Back on the Florida Flats

This morning I got back on the Florida flats. It was a beautiful day, with a low tide around 9AM. Wind from the southeast. I wasn’t able to catch many fish, but I saw quite a few. That’s a great sign for the days ahead.

Spotted Sea trout

Spotted Sea trout

While poling the Adios north, I spooked two schools of reds. Nice sized fish too. Both schools were in the same general vicinity, laid up in skinny water along the sandbar, awaiting the flooding tide. Never even got a chance to cast to either school. That’s fishing.

Later I caught and released a nice spotted sea trout. There were plenty of  sheephead around all morning, and I saw a big school of pompano too. Hopefully good days are coming.

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Long Island Bonefishing Lodge

Part 6,  Island Sights

During our stay at the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge, we lost one entire day of fishing to 30 knot winds, courtesy of a wicked cold front that enveloped the southeast Atlantic seaboard, spilled down into Bahamas.

Thankfully the guide commandeered the lodge’s car and took us for a tour of the island. Our first stop was the Long Island Museum in Deadman’s, where the history and culture of the island is on display. It is a small museum, but well-worth seeing.

Dean's Blue Hole

Dean’s Blue Hole

On the Atlantic side, south of the settlement of Scrub Hill and north of Clarence Town, we next visited a natural phenomenon know around the world as Dean’s Blue Hole. Dean’s is the world’s deepest blue hole, descending some 663 feet straight down. Like a liquid eye, it gazes up out of the surrounding sand with an intense cobalt stare. It is an amazing sight.

Twice a year the world championship freedivers converge here to test their skill. Long Island legend William Trubridge is one of the very best, having descended to 282 feet without the use of fins. An incredible feat.

In Clarence Town, the island’s capital, we saw the twin churches of St. Paul’s

St.Peter's & St. Paul's Church

St.Peter’s & St. Paul’s Church

Anglican Church, and Peter’s & Paul’s Catholic Church both designed a hundred years ago by Father Jerome Hawes, who was also a trained architect. Later he moved to nearby Cat Island, where he built a Hermitage on Bahama’s highest point, Mount Alvernia. There he spent his finally 17 years.

On the ride back, we stopped at Max’s Conch Bar and Grill, one of the most famous bars in the Bahamas. Run by Gary Ritchie (Max) and his wife Liz, this fun zone sits aside the road under a thatched roof with plenty of cold Bahamian beer on hand.

Max's Conch Bar and Grill

Max’s Conch Bar and Grill

Not interested in a cold Kalik? No problem. Max is adept at mixing up some killer concoctions. One or two of these mysterious libations will have you forgetting your troubles’mon. Along with powerful potions, Max’s is also well-known for serving up good food – ranging from a wide selection of conch dishes, to fish, chicken and jerk pork.

Max at Work

Max at Work

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Long Island Bonefishing Lodge

Part 5,    Rods, Lines & Leaders

The Long Island Bonefishing Lodge recommends rods from 7 to 9-weight.  I found a

Deadman's Cay Bonefish

A Deadman’s Cay Bonefish

7-weight fly rod to be a great tool, and frankly next time I’ll bring a 6-weight.

Why light fly rods? As long as the wind isn’t howling, a saltwater 6 or 7-weight fly rod has no problem accurately delivering a size 6 or 8 fly. Second, these lighter fly lines make a much gentler presentation. A major plus. And third, given the size of the average bonefish on Deadman’s, these lighter rods are a hoot.

I used Rio Floating Bonefish lines; at no time did I feel the need for an intermediate fly line. My leaders were 12 footers made from Rio Saltwater Hard Mono (a royal pain to knot). They straightened out nicely, even in the wind, which helped with accuracy. My tippet was 32 inches of 1x Seaguar Grand Max Fluorocarbon (awful expensive). At a thin .012″ it tests out at a whopping 18.5 lbs, and worked well.  Was that pricy stuff totally necessary? No, 10 or 12 pound mono will likely suffice.

Another Deadman's Cay Bone

Another Deadman’s Cay Bone

Bonefish are called the “ghost” of the flats for a good reason, but here at Deadman’s Cay they are not that hard to spot, because of the light bottoms and transparent shallow water. Check out the released bone in the next picture. I caught it in water barely covering its back. In following picture you see the difference over a darker bottom.

A Deadman's Cay Bonefish over a white bottom

A Deadman’s Cay Bonefish over a white bottom

A Deadman's Cay Bone over a darker bottom

A Deadman’s Cay Bone over a darker bottom

In Part 6, I’ll tell you a few more things about Deadman’s Cay

 

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Long Island Bonefishing Lodge

Part 4,    Flies for Deadman’s Cay

Ok, time to talk flies! But before we dive in, I have a thought for you. While I’m far from the most experienced bonefisherman, I feel confident in saying this: on the flats “presentation” is king, fly pattern is queen.  That doesn’t mean fly patterns are unimportant, only that your ability to deliver a fly accurately, softly,  and on time, is far more important. Enough said.

My Fly Box

My Fly Box

The Long Island Bonefishing Lodge suggests several fly patterns (Gotchas, Charlies, Puffs…etc.) in sizes 4,6,8 – of varying colors and weights. Fair enough, but let me refine that for you.

On the flats of Deadman’s Cay, our fishing was done in 5-15 inches of water. Skinny, skinny water. Consequently, any fly that landed with a “plop” immediately spooked fish.  Instantly! So small, lightly weighted (or unweighted) flies ruled.  Sizes 6 and 8 flies with bead-chain, or key-chain, eyes are as heavy as you want to go. Lead-eye flies were verboten. They may work wonders on the ocean-side flats, or farther north, but not here. (Weighted or unweighted, be sure you’re flies ride hook up. I’ll tell you why at the end of this post.)

Because the bottoms are mainly light-colored, light-colored flies did yoke-man’s duty – white, pearl, pink, tan…etc. But don’t be afraid to add a splash of color. It helps catch the “bone’s” attention. As you can see in my fly box above, I like some yellow, purple, pink, orange, or red in my flies.  And I also like colorful rubber legs. They’re helpful too. (Check occasionally that they haven’t fouled around the hook.)

Size 8 Gotcha-type & a Size 6 Puff

Size 8 Gotcha-type & a Size 6 Puff

Here’s two flies that worked for me. A size 6, Puff and a size 8 Gotcha-type fly. By the way, you can find well-tied bonefish patterns, at excellent prices, over at Discount Flies.com

Let me mention one final point ( no pun intended). Be sure your flies ride hook up. Why? Two reasons. Obviously a hook that rides up is a help when fishing over a turtle grass bottom. Second, and more importantly, a bonefish’s mouth is oddly shaped. It points downward, and the upper jaw is noticeably longer than the bottom jaw. A hook riding point up is far more likely to find a secure hold.

Part 5, will  cover rods, leaders & lines

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The Flats on Deadman’s Cay

Part 3,  The Flats

The flats on Deadman’s Cay were very shallow, very clear, with mainly light-colored bottoms. Thick turtle grass, or areas of heavy coral, were notably absent. All the flats were dotted with tiny mangrove islands, varying from 30 feet long and 3 feet wide to more than twice that. Bottoms were fairly firm, making wading easy, although you occasionally hit soft spots.  Typically this meant extricating one foot, and was never a huge deal.

A Flat  on Deadman's Cay

A Flat on Deadman’s Cay

The flats  we fished typically ranged from ankle to mid-shin or so deep. Given the “skinny” conditions, it was relatively easy to see “bones” and even easier to spook them. Wading slowly and quietly was mandatory. By slowly, I mean barely moving. Failure to do so alerted “bones” to your presence a long way out. You have been warned.

20150218_Long Island_0279

The mangrove islands attracted feeding bones.

In the deeper sections between the mangrove islands is where you were most apt to see cruising schools, particularly on the first hours of the incoming.  These fish tended to be aggressive. During the final hours of the ebb, on two occasions we saw schools of bones “circling” in a deeper area, awaiting the tide. These “circling” schools stayed a considerable time, affording you several shots. And even when spooked they would return minutes later. On rising water, feeding “bones”, including “tailers” were often very tight to the islands, sometimes right in the roots system.

In Part 4 we’ll cover flies, and equipment next

 

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Long Island Bonefishing Lodge

Part 2,  “DIY” Bonefishing

This was my first experience with DIY (Do-it-Yourself) bonefishing – also known as “assisted” guiding. I enjoyed it for two reasons. It offers anglers a great deal of independence. You fish at your own pace and how you want. And it is also less expensive than full-guided fishing.

Here’s how DIY, assisted guiding, works at the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge. After breakfast, my son and I would meet the guide at the boat. (Our lunches are in the cooler) Then together we take a short ride – typically 5 minutes- to the first flat of the day.

My Son and the Guide

My Son and the Guide

Upon arrival, the guide offers advice on how to fish the area in question. Next he hands out wallie-talkies, allowing everyone to stay in touch throughout the day. (I put mine in my shorts pocket. My son stuck his inside a fanny pack.) At that point, my son and I would set off seeking bones, while the guide hangs with the boat. Eventually he repositioned himself to the far end of the flat, where we all meet up for lunch.

