A.J. McClane Fly Fishes for Bonefish within the Bahamas

Tom Ferris, a former Hollywood P.R. kind who deserted showbiz for actual property, phoned late one evening and mentioned he had a scoop. “You’ve bought to see this island,” he mentioned. “Inform me if it isn’t the backyard spot of the western world. On my previous mom’s checkbook, I swear it.”

“What island?”

“Nice Harbour Cay,” he mentioned.

“You might be promoting it?”

“Promoting it?” he mentioned. “Child, you don’t promote paradise. Folks purchase it. They step off the aircraft and see the mountains and…”

“Mountains within the Bahamas?”

“In order that they’re 75 ft excessive,” he mentioned. “Anyhow, one of many guys who works for us caught a 14-pound bonefish.”

As a matter of document, some huge ones have been boated across the Berry Chain, which lies about 160 miles due east of Miami. Nice Harbour Cay is the biggest of the thirty-odd islands. Even when I lopped just a few ft off the mountains and some kilos off the bonefish, Ferris had hit me in a weak spot.

“There’s just one downside,” he cautioned. “We’re on a crash constructing program. We’re nonetheless reducing roads, so that you’ll have to remain in one of many mannequin houses and fry your personal fish. I can scrounge a ship of some variety and perhaps a information. How’z it sound?”

It sounded imprecise sufficient to be one other certainly one of McClane’s Psychopathic Safaris—organized confusion on a grand scale. However two weeks later, my spouse Patti and I landed on the island. Nice Harbour Cay is 712 miles lengthy and 112 miles broad and lies simply south of Nice Stirrup Cay, the northernmost island within the chain. The rolling hills thatched with silver palm, lignum vitae, and sea grape spill right down to a large sand seashore that borders the whole east shore. However the superior half was the roar of bulldozers and unloading LST’s. The Bahamian land growth is of atomic proportions. Two extra DC-3’s and a pair of Aztecs rolled down the runway belching teams of potential consumers. You can inform them from the salesmen as a result of the latter wore gold ballpoints of their bulging pockets. Ferris emerged from the gang.

January 1969 Field & Stream cover
“The best way to Retire within the Bahamas With out Actually Making an attempt” was printed within the January 1969 concern. Discipline & Stream

“Hop within the automotive, folks. I’ll provide the grand tour.” For the following three hours we hoofed over hills and round water hazards on an 18-hole golf course with Bwana Ferris kicking the ringtailed lizards out of the best way. Then after a fast lunch, we staggered down the seashore with Ferris alternately reciting native pirate lore and buttonholing natives to seek out out who knew something about bonefish. By the point he positioned our home (the one a type of in progress that had been accomplished) and waved goodbye, we have been impressed. The patio had a powerful view of the Northeast and Northwest Windfall Channels, and from what appeared like a mountain prime in that in any other case flat nation, the seashore stretched beneath us like an excellent white fishhook. I advised Patti to take a seat tight whereas I went to the small native settlement at Bullock’s Harbour to search for Leonard Francis, the person who caught the 14-pounder.

Leonard, like all people else in Bullock’s Harbour, is employed by one of many 4 building corporations engaged on the island. He didn’t know something about the right way to be a information as a result of he’d by no means heard the phrase earlier than, however taking me fishing—that was one other matter. He had caught the 14-pounder on a 75-pound check handline utilizing a crab for bait. Leonard didn’t assume it was significantly giant as a result of over time he has misplaced handlines to bonefish that he couldn’t cease.

“Man, you meet the bonefish someday as huge as barracuda on Cash Financial institution. You be right here within the morning, when the solar is up and I’ll take you in my boat.”

An Surprising Customer

I bought misplaced on the best way residence. A hungry bulldozer had pushed one other highway into the complicated of coral-caked freeway which led me again to the airport once more. I requested a number of folks the right way to discover Excessive Level Drive. One man mentioned one thing in Swedish, one other in German, and the third in God is aware of what. Once I relocated the place, Patti was sitting on the entrance step wanting fearful. “I believe I used to be simply bought with the home,” she mentioned.

“To whom?”

“I don’t know,” she mentioned. “After you left I took my garments off and flopped on the mattress. I used to be sleeping after I heard folks speaking in the lounge. One was clearly an actual property salesman as a result of he was telling the opposite man that the home got here totally outfitted. Earlier than I may open my mouth, a really good wanting British gentlemal—he regarded like Cary Grant—opened the bed room door and mentioned ‘Oops!’”


“Properly, what would you say?”

“Beats me. How about, ‘Pardon me, ma’am, I’m simply searching for my banjo’?”

