Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gary Dyer's Permit at Water Cay Lodge

Here’s a cool story from Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island:

Gary Dyer is an old hand at Water Cay. Gary and I study the tides charts at the conclusion of each year's trip and make plans for the following year. Gary is an excellent angler who makes the most of each year's trip. On his FIRST day of this year's trip, Gary was fishing with head guide Sidney Thomas, when they saw three BIG permit headed towards them. Gary cast a “generic” mantis shrimp pattern at the permit. To his surprise, one tipped and ate his bonefish fly without any hesitation. The fish tore off and Gary held on. Unfortunately, after that initial long run his line suddenly went slack. Gary reeled in his slack line. Sid and Gary were sick-hearted... even more so when they saw the hook on the mantis pattern had broken. Gary cursed the hook manufacturer knowing he had just blown an incredible opportunity by using a sub-par hook. He was sure this opportunity would not likely come again. Sid and Gary muttered repeatedly about the incident and couldn’t over their disappointment. 

A bit later, Sid and Gary decided to wade a flat. Soon the boat was well behind them. The action was slow. They were not seeing many bones and the undercurrent of the lost permit was weighing on their minds. It looked like their luck had disappeared along with the permit. Then, all of a sudden, three even BIGGER permit were headed towards them. Gary had a #4 gold gotcha on and he tossed it at the lead fish. Again, the lead permit ate the fly.  No problem!

Sid and Gary with their catch!
This was a really big permit and as Gary watched his line melt off his spool, Sid raced for the boat. Gary hoped he could slow the fish enough to not get spooled while Sid raced to get the boat. They were going to need it if they had any shot of landing this fish. Soon, Sid was back with the boat and the big permit was still on. They jumped in the skiff and begin to follow the fish hoping they could keep this second permit buttoned-up! The fight went on and on. Two hours later, they managed to land the fish. Estimated at 30 lbs. and caught on an 8 wt. rod with a #4 bonefish fly. 
Amazing and congrats Gary!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Few Words on Luck

...As Luck Would Have It
I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking and then I thought...
"What the hell good would that do?" - Ronnie Shakes

Luck... to a greater or lesser extent, all of us have it. On the surface, it should be a simple concept. Either the divine shines on you or it doesn’t. Luck can visit us in many forms. It could be good weather or lots of fish. Maybe it involves catching a big trophy or perhaps a prized species. But when you look at luck a bit closer, you'll find that some anglers seem to have gotten more than their fair share of it and there seems to be different types of luck.

We all know about “blind luck”. Blind luck is the guy that catches that incredible fish on his first day of fishing.... ever. It’s the guy that doesn't know zip and can’t keep fish off his line. It’s the “you-gotta-be-kidding-me” kind of luck that makes the recipient’s companions shake their heads and mutter under their breath. Dumb, blind, beginners... we all know this type of luck. We also know it won’t last, because eventually, we all start TRYING!

The second type of luck is what we'll call "serendipitous luck". It is a step-up from blind luck. For the angler to receive this luck he must stay active and work at it. Eventually, fly will intersect with fish and voila', luck ensues. This is the “infinite number of monkeys with typewriters will eventually type the Declaration of Independence” type of luck. This is not blind luck as effort and perseverance is involved. It’s the “can’t rise if you don’t stumble” type of luck favoring Horatio Alger types.
Louis Pasteur was thinking about our next type of luck when he said, “Luck favors only the prepared.” This type of angling fortune presents itself only to those who have the sagacity and astuteness to recognize it when it comes along... and an ability to take advantage of it when it does. Although Pasteur wasn’t an angler, I think he would have recognized that practicing casting and a few well-tied knots is a good idea. In order to receive this type of luck, you must see the clue and have the tools to both make the pitch and close the deal. Good anglers seem to get more than their fair share of this type of luck.
The last type of luck is the type Benjamin Disraeli had in mind when he said “We make our own fortune and we call it luck”. This is where the discussion about luck gets interesting. Those who seem to have this type of luck have a collection of personality traits and perhaps an intuitive ability that not only put them at the right place at the right time, but allows them to relax and be in the moment when luck comes knocking. They have everything that the previous luck recipients have, wisdom, experience, preparation, but they also have a bit more. A bit more of the type of luck that Thomas Edison described as “ 99% perspiration creates 1% inspiration” Of course, these anglers come prepared and have the necessary skills, but we all know plenty of great casters who have only mediocre luck. No, these anglers have a bit more. We’ll get back to this later.

