Friday, May 27, 2016

Crooked and Acklins Island Trip Report May 14-21, 2016... Part 1

Our group had decided to visit Crooked Island and its sister, Acklins Island, shortly after Hurricane Joaquin rammed into the islands last fall. Our plan was to base ourselves in a small lodge located on Winding Bay near the settlement of Majors Cay. Somehow this lodge had managed to survive the hurricane and we thought it was the best option left standing. (Details on the lodge later.)

From this headquarters, we hoped to inject a bit of money into the local economy, pursue some fish that hadn't seen much pressure over the winter and reconnect with some old friends to see how their efforts at rebuilding were going.

Going into this trip, we were well aware that both islands had been devastated by Joaquin's huge storm surge and tornado force winds that pounded the islands for over 36 hours. The stories had been sobering. Entire families huddled on a single bed as 15-20' feet of rising water forced them against their own ceilings. Other families evacuated flooded homes to spend the night in small skiffs tied off to their roofs. Here they prayed and fought hypothermia, hoping to once again see morning's first light. These islanders had experienced a night they will never forget. 

The scene as dusk turned to night.

Crooked Island Lodge after the storm.

Hit the hardest was Landrail Point on Crooked and Lovely Bay on Acklins. Both villages were virtually wiped out with most of the homes, cars, generators and means of communication severely damaged. Crooked Island Lodge, the idyllic resort located on a long beach north of Landrail Point is no longer there. Now, it's just a collection of gutted buildings poking out of a giant pile of sand. As we stepped off the plane, the signs were everywhere: roads wiped out, homes ravished and people traumatized. And yet, we found optimistic survivors eager for our visit. The Crooked and Acklins Islanders are testament to the resilient spirit of man.


The road to the ferry dock to reach Acklins Island was wiped out!

Our dining room/ bar with the rooms in the background.
These islanders offered us wonderful, yet simple, accommodations, terrific food (thanks Margaret!), great guides and inspiring stories all peppered with uncommon grace and humor.

Amongst the barren mangroves, hurricane debris and scarred villages, we found lots of fish and enjoyed our reconnection with longtime guides Clinton, Kenny, Michael and Elvis. I have know some of these men and their families for over 20 years... I am happy to report they are making a resounding comeback! 

Here then is my report. This report is given as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened to them. The fact that I can give a simple trip report after what these islands experienced is simply amazing! 


What goes with Mike for the day.

Tony and Doug rigged and ready..

Need I say more?
Day 1
Tony Wendtland and I fished with guide Elvis Collie. Elvis lives in Lovely Bay on Acklins Island. I've know Elvis since he was a teenager. Over the ensuing years. Elvis has become a superb guide and a great person. The three of us fished near Old Woman Cay under light winds and sunny skies.

This was Tony's first trip to the Bahamas. I was hoping he would experience what real bonefishing is all about. I needn't have worried. He caught the first fish he saw! I should have known. Tony is an excellent caster and a very good dry fly fisherman. Both these skills translate well to bonefishing.

We had a very productive morning followed by a slow afternoon. This was a theme we would become familiar with as easterly winds pushed sun-warmed waters out of the creeks and flats in the afternoons. 





Day 2
Mike Schwartz and I fished with Kenny Scavella. Early in the morning, the tide was high. We could see fish in the mangroves, but we had no way to reach them. To try a cast would mean an immediate breakoff. After poling in vain watching fish weave in and out of the bushes, the water finally began to drop. Then it was game on!

At the end of a long mangrove edge, Mike decided to wade to reach some fish and was soon planted in a sticky ooze seemingly either unable or unwilling to move. It turned out to be simply unnecessary.  From this spot, Mike cast his fly into the brisk wind picking off 8 or 9 fish without once moving his feet. A fine marl mud patch drifted slowly behind him as he landed fish after fish.

Facing the other direction, I caught 3 fish and could see many more that I couldn't reach due to the sticky, soft bottom. Finally, after hooking a 5-6 lb. rocket that came within a leader's length of me and ate my fly on the move (sort of a drive-by, eat and run maneuver), I was forced to chase my catch through the quicksand. The fish had quickly pulled all my fly line and a bunch of backing on his world tour through the maze of roots that lined the shore. I struggled in the soft mud to keep up passing my fly rod through many mangrove keyholes he had used hoping to make a successful escape.


I was lucky to land the fish and not break my rod!
It was exhausting as each step threatened to swallow me whole. Behind me, a huge muddy mess showed every bob and weave the fish made on his frantic journey. As sweat rolled off my head carrying sunscreen and bug dope into my eyes, I finally landed the fish.

Kenny somehow noticed my predicament and yelled over the strong breeze, "Scott, you need help?"

"Yes!" I replied, eager to end this beatdown as soon as possible.

