Our recent hosted trip to the Bahamas was a flying success. The islands of the Bahamas are widely considered to be the bonefishing capital of the world. Fly fishing in the Bahamas has a lot to offer: high fishing counts, LOTS of fishable water and trophy sized fish. Although some permit and tarpon can also be found on the islands, the primary target is bonefish. Large barracuda are also common as well as high numbers of lemon sharks which can be also be targeted on the fly. Because there is so much water to be fished on hotspots like Andros and Abaco Islands the fish are lightly pressured and you don’t have to be too diverse with your fly selection. Bahamas bones like big flies, especially with rubber legs. Size 4 is the standard and in windy weather or deeper flats size 2s are often preferred. We mostly fished mantis shrimp and spawning shrimp patterns about 80% of the time. Both of these patterns have rubber legs and chain eyes. For deeper flats I fished a lead dumbell eye pattern similar to the spawning shrimp. Bahamas bonefish are big so we used 8 weights and 9 weights equally. I preferred the 9 weight on the windy days and the 8 weight on the calmer days. These fish are not leader shy and I mostly fished 16lb flourocarbon on Andros where bonefish get very big and 12lb on Abaco. We fished in March but there is good fishing in the Bahamas from October until July. In the mid summer the water is often too warm in mid day and the fish move off the flats.
Bairs Lodge – South Andros Island
Andros Island is widely considered to be the Mecca of bonefishing and is notorious for regularly producing giant specimens. The island is several bights that prevents road travel from North to South. We fished South Andros which is the most remote part of the island and stayed at Bairs Lodge. Bairs has an ideal location and is directly between Deep Creek and Little Creek. “Creeks” are tidal channels that traverse the island. Sometimes they are narrow and in other locations they open into huge lagoons that resemble very large lakes. The creeks also connect the Ocean side of Andros to the wild West side. Bairs is also close to the wild South end of South Andros which offers a maze of endless flats and keys. The beauty of fishing out of Bairs is that you can target a different set of flats every day that each have their own personalities. It also offers numerous locations that are protected from the wind so even if the weather turns rough you are still in business. Our group of six anglers fished four days out on the flats of South Andros.
On the first day the weather was windy and the ocean swells were large. All of the boats made the short trip to the entrance of Little Creek to get out of the wind and then cut all the way to the West side in the lee of the island. Within an hour of fishing we spotted 2 monster bones that were well over 10 lbs. I was on deck but caught a bad case of bonefish fever and blew a perfect shot at these monsters. After a few more blown opportunities we settled down and hooked up on some great fish. Even though we didn’t land any trophies by South Andros standards several of the fish I caught were the largest bonefish I had ever landed. The beauty of these flats is that 4-5 lb bonefish are very common which are very large fish in most places in the world. 7-8 lb fish are also relatively common which will just about rip your arm off. The only boats we saw on the first day were from our group.
On our second day the wind was still blowing hard so we headed to Deep Creek and spent the entire day working the flats in the middle of the island to stay out of the wind. We had a nice day and spent most of the morning fishing out of the boat while the tide was in and then after lunch I had some awesome wade fishing while our friend Bryan Hunt decided to chase barracude with our guide Gary. I’m not sure who was having more fun because I could hear Bryan and Gary hooting and hollering all afternoon. Bryan hooked one monster cuda that jumped completely out of the water before throwing the hook. The wade fishing was very good and I hooked up on about 5 nice bonefish – there are few things that compare to walking hard sand flats watching big bonefish come motoring in!
On the third day the wind was still blowing but was letting up a bit. Ann and I were fishing with Tee and he took us on a choppy boat ride down to Grassy Creek before tucking in to get out of the wind. We didn’t see another boat all day. Right out of the gates we found some big bonefish on a large flat and I landed a 6lb fish which was my largest to date. The remainder of the morning was slow. After lunch our luck turned and I hooked a monster that ended up weighing 7.5 lbs. I have a new respect for bonefishing after targeting these huge fish on South Andros that come in as singles and doubles. Ann also hooked and landed a 7lb fish. Most of the fish we caught that were over 5 lbs that day.
On our last day at Bairs we headed south to the magical bottom of the island. Most of the flats here are bright white sand flats. This area is truly expansive and even though just about every guide on the island headed this way (there are only about 20) since the wind had finally let up, we didn’t see another boat once we moved into position. Right out of the gates we spotted a HUGE bone that Nat estimated was over 12 lbs. It was truly enormous but was moving away from us and Brian never got a shot at it. Nat is one of the most experienced guides on the island with over 33 years fishing for bonefish. All of our guides were amazing and the most “junior”guide still had 16 years experience guiding the flast. Most of the morning we targeted singles, doubles and small schools which is the ultimate in my opinion. After lunch we went after some numbers for an hour or so and found some massive schools of well over 100 fish and easily pulled a few out of it. This isn’t too challenging but it is still fun and very cool to see. To top the day off we poled across the same expansive sand flat multiple times to intercept some more big bones. Everyone in our group had a great and very memorable final day out of Bairs.
Abaco Lodge – Abaco Island
Before heading back to Montana, Ann and I made a short stop at Abaco Lodge. Abaco is located on the famed Marls which offer 400 square miles of flats. Most of the flats are best fished from the boat because of the softer bottom. The Marls are filled with countless small islands or keys and are considered to have the highest density of bonefish in the world. The bones in the Marls are not as big as on South Andros but are still large compared to those in Mexico and Belize. There are also some ocean side flats that are occasional fished when the tides are right and they are home to some 10lb fish.
On our first day out the weather was very tough and a cold front had produced a lot of wind and cold water. The bonefish were mostly in deeper water and the few we did find on the flats were sluggish and not feeding. Although we got skunked on the bones we had a fun time casting to lemon sharks and had several follows with sharks putting their noses right on the fly.
On our second day our fortunes changed. It was much warmer and there was no wind and high sun – ideal conditions for bonefishing. At our first stop we saw “nervous” water in every direction as schools of bonefish caused disturbances on the water. The fish were in the mood to feed and we saw waves of fish all day. Often we just planted the boat and let fish come to us – sometimes it seemed like we were completely surrounded by feeding bones. We rarely went more than 5 minutes without another shot at a bonefish and the action was fast and furious. At the end of the day we had landed around 20 fish – a great way to end the trip!