Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Joulter Cays, Andros Island, Bahamas October 27-November 3, 2018



Imagine taking a piece of white paper, squeezing it into a tight little ball, then uncrumpling it and placing it on a table top. Next, with the palm of your hand, rub the paper until it is flat against the table top. That's what this bone dry flat looked like as it gleamed under a hot Bahamian sun... white, wrinkled and blank.
More on this later.


After having had such a great trip last fall off the north end of Andros Island in the Joulters, I was eager to get back. Never being one too shy to indulge my angling dreams, I contacted some friends who I knew would appreciate this experience. Soon we had booked dates and a year later, we found ourselves at the new Grand Hyatt in Nassau enjoying a beer and dinner surrounded by opulence, slot machines and dreams dashed. Tomorrow we would search for our dreams.

From the beach at the Hyatt

and it's excesses

to North Andros


and its fun!


The next afternoon, after a 10 minute 52 second flight from Nassau, we touched down in San Andros. Soon we were at the liquor store loading up with Kaliks, rum and a few other assorted libations. At the beautiful home that would serve as our headquarters for the next six days, we met our hostess, Betsy Sandstrom, who gave us the lay of the land. We then rigged rods, sorted gear and soon settled in for a great dinner brought to our house by Makeesha, our cook for the week.

It was obvious ours was a great group. Laughter came easily to these folks. And I could tell immediately they had their expectations in check. Everyone was simply up for a good time quite willing to let the chips fall where they may.

Phillip Rolle, our host, head guide and one of the most enjoyable people you will ever meet in the Bahamas, stopped by and told us to be ready by 8:00 am. No problem for this crew. We were eager to get going. Phillip fishes primarily in the vast Joulter Cays accessed from Lowe Sound, which is only a 15-minute drive from our house. The Joulters are a maze of white sand flats, turquoise channels and pancake banks. The Joulters offer some of the best habitat in the world for stalking shallow water, and often tailing, bonefish. This area is perfect for wading and that's virtually all we did each and every day.


The next six days offered up challenging, but very rewarding fishing for shallow water bones followed by evenings of good food, football and hilarious conversation. Now that's a good combo!



Hitching a ride back to your skiff is very welcome after a long hike.



Now, back to that crumpled and creased piece of white paper: 

As I stood on the bow of our skiff, what stretched before me was a huge piece of that paper. Our guide, Bones, called it The Stage. A vast, brilliantly white, furrowed flat. Now, at dead low tide, its secrets were unavailable. As I studied its contours, it was virtually impossible to decipher. The micro-channels which become a very pale turquoise blue with water and provide the routes for bonefish onto the flats were now invisible. I stared then thought I saw a small depression off to my left some 500 yards away. If they did indeed come up this depression, the fish would hug either side of that slot as the tide came on flood. I took off to find out while Anna and Bones took off to the right. Bones knew this flat well so Anna was in good hands. I walked towards where I thought the fish must come in with the tide for 45 minutes to an hour before I had that small voice in my head whispering "mistake?"

At times like this, I follow my instinct. I surrender this mix of experience and intuition. It usually tells me where the fish will be and I have learned to go with it. I shoved doubt out of my mind and waded a few more feet knowing a fish had to come in HERE. It looked too "right". Within minutes, 100 feet in front of me, an unmoving, hardly visible bonefish had settled into a slight depression. The bone was absolutely still no doubt eagerly waiting for more water hoping to be the first on the flat. To paraphrase, "the early bone gets the crab." 

I threw a small tan crab into the depression about three feet from the fish. I dropped my rod tip to the water, took out all the slack, then bumped the fly 4-5 inches. I stripped not again and waited. A couple of seconds went by. The urge to strip again was strong, but I held fast. Then the fish charged my fly, pinned it to the sand and ate. I made a long strip, set the hook and raised my rod. 

"Thank you" I said to whatever Fish Gods had assembled to watch my efforts. 

The next few hours were magic. Fish after fish, all in very shallow water, many tailing. It was wonderful and made the "Death March" back to the boat a whole hell of a lot easier.

I have great memories from this trip.
-Alice Sudduth hooking a tailing bone one morning in a dead calm slick. A rain squall would soon arrive, but for now, as Schemer, her guide for the day, leaned over her shoulder. Alice whooped and fought the fish. Beautiful to watch!

Schemer and Alice stalk



-I remember Phillip and Jay Hillerson laughing uproariously in between catching fish. I remember hooking a bone out of a pod. The bone then suddenly turned into a 6 foot lemon shark. After 20 minutes, I couldn't pull the shark off the bottom with my 8 weight. He eventually broke off... I was relieved. Then there was that 6-8 lb. permit I hooked off the back of a five foot lemon shark. I have never seen a permit on a shark before. Phillip hadn't either. Unforgettable!


-Separated by 50 yards of pure white sand, Jimmy Ellis and I hooked up at exactly the same moment. This after we got out of the skiff and waded without seeing anything for at least 15 minutes. What are the odds.


 -I remember John Riggs taking fish after fish out of a pod in deep water at high tide. I couldn't get one of these nervous fish to eat to save my soul. I told John "I suck at this." He just laughed as did Phillip. Good to get a dose of humility now and then!


John Riggs with just a little bit to much sunscreen
-And I remember Anna off in the distance with rod bent too as we fished that crumpled piece of paper. As it turned out, Anna and Bones had also had great fishing and an 8lb. bone was among many they caught. So many great memories from this trip!

I want to thank everyone that made this trip so much fun. Anna and John, Alice and Jimmy, Jay.... Betsy our host, Betsy's other half and our head guide Phillip... our other guides Bones and Schemer... Makeesha our cook. THANK YOU ALL!
A wonderful time was had by all. 
If interested in this destination contact me at scott@anglingdestinations.com or call 800-211-8530
Below find a few more photos that will have more significance to trip members.

If you look closely Alice, you can see your tailing fish!


Our busy road... here comes Phillip!

Kalik's new labels celebrate 30 years and display all the islands in the Bahamas

Feeding treats to the local "potcakes"!

Phillip's gifts to the ladies and the end of our trip.


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