All of the members of this year’s trip to Water Cay Lodge had fished many times together on many. But somehow we had never fished together in this exact configuration. Somehow, my old friend Mike Schwartz had never met John and Anna Riggs, but he knew both Steve Peskoe and Scott Sawtelle from many trips including the Seychelles, the Yucatan, Los Roques and the Bahamas. In other words, we have all traveled together for many many years and even if some of us hadn’t met others, we knew their names. Now, we were finally on the same trip which was a repeat of last October’s sensational Water Cay trip. On Sunday morning, after a very enjoyable evening that included cocktails and a tasty home-cooked meal by our hostess Kay Cox, we were on the dock rigged and ready to fish!
But as dawn threw the first light of the day on the dock at Water Cay Lodge, we were certainly not enjoying the look of our first day’s weather. Dirty dark clouds, propelled by a constant 30 mph wind, scudded under a hazy high sky. White caps raced across the bay tossing white foam onto a messy, marl-stirred shore. It didn’t look good.
To our credit, we all managed to put a good number of hefty bones in the boat, but it was a tough day. While the constant haze made spotting fish tough, the dirty storm clouds made it even more difficult. When we did see fish, they were often too close to the boat to get a proper shot. When you added the strong breeze to this mix, your casting window was reduced to only a few downwind or at best, cross wind angles. To top it all off, the winds held the high tide so the water never really drained out all day. Often when it’s breezy and cloudy you can find tailing fish, but with the wind holding in the tide, tails were out of the question. Low viz, steady winds, high water.. that’s a bad combination. But as I said, somehow we all managed to put quite a few fish in the boat.
If Day One was tough, Day Two was simply awful. “The worst day in two years” Ezra Thomas would later remark. Ezra is one of three superb guides, including brother Sidney Thomas and Greg Rolle, who make up the guide staff at Water Cay. On this awful day, the winds increased to a steady 35 mph with frequent gusts over 40 mph. In addition to the driving winds, we had almost no sun making it hell to pay for these hardworking guides. Even though each of these guides is very skilled at boathandling and are some of the quietest polers I have ever seen (but not heard), they had virtually no chance of slowing down their Beavertail skiff’s rapid and relentless trip downwind.
So we raced over the flats hoping to get at least one good shot. But it was not to be. The only fish we managed to find were under the boat or fleeing from it before we could awkwardly toss, with a lurch and a prayer, a cast downwind. We struggled to keep our caterwauling lines in the boat let alone in any sort of casting order. Our fly lines spun into messy bundles or slid under bow of the the boat. We diligently hauled them back only to repeat this inevitable messiness again seconds later. Even facing downwind, our eyes teared and our cheeks burned. After four futile hours, each boat limped back to the lodge in the choppy seas. We had given it a valiant effort, but the conditions were simply impossible. While the anglers were forced to admit defeat, the guides must have been exhausted having worked so hard to try and control over a 1000 pounds of boat, motor and humans in this near gale. While the guides secured the skiffs in the lee of the cay, we turned our backs to the ocean, marched up the dock and decided to lick our wounds over a few cold Kaliks and a dinner of fresh snapper.
I thought that with Day One and now Day Two, we had paid our dues. I mentioned this to the fish gods and politely asked for some sun. I thought we could contend with the wind, if we could just get a bit of sun to see the fish. It didn’t need to be perfect, we just needed some viz. We needed the old fishing adage to hold true: “you do a week on a bonefishing trip to get two good days, two mediocre days and two bad days”. The fish gods apparently were listening because that’s exactly what we got to finish out our week: two great days and two better than OK days.
Next Part Two!