Friday, November 10, 2017

A Typical Day Bonefishing at Water Cay, From October 2017

Roll out of bed at dawn. Before you do anything else, check the weather. Mumble if it's windy, count your blessings if it is clear and don't say one single word if it's clear and calm. Curse any person that says (usually in a perky tone) "It's a perfect day with no wind." 
Ahhhh... there it is. Now it is almost guaranteed, just short of 100%... the wind will pick up in the next 2-5 minutes and reach gale force by the time you've guzzled your first cup of coffee. But I digress, go grab a cup... it's ready by now.

Guide Greg Rolle savors his first cup.

As you sip your coffee, do your best to wake up while you sort gear, pick flies and try to remember that thing you were going to remember to do today. You know, that thing...
That thing... maybe it had something to do with my casting?

Scott Sawtelle and Dean Kalmbach shake off the cobwebs..

Grab your partner for the day, your gear, a camera, a few rods: one for bonefish, one for permit, maybe a third for 'cudas... and don't forget a few beers for the way home.

Then it's to the boats and you're soon heading out to see what they day will bring...

...maybe catch a beast like this one Mike Schwartz caught on Day One

...or maybe wade away from the boat to get a photo of that big fish you caught in the tidal race between two small cays. You floated your fly right into the bone's mouth. The fish never moved. He just ate your crab like a river trout eats a nymph. Then, after you land the fish, you decide to wade out to get a photo, get your feet stuck in the marl, lose your sandal, get laughed at by your partner and your guide Ezra. You never do get your photo because you were too worried you'd never see your sandals again.

Then catch a few more fish while always learning something new from the exceptional guides at Water Cay. 
Here is an example of a little tidbit picked up one day. Let's call it 
Lesson #152 - 
Flies That Hover

The WC guides do not like a fly to be too "bushy" when the tide is moving briskly either up or down. They want a fly that sinks fast and hugs the bottom. The guides think that many crab flies and heavily dressed shrimp flies, can be lifted by the tide rubbing against the bottom of the flat. As such, the fly hovers inches off the bottom thus acting unnaturally. Put another way, a "bushy" fly can hover (even if it is heavy) by the action of the tide against the bottom. So always check your fly to make sure it’s getting down fast enough (and stays down) given water depth AND tide velocity.  Lesson 152 was given by Ezra Thomas on Day 2.

Take-away from learning Lesson 152
Take-away #2
Take-away #3
Water Cay bones are big. The reward for learning these lessons is big fish often hooked in very shallow water. The fishing around water Cay is some of the coolest you will ever experience. It is rare day that you don't get a shot at a 7-12 lb. bone. What you do with these shots is up to you. Are you a good listener? 

Steve Peskoe listens very well!

As the sun travels across the sky, the day flies by. There are fish seen, fish missed and fish caught. It's all about your percentage. As you get better, your batting average goes up. I think the Water Cay guides have made a pac with the Water Cay fish to constantly push you to become a better angler. You'll walk away from Water Cay a better angler than when you arrived.

Soon it will be the middle of the afternoon and you haven't eaten lunch yet. You've been so engaged in the fishing you haven't felt a bit hungry. But you better eat soon or you'll spoil your appetite for dinner.

As the sun gets lower in the sky, you head home for cocktails, a spectacular sunset and a filling home cooked Bahamian meal of lobster, or conch or baked chicken or snapper.

By the time you finish dinner, it's dark and you're feeling the day's efforts. Maybe you have the energy for a game on TV or the inclination to tie a fly or smoke a cigar. But, soon it's off to bed for a few pages of a good book before sleep and the prospect of getting up tomorrow to do it all again.

Next rain delay!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Water Cay Lodge Trip Report Oct 21-28, 2017; Part One

We had yet another great trip this October to Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island! We experienced some sunny days, some cloudy days, some windy days and some rainy days. We caught some fish and didn't seal-the-deal on many others. We made some good casts and failed miserably on others. We spotted fish well and couldn't see others right in front of our skiff. We laughed, played poker, enjoyed the beauty of Water Cay and came home happy!
...just what you would hope for when planning a bonefish trip to theBahamas!