Now I have a confession to make. After over over 20 years of sending thousands and thousands of anglers all over the world, I have developed an ability to not necessarily foretell who will have a good trip, but I can often tell who will have a bad trip. These fishermen, God bless ‘em, are usually only interested in results. They want to know how many fish they will catch or what is a typical day. They’re anxious about their trip. Not really excited, just anxious. Often they tell me about their past crummy trips and how they want me to guarantee that this will be a good trip. This is when I start to get nervous. There is a pessimism that creeps through the phone line and I can feel the beginnings of a self-fulfilling prophecy. More often than not, these people return saying they didn’t have very good luck. When I talk to the guides, they will often say the fishing was great, but Mr. Doe couldn’t see the fish or couldn’t make the cast. Remember the part about preparation?
Now we have some clients who seem to always have great trips. They are unfailingly optimistic and relaxed. They see what is there rather than what they are looking for. They don’t press, they let their trip unfold and they are determined to have a good time regardless... and they do!
We have always wished we could impart the attitude of the good luck anglers to the bad luck guys. We have wondered aloud if it would be possible to change the bad luck group by assuming the attitudes of the good luck group. We did a little research into this and found some surprising results. Apparently, a number of psychologists have wondered about the same thing... maybe they like to fish!
These scientists have conducted a number of experiments designed to help the unlucky think and behave like a lucky person. First, they identified the behavior that made someone unlucky or lucky. The first and foremost was anxiety. Unlucky people are more tense and this interferes with their ability to notice things and as a result they miss opportunities. On the other hand, lucky people are more relaxed and open and therefore more observant. The second behavior consistently displayed by the unlucky is a pessimism that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereas the lucky are confident and know they will be successful. I once read something on how to see fish on flats well. After mentioning the importance of Polaroid sunglasses, the author said the two most important tips were to: # 1... relax and “get in the groove” and # 2... be confident. He said, “If you don’t think you will see fish, you won’t!”
So back to the experiment... the researchers took a group of “unlucky" people and had them perform exercises that made them think and behave like a lucky person. These exercises helped them create and spot chance opportunities, listen to their intuition, expect to be lucky and be more resilient to bad luck if not transform bad luck into good luck. After a month, low and behold, 80% of the unlucky came back and said they had become luckier.

As a result, these researchers identified four tips for starting the process of going from unlucky to lucky: 

#1. Listen to your instincts, they are probably right.
#2. Relax and be open to new experiences. Don't worry about breaking your normal routine.
#3. Visualize yourself being lucky. Luck is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
#4. Be optimistic.

So maybe it is possible to change one's luck. Maybe it’s not a divine accident or a cosmic benevolence. Maybe luck is a learned skill just like casting or knot tying. Maybe it's just a simple matter of starting to think you are lucky. Then, maybe you start to relax, you start seeing fish and you think your luck has changed. Who knows, but it is sure worth a try and it's sure cheaper than buying dozens of new flies or a new rod and reel in an effort to change your luck on your next trip.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Punta Allen Fishing Club: Bang for the Buck!!

The waters of Ascension Bay offer light-tackle saltwater fishermen one of the most diverse selections of game fish in the world. Bonefish, tarpon, snook, jacks, barracuda and several different reef species are all potential catches. In addition, many experienced anglers believe that Ascension Bay has the world's largest population of permit. If you would like to fish Ascension Bay, by far the best bargain is with the Punta Allen Fishing Club. This small lodge combines great guides and equipment with comfortable, if not luxurious accommodations, all coming in at an unbelievably good price. if you looking to combine great fishing with good value, this is your spot:

Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is a shallow water paradise. Many flats fishermen make a yearly pilgrimage to the Yucatan. From Isla Holbox in the north to Campeche in the west and from Xcalak in the south to the flats north of Cancun at Isla Blanca, this peninsula is filled with sportfishing opportunities. But, the most prolific area lies south of Cancun in the waters that surround Ascension Bay. Without a doubt, one of the best and most economical ways to fish Ascension Bay is by headquartering at the Punta Allen Fishing Club, which is strategically located at the north end of Ascension Bay in the village of Punta Allen.

The Punta Allen Fishing Club is located in the heart of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. To the east, lies the blue Caribbean and to the immediate north, the Palancar Barrier Reef stretches from southern Belize to north of Cancun. To the west lies a vast laguna system made up of shallow flats cut by pale azure channels and dotted with small mangrove cayes. Both the interior lagunas and the more oceanic Ascension Bay boast some of the Caribbean's most productive fishing areas.

Punta Allen Fishing Club was built in 2009 and is constructed of traditional Mexican brick and mortar with indigenous hardwoods and tile. The club is owned and managed by Tiziano Rizotto and Pascale LeBlanc, two passionate fishermen, who know well the needs and expectations of international anglers.The club has five very comfortable rooms each with a private open shower in an Italian bathroom. Rooms come with two twin beds, fans, geothermal cooling system (an air-conditioning system that works with cold water without a compressor), operable windows and plenty of space for clothing and gear. Each room receives two bottles of water each day. Upstairs, the palapa contains the kitchen, a hardwood bar, and a dining table, plus several tables and seating areas for relaxing, playing cards, or tying flies. This is the perfect place to share the day's fishing with your friends first with local cocktails (margaritas, beer, local rum cocktails), then over excellent home cooking.

Dinner is served family style featuring delicious local Caribbean, Mexican with a French and Italian touch including fresh fish, fajitas de pollo with mole, chilis rellenos, aranchera, paella, shrimps pasta, followed by scrumptious locally inspired desserts. Purified water is used for drinking and ice.

The guides are all from the village of Punta Allen and include Juan Briceno “Juanito” (the head guide), Daurin, Henry, Agustin, Gerardo and Eliesel. The guides are very experienced, well-respected and know not only Ascension Bay waters extremely well, but also the secluded lagoons and secret flats. The guides all speak English. Even when sharing a boat each angler has a private guide. With two anglers per boat and two guides, one guide/angler team wades the flats while the other team fishes from the boat, and then the teams switch off. 

The guides utilize 23-25 ft. fishing pangas. The pangas are specially outfitted for flats fishing and are very stable in shallow water and chop. These boats have a wide casting area on the flat bow, and a poling platform at the back for sighting fish. Each boat is outfitted with a 40 to 60 hp engine, comfortable seats, rod holders, and coolers. 

At Punta Allen Fishing Club, the level of personal service and interaction you get with the owners is one of the reasons to choose this lodge. Both Tiziano and Pascale attend to every detail of your trip. They are always there to interact with guests. While the lodge is not luxurious, it is very comfortable and the owners work hard to meet your needs and provide exceptional service. You can certainly pay a lot more at some of the lodges and likely get more luxurious accommodations and food. But, for the hardcore angler, visitors at Punta Allen Fishing Club you will want for nothing, have great access to the fishery and receive a high level of personalized service. 

There is no doubt that the waters in and around the Yucatan's Ascension Bay offer one of the most prolific areas in the world for the light-tackle saltwater fisherman both in terms of diversity and numbers.  In a single week, anglers can often cast to bonefish, tarpon, snook, permit, jacks, barracuda and many different reef species. If you've always wanted to explore this area or are an old veteran of Ascension Bay, the Punta Allen Fishing Club offers a great experience all at a very economical price.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kamchatka: A Remembrance of 'Bows, Bears, Beers and Black Bread

Both the fabulous Oz (Ozernaya) and the Two Yurt Rivers are now fully booked for the summer of 2013. It not too early to plan for 2014! 
Here's a little story from one great day in Kamchatka. Believe me, there have been so many others!

We had gone as far as we could go by boat. We had turned off the main river into a tributary and gone well past yesterday's high point. Now, the water was gin clear with riffled runs, log-choked bends and shallow braids. Antoine, our young Russian guide, peered nervously ahead, hIs eyes dilated and wide with adrenaline. He was afraid of misreading a run and damaging his beautiful new 40 hp Yamaha. As experienced Alaskan river runners, we were in our element. We pushed the young Russian to go higher and higher upriver. We told him to relax and go where we pointed. The higher we went, the more often we signaled Antoine to pull over. As the skiff coasted to a stop, we would swing our legs over the gunnels to begin the process of hauling our "War Eagle" up and over a shallow bar or an obstructed channel. Once we had cleared the obstacle, Antoine would fire up his Yamaha and we would continue up the trib. After each stop Antoine would plead with us to turn back. 

“One more bend”, we would say or “Let’s see what’s around this corner, then we'll stop.”

We were having a ball and in no danger although I’m sure Antoine’s perspective was much different than ours!

The War Eagle
Now, we were finally at the point where we could go no further. At the base of a steep cutbank, logjams and sweepers were stacked across the entire river and continued for as far as we could see. Without a chainsaw or a big handsaw, we were done. We told Antoine to pull in. Relief washed across his face. At least for the moment, Antoine would survive his day with these wacky Americans. We pulled in, tied the boat off to a tree and grabbed our "mousing rods". I looked upstream past the cutbank and saw a beautiful little riffle plunging into a deep pool formed by the terminus of an old back channel. I had to get there! The lure of virgin water is strong and was, after all, why we had come this far!
I kicked steps in the layered mud of the cutbank and climbed around the massive root balls of trees that had fallen from the rim, their anchors finally eroded by a river on the march. On the far side of the cutbank, I shouted "hello" repeatedly into a forest that held the highest density of brown bears on planet earth. Finally, I made it to the dark, deep pool. I was bathed in sweat. A halo of mosquitoes were my only companions. The pool looked good. I threw a hairy mouse with a foam collar and orange legs slightly upstream, then skated it into the pool. As my mouse swung into the eddy line, a bright flash vaporized the rodent. A quick hookset began a strong fight. Soon, I had a 23 inch Kamchatka rainbow at my feet as I saw my partner Scott begin to negotiate the slippery mud and loose gravel of the cutbank. By the time he had joined me, I had caught another 20" 'bow and a couple 19" grayling, their mouths barely big enough to fit around the mouse. Scott and I walked upstream to the next bend, then decided to fish our way to the boat. After that, we could fish the miles of water we had, perhaps a bit too energetically, motored past.

When we again passed the deep pool, Scott paused to try his mouse, while I re-rigged with a pale white and slightly pink, wooly bugger. Almost immediately, I caught a stout 22" white Siberian or Kundzha char. This beautiful fish had nickel-sized white spots somewhat reminiscent of a lake trout. This fish was a real treasure and this year's first Kundzha for me. A few more casts brought in a big grayling and another big rainbow. Scott had flashes on his mouse, but no takers. I thought I had probably ruined the run for him previously. As he reeled up, I made the proverbial last cast. The line stopped and I struck snapping line off the water in a shower of spray. Initially, The line didn't move. Then it pulsed once, then again as a big fish wallowed to the surface.

Siberian or Kundzha char
"It's a 'bow... a big 'bow!" I whispered.

"Whoa!" Scott added, more accurately summing up its tremendous size.

I can't say the fish fought exceptionally hard. He didn't rip off a lot of line and he did not jump. I got the feeling that this was a very old guy. An ancient creature wise to the ways of fishing bears and aggressive salmon, but not prepared to have his seniority questioned quite this way. He sulked on the bottom impossible to turn, then repeatedly rolled to the surface creating a massive boil that flashed silver with a slice of magenta. Eventually it was over, the fight more time consuming than difficult. The measure of this fish was not in the quality of the battle, but in the rarity of his length and girth. He was a monument to survival and sheer time.

"We need a camera!" I mumbled, knowing mine was far away stored in a dry bag on the boat.

"I'll get it!" Scott offered with a smile, approaching the difficulty of the hike back as he had every other obstacle or inconvenience on this trip.

“I owe you one." I said and I meant it.

Big bows and lots of them!
Scott raced across the cutbank. In no time he was back with Antoine and my camera in tow. As in turned out, Antoine was happy to join us as a big brown bear had just poked his head out of the forest not 50 feet from where he was laying out lunch. By the time they got to me, the big 'bow was fining comfortably in the pool. 