Kenny left Mike's side. He quickly polled his skiff downwind and rescued me from the branches of a large bush where I was holding on not willing to take another step. I'm convinced if I had made one more step away from my branch, I would have been swallowed up and eaten whole by this gooey bottom.

"Thank you!" I muttered, washing my muddy tracks off the deck of my guide's no longer immaculate boat. Soon we collected an elated Mike and cleaned the decks once again. The rush was now over and the fish were behind us. It was time to find new grounds. We picked up a few more fish in the afternoon, but again, rising water temps made for a much slower afternoon. But there were no complaints heard from our boat. It was simply a great day!



Our lodging and a bit of laundry

Getting the snapper gear ready.

Day 3
Tough day.... Scott Sawtelle and I fished with guide Mike Carroll. It was sunny and very windy. We could not find a fish to save our lives. We fished flats on which I have previously caught scores of fish... beach flats, shallow creeks, pancake flats... all scenes of previous victories which were now inexplicably devoid of fish. Some flats were opaque and difficult to see into due to the winds, but still, we could see well enough to know there were no attendees.

After wading a long beach, I took a look left and saw a  bar that was shinning like a beacon about 300 yards from shore. I said 'What the hell" and took off letting Scott and Mike finish out the beach flat we where on.  After 15 minutes of wading in waist to chest deep water, I reached the slope up to the bar. It looked great!

I walked up and out of the channel onto firm white sand lightly sprinkled with turtlegrass. The bar was about two acres in size. I was sure there would be a fish somewhere on it. (Optimism runs deep in our breed!). I walked for few minutes, then headed for a pile of hurricane debris that looked like the most shallow spot on the flat. 

As if I had conjured the fish with my imagination, a big bone was happily tailing near the debris leaving a light mud stain to seep downtide. I threw a cast into the air. It landed on the bone's landing strip. The bone dashed five feet to slurp my fly. It was all just so perfect! This fish made my day. It it hadn't been for this guy, I would have registered a big blank bagel for the day. Instead I will remember this perfect moment and not the fact that our day sucked! 




The gang at dinner


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Big Bone Caught on South Andros by Jonathan Farber



Jonathan Farber caught this huge bonefish with guide, Dingy, in the Curly Cuts area on the southern tip of South Andros. Jonathan was fishing out of Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge a couple weeks ago. Jonathan estimated the fish at 12 lbs.

Bill Howard, owner of Mars bay Bonefish Lodge, thought the fish went a bit more than 12 lbs. All I know is this is one big bonefish!


 


Bill reported:
Scott,
Here are some pics below of Jonathan Farber's big bone. The weight is a guess. The fish is 28 inches to the fork. I have a mount on the wall that's identical I got from Kingfish Mounts. It was their largest mount they estimated at 12-14 lbs. Several big fish were caught this season but Jonathan's was the biggest and his personal best.
Congratulations Jonathan from both of us!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

TO FLY FISH Podcast on Understanding Tides Just Completed!




KEY TAKEAWAYS: FLY FISHING SALTWATER AND TIDES

  • The sun’s and the moon’s gravitational pull determine the type of tide.
  • The new moon and the full moon coincide with the spring tides.
  • In between the new moon and the full moon, we have the neap tides.
  • There are two spring tides and two neap tides per 28-day cycle.
  • Spring tides have lower lows and higher highs: greater variance between low and high.
  • Neap tides are more uniform but lower in general: lesser variance between low and high.
  • There is a huge amount of variables that will affect tide size on a given day or time period: wind, geography, topography of the bottom of the water, nearby bodies of water, weather, and deflection.
  • Deflection is the distance an area is away from where the water filters in.
  • You can have two lows and two highs in places like the Bahamas, so the particular type of tide is happening twice a day at times.
  • Places like the Yucatan can have wide variance in types of tides because of other external factors.  Because of this, you need to consider the tide patterns of a given destination before you plan your trip.
  • Tides are hugely important when it comes to fish species.  Certain species, like permit and giant trevally, prefer deeper water while bonefish often prefer shallow flats, so you want to be at your destination when these conditions are present.
  • Scott has some really telling examples in the podcast about specific species and destinations and how tides affect them.

LINKS AND RESOURCES FOR THE PODCAST

Fly Paper: Scott’s blog
scott@anglingdestinations.com
Angling Destinations on Facebook
Scott’s article on bonefish and tides
Nautical software (No longer available)
Helpful site on everything having to do with tides
We can only control so many things when fly fishing saltwater.  No matter how much money we spend on our trip, we still need to work with the tide to help us cast to as many fish as possible.  There’s no need to make it harder on ourselves when we target permit, giant trevally, or any other saltwater species.  To have the best success, we need to go to the best destination with the best conditions during the time that we have available.  This can mean choosing a different location within a given region, for example, in the Bahamas.  When we have a basic understanding of tides, we work with mother nature, and because of this, we will have more chances to do what we love, catch fish in the salt.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Old Pants, Sharks and French Polynesia



While looking through a pile of old tropical fishing clothing in preparation for an upcoming trip to the Bahamas, I found these pants. They are ripped and no longer of value. I wondered why I hadn't thrown them out. Only after I shook them out and held them up did I remember why I had held onto them. They had been shredded by an 8' blacktip reef shark that attacked me on the French Polynesian Island of Tetiaroa. 

