Sunday Classic / Perfect Moments, Bahamas Edition

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There is no defense  Photo by Louis Cahill

There is no defense Photo by Louis Cahill

Our recent trip to South Andros Bahamas was amazing for many reasons. Great fishing, making new friends and seeing old ones.

Fishing cool new rods and tying great new flies. We even had a couple of bona fide adventures. We laughed until it hurt, ate until it hurt and, yes, drank until it hurt. I came home with a head full of snapshots that will not soon fade. It got me thinking. Since we practice catch and release, what is it that we bring home from a fishing trip?

In “Swimming To Cambodia” Spaulding Gray talks about having a perfect moment. An experience so culminating, that nothing else seems to exist but that moment. He can’t leave Thailand until he has one. He finally does and it involves Thai stick. I like that idea of the perfect moment and ever since Spaulding made me aware of it, I keep my eyes open and try to spot them.

I thought I found my perfect moment about mid week of the Bahamas trip. A subset of perfect moments that I’m fond of is “perfect shots.” By shot I mean shots at fish, not photos and I had one on Tuesday. Several things go into the making of a perfect shot. Most important, it has to be visual. I have to see the whole story unfold. I have to perform to the best of my ability. There’s no compromising on that one. The fish has to do his part, mainly eat the fly but he shouldn’t be a pushover. Of lesser importance but still of value are the surroundings. This particular shot had this in spades.

It was one of the prettiest flats I’ve ever seen. The colors were crazy vivid. I remember commenting that if you painted a picture of it people would say it was fake. This is partly because it was so beautiful and partly because most people are small minded and obsessed with the idea of what’s ‘real’ and what’s not. I was wading with Scott Mackenzie, one of those new friends I mentioned. A great guy who’s company I thoroughly enjoy. Our guide was Norman Rolle, an old friend and the man who put me on my first bonefish years ago.

Norman picked up this fish working along the shoreline. He was about a hundred yards out, a nice fish in the seven pound range, a pretty common size for South Andros. He worked slowly towards us, nosing back and forth. We watched him for a long time until he was in range. There was a pretty strong cross wind off my right shoulder so I made a backhand cast, about eighty feet. The fly drifted with the wind and landed softly about ten feet dead in front of the fish.

“Perfect,” Norman said softly, almost to himself.

I dropped my rod tip and stripped. The fish keyed in on the fly immediately and started tracking it. He was careful, following slowly, well back from the fly. The follow seemed to go on for ever. He followed the fly for about forty feet, closing half the distance between us. Slow and steady he stayed interested but without committing. Fearing I might be losing his attention I changed my retrieve to short quick strips, as if my fly had just noticed its admirer. The fish charged, pushing a big wake. I was looking him in the eye when he ate. I was in my backing instantly.

The fish fought hard. I’m not afraid of a little drag but in spite of having my Nautilus set to medieval this fish was spanking me. When I finally got him close I realized he was a better fish than I’d given him credit for. Norman took my leader in his hand and the fish made one last run in protest. I turned him and brought him back to Norman a second time. As his hand touched the leader the hook slipped free and we watched the bright silver fish swim slowly away. It couldn’t have ended better. Now, he owes me a rematch. I thought I’d had my perfect moment, but it was early in the trip and Andros still had a few shots for me.

South Andros may well be my favorite place to fish. I’ve been really fortunate to fish there a lot. Somehow, in the many trips I’ve made, Kent and I have never fished it together. That’s the thing I was most excited about, showing my boy a piece of water I truly love. I may have had a perfect moment but Kent hadn’t. I’d shown him photos of some of my favorite spots and when I came to a flat called Dodum he exclaimed,

“Damn, I wanna fish there!”

The next day we hopped in the boat with our guide Freddy and I asked, “where we going today Freddy?”

“Oh, I’s thinkin Dodum,” Freddy replied.

We grinned like hyenas.

Dodum is a white sand flat adjacent to the ocean. It’s bigger than Atlanta’s biggest shopping mall, parking lots included. It kind of bends the mind. At low tide the whole thing is calf deep and you can wade it, if you don’t mind sharks. Dodum is notorious for pissy sharks. This morning we have hit it with the tide in. We’ll be able to pole the flat all day.

We fish along the edge of the mangroves on the north end of the flat and we’re into fish almost immediately. We each landed a hand full of nice fish in the five pound range and a few bigger before poling out across the flat. Kent had never seen one of the large schools of bonefish that South Andros is famous for. This was about to change. As Freddy poled us across Dodum we whacked three schools of fish converge into one frantic mass. Kent stood on the bow, rod in hand, two thousand bonefish feeding in front of him. It was Christmas morning at Dodum.

Kent hooked a fish and hopped down of the bow to land him. I took the bow and hooked another. As soon as Kent released his fish, I hopped down and he hooked one. It went on like that until we were both dripping sweat, our arms numb. An hour and a half at least. The fish were not big, schoolies averaging around three pounds but they were eager and plentiful. Say what you will about fishing schools, it’s fun! Even more fun sharing it with Kent. As we enjoyed a celebratory beer the look on his face said more than words. This could be my perfect moment.

Back at the lodge the fish stories were flying. Everyone had an epic tail of triumph. A few of us were just not ready to quit. Me, Kent, Scott and Adam Kryder grabbed a couple of rods and as much beer as we could carry and headed out to the landing at Kemp’s Bay. We fished flies and jigs around the old sunken boats in the port. It was a beautiful evening. We drowned ourselves in beer as the sun drowned in the purple and pink of the Bahamian sunset. We laughed and cut up, knee deep in warm water and white sand, Adam and I taking photos and none us catching a damned thing and not caring. I looked around at my friends, laughing and drinking, surrounded by the blue ocean and purple sky. The whole thing had a real, perfect moment, vibe to it.

At the Nassau airport, mixed emotions were flying around my head, as we waited for our plane home. I’d been spoiled. What a great trip it had been. Great fishing, good friends and a host of perfect moments. How could I choose? It was time to go, literally, they were preboarding our flight. I couldn’t help wondering what Spaulding would say. Could I leave without making up my mind. I had too many choices, what was my perfect moment?

Just then Kent nudged me. “Hey buddy, three o’clock, isn’t she on your top five list?

I turned to my right and there, twenty feet from me, tall and poised like some radiant angel was Olivia Wilde. With the last of the air in my lungs I answered, “She is my top five list.” Time stopped and nothing else existed.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! I can go home.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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