Antoine squinted into the water then exclaimed, "That's the biggest 'bow I've seen on this river!... he's huge!"

We photographed him from every angle taking extra care to keep him in the water. Copepods coated his gill filaments perhaps explaining why this old fella didn't fight harder. We measured him at 30 inches and estimated his weight at 5.5 kilos... around 12 pounds. We placed him back in the pool and for a time lost him in the mud that we had stirred up. Eventually, he swam slowly out of the dingy cloud and back into the fast clear water. He was fine, although I was left with the feeling that this venerable fellow wouldn't see too many more Kamchatka summers. 

After a few deep breaths, we marched back to the boat to dine on thick slices of black bread, salmon caviar and tallboys of dark #9 Russian beers. As we munched away, Antoine told us he could smell the bear before he saw him.

salmon caviar and black bread...


and bears.

That is Kamchatka!
"He smelled awful...like a swamp." He said as he bit into a hunk of bread smeared with a glob of bright orange eggs. My thoughts were not on lunch or bears, but were back upriver with a boiling flash of magenta and silver.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are Sara and Scott Haunted by Fish?

My wife Sara and I bombing down the highway somewhere in Wyoming...
We can't figure out where the fish came from in the lower left corner. Sara has no shirts with fish on them (as compared to me). 
Is this a fish ghost? 
Do fish spirits haunt our car? 
I can see it now... "IN SEARCH OF FISH SPIRITS" this Sunday on Animal Planet. It's on right after "RIVER MONSTERS"!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Golden Goose

An Ode to Cormorants
Why fish where these winged gluttons reside? 
It's all about the tarpon!

The Golden Goose
If you've ever fished the mangrove edge for bonefish, permit or tarpon, you have no doubt run across a rather odd winged creature that blurs the line between a duck and a fish. Looking like a cross between Daffy Duck and Groucho Marks, cormorants swim superbly enabling them to easily chase down fish underwater. But perch them on a branch and the price they have paid for their underwater abilities will eventually be revealed. For when a perching cormorant is spooked, their propensities for being aerially challenged soon become evident. Jonathan Seagull they are not... more like Jonathan Freefall.

When a skiff enters a rookery, cormorants flush from the mangrove bushes and desperately try to achieve something akin to flight. Depending on the weight of the partially digested fish payload they carry, cormorants either drop sickeningly to the water surface where they flap wings in a vain effort to get airborne or, if they have a few less fish in the tank, drop to furiously beat wings and slap the water with webbed feet before gaining enough speed to reach lift-off. Launch a cast into the path of a panicked cormorant and you’re looking for a bird’s nest of a different color. Fly line intersecting cormorant always means trouble.

Cormorants that have eaten way too many sardines automatically abandon any attempt at flight and upon impact with the water, immediately dive taking their distended bellies with them. Reemerging many yards away, cormorants can look surprising like a rolling tarpon... especially to an angler all drugged up on adrenaline and tarpon dreams.

So why fish where these silly, overloaded, winged gluttons reside? It’s all about the tarpon. When you eat like a cormorant, which is a lot... you poop like a cormorant... which again, is a lot. This potent concoction falls from the cormorant’s precarious perch and enters an aquatic food chain that begins only a few feet below. Bacteria grows easily in this enriched, let’s call it fertilized, water. Soon, plankton count their lucky stars while feeding on the heaven sent bounty brewing in this bacterial bouillabaisse. Small invertebrates gorge on these plankton and protozoan feed on the plankton and so it goes on and on up the line. Shrimp, crabs and sardines bless father cormorant before gorging on the millions of minute krill or the collected organic detritus they leave behind. At the top of this food chain are the tarpon. They come for the bounty the cormorant droppings eventually provide and with the tarpon, come the anglers. It's simple math; more cormorants mean an enhanced broth and a richer soup means more food for the tarpon’s prey. To put it another way, more guano creates more food and more food means more tarpon. An elegant, if not a bit disgusting, system.

