Tides   

Bonefish on a Fly - There's Nothing Like It

Wade in a few feet, toss your fly and get a great fight.

Moments after Leslie Johnson pushed the skiff from the marl bank on the west side of South Andros Island, Captain Bryon Chamberlin was on the front casting platform stripping line from his eight weight fly reel. Before he finished, Johnson sighted two large bonefish approaching up-tide. After an initial moment of surprise, Chamberlin started a false cast that landed a "Peterson's Shrimp" fly just feet ahead of the feeding fish.

With a bit of coaching from Johnson, Chamberlin started stripping the fly just as it got into the fish's cone of vision. Instantly one of the fish made a course correction and started tracking, nose on the fly. This fish didn't get big rushing to judgment, and this was no exception. Chamberlin worked the fly, keeping it just ahead of the bonefish and matching the pace of the fish. Even though he was doing a great job I didn't hold out much hope as the fish was fast approaching the boat. Instinct kept the bonefish moving toward the fly until it was only three feet from the boat. Then, when we thought the game was over, the fish leisurely opened its mouth and ate the fly. Chamberlin waited a split second and set the hook with a strip strike, sending the fish into overdrive. There is nothing quite like the first run of a bonefish, especially a big one. Bryon fought the fish through several long runs, applying just enough pressure to get the fish in shallow water where I photographed the last of the fight and several shots with Johnson. At over eight pounds this was an nice bonefish anywhere in the world.

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Flyfishing itself -- regardless of the species sought -- brings with it a flavor so unique that the experience often 'hooks' people. You're not going to have 100-snook days on a flyrod. But to those who so love this aspect of our sport, one fish on an eight-weight fooled into grabbing a hair-and-feather artificial is worth twice the catch. We fish every style -- call it research.

Go With the Flow for Bones

Fishing, like life in general, often benefits from serendipity. It's good to have a plan, but even more important to remain flexible. We originally planned a trip to fish deep in the mangroves for bonefish, but had to re-schedule the trip when Bair's Lodge had space for us. As it turned out, we arrived on a neap tide (first quarter of the moon.) Neap tides occur twice a month, in the first and third quarters of the moon. In the three days we fished, the water never got high enough for the bones to enter most of the mangrove areas. Instead it concentrated them along some of the vast mangrove forests that bordered the more "open" water. The results was a lot of shots at big bones without trekking to the distant channels and lakes in the interior of the island. We had three days of excellent weather and tons of shots most days.

My friend, Captain Bryon Chamberlin, an accomplished fly angler accompanied me in my attempt to catch and photograph one of the big bonefish that swim the waters of South Andros Island. We thought we had accomplished the job on the first day when we landed a seven and a half pound bonefish, along with seventeen others of various size. The next day was a bit challenging but the third day proved to be the charm. A day filled with multiple shots capped with an eight pound plus bonefish in a beautiful setting.

Another pleasant surprise was the lodge itself. I had fished the island a number of times, passing Bair's and wondering what it was like. The reality exceeded my expectations. The lodge is run by an Argentinean Company, Nervous Waters, who have added conveniences you will not find at many Bahamian destinations. The rooms are spacious and feature comfortable beds and comforters. There's a large screen TV in a spacious living room adjacent to the dining room, and a covered porch with rattan furniture and comfortable cushions. The food is exceptional, prepared by a staff that was trained for a year by an Argentinean chef.

On the last day, we had a late flight and I waded the flats right off the lodge, catching two bonefish in just over an hour. The night before I even slept outside on the rattan couch. The Bahamas have always been a favorite destination for me and now I have a new favorite lodge.

Rusty D. Chinnis,
Sarasota Bay Watch

Get information and book a trip to Bair's at www.bairslodge.com Or call 917-338-6043.

Publisher's Note: We're more than happy to have Rusty Chinnis working with us at TheOnlineFisherman.com. Like our friends at TampaBayWatch.org, Rusty and his group dedicate their professional lives to protecting our beautiful environment without spending 90-cents on every contributed dollar on fancy office space or iPhones applications. Rusty's also an excellent -- no, beyond excellent -- outdoor photographer.

Chinnis’ visuals are fantastic and every bit as powerful as his story-telling abilities. Take a look at some of Rusty’s beautiful imagery at his site:<rustychinnisimages.com

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