After lunch, the guide would take us to a different flat, where the process starts over again, our day ending around 4PM. (Yes, 8 solid hours of bonefishing) Hopping aboard, we then head to the lodge for conch fritters and cold beer!

In Part 3, we’ll talk about the flats, the flies and the fishing.

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Long Island Bonefishing Lodge

Part One,  The Lodge

My son and I just returned from a 4 day, 5 night, “DIY” bonefishing trip on Long Island in the Bahamas. If you’re unfamiliar with Long Island,  it lies southeast of Great Exuma, some 300 watery miles below Florida. The island calls itself the “Bonefishing Capitol of the World”. It is 80 miles long and 4 miles wide. Roughly halfway down on the west side, Long Island has extensive flats near the settlement of Deadman’s Cay. By any standard the island is remote, unspoiled, and lightly populated.

Cottage at Lodge

Cottage at Lodge

We stayed at the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge in Deadman’s Cay. The lodge is only minutes from the airport and sits facing the flats. Nevin Knowles runs the operation; his sister runs the kitchen. Both were born on the island, and both are fine folks, congenial, and fun to be with. I booked the trip through Judy Hall at Angler Adventures.  She was very helpful. I recommend her to you.

Bedrooms are clean and neat

Bedrooms are clean and neat

Accommodations were excellent. The cottages are neat and clean, with very comfortable beds. A major plus at the end of an 8 hour day on the flats, believe me. The Mitzi flats boats are relatively new, and ready to go.

The Lodge's Dinning Hall

The Lodge’s Dinning Hall

The lodge supplies 3 meals a day – full breakfast, packed lunch, and dinner. The food was wonderful. Dinners included lobster, grouper and conch. Upon returned to the lodge each afternoon, a tray of hot conch fritter magically appeared on the deck. Washed down with a cold Kalik, it was a great end to an angling day. OK, on to part two

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Gearing up for a Bonefish Trip

I’m gearing up for a bonefish trip to the Caribbean. My son and I are headed to Long IslandBonefish Gear, way down at the southern end of the archipelago. I’ve been there before. Endless shining flats, and beaucoup bones. Typically they aren’t very large – at least by Andros standards – but they’re usually plentiful.

Most carry bead-chain eyes, a few with lead. Also purchased some flies at www.discountflies.com. Wonderful prices and excellent quality. Check them out! You’ll be glad you did.

Plan to rely mainly on my vintage Scott “G” series 7-wt., armed with a Ross Canyon 3# reel, and a Rio “Bonefish” Floating line. The combination casts well. I’ll also be carrying a spare spool with a 6-wt Rio “Bonefish” Floater for times when softer presentations, or longer casts are needed. My backup rod is a Scott S3S 8-wt.

Our destination is the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge and I booked the trip through Judy Hall at http://www.angleradventures.com/   She has been very helpful. I recommend her highly.

At the moment, I’m tying up 12 foot leaders. Tippet strengths of 10-12 pound test should be fine for small bones, but I’m going to use Seaguar Grand Max Fluorocarbon in 1x. At a slim diameter of .012″, it tests at whopping 18.5 pounds! Amazing. It seems to knot well too. Still there is an issue; it’s pricy @ $17.95 for 25 yards. That’s about 4 or 5 times the cost of mono. We’ll see if it is worth it.

Seaguar Grand Max Fluorocarbon Tippet

Seaguar Grand Max Fluorocarbon Tippet

 

 

 

 

When I return I’ll tell you how the trip went.

Posted in Bonefishing, Flies and Fly Tying, Fly Fishing in Salt Water | 6 Comments

Winter Snake

A couple of days ago, I walked out to my car and spied a snake. Yes, a snake in January. A winter snake. This one was a parking lot casualty. Most likely it is a Florida Ringneck Snake. Totally harmless critter, although it has a habit of sneaking into people’s houses.

Winter Snake

Winter Snake

We have had some pretty cool mornings, down in the mid-forties. But some afternoon temperatures have reached into upper seventies. Apparently that’s warm enough for some snakes to put in a winter appearance. Just goes to show that Florida is Eden for the ectotherms….

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Great Weather, Not so Great Fishing

Back Country

Back Country

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Perfect temperatures. Morning wind from the east, slowly subsiding in the afternoon to a light breeze from the northwest. Some sun, some clouds. Hardly anyone around.  About all you could ask for, really.

Unfortunately the fish were not around either. I poled the Adios two miles north, and then fished my way back. Fished out on the bar and in the back country. Never saw a tail or a redfish all day. At the very end of the trip I caught one small fish. Hey that’s fishing.

A Pink Puff caught the only fish of the day

A Pink Puff caught the only fish of the day

 

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