“He appeared awfully embarrassed,” my spouse mentioned. “Then I heard him say to the salesperson, ‘Splendid, previous chap, the place’s the contract?’ Then they drove off. I believe we’d higher transfer.”

“The place?”

The solar went down like a dying ember and got here up in flame, which gave me the whim-whams. By the point we reached Leonard’s home, the gray-black head of a line squall was forming within the northwest. Leonard identified that the island was excessive and we’d by no means be removed from a lee shore within the Cash Financial institution space, so off we went in a 17-foot skiff that proved to be an extra of hull, because it attracts about 15 inches of water. The flat runs from horizon to horizon—eight miles throughout in accordance with Leonard—so the younger flood crept slowly over the financial institution. The underside consists of white sand, agency marl, and scattered patches of turtle grass. It’s very best to wade. Leonard ran the boat towards the mangroves till we went aground.

“We wait right here,” Leonard mentioned. “Bonefish be alongside quickly.”

Whereas we waited Leonard advised us how within the previous days after they nonetheless netted bonefish within the Bahamas (it’s unlawful now), they as soon as pulled 134 fish in a single haul on Cash Financial institution and ten of those went over 15 kilos.

Bonefish Heaven

There was no industrial fishing effort within the space in years as a result of there are only a few reefs close by, which maintain the prime market species corresponding to groupers. I noticed only a few dwell conch on the underside and even previous shells, and Leonard defined that the Nassau boats had fished them out when he was a boy. They by no means left sufficient for seed and now, as a substitute of being a meals staple, it’s a delicacy. However the spiny lobster, or “crawfish,” have been thicker than ever. We grabbed eight in as many minutes for our dinner one evening.

Leonard had began to inform me how he grew to become a trim-man by career, doing the end work on new homes, when he stopped in mid-sentence.

“There they’re,” he whispered. Folks at all times whisper when bonefish are in sight. The college was not less than 400 yards away however pushing water on the glassy floor as they swam jerkily in half circles, tails flicking within the air, then dashing ahead with the texture of the tide. Off to their left one other college materialized, equally as giant and shifting on a parallel course. Past these, a 3rd group had shaped and for a second I had that previous moths-in-the-stomach feeling. They have been all headed in our route like a herd of nervous buffalo. The water was barely knee deep, and grabbing my fly rod I bought away from the boat quick so I’d be at an intercept level.

Learn Subsequent: This Might Be the Perfect Fly Rod for Bonefish

The primary college by no means broke. They got here straight at me, 30 or 40 bullet shapes zipping over the sand. I dropped the fly yards in entrance of them, however they closed on it in a matter of seconds. The white buck-tail wing bobbed on the floor because the lead fish swirled previous it; then it disappeared and my line got here again in a loop because the hooked bone continued proper together with the varsity which handed a rod’s size to my left with out even spooking. I needed to flip round to sock him once more. The fish couldn’t care much less. My line peeled off in opposition to the drag on the identical pace. I leaned again on him onerous—and whack, the water opened. Mr. Bones took off in such a burst that just about immediately I may really feel the backing splice bump by way of my tip prime.

The reel was almost empty earlier than I ended the fish, and the motion grew to become the everyday crank, run, crank, run-again play that wears keen fingers to nubs. Leonard wished the fish to eat, and since he was the proprietor of the one recreation on the town, I may hardly give him my song-and-dance about releasing it. The fish weighed 10 kilos. Simply consuming dimension in accordance with Leonard.

The Bahamas has the very best common weight for lure-caught bonefish that I do know of. A good friend of mine, Captain Harold E. Manning, who has been within the distinctive place of fishing two devoted flats anglers, Mr. and Mrs. John F. Walton, Jr., for 3 years from the yacht Tritona, stored a meticulous document on 788 bonefish taken through the 1965 to 1967 seasons. The typical weight for the 788 was 6.1 kilos; this contains fish as much as 12.75 kilos. Seventy p.c have been caught by stalking (versus casting from a skiff), and of the full, 519 have been caught within the morning hours and 269 within the afternoon or night.

Clearly all types of climate and tide have been encountered through the three-season interval, however for all sensible functions the hours between 9 A.M. and midday produced twice as many fish as every other time of the day. Heat, clear water and a average east to southeast breeze proved to be the best situations. I don’t imagine the months fished (January by way of April and November by way of December) embrace the 2 greatest, which in my expertise have been Might and June, however however the Walton’s log is a legitimate image of what you’ll be able to count on in these islands. Hawaii additionally produces giant bonefish, as does South Africa (a 19-pounder from Zululand); nonetheless, each places require fishing with bait in deep water, which is about as attention-grabbing as cookie reducing. Fifteen-pounders have been caught by anglers within the Bahamas, and there’s little question that larger ones exist right here.