I have heard it said by some that cormorants need to be killed because they eat baby tarpon. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so judgmental about cormorants. Perhaps we should be glad these ancient avians do their digesting where they do. Perhaps we should be glad they haven’t better mastered the air. Perhaps we should be pleased they only use flight to get to the fishing grounds and then trundle home again headed straight for the mangroves. Perhaps those that damn cormorants haven’t learned the most basic rule of fishing... Do not mess with Mother Nature! Let her be! She has things pretty well worked out and her devices usually work to the benefit of the angler. Mess with her and you just may be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Although in this case, it may not be a goose, but a cormorant and it may not be an egg, but a pile of… OK, OK, you get the picture. So let’s all bless the cormorants. The tarpon undoubtedly do!

This piece was originally published in a feature on winter tarpon fishing on the Yucatan Peninsula in the November/December 2006 issue of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Bahamas in World War II

If you have ever gone bonefishing in the southern Bahamas and more specifically on Acklins or Ragged Island, I think you will find this interesting. I know this has nothing to do with fishing, but the following put a whole new perspective on Acklins, Inagua and Ragged Islands for me. The 47 survivors of a sub attack that sank their boat spent a month in lifeboat, had a man die from a shark bite, and barely surviving, got a ride on a yacht to Nassau with an heiress. This is a truly amazing story. I urge you to read about it!

My knowledge of the event started with an e-mail I received last night:

Dear Mr. Heywood
I am finishing a book on German submarines in the Bahamas and would like to contact the Ragged Island Lodge regarding a vessel made there for the Rev. William Walter Maycock. It was a 30’ sloop named the GO ON and was critical to the rescue of 47 American sailors from the ship POTLATCH who arrived in nearby Acklins Island after 29 days in an open boat and on rafts, having been sunk in the open Atlantic by U-153 under Wilfried Reichmann on 27 June 1942.
Any e-mail contact on Ragged Island would be much appreciated.

Eric T. Wiberg, JD

I e-mailed Eric giving him a name of someone who might be able to help him. This was Eric's response. 

Good morning Scott,

Thanks very much for your prompt and very helpful reply - the contact you shared is the only direct line I have with Ragged Island (2 ships, Michael Jebsen and Empire Corporal, were sunk just south of Ragged Island in 1943 by a sub under Holtorf - U-598. I believe - as part of Convoy TAW 12J).

The POTLATCH survivors landed in the NE corner of Great Inagua, sailed their lifeboat to Little Inagua, then past Hogsty Reef, and made it to a point SW of Acklins Island off Castle Island. Then they waited till sunlight, sailed to a small community which was presumably Salinas, and from there were met with Constable Bain who took them in the GO ON to the Anderson settlement and they walked to Hard Hill. From there the skipper John "Jack" Lapoint walked to buy food supplies and contact Nassau. The 47 men stayed in a school and were looked after by local women. Second Steward David Parson (I attach his bio as well his death certificate in which the skipper lists his relationship as that of "friend"), died in the arms of the skipper within sight of rescue on their final day in the metal lifeboat.

Parson is buried, presumably in the Anderson or Hard Hill cemetery - any chance I could find someone locally through you that would be willing to look for the grave marker?

The Rev. Capt. Collie (not sure first name) officiated the burial. I have been in contact with Mr/Rev Hervis Bain of Acklins but it is very intermittent. I would really appreciate your help as a photo of the grave, which is one of only two providing evidence of all this history, would be huge.

All my best and I recommend you go to www.uboatsbahamas.com and follow the drop-down tabs for ATTACK NARRATIVES and SURVIVOR STATEMENTS for the POTLATCH or any other ships and you will find a lot of detail including original documentation.

Mr. Kendall Butler, author of a book on wooden boatbuilding in the Bahamas, gave me the helpful information on the GO ON. 30' sloop built for the Maycocks in c 1920s, sold to Acklins, he died in 1942, then sold back to his relatives in Ragged.

Thanks again

The survivor accounts are fascinating go here
The documents above can be seen in more detail.

I especially urge you to read the account by U. S. Navy Sailor Estil Ruggles on page 33. This is simply amazing and I can't imagine their journey. Simply incredible!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

South Andros 2013... My last day. Part 2

My last day on South Andros... Part 2
Part 1 is here.

So, to refresh your memory, here was our plan... we’ll dance up the east coast of Andros, getting to Mangrove Cay in a couple hours. I’ll be on dry ground in time for a cold beer before dinner. Solly will be home in the late afternoon with time to prepare his whelks, conch and curves for his family. But the ocean has a way of throwing a few other “curves” at the well-laid plans of man.

We left south Andros at low tide hoping to get up the coast before the water would be deep enough to allow the waves to build. Unfortunately, as we raced north, the tides raced south sliding down the Tongue of the Ocean. The tides were driven by the increasing winds so what should have taken hours was compressed into a shorter period of time. By the time we passed the midpoint of the south island, we were well on our way to high tide. Driven by the strong winds, a good chop began rolling over the shallows. As a result, our speed dropped from 28 to 21 to 16 mph. Eventually, we were merely crawling along.

By the time we reached the old dock at High Point Cay, the waves were stacking up. Solly was constantly steering around the bigger waves that threatened to pearl the bow of our flats skiff. As we rounded the point, we had already missed my 1:00 ride. We made it to Kemps Bay a half hour later... just in time to see the Sweet Jessie and my compatriots headed for the dock in the skiff. They had beaten us to Kemps Bay! All we could do was wave and continue our journey north. We were now way behind schedule and butt sore. They must have laughed!

By the time we got to Driggs Hill at the north end of South Andros, we were rolling thru surfing-size waves and Solly’s arm was constantly winding the steering wheel to the right or left to avoid burying the bow or rolling the skiff on a comber. 

It was not any better, and perhaps even worse, in the direction we were headed. Dark sheets of rain rolled in from the west and were eating up the eastern shore of Andros. We crossed the South Bight and started to hear the thunder barking at us from Mangrove Cay. We passed the settlement at Bastian Point just as the first of the rain began to pelt us. We were now four hours into our journey and for Solly, less than half way home. A few miles north of the point, we started to look for Swain's Cay, but all we could make out on shore, in the ever-thickening sheets of rain, was a Batelco Tower and a pure white church. We called Cheryl at Swains Cay. She knew where we were and directed us to motor north to a small cay. Hopefully, we would then be able to make out the lodge, but we were running virtually blind and the pelting rains were strengthening.

We managed to find a white sand beach. We made out some deck chairs moments before a deluge of Biblical proportions let loose. I jumped out and waded ashore trying to peer through the rain. I wondered if we might have pulled into someone’s backyard. But I was greeted with a cheerful “ Hi Scott” as a Cheryl’s beautiful smile emerged from the dining room of the lodge. 

Rain rolled off the eaves of Swain's Cay.
I tossed my luggage under the eves of the deck. It was now not so much raining as drowning the island. Sheets of water rolled off the buildings at Swain's Cay. I waded back to give Solly a big hug and laughingly told him “we can work with that”. He said every Androsian should do this journey once in their lifetime! Then, with a big smile, he tossed me a pair of sopping wet underwear from the depths of his storage compartment and motored away. Lightening flashed white hot and thunder boomed as he disappeared into the sheets of rain. I hope you made it Solly. Thanks for an amazing day!

"Big Al" with yet another of our bones!
And yes, it was worth it. Alvin Green and I fished for four hours on Sunday morning until his worsening cold and my overwhelming fatigue gave us an excuse to blame the rising tides for a shortened day. We caught more fish than we could keep count of. We were into fish all morning long. Alvin’s eyes were as good as I remembered. It was wonderful to fish with “Big Al” again!

Jim Woollett's big bonefish... and a few comments.

An e-mail received from Jim Woollett a few days after our just concluded Sea Hunter trip.  

These are my only 2 pics of my big bone [estimated at 9 lbs. and by the photos, he is all of that. ed] and thanks for putting together a fantastic trip to South Andros.  As you know, it's about living the dream and this was a dream come true for me!  

To the bonefish slayers and conch cripplers,
Gents, it was a wonderful trip and the memories are still vivid (even after a week of work…)   Thank you for letting the good times roll on the Sea Hunter; I enjoyed being on the water with you all!

Until the next trip, hope your Gully Wash cocktail (gin and coconut juice right?) is smooth, mon!  

Doc Peskoe in his senior Speedo with dinner!
Chilling after another great day!