Tuesday, April 30, 2013

South Andros 2013... My Last Day: Part 1

The original plan was, as on previous Sea Hunter trips, for all of us to go aboard the Sweet Jessie up to Kemp’s Bay. From there we would go to the Congotown Airport, but instead of flying to Nassau from Congotown, I would stay with our taxi driver Shirley who take me to Driggs Hill. From there, I would take the 4:00 PM ferry from South Andros to Lisbon Creek on Mangrove Cay. Then, I would take another taxi to Swain's Cay where I would spend the night and fish with Alvin "Big Al" Green in the Middle Bight the next day. I would go home on Monday, two days after leaving the Sea Hunter.

Solly returns!
After we departed on the Sweet Jessie, our guide Solomon "Solly" Murphy, was planning to run his Maverick Mirage from Jackfish Channel at the southern end of South Andros all the way to his home on Stafford Creek on the North Island. A trip of 7-8 hours depending on the weather and the waves. He would run the entire length of South Andros, cross all three of the bights and run 3/4's of the way up the north island before reaching Stafford Creek. On this journey, Solly would see the better part of the largest island in the Bahamas. He would hopefully make it home before dark. Solly’s motto “I can work with that” is a good philosophy when running up the ocean side of a 100 mile long giant like Andros

As we were packing to leave, it dawned on us that I should go with Solly. If all went well, I could make it to Mangrove Cay in two hours.  I would then avoid waiting for the ferry and the vagaries of finding a taxi on Mangrove Cay. I could shave a few hours off my journey and eliminate a lot of moving parts. As a bonus, if we made it by 1:00 PM, Solly’s cousin, who is a policeman, would pick me up at the Government Dock on Mangrove Cay and deliver me to Swains Cay.

“Great!” I thought, I could get to Swains Cay early and relax a bit before dinner.

Solly and I left the Sea Hunter at 11:00 AM and motored east out of Jackfish Channel. Instead of turning left to go up the east side of Andros, we turned right. I was suddenly very confused! Was I mixed up? Were we really going up the west Side of Andros instead of the East Side? Was I that disoriented?

Solly saw my look of confusion and laughingly said, “I’m going to pick up a few whelks then we’ll turn around and go north.”

As a hitchhiker, I had no room to complain, so I said “No problem.” and meant it. I settled back relieved to know that I at least had my directions straight.

We quickly motored over to the cay Solly had in mind. Behind us, we could hear the big diesels on the Sweet Jessie powering the others up north. Since Solly and I could go in a straighter line through more shallow water, we could collect some whelks and still beat them as they had to go far offshore to reach deeper water before turning north. As we pulled onto the beach, I noticed Solly had a rod under the gunnel cowling. 

“Can I use your rod while you’re gone.” I asked.

“No problem.” He said as he grabbed a plastic bag and quickly waded off towards shore.

I slid his Beulah rod out. It had a well used Okuma reel, but only a weathered and frayed short leader on the fly line. My gear was packed away inside my luggage which was wrapped inside a big garbage bag for our journey north. I knew Solly wouldn’t be gone long, so I looked around the boat and found a 8 foot hank of 30-40 lb. mono that was tied around a bundle of clothes. It would have to do. 

My fly and 40 lb. tippet!
I had no nippers so I tied on the whole hank of mono. Then I plucked a rusty, old Charlie-type fly from the carpeting of Solly's left sidewall. This fly was below an image of a tarpon embroidered in the weathered nap by the boat’s manufacturer. I tied on the Charlie. I was able to get only 3 or 4 twists in the thick mono for an improved clinch knot. With no nippers or knife, I left the tag end of mono hanging from the hook’s eye. I had no wading shoes, they too were packed away, so I stepped out of my Crocs and stepped barefoot onto the flat. The soft sand felt good so I waded off a hundred yards or so only stopping a couple times to pry sharp shell fragments from my feet.