Instead of giving a traditional, day by day fishing report, I'm going to jump all over the place to hopefully give you the flavor of our adventure this year!

Let's start with why we go to Water Cay... the great shots at shallow water/tailing fish and the superb guides who teach us so much year after year...

We were spinning doughnuts on a massive flat that spanned a slender sickle shaped cay. Surrounding us were thousands of bonefish chews. Some were old, many were very new. We could tell some were very fresh by their color, a light charcoal, and were made on this morning's falling tide as the debris was deposited on the ocean side. If made on last night's rising tide they would have pointed inland towards the cay. Many of these feedmarks were still smoldering. These fresh "smokes" both clouded the water and made locating the perpetrators harder. As we searched, we spun in circles. ...a smoking chew there... a cloudy puff over there. But where were the fish?
“11 o'clock, tail 100 feet coming out of that small bay. "Left side”, Sid whispered.
”See it.” Dan said.
"Put your fly on the outside and we’ll wait for him to come out...” then Sid added, “He’ll have to come out soon.”

He did just that.

“Wait! Let him roll up on your fly.” Sid added soon.
“Short strip... Stop”. Sid instructed.

The fish charged the fly.

“Long slow strip.”

Dan followed orders, then slowly lifted his rod as the big tailer bolted for deeper water. Dan reeled hard making up some of the backing that had peeled off his reel.

“Rod right and tighten your drag... there’s a shark after him.” Sid said obviously frustrated. It was the only shark we had seen all morning. 

Dan spun his drag down then pulled hard. As he was making some headway, his line stopped. He lifted his rod tip and pulled up a bunch of bubble grass that had obviously unhooked his bonefish.

"That shark is chasing the bone. Maybe I can scare him away." Sid said as he poled hard towards the commotion.
“Naaawww!” Sid muttered as a red spot flared on the flat. "He got him!”

We went over picked up the bonefish. His tail had been neatly removed leaving an arc shaped wound.
Sid took the fish and put him in the boat. Waste not want not. This fish would be someones dinner tonight. Sid poked the shark with his pole. The shark was excitedly was looking for the rest of his meal. The shark jetted off hopefully appropriately schooled.

Although this bonefishing chapter ended with disappointment (more so for the fish than the fisherman), it perfectly illustrates the finely refined technique the Water Cay guides use.
I'll give explaining it a stab...
There are four basic commands: 
Short strip 
Long slow strip

The term strip is used after the fly hits the water to pull the fly into the fishes window or path. It is a positioning move only.

Short strip or bump moves the fly a short way and is used to entice the fish to eat. It is only done once, unless the fish does not see the bump, then it is repeated ONCE! 

Stop means just that. Do not move the fly at all... the fish is going to eat the fly.

Long slow strip means the fish has eaten the fly. It is basically a strip strike, but if executed properly, it keeps the fly in the bone’s wheelhouse and, if not eaten, gives you a second chance. 

With this technique, there is no strip, strip strip commonly heard from less experienced bonefish guides. It’s strip, stop, short strip, long slow strip... then all hell breaks loose as another big Water Cay bone barrels off towards Florida.

The Water Cay guides are some of the most technically oriented guides in the Bahamas. They are constantly fine tuning their craft. For instance, after you have casted and you are making the initial strip, they want you to have your fly rod tip down at water level. This is because when they tell you to execute your short strip or bump they don’t want the weight of the fly line (created by any gap between fly rod tip and water) to pull the fly out of the fishes window after he tips up to eat. This small movement of the fly can necessitate the need to “bump” the fly again which will cause the bone to reposition. If you don't adhere to this technique, the gap between tip and water level will cause repeated repositioning by the underslung mouthed bonefish resulting in a frustrated and soon suspicious fish. No angler wants suspicion to enter the formula when a fish wants to eat!

Another subtle refinement the Water cay guides employ is after the rod tip is lowered to water level, the guides want you to take all the slack out of the line so you are directly connected to the fly. This way the strip, the bump and the long strip-set are precise movements which allow the angler to know exactly where his fly is at all times AND read the behavior of the fish as it reacts to the motion of the fly.

All these techniques sound simple, but they take time to master. The payoff is more and bigger fish hooked.

Next: PART 2

Monday, September 18, 2017

Incredible Survival Story from Hurricane Irma

This man, Edward Lockhart, weathered the recent Category 5 Hurricane Irma by himself on one of the most remote cays in the Bahamas. Edward lives on Buena Vista Cay which is 20 miles north of Ragged Island. Stranded and alone he somehow managed to survive.  
(Thanks for the heads-up on this Derry!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Eclipse Day

The canyon of the Middle Fork
For the eclipse, I drove south to the Middle Fork of the Powder River near Buth Cassidy's Hole-In-The-Wall. It was the perfect place to watch the event. High plains, warm clear day, amazing celestial event and some great fishing that afternoon on some ranches in the area!

Many of the animals bedded down when it began to get dark.

...and then there was light... and I went fishing!
...and release
...and mutter "cool"!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hurricane Irma Update

The first island in the Bahamas to be hit was INAGUA ISLAND.
 Marine Superintendent Stevie Fawkes, believed to have been posted in Inagua by the RBDF, claimed: "We have millions in dollars damage to Morton Salt."
The post added: "All of the catwalks from Morton Salt terminal are gone, the maintenance shop is severely damaged, all of our salt production stackers were totally destroyed."
The post also suggested that 70 per cent of the homes in Inagua sustained some degree of roof damage; a claim confirmed by Police Superintendent James Moss, contacted by The Tribune this afternoon.
Supt Moss said based on his initial tour of the island this evening, rooves were lost, none more severe than at the Inagua All-Age School.
He told The Tribune: "Several structures, including the school, have lost sections of their roof. The issue at the school is of major concern. Based on what I could see, the administration block and several of the classrooms have sustained extensive roof damage"
He added: "There is some concerns at other places, mainly Morton Salt, but we are unable to clarify what exactly happened or the extent of it.
This video is brand new and I couldn't download it yet:

5.35pm UPDATE: CROOKED ISLAND easily weathered Hurricane Irma
resident David Daxon said. 
"There wasn't much damage," he told The Tribune 5.30pm Friday. "People have lost shingles off their roof but no major structural damages and no injuries to persons."
Mr Daxon, works at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), said electricity is off on the island and a BPL team is currently doing damage assessments.
"Everything is normal," he said. "This was nothing compared with Hurricane Joaquin. Once you've experienced Joauqin I don't know if it could get any worse."
Mr Daxon chose not to evacuate the island. Although he was in New Providence earlier this week, he returned to his home to properly secure it. BTC communications are still up on the island, he said.
Same with this one on Inagua that shows the aftermath.

Friday, September 8, 2017

My August or Why I Haven't Been Posting on FLY PAPER

So I took the last few weeks off. During that time, I made no attempt to report on my blog what I was up to... I just enjoyed the summer. Here are a few photos:
(FYI, I'm back in the saddle now and I'll have a hurricane update as soon as Irma churns thru the Bahamas today.)

Onto my activities in August:

I got to spend a couple days fishing with my old friend Brett Smith.

...who is a fantastic angler, fly tier and guide, by the way.

I spent quite a few days fishing in the Bighorn Mountains for cutts' and 'bows...

...I also spent some days pursuing big browns on our prairie streams.

August's weather was incredible and I enjoyed a steady parade of wildlife.

The sandhill cranes enjoyed the alfalfa fields in front of our house all summer.

This big buck spent many hours trying to get the seeds from our bird feeders.

...and apparently made some plans for fall

He will have some competition!

Meanwhile, out in the prairies...
The antelope were happily enjoying the deep grasses and sage.

and the Chukkar are a welcome sight... good news for fall!

...a few other visitors are always less welcome
Next, my eclipse day....