For the following few hours, every little thing went proper. The colleges cut up into pods of two or three bonefish as they grubbed alongside their secret trails main into the mangroves. Fins wiggled all over the place, and I stalked fish after fish. Generally I earned a strike, then misplaced the fish to the mangrove shoots; however I introduced 5 handy, and the smallest was a 7-pounder. One fish rocketed straight at Patti, who was standing on the mouth of a small bay taking part in a fish of her personal. Evidently spooked by her silhouette, the bonefish turned at full pace and went excessive and dry on the seashore.

“How did you try this?” she requested.

“Talent, that’s how. It saves getting your arms slimy.”

Regardless of the unhealthy climate the following day, with squall after squall skirting the world, the fishing remained good for the hours we may forged. I caught one “small” bonefish of 5.12 kilos, which pulled my ultimate common down on a complete of seventeen to 7.2 kilos for the three days we fished. Bonefishing being the sport it’s, I may need come visiting at another interval when smaller fish are quite a few, though Leonard mentioned that the little ones seldom use these identical banks. I’ve no purpose to doubt him, however three days doesn’t make a season and seeing is believing.

Amount-wise, 5 bonefish a day is a good common and mine was barely higher than 5.6, and this most likely would have been greater if the climate was regular. However the pleasure of bonefishing is just not in statistics. I’m fairly joyful simply wading the flats so long as there’s an opportunity of taking a fish. No two locations are ever actually alike, and it requires time and research to find out about them.

There is no such thing as a bonefish “season” within the basic sense, as they’re obtainable year-round. The trick is to hit a interval when the skies maintain honest. Though tides have an excellent affect on whether or not you will take fish or not, this isn’t a relentless consider flats nation. You’re going to get a flood and an ebb through the day, and the sport of finding faculties is dependent upon your data of the world.

My huge bone at Nice Harbour Cay got here to the fly on our third and final day. The climate was completely foul. I had given up attempting to fly forged and spent a lot of the morning tossing a pink jig with the spinning rod. Between the wind and the darkish sky, it was virtually unimaginable to see fish and for each one we had a shot at, we most likely spooked 50. Then the solar broke by way of and the financial institution between Nice Stirrup and Nice Harbour Cays lit up as vivid as neon. We have been surrounded by bonefish. No huge faculties, simply pods of 4 or 5 working with the flood.

This turned out to be a really perfect location; not like huge Cash Financial institution, which just about ran dry on the ebb due to its unvarying backside over a protracted distance, the Stirrup Financial institution is a broad tidal go coming in from the ocean. The fish merely traded backwards and forwards following the circulation of water. It’s one other lovely wading space, strong backside, no sea nettles or coral, and visibility limitless.

Leonard, who had by no means seen a fly rod earlier than, routinely handed me the 9-footer, and I went out searching for a giant bone. After three days, I used to be getting choosey, however I didn’t have far to look. I waded about 50 yards from the boat, and simply on the fringe of the grass I noticed three fish cruising very slowly, pausing to nudge the underside, then stopping to dig tails-up, wiggling their our bodies violently when meals was discovered. Earlier than I may make a false forged they have been so shut that spooking appeared inevitable, however the fly dropped of their path and my abdomen was crushed by these moths once more.

One for the Street

You by no means actually understand how heavy a bonefish could be till he turns head-on at shut vary and also you see the span of his again. These infants regarded like wild hogs and have been about the identical raunchy colour. All three eased as much as the fly and simply because it touched backside a monster leaned over and slurped it up. I hit him onerous. He didn’t panic, however simply lay there me, sporting the bucktail wing like a mustache. I couldn’t even budge him. Then it occurred. A depressing little barracuda shot out of nowhere and chopped the fly off. The road snapped again and landed on my hat.

“How did you try this?” Patti requested as she waded down the flat.

“Talent, that’s how.”

Once we drove again to the airport the following morning, the true property contingent was doing enterprise as normal. We regarded misplaced loaded with rod instances, sort out containers, and my spouse’s thought of a baggage minimal. I left Patti with the gear whereas I went to rustle up a few Cokes. Once I got here again a person was speaking to her. He walked away earlier than I may say good day.

“Who was he?” I requested.

“He’s one of many males I advised you about,” she mentioned. “ … the salesperson who bought our home.”

“So what did he need?”

“He apologized and mentioned he actually hoped we had fun and would come again once more after they have extra homes completed. Hmmph, I ponder how he meant that?”

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