Fortunate to call South Florida home, I’m privileged to have access to a multitude of productive bonefish flats within close proximity. Fertile shallows and exceptional fisheries exist across the fabulous Florida Keys and beautiful Biscayne Bay, and with all of these great venues it is no wonder our local waters routinely attract enthusiastic anglers from all over the globe. Yet, for traveling anglers seeking a truly authentic experience that’s more on the remote side, a short flight across the Gulf Stream rests a Caribbean paradise known simply as The Bahamas. And somehow I had yet to capitalize on the incredible fly-fishing opportunities afforded throughout this idyllic island chain. Things were about to change in more ways than I could have imagined.
This trip was definitely going to be one for the record books. I was on a modern day mission to explore the Out Islands of The Bahamas by invite through The Bahamas Board of Tourism. I was told that along with visiting a number of the less publicized islands rarely visited by typical tourists; I would also have an opportunity to explore a number of unspoiled bonefish flats. I was thrilled, however when I first glanced at the impressive itinerary I couldn’t help but double take—five islands in five days!
…Mayaguana is one of the least developed islands in the entire chain and a perfect spot for anyone seeking footprint-free beaches.
The Monday to Friday expedition kicked off in Nassau with our press team led by the dynamic duo of Earl Miller and Karen Wring—our logistics masterminds. Soon after clearing customs we were escorted to The Green Parrot for a formal meet & greet where frosty Kaliks were flowing and the conch chowder was freshly prepared. The remainder of the evening was spent chatting with the crew about their endeavors in the marine industry before we all headed to the hotel for much needed rest. Our wake up call would come at 6:00 AM sharp, with everyone eager for the Out Island experience to begin.
First stop, Andros. The largest island in the Bahamian archipelago, Andros encompasses nearly 2,300 square miles and is comprised of North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros. We touched down at Fresh Creek and visited Small Hope Bay Lodge for a quick tour before re-boarding the plane for a short flight to Congo Town in South Andros. Upon arrival we were shuttled to the plush Tiamo Resort. This extravagant property offered every accommodation under the sun…oozing luxury yet reflecting a very eco-friendly feel.
Our next stop on South Andros was Emerald Palms Resort. This tranquil retreat is located on a secluded beach with gin-clear water that stretches for miles. Complimenting the comfortable standalone bungalows overlooking rows of towering palm trees, there