I had just caught the monster bone seen in the photo below and was wading 30 feet off the edge of a drop-off looking for another “fish of a lifetime".  





I was hoping to see another big bone sneak onto the flat as the tide was rising and conditions were perfect for a  confident "bonezilla" to come out of the deep. What I got was not what I wanted! Suddenly, out of the turquoise waters, a huge shark charged up from the deep and onto the flat. The beast hydroplaned straight at me throwing a  spray of water to each side. I instinctively turned as he hit me hard on the lower left leg.

The force of the blow knocked me down and pulled my pants down to my ankles. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to think. My leg hurt and I was scared shitless. My adrenal glands were working overtime as I pushed myself away from the fish that was now clumsily pushing himself away from me. With a few broad sweeps of his tail, he was off the flat as quickly as he had arrived.

I was sure I had been bitten! Since we were many hours from help, I feared I would bleed out sitting on my ass in a shallow French Polynesian marinade of lightly salted blood broth. I examined my leg through the torn fabric. Looking like a purple baseball, a nasty hematoma was sprouting on my shin... but I saw no blood. I checked my leg front and back and struggled to calm my breathing. Apparently the shark was just checking to see if I was edible. Apparently, and to my great relief, I was not. Somehow, I was OK! I soon stood up, pulled up my shredded pants and limped back to the skiff. I remember sitting on the gunnel shaken and in pain, but very happy to be alive, let alone virtually uninjured. 

While putting this post together, I found this report on the attack that I never knew, until yesterday, existed. Someone from the village clinic or at our pension must have made a report. The clinic gave me some ice, an old ace bandage and a cold Hinano beer. Gotta love that! The next day had me back in the game, albeit a bit slowed down and a lot more cautious. I waded no more deep edges for the rest of the trip and to this day, keep my eyes very wide open when doing so.
Here is the report from Global Shark Attack


ACTIVITY: Wading
CASE: GSAF 2002.11.00
DATE: November 2002
LOCATION: The incident took place in the Pacific Ocean on Tetiaroa, a coral atoll owned by film star Marlon Brando. Tetiaroa is in the Society Islands of French Polynesia.
NAME: Scott Heywood
DESCRIPTION: He is a member of the Explorers Club.
BACKGROUND
ENVIRONMENT
On his website, Heywood describes Tetiaroa atoll, "This paradise of swaying palms, healthy coral reefs, azure cuts and turquoise lagoons is bordered with hard bottomed, excellent white sand flats that hold BIG bonefish...very big bonefish. On Tetiaroa, bonefish are not seen in the numbers of the Bahamas or Caribbean, but the average size of the bonefish on Teitiaroa is simply awesome."
DEPTH OF WATER: Two feet
TIME:
NARRATIVE: Scott was fishing for bonefish and wading along the edge of the atoll 20 feet from the edge of a deep channel. Suddenly, a shark swam up from the bottom of the channel, cleared the edge of the atoll, and accelerated toward Scott. He waited for it to veer off but the shark didn’t swerve and hit him swimming at full throttle, and then swam away. "The only things I can think of that might have triggered the attack was that the shark hadn't seen many people in that remote area and the sharks in that area seemed to be more aggressive than normal."
INJURY: The shark slammed into Scott’s shin. The force of the collision knocked him down. He apprehensively touch his lower leg where the shark had hit him, worried the shark might have severed an artery and concerned that there would be blood in the water. He was amazed to discover the shark had not bitten him but "I had an awful bone bruise that bothered me for three weeks," Scott said.
EQUIPMENT DAMAGE: The shark ripped his wading pants to shreds. SPECIES INVOLVED: Blacktip shark
SOURCE: Scott Heywood, Angling Destinations, http://www.anglingdestinations.com/Recent.php?action=adv&RECADV_ID=16


Friday, May 6, 2016

Trip Report from Swains Cay, Bahamas




Here is an interesting report from an old friend of mine, Emerson Scott, who along with his significant other, Ceci Butler, just visited Swains Cay on Andros Island in the Bahamas. They had a great time reaffirming that Swains Cay is a great spot for couples. I also think Emerson makes a very good point concerning hook breakage and old flies. If you have some really old flies, you might want to read this report, then inspect your old flies before you hook that "fish of a lifetime"!

...and yes, I arranged for Emerson and Ceci to fish with Alvin "Shine" Greene. I've known Alvin for over 20 years. He is a great guide and a very nice man. I wanted my friends to be in the best of hands!



Scott,
We had a great time, and I assume you arranged for Shine Greene to be our guide. If so, thanks a bunch for that effort. We both genuinely enjoyed our time with him.

Conditions were tough most days, light wind days of 10-15 knots, 20-25 the remainder, calm hours could be counted on one hand. Cloudy most days, but Shine did a great job of relocating us to take advantage of openings in the clouds. Tides were about perfect and yeah, you have to have a local to get you to the right spot at the right time.

We caught plenty of fish most days, averaged about 8 a day, Ceci gained skills quickly and that helped our fish count, she graduated on day 2 from the "skills development zone" aka mud. Shine took her there the first two afternoons when her frustrations started to mount. Day 3-6 she nailed them on her own.




I attached a photo of captioned "when your toys fail you" top fly with broken shank was as Shine put it "the fish of the trip, if not a lifetime". We sight fished it, hooked it, and it ran hard, had it on for about 10 mins until the hook broke. Shine was genuinely pissed, slapped the water, and swore at the fishing gods. Note to self: get rid of all old flies, but then again it was the 4th fly we had presented to these fish and we were digging deep in to my fly box.


When your toys fail you!
The crab at the bottom was tried after the broken fly to the same fish and I had two takes on it, but couldn't hook up, checked fly and the hook had rotated to the edge of the body, not much room to make contact with.


The middle bent hook was another strong fish, that was a new fly, but that is part of fishing. Only broke off two fish, once when I stepped on my slack and the other trying to horse it out of some mangroves.





The two big fish of the trip were all taken in the same area, but different days, as the broken hook event, one was 8 lbs., Shine weighed it and the other was bigger, but we did not weigh it as we were away from the boat. All the big fish were taken wade fishing.

Thanks for setting us up and we can visit more later.

Emerson







Monday, May 2, 2016

OUR BABY TARPON FLIES ARE READY TO GO!

If you are headed south for juvenile tarpon, here is some good news!
We are now ready to take orders for our baby tarpon flies. If you don't tie or don't have time to tie and your headed to the tropics, you should purchase these patterns to have in your quiver. We are following recipes based on my experience and that of many other well-traveled and expert anglers. Fly tier extraordinnaire (and my friend of over 25 years), Brett Smith, is now producing these baby tarpon flies on a custom order limited basis. 


In these patterns, we've covered the issues important to juvenile tarpon success i.e. sink rate, action, size and color. We finished our testing two weeks ago at Tarpon Cay and Isla del Sabalo on the Yucatan's "Tarpon Coast" with terrific results. More anglers armed with these patterns are now making their way to the Yucatan and Belize so expect more feedback soon. We also have a group headed to Cuba led by Pete Widener owner of the Fly Shop of the Bighorns. Pete will also be giving us a report later in May upon his return.

I should note, I have no financial stake in this project. My goal is to make sure Angling Destinations clients and other traveling baby tarpon maniacs have the right flies for their trips. We produced these flies because, I felt most commercially available flies were improperly sized or in some cases, poorly tied. This was the genesis of this project and I enlisted a truly gifted fly tier to help me accomplish my goal. Our flies are tied on quality Gamagatsu hooks and typically ordered in 1/0 and 2/0.

If interested, please call 800-211-8530 or send an e-mail to scott@anglingdestinations.com. I am happy to help anglers decide which flies are best for the location they are fishing.

Here then are the flies available. I think they turned out great!

Traditional San Felipe Special
A tried and true design that continues to deliver year after year. With the addition of a few tweeks and better materials to the original design, our new rendition performs consistently.


Orange and Tan


Chocolate and Tan


Green Eyed Lady
A very effective, sparsely tied sardinas pattern that hits the water quietly and moves very naturally in the water. One of my favorite patterns!




Red Eye Special
Again, one of my favorite patterns. Based on our research, the final version has less chocolate and more tan with red eyes.


Original pattern that worked well 

Red Eye.2 that worked even better!





Megalopium
Designed as a neutral density version the San Felipe Special this fly has upped the game with more durable and seductive materials. This pattern includes strike triggering eyes that can be modified as to color based on an anglers willingness to experiment. At the present time, it comes in two color combinations:




Orange and Tan



Tan



Kid's Meal
Superb for all the environments where sabalitos are found: rios, mangrove edges and deeper turtle grass flats. This fly floats allowing anglers to cast well ahead of rolling fish, then strip when appropriate. It also creates just enough of a wake to subtly get attention. This fly is a real winner and very durable. It will soon be available in a yellow and red version too.




orange/purple
After repeated use!


tan

black/red




Gurgler
The traditional design again with a few improvements concerning materials and quality.