Soon I saw a few large fish coming towards me. I cast my absurd leader at the group and surprisingly, one charged the fly. I stripped and he was on. This was a big fish! He rocketed towards the deep water trench that is the Tongue of the Ocean throwing a massive roostertail across the flat. He made two spectacular runs. After his second run, I was madly reeling in the line when the tension suddenly stopped. I retrieved the fly line until I saw the fly had no hook point. All that was left was a rusted, hook shaft. The point was apparently on its way to Cuba with my fish.

Whelks and curves.
While I would have loved to have seen the fish, it seemed an appropriate way to leave South Andros. It’s good to leave a great trip wanting more. So with a few questions left unanswered, I started gingerly back to the skiff.  As I repeatedly stumbled due to new jabs from sharp objects, Solly made long steady strides towards me... also on a pair of bare feet.  He had a big bag full of what Bahamians call curves and whelks. I call them chitons and turban shells. Whatever their name, take a diced conch, lime juice, some chopped onion and green pepper and a miniscule dice of a searingly hot Bahamian goat pepper and you have a true treat. Solly’s work would make a fine “mixed salad” as he called his take on conch ceviche. Solly stored his treasures under the back deck, while I slid his rod back to its spot under the side deck.

"Ready?" Solly asked.

"Yup!" I said as I pulled on my raincoat.

We fired up the big 90 Yamaha and took off on a heading north under threatening skies and and an ever freshening breeze.

Making a "mixed" salad

NEXT Part II...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fly Fishing in Salt Waters story on Water Cay Lodge

Read John Frazier's great story OLD SCHOOL in the latest issue of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters
John's story is about Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island and its awesome fishing and guides.
If you would like a pdf of the article send me an e-mail at scott@anglingdestinations.com 
or call 800-211-8530! 
For more info on Water Cay Lodge click here!
Also here are some photos of the lodge from this blog!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Photos from Sea Hunter trip to Bahamas 2013

A few more photos from our superb Sea Hunter trip to South Andros, Bahamas.

My big bone from the last day.

Doug Jeffries with a Kalik and a great T-shirt!

Dusk off the aft deck!

Doug Jeffries' conch fritter strikes again!


Cleaning conch with an audience.


Dominos after dinner.

Conch fritters and Kalik... noting better!

All the toys!

Jim Woollett surfaces... finally!

Mr. Kotrick with a nice jack. 

Dr. Peskoe with dinner.

Cleaning conch

Razor with nurse and lemon sharks waiting for a conch handout.

Solomon Murphy makes conch salad.

Solly with a big 'cuda.

Another beautiful flat.

...and another

...and another

Friday, April 26, 2013

South Andros Island, Bahamas: Sea Hunter Trip Report 2013

We just returned from another superb trip aboard the Sea Hunter liveaboard to South Andros in the Bahamas! 
Bonefishing, snorkeling, reef fishing, superb food, good company and a great crew... it doesn't get any better than this!! 
I'll post more photos in the next few days. 
Go here for more info on the Sea Hunter!
To see the rest of this trip report, click here

As we ran out of mainland and entered the maze of cays that surround the southern tip of South Andros Island, it was good to once again, see the Sea Hunter steady at anchor in Jackfish Channel. The Sweet Jessie, our transportation from Kemps Bay to the Sea Hunter, sidled up to the port side of the mothership and in that moment, the Sea Hunter became our home for the next week. Cabins were divided up, bags were unpacked and stored, and fishing gear was rigged. Before long, we were calf deep on the the fabled flats that surround our mooring.

Our routine for the next six days was a wading bonefisherman’s dream come true. Up shortly after 6:00 am and grab a cup of coffee in the galley on the way outside to watch the sunrise from the aft deck.  Breakfast at 7:00, then slap on some sunscreen, pull up your buff and step into the skiffs between 7:30 and 8:00. We usually would bonefish until late afternoon (or the tide got too high), then motored back to the Sea Hunter for showers, cocktails, a sumptuous dinner all followed by a lazy night relaxing. We only broke our late afternoon routine when we chose to go snorkeling or reef fishing or our evening routine when some of the braver souls got involved in a raucous game of dominoes with the guides after dinner.

