Review by Steve Raymond
The Lyons Press
123 West 18th St.
New York, NY 10011
Like so many books, this one had its genesis in a bar. Kim and Stephen Vletas were hoisting a few with a fellow angler who wanted to know why nobody ever had written a fly-fishing guidebook for the Bahamas. The Vletas don’t say how many drinks they’d had at the time, but we now have just such a guidebook and their names are on it.
“In spite of numerous well-known locations, many flats regions and fisheries in the Bahamas are relatively unknown or unexplored,” the authors say. That certainly won’t be the case after this book gets around. It offers lots of detailed information and answers many questions you’d probably never even think to ask.
The book opens with an overview of the Bahamas, including both flats and blue-water species, and resorts that cater to both. Bahamian history and culture are also covered, as are local food and drink, geography and climate, non-fishing activities, travel tips, clothing, customs regulations and taxes. Most of these topics receive specific treatment later in the book.
After a couple of additional preliminary chapters, the authors get down to the real nitty-gritty: 12 extremely detailed chapters on specific areas in the Bahamas. The first of these chapters, “Andros Island, Heartland of the Bahamas,” is also the longest.
“If you’re looking for big bonefish, Andros is the place to take your shot,” the authors write. “Andros also offers year-round tarpon fishing, plus seasonal fishing for permit, barracuda, sharks, jacks, snappers, amberjack, grouper, billfish, wahoo, tuna, mackerel and dolphin.”
A section in this chapter titled “Around the Island” takes you on a tour of the island’s geography and principal communities. Another section, titled “Fishing Highlights,” deals with specific fishing opportunities, resorts, guides, etc. “Optional Adventure Activities” tells what’s available for non-fishing visitors. “Lodging and Services” offers a directory of resorts and other accommodations and services, including restaurants, car rentals, taxi services, etc. “New Developments” tells what new resorts on the island are rumored to be or actually are under construction.
This same format is followed in all subsequent chapters that cover virtually every serious fishery among these 600-plus islands. Hardly a hunk of sand is overlooked.
As you read these chapters it will become obvious that Stephen and Kim Vletas have spent a lot more time exploring and fishing the Bahamas than they have practicing their writing. But you don’t buy guidebooks for their memorable prose; you buy them for information, and you won’t have any trouble extracting what you need from this one.
Many excellent maps by Angela Burton nicely complement the detailed text. Not all landmarks mentioned in the text are shown on these maps, nevertheless visiting anglers will find them of inestimable value. Other illustrations include black-and-white photos scattered throughout the text plus an eight-page section, including both photos and maps, in full color.
Perhaps the book’s primary shortcoming is the fact that the table of contents lists an index beginning on page 249, but you’ll find there is no page 249 and no index – and that’s a serious omission for a book containing so much information. Somewhere in this great thicket of type is exactly the tidbit you’re looking for, but you’d better mark it when you find it or you’ll never find your way back again.
Such imperfections, however, are greatly outweighed by the thoroughness and value of the information the book offers. Thanks to Kim and Stephen Vletas, the Bahamas are no longer a mystery. If you’re contemplating a fly-fishing trip to these marvelous islands, you’ll find everything you need to know in these pages – and then some.