipation of a week in Bonefish heaven. Endless miles of water, absolutely gorgeous habitat, and a culture proud to host angers like us, coming to experience bonefishing in the Bahamas. When flying into South Andros you don’t see giant resorts and tall buildings, even though it is the largest island in the Bahamas. What you see are miles and miles of flats and an island that seems almost deserted from the air. This was surprising to me and made me smile, knowing that it was a sign of great fishing ahead.

After everyone was seated in our taxi to the lodge, the driver of the van says in a warming Bahamian accent, “Okay fellas, I have fresh air, saltwater and cold beer. What’ll you have?” Kermit, our driver, starts popping bottle tops and handing out cold Bahamian beer for the short ride to the lodge. That was one of the best beers I had ever had.

We had an amazing dinner that night, full of laughter, drinks, and stories from around the globe. When 12 fly fishermen get together, it’s like you have been best friends for years. After dinner everyone went to their rooms and started rigging rods, tying leaders, and getting organized for the next morning. The rooms were not numbered but named after various fish and ironically the name of my room was “bonefish” which made me feel confident in the upcoming week.

I woke up feeling like a kid on Christmas morning.

A slight hangover lingering and blurry eyes looking up at a photo on my wall of Bruce Chard and guide Josie Sands holding a 10lb bonefish. Yes, it was a little odd waking up to Bruce Chard, but a good way to get you stoked for the day. We all had breakfast and coffee, running a little slower than the night before. Soon, we loaded the truck with our gear and piled into vans and off we went to the boat launch. As we walked down to the ramp our rods and gear were waiting. The guides started pulling up in their skiffs as pairs of anglers jumped aboard, ready to see what was in store for the day.

DSCF3111My guide on the first day was Torrie Bevins, who has been guiding in South Andros for 16 years and is known as the young gun of the guide team. During the long run it all started to soak in how vast and endless this fishery is. After a 30-minute ride, I was lost in the maze of mangroves. The skiff slowed to a stop as we arrived at the first flat of the day. “Owen, what rod would you like to use?” Torrie asked. “Blue Magic,” I replied and pointed to my Xi3 with the matching blue Tibor. I call this setup blue magic because of the many firsts I’ve had on it over the years, in so many different destinations. It is the one rod I have a truly personal connection with and a rod that always seems to create some sort of magic.

Torrie hands me the rod and right away says “man, lets change that fly,” so I tie on a small gotcha pattern for very shallow water. The feeling of getting on the bow and not knowing what was next was incredible. It was the first time in months I was on the business end of a skiff and in a fishery I have never experienced. I stripped out 60ft of line and started scanning the flat ahead as Torrie poled the edge. In a matter of a few minutes, literally, Torrie says, in a calm soft voice, “Owen! 12 o’clock, 50 feet, bones coming at you!”

As he said the words, my eyes focused on the fish. I made a 50ft cast in front of the small school of bonefish and one strip later connected to my first ever Bahamas bonefish. After years of looking forward to that moment I was in shock that it all came together, especially on the very first cast within the first few moments of fishing!

The feeling of landing that bonefish, taking out the fly, and watching him slowly swim away after the release was incredible.

DSCF2110There were simply no words to describe how I felt. Blue Magic does her thang, yet again. In silence and shock, I walked to the back of the skiff to shake Torrie’s hand and said, “Thank you my friend, thank you for making a dream come true.” Torrie and I bonded in that moment and for the rest of day every time I got on the bow of his skiff, I caught a bonefish. It felt good to be the angler again, rather than the guide, and most of all it felt good to see the smile on my guide’s face, knowing he was just as passionate as I am about sharing his home waters with anglers from around the world.

My life changed after that first cast, and first bonefish in South Andros. I grew as an angler, targeting bonefish for the next 6 days of the trip. There were countless things I learned during the experience and look forward to sharing those experiences with all of you in the next few months. What I learned most, from this trip, was that South Andros is truly Bonefish Heaven. A place that absolutely blew my mind with its endless flats, vast numbers of fish, and the quality of its guides, who have mastered their fishery. Feeling lost in a maze of mangroves surrounded by fish, that’s the true meaning of heaven, for me. South Andros is world class fishery and a destination I will go back to for many, many years to come.

Owen Plair
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “Bonefish Heaven

  1. A short piece I wrote after my first trip to Kiritimati.

    Kiritimati Bonefish

    Standing calf deep in water, there is very little cloud cover, the wind is about 40kph coming at you from the 2 o’clock, the guide has called a fish 40 feet at 11o’clock, yes there’s the fish this will be a hard cast because of the wind, you shoot 40ft of line and leader into the backcast then start the forward cast. You have to come in low because of the wind, give it a short vigorous haul without shooting line.

    Good cast for the conditions the fly has landed just past the fish and to the 10 o’clock side, long slow strip, stop, long slow strip, stop, yes the fish has seen the fly, short strip, the fish moves in and takes the fly, you maintain pressure on the line, yes the fish moves off with the fly, you set the hook with your striping hand,. You know there is 7 or 8 metres of line floating in the water at your feet and in less than a second you ensure this line has fed into the stripping guides of the rod, the slack is taken up and the reel begins to SCREAM while the line HISSES through the water.

    Now you lift the rod tip to the 45 degrees to keep pressure on the fish as it swims at more than 15 metres per second through the water doing its 8 to 10 second dash. Ah, it’s 120 metres out and slowing down and you settle into the fight to turn its head and pump it in. Here comes the back of the fly line lots of vibrations coming through the rod, let go of the reel handle as the reel starts to scream again.

    With luck you will eventually get the fish in so that the guide can control it, no photos, so the guide keeps it in the water and makes sure it recovers before it is let go and it lazily swims off.

    The guide points to more fish and you move off to get another adrenaline rush.

    After three trips and 350 bones I still want to fish for them.

    Yes there is one species I’ve caught which I believe is better and that’s Milkfish in the 1200mm+ size on 10wts using flies with #6 hooks. Cheers BM

  2. Reminds me of my first steelhead, on the Deschutes river in Oregon. My guide had to leave and go relieve himself. During that time I had a fish roll on the fly and on the next cast I hooked him. When my guide returned he told me he wondered why I hadn’t moved downstream and then he saw I was fighting a fish! Great article, Owen. Bet you really got the fever now, don’tcha!!

  3. Pingback: Bonefish Heaven | Andros South Guest Trip Report from G&G

  4. Great story Owen. I’m kinda feeling the same way with an upcoming south Florida fishing trip on the works. My first salt water trip was to Mexico but it was a bust due to weather. I’m hoping south Florida in April will be better and that I get to experience a fraction of what you did in the Bahamas’s.

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