To see the rest of this trip report, click here!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Today's offerings on fishing-themed beers are from Jeff Rodenberg of Michigan and Doug Jeffries of California who have hoisted a few beers in each other's company!
First, Jeff offers Thirsty Trout Porter 
Jeff says: 

"As a home brewer, I love porters. When you boil the wort, in addition to an eclectic mix of malt and hops, you throw in just about anything hanging around in the refrigerator, yielding a brew that is always unique and flavorful. This is a refreshment perfect for soothing the nerves after a fishless winter day of throwing #32 dandruff midges to fussy sping creek browns. This porter in particular, is on the mild side for those not quite used to same, with a toasty, roasty mouthfeel characteristic of the style, a clean finish, and 7% ABV. Fear not a good old fashioned skunkin', Thirsty Trout Porter will relieve the pain!"

Doug offered:
"This Steelhead Extra Stout is from an old SF brewery and it's a tasty pint... ". 

Jeff piped in with this when he learned of Doug's suggestion: 
"Indeed! Stouts are the single malt scotch of beers! Doug is the man..."

Thanks to both of you!!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Just Another Typical Day in Wyoming.

“I’m gonna die right here… first they’ll find my outfit parked in the alfalfa field, then they will look for me. Eventually, they will find my body. It will be charred and, if they find me soon enough, still smoking. I’ll probably look like a slab of bacon sizzling on a forgotten camp stove.”

I had been hunkered down in this copse of bankside willows for over an hour. At times, I thought the storm might pass and if I was patient, I could still get in some fishing this afternoon. I had told myself over and over, 'just 15 more minutes and if it doesn’t clear, I’ll go home'. At other times, I was simply too scared to move. 

I knew that if I made a dash for the car, I would be fried to a cinder as soon as I stood up. I had that pee-in-your-pants kind of fear that directs you to make deals with your maker and wonder why you left the safe confines of your office to do something as stupid as go fishing. This was now officially one of those scared shitless moments. Lightning was continuously flashing and at no time during the last 30 minutes could I not hear thunder. A moment ago, a massive bolt struck a red rock butte that rose out of a sagebrush flat lining the far side of the river. The moment before the bolt let loose, I had felt the charge build in the air. My nippers and hemostats vibrated ominously and my ears began ringing like a cheap radio. I had immediately jettisoned my chestpack. I threw it as far as I could towards my graphite fishing/lightning rod which was, like me, lying prone, but at the far end of the sand bar. I wanted no metal near me. During that last terrifying discharge, I would have gladly pried out my own fillings, if I hadn’t thrown my hemostats away with my chestpack.

Each time a boomer pealed off, I hunkered down a bit more. I was now hugging the sandy alluvial shore and passing the time listing the many things I was willing to give up in exchange for some divine intervention. I was on the verge of offering to quit fishing if I could just get out of this alive, when the hail suddenly stopped and a warm wind wafted in. This was not a slow process. The hail stopped pelting me and the air warmed as if on a switch with only two settings… on and off. The air was still electric, but there was now room for hope.

As thunder rumbled and lightning popped, the winds calmed. A low-lying sun sent a half-light through clouds that hugged the foothills. Unafraid of the lightning, a single robin flew to a fence pole and began eating spinners that were orbiting the post. Suddenly, there were insects everywhere. Smokey caddis buzzed in the willows, while baetis duns floated down the creek with their wings unfurled like tiny sailboats. PMD spinners danced in the air, their glassine wings reflecting a mesmerizing low half-light. Apparently, all these insects had decided to make a break for it and get in some mating while the stream’s predators were hunkered down waiting for the weather to clear. As a big bolt smacked a small hill near me, I thought it best to lay low for awhile. Having just cheated death, there was no reason to now tempt the fates.

Then I saw the nose. The snout was so close I could have touched him with my rod tip (if my 4 wt. hadn’t been 25 yards away). I could see the signature hooked jaw and green cheek spot of a big brown. A few more very pale, almost white, PMD duns disappeared into his maw before fish-fever overcame fear-of-frying. Rationalizing (and deep in denial), I skulked across the sandy bank to retrieve my rod. I felt like a child about to do something wrong, but determined to do it anyway. I nervously positioned myself midriver putting a small riffle between me and the big fish. I tied on my most pale light Cahill. 

Hoping for the best, I flung this little bundle of knots, dubbing and feathers into the big brown’s feeding lane. The fly floated through the flash of a massive bolt, then vanished in a swirl of muted storm light and water. Still ducking from the bolt, I struck feeling my line come tight. As line played out, I laughed nervously and glanced skyward. I tried to keep my rod angled low even as I fought and then landed the fish. He was 21 inches and broad. He had wintered well...and I had survived the storm. I’m sure I was more excited about these events than he was. As I gingerly released him, a wicked flash quickly yanked my brain back to whether I should fish or flee. "Flight or fight" took on a new meaning.

Fish lust again won out over common sense as I began catching fish after fish all on dries. Just as I was running out of light Cahills, the PMD’s tapered off. Almost immediately, a tan caddis started laying eggs in the stream as the storm rumbled on still quite near. Was it insane to continue? I knew I was sticking a wet finger in a celestial 220 volt socket, but I was now so deep in denial perhaps the only cure was shock therapy!  I pressed on. I had no caddis patterns with me, no Goddard’s or elk-haired caddis... nothing down-wing. Instead, I tied on a little yellow Sally stonefly pattern that was similar to a stimulator hoping to imitate the caddis hatch as best I could. Despite the fly’s red butt, it worked great on these usually very selective fish. I caught many big browns and a few fat rainbows until the caddis hatch ended and another, this time more yellow PMD, began to hatch.

At this point, I was in the midst of a full-blown fish frenzy having gone from abject fear to elation in short order. This roller coaster of emotions had given birth to an almost absurd sense of optimism that spawned the following course of events:

Since I had no more PMD flies with me, I tied on a brand-new, yellow Sally/stimulator. I figured that since this down-wing pattern was generally about the same color as the PMD’s and since I was using the stimulator to imitate a caddis and since the fish had just been eating caddis… OK, OK, so the truth was this: I was using a stonefly pattern to imitate a caddis that I thought might work on fish feeding on mayflies

It must be obvious that my mind was addled by a toxic mix of cerebral chemicals created by combining a near death experience with fish fever. This mind-numbing cocktail must have reacted with the ozone released by the lightning (and the cheeseburger I’d had at McDonalds before the storm) to bring me to this point. Absurd even for a fisherman!

The first fish I showed my fly ate a PMD natural on either side of the yellow Sally. With a closed mouth, the second fish popped the fly out of the water with his nose. I had seen big browns do this before on this stream with grasshopper flies. Probably fooled before, they were checking my hopper to see if they were real. I had never seen this happen with such a small fly. But in my addled state, I took it as a good sign. I clipped a bit of the elk hair so more of the yellow body showed and pushed the hair straight up then formed it into a semi-circle like a comparadun. I tried again. The big brown came up, followed the fly downstream for three or four feet, then confidently ate my yellow Sally/caddis/PMD. Let's call it a comparacaddis stone.

This fish had probably volunteered for his clan thinking I would most probably leave the other fish alone and go home if this fly worked. He was right. After landing get another 20” trout, I crawled up the bank and walked through the alfalfa field to the tune of distant thunder. 

It had been just another typical day in Wyoming. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Beer from Michigan!

This is getting fun now!!! 
I have never heard of this beer, but Jeff Rodenberg issued this strong thumbs-up:

My first of several offerings from the Michigan/Great Lakes region. This one is for the tweedy traditionalists...perhaps even split bamboo users...inspired by Hemmingway and his classic Nick Adams stories, we have "Two Hearted Ale". 
Like the story, the author and the river, it's a big, bold hoppy beverage...put out by Bell's Brewery, perhaps the most acclaimed in our fine state...Several more to come as I work my way thru this most enjoyable R&D task...