I searched for months for the skiff I have now owned for the past 9 years. After missing a couple of similar models, I finally got the jump on everyone and got the first look at my 1998 Hells Bay Whipray – “Mosquito Lagoon” Edition, (the 33rd hull built) when my son was less than a day old. I left the hospital a day later to see it for the first time. I wrote a check that afternoon, knowing I had found my saltwater soulmate.
The near decade we’ve spent together has been epic. She’s taken me on lots of adventures across the Sunshine State.
There is something special about that old skiff. Today, I watched Flip Pallot opine, in the way only he can, the History of Hells Bay Boatworks. It was fantastic.
In addition to hearing his thoughts on the journey that lead to the revolutionary skiffs we love, I’ve talked a lot with Chris Morejohn, the architect behind the design. Having him remember my skiff and sharing details of its history was fulfilling and deepened my bond with it further.
A lot of people say there is no “perfect” skiff. They’ve never been on mine.
It would be a difficult task to find a more personable and entertaining guide in the Bahamas than Tory Bevins.
Aside from his casting prowess, he’s a Raconteur of the first order.
If you find yourself on South Andros, look him up. He works at Andros South. If you’re fishing DIY or at another lodge, you can find him after quitting time at the small bar by Little Creek or up island at the Rust Barge.
His casting style is simple to understand and works incredibly well. Take a few minutes to get in the groove and you’ll be slinging string like a pro.
One of my partners in crime recently found out that we have been granted access to a condo in the Bahamas when we want to take advantage of it. The news sent my mind reeling with thoughts of morning tides that overtake mangrove propagules that have taken root in soft marl in the far reaches of a coastal creek.
The image of sunlight flashing from an upturned tail breaking the surface draws me like a moth to flame.
I have things that could be more productive that need to be down, yet I pour over aerial maps on Bing and Google looking for areas of promise that will soon be within reach.
To me there is nothing more rewarding than plotting a course that takes me to a new area where I think bonefish will await my unfurling loop of fly line.
The hunt is still a ways away, so for now I’ll continue to plan.
When I step into the warm salty waters somewhere within the archipelago of The Bahamas, I’ll be ready.
By far my favorite saltwater species to target with a fly rod is the bonefish. Their attitude and aggressiveness, not to mention the backing exposure they deliver, are the best.
Most of the bonefish I’ve cast to have been Bahamian, though I’ve given it a go from the Florida Keys, South Caicos to Oahu. Most of the time its been a DIY scenario. Despite being guided a handful of times, the most rewarding trips and best memories have been when I’ve done it on my own.
By the looks of it, these guys enjoyed a little DIY bonefish action in and around Turks & Caicos.
The next time you’re thinking about heading somewhere tropical, keep in mind DIY is rewarding and achievable. Think of all the conch fritters and Kalik you could buy for $500 a day.
Until this week, I’ve always thought there was only one place to go to enjoy wading for redfish in a place that evokes the feeling of bonefishing a Bahamas flat. A few years ago it was the Lower Laguna Madre of Southwest Texas where I had experienced it for the first time.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is also just such a place. Recently I spent the better part of 3.5 hours walking the shoreline there looking for redfish in gin clear water over hard sand bottom. The set-up is identical to what you normally see reserved for bonefish. My timing was off, I was there on an extremely high tide, so I passed on wading and remained on the narrow ribbon of beach along the water’s edge. Nonetheless, I saw a handful of redfish, all solitary hunters, that were plying the same shoreline. This time they were a bit too wary of my offerings and all of the shots I took ended without a hook-up, despite a couple of promising follows.
There are literally miles of flats available. Hard sand bottom with sparse sea grasses stretch on from horizon to horizon.
The idea of spending time on the Redneck Riviera has grown in appeal by significant digits.
For now, I’ll carry the panhandle skunk back home with me, but rest assured, I’ll return again with a sharper plan and better timing. I love bonefishing, I love it even more when the expected gray ghost is actually a copper rocket.
When you’re alone on the dance floor its not uncommon to feel a bit self-conscious and imagine the spotlight shining down on you exposing all of your flaws.
Performance anxiety can ruin the moment if you let it. To date, there is no little blue pill that you can take before you head out the door to ensure you’ll be ready when that sexy [insert species] shows up looking to tussle.
Many times I’ve stood on the poling platform methodically pushing across a flat and I’ve quietly admired the smooth tight loops being formed by the angler up front who has lofted the fly for a momentary break from the monotony of the stalk.
That admiration quickly erodes as their cast crumbles when a fish appears, ready to be fed fur and feathers.
These failures are more often than not simply a by product of rushing and loosing focus on the casting stroke.
I’ve adopted a new policy for my skiff that focuses on providing positive feedback on those perfect, yet lonely false casts that will never find a target. I ALWAYS make sure to point out the results of the relaxed cast. Its beauty, grace and distance are all noted. Its followed by the reminder: Keep that cast, and take it easy when the fish shows up. Time is on our side. Don’t rush it, take it easy.
I’m no original thinker, so don’t take my word for it, listen to Andros South’s very own raconteur:
If you need to, hum the lyrics from this Eagles tune to yourself:
Lighten up while you still can
don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
and take it easy…
The past few weeks have been filled with days of building anticipation for the good times and fishing that is to come. Three intrepid angling souls will pack up flies, rods and reels in just two days and retract the landing gear to head southeast into the archipelago of The Bahamas.
The unknown challenges of going it alone is the greatest appeal for “Do It Yourself” in a far flung location, but the rewards are epic when they come.
The entire experience is an adventure. Beyond the simplicity of making a call to any of the fine bonefish lodges that dot the island nation, the search for shelter is just the beginning in a DIY adventure. Scouring Google Maps for potential flats that will be both accessible and productive consumes hours of time as the date approaches.
For now, its back to packing and double checking gear…