I clearly remember my first trip to the Bahamas. I was 16 and traveled there with an old high school pal and his family. We motored over from Florida then cruised south from Walkers through the Abacos. I remember every detail of that trip – the fish, the colors, the laughs, the good-natured Bahamians. It was a magical experience.
Now, 20 years later, the Bahamas remain every bit as special to me. In fact, I just returned from a five-day jaunt, starting in Grand Bahama and culminating in south Andros. It was my first visit to the big island of Andros, and just like when I was 16, I’m still on Cloud Nine as I write this.
I traveled with two other fly-fishing writers, Kirk Deeter of Angling Trade and Geoff Mueller of Fly Fisherman. Although Kirk’s a bit older than Geoff and I (sorry, Kirk), we’re all in the same general age group and had an absolute blast. A few rum punches were consumed during the week, a few pranks were played, and it was just great chatting about fishing as friends rather than competitors. That said, as anglers go, we still put on our competitive hats from time to time!
The trip began just outside Freeport on Grand Bahama Island at Pelican Bay Resort (www.pelicanbayhotel.com), ironically coinciding with the Orvis ProAm Bonefish Classic (www.orvis.com/proam), which was being held in the same vicinity.
Sue Cocking, the longtime outdoor writer of the Miami Herald, was in town covering the event, and she joined me in the boat one of those days. I’d met Sue a couple times before, but never realized what a hoot she was! Sue’s got no shortage of hilarious stories – and as I learned, she’s a fair hand with a fly rod too.
We fished the eastern side of the island out of McClean’s Town with Captain Phil & Mel’s Bonefish Company (www.bahamasbonefishing.net), but the bonefish proved pretty tough. We saw some fish and had some decent action, but they had been thrown off their usual patterns following the first strong cold front that had blown through only days earlier. Even in the Bahamas, fish can sometimes be finicky.
Back at Pelican Bay, we bumped into the gang from Orvis, along with H20 Bonefishing (www.pelicanbaybonefishing.com), Pelican Bay’s outfitter. The ProAm, which benefits Bonefish Tarpon Trust (www.tarbone.org), was well underway, and everyone was having a honking good time. As we learned over dinner that night, a number of fin clippings had been collected by the participants, and 30 fish had been tagged, all of which was producing a great big smile for BTT’s Aaron Adams.
But soon it was time to press onward, and after saying our goodbyes, we shot up into the sky and headed south towards Andros. Words can’t describe how beautiful the Bahamas are from up above. The clouds, sky and sea seem to meld into one another, creating the most heavenly looking sight you’ll ever see. And soon, acres upon acres of bonefish flats began to materialize throughout the vastness of Andros.
We stayed at Emerald Palms Resort (www.emerald-palms.com) in Driggs Hill. The place was very swanky, the food was excellent and it sits right in the heart of terrific fishing. What more could a guy ask for?
The answer to that question, of course, is simple: a beautiful gal taxing us back and forth from the fishing docks. And that’s exactly what happened!
We fished with Pleasant Bay Outfitters (www.pleasantbaybonefishlodge.com), which lies about 25 minutes south of the Congo Town Airport, and were transported to the docks by Charlene, who helps run the Pleasant Bay operation. Charlene immediately asked us who the best fisherman was, and as we chuckled, Geoff and I both looked at each other and then pointed to Kirk. I’m pretty sure he blushed as we laughed like hyenas!
To Kirk’s credit, though, he held up his end of the deal over the next few days, taking several nice bones over the gorgeous south Andros flats. In fact, we all caught quite a few nice fish. As always, it’s a pleasure to fish with guys who not only have a passion for the sport, but are good at it as well.
Who caught the most? I’m not sure. We sort of lost count – and we weren’t really counting to begin with. But this much is certain: There are some very large bonefish in south Andros. We didn’t land any of the monsters, but Geoff lost a big gal, and we had numerous shots at plenty of them.
As always happens in the Bahamas, we also had plenty of other cool experiences, including a stop one night at a great little bakery run by a lady named Neely, who was nothing short of a bread-baking artist! We also made a pit stop at a local bar, the name of which I can’t quite recollect. It was full of locals, though, and we chatted on and on over Kaliks. Just as I remember as a youngster, Bahamians are as nice as they come.
But when we got back to Emerald Palms that night, my buzzed “buddies” decided to play a prank. The plan was to meet up on the veranda for a final nightcap, but while back at my room, I got tied up on the phone with the wife. We hadn’t chatted in a couple days, and I soon learned there no way I was getting out of this one! When I awoke the next morning, I found that my “buddies” had barricaded my doors with lawn chairs!
It took a while for me to get out to meet up for breakfast, and we proceeded to laugh all morning and into the fishing day! I suppose I deserved it for “punking out.” But I saved face, catching the last fish of the day on a big Gotcha.
As we ran back to the docks, the sun was beginning to set on the horizon, casting an incredible hue across the sky. It’s an everyday occurrence in the Bahamas – and it’s a sight that never fails to evoke emotion. I can’t wait to get back to these wonderful islands with my newfound pals. I hope you do the same.
Fishing & Resort Contacts:
Pelican Bay Hotel & Suites
Emerald Palms Resort
Pleasant Bay Bonefish Lodge
Captain Phil & Mel’s Bonefish Company
For all things Bahamas:
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism