Thursday, November 21, 2019

More Photos from Acklins, Island November 2-9, 2019

Mrs. Bain has turned the reins over to her son Brian.

Wow J. J. that is soon much green!

My Avalonette keeled bonefish fly.... money!

Inmate 2019... Mike Schwartz
Dominoes at the airport

A gentleman removes bundles of Cascarilla bark after soaking them for 3 days.
Campari is an Italian drink developed by Gaspare Campari in 1860. It is made by steeping a secret mixture of herbs (mostly cascarilla bark) in alcoholic spirits, creating a strongly flavored and very alcoholic beverage. It is in the family of drinks known as bitters, because they feature herbs and bark that lend a distinctly bitter flavor to the beverage.

Thanks Ney for all your help!

The view through the screen on the verandah
The photos below are by Doug Jeffries.... beautiful!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Acklins Island, Bahamas Nov. 2-9, 2019 PART TWO

The fishing on Acklins Island is a dream come true especially for the angler that loves to wade. The flats are expansive, varied and prolific. Many, if not most, of the flats are hardpacked sand or solid marl. Mangrove flats, dazzling white beach flats, crushed coral, grassy bays and extensive creeks create a spiderweb of perfect bonefish habitat. Depending on the tide, the fish are either "way in" or on the outside looking to make their way in. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to find the fish and sometimes the wind and water temps can conspire to make this job more difficult. But, in the end, the fish are there and that is all we can really ask for. 


Some days, everything works. Everywhere you go you find fish, everything you do is rewarded.

"Don't bother me... I'm tying on a fly!"
Anna Riggs and Fedel Johnson

On this our second full day, I was fishing with my old friend Steve Peskoe... 
After bailing out of the skiff, Steve waded off with Reno, our guide today. I took the deeper beat veering towards a channel that cut into the island's interior. Within two minutes, a fish came out of the channel and scarfed my #6 tan crab. It's always good to get that first fish... it takes the pressure off and one can relax knowing at least there will be no skunk today. I should not have worried. 

Steve Peskoe after a great day!
As Steve and Reno waded further and further off, I caught fish after fish often watching Steve's bent rod as I fought my own fish. By the time the tide was almost slack low, I was well into double-digits and had taken the absurd option of snapping off my hook's barb. I had attracted many sharks and grown tired of donating my fish to these aggressive sharks.

After I had lost my biggest fish of the day to a big lemon shark, and sadly watched the explosion of water followed by the red stain, I said "enough is enough". I spent the rest of the morning casting to bones with a fly with no hook point. I tried completely cutting off the whole hook, but I got no part of the run so I went back to just cutting off the hook point on my flies. It was an amaxing experience and many times, I could get a 20-30 yard run before the fly would come pull free.

When I thought it was just about time for the tide to turn and start coming back in, I slogged through the soft mangrove-dotted center of our long islet to fish the lee. If the wind hadn't been blowing so hard, I would have been sweating by the time I reached the far side. But instead, I was just leg weary and a bit dehydrated. I dropped my pack, took a swig of water and hoped to see at least one tail as a reward for my recent mud sucking, hamstring burning effort. 

Again, I should not have worried...
As I searched the first small bay that was carpeted with a light brown grass mat, a tail popped up. A small lemon shark cruised between me and the tail.

"Not again!", I thought.

I kicked hard at the shallow water and the shark jetted away. Unbelievably the bone just kept on tailing. He rooted, then move a foot, rooted again and so forth.

I threw a small Milheve's Flats Fly and he dashed three feet to inhale it. I stripped once and the bone blew-up. In this shallow bay, his flight threw up a huge rooster tail as he sped away. I soon unhooked the fish and marched to the next small bay. Here, three bones were having a tail fest. They rooted, elbowed each other out of the way and completely ignored me. They were only feet away. I watched enthralled... 

"This almost seems too easy", I thought. 

Usually, bonefish are very wary when tailing, but this trio was so involved with each other they allowed me to make two really bad casts without altering their behavior one bit. On my third cast, I got it right and one of the boys beat the others to my fly. We were immediately off and running. So very cool!

As the tide flooded in over the next hour and a half, everything was perfect. Every small bay held at least one tailer... and every one ate. It just doesn't get any better than this. By the time the tide had gotten up into the mangroves.. along with the fish... I decided it was time for a late lunch. It's always good to walk away from fish when you are sated. Gluttony builds bad karma and I needed to save some of this luck for tomorrow. It worked!

Our trip was truly excellent. The accommodations were way better than expected. The room's amenities were terrific, but what really set the accommodations apart was the view. Having a drink on the back porch as the sun set in the west was truly a spectacular experience. 

And the food... wow! Bernice, you did an amazing job. From lobster pasta, to conch salad made with apples and local hot peppers, to a baked grouper any New York City restaurant would be proud of, we ate like kings.


The service was great too. Rooms were thoroughly cleaned each day, fresh towels were placed on the bed each afternoon and the mini-fridge was restocked with water while we were fishing. This outstanding service made coming home each day a pleasure. Ney and Julia were excellent and took care of our every need. They fetched ice, were very attentive during dinners and were a pleasure to be with.

The guides also did a great job. Thanks to J.J., Reno, Jarvis, Fedel and Junior. When the fishing was good, you fellows made it better and when the fishing was slow, you worked hard to get us in the game. We look forward to fishing with you guys again!

Regarding boats, the lodge has in their fleet a 16' Maverick with a 70 h.p. Yamaha 4-stroke, an 18' Maverick 115 h.p. 4-stroke Yamaha and a 17' Hell"s Bay 70 h.p. There is also a 16' Carolina Skiff with a 40 h.p. 2-stroke Yamaha. And perhaps the most exciting news is the lodge will soon have a 30' Grady White with twin 350 h.p. 4-stroke Yamaha engines. This boat will be used for snapper and bluewater fishing. More on this soon. We will put these details on our website.

Jarvis, Reno and J. J.

Mike Schwartz with a lunker!

Rod rack with hose right outside our rooms.
And finally the fishing. Crooked/ Acklins offers some of the best wade fishing for bones in all the Bahamas. It is also a surprisingly good permit destination. As guides learn more and explore further afield, more and more permit are discovered... and sometimes even caught (Congratulations Howard!).


But let me say this in conclusion, at $2995.00 for 7 nights with 6 days fishing for the basic bonefish package, this lodge offers one of the best opportunities in the Bahamas. I would be more than happy to turn around and go back... right now!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Acklins Island, Bahamas Nov. 2-9, 2019: PART ONE

Old School

When I first started bonefishing in the Bahamas there were very few lodges, let alone, high end lodges. On this upscale side, there was Walker Cay... and Deep Water Cay, but few others. These lodges catered to anglers that wanted a more amenities and the familiar feeling one get from an American fingerprint. 

But, in the 80's and 90's, the majority of the bonefishing lodges were Bahamian owned and Bahamian managed. Andros Island Bonefish Club and Rickmon Bonefish Lodge on Abaco come to mind. Sure there were a few rough edges, but the overall feel was authentic and never contrived. Often a family managed the operation and if one came back time after time, one got to know the staff including cooks, guides and owners quite well.

As the popularity of bonefishing in the Bahamas grew, more and more “sophisticated” lodges popped up. Amenities increased as did the efficiency of the operations... better boats, better food and more well-trained guides were some of the pluses. Higher prices and more rods sharing the same water were the definite minuses.

I have to admit I have, at times, missed the old days. Things had gotten a bit too polished for me at some destinations and I felt some of the “feel” of the islands had begun to disappear. Now don’t get me wrong, many of the new lodges offer great experiences and I really like going to them, but I definitely have felt some nostalgia for these “old school’ spots.

This is one of the resaons I think so many anglers enjoy fishing with Sidney Thomas and his crew at Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge... LABL is real. The guides are teriffic, the fishing is unpressured and the amenities and food are sufficient for many hardcore anglers.

Enter Hurricane Dorian...

Six of us had planned to visit Sidney and his wife Ketta in early November at Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge, but Hurricane Dorian emphatically ruined those plans. So, as we organized relief efforts for Little Abaco (see GoFundMe), we also planned to stick with our plans to go fishing. We felt the best thing for the Bahamas’ economy was to support their tourist business. We didn’t want to shy away from the Bahamas at this disastrous point in their history. By God, we were going fishing and we would spend our fishing dollars in the Bahamas.

When looking for an alternate venue, we focused our attention on the Crooked/Acklins area. Our group has very successfully fished this area many times over the years. The lodge we previously used was booked solid, so I turned to a more remote area that I hadn't fished since we were last on the Sea Hunter in 2014. I thought this area would give us access to both the Snug Harbour area and the virtually untouched area south of Spring Point. I booked a small lodge for us and told my crew to be prepared for some rough edges and a few hiccups. This trip was going to be “old school” and I made no promises as to amenities, food or service. I knew if the guides could get us to the fishing grounds we would have good fishing... the rest was an unknown.

Started by the Bain Family over 20 years ago, this lodge is a little known "old school" gem!

We arrived Acklins under clear skies and were met by a very friendly crew. They grabbed our bags and we were off. Twenty minutes later we pulled in and drove the van almost out onto the beach. We walked a few yards opening the doors to spacious rooms that were immaculately clean. With crisp new bedding, high efficiency air conditioning and a mini fridge it made the views out the windows seem even that much more incredible. The ocean was only feet away... it sat invitingly just past a few coconut palms that lined a dazzling white sand beach.

The view from our room... enough said!

We were told that as soon as we unpacked, lunch would be ready then we could go fishing on our own for a few hours. We made our way to a lovely screened-in veranda where we were served a fish soup that was as good as any fish soup I’ve had anywhere ever. This was a harbinger of things to come. I can only say our food was consistently wonderful and sensationally Bahamian!

An island favorite conch fritters...

...are in high demand!

Day One... off we go!

Man, I was rusty... the first group of bones I saw came out of the mangroves and totally caught me off guard. I slung a pathetic cast at the small pod slapping my fly on the water. I could hear them snickerimg as they casually finned away. I took a deep breath and waded off towards a patch of white sand near a white steeple that rose up out of the vegetation that lined the shore in the small settlement of Snug Harbour. I could hear music and as I got closer, the volume increased along with the intensity of the message. Eventually, I was virtually in church. 

As I searched for fish, I received various encouraging messages from the choir. I blew another opportunity, but I was told not to worry, my salvation would come... and it did. Soon, I landed a hefty bone just as a woman’s beautiful voice began singing a lovely gospel song. The verses wafted over the flat. The lovely gospels kept coming and as I kicked up molten gold with each soft step in the late afternoon light, it was a beautiful experience. I caught a few fish, blew many more, but definitely enjoyed being in my church and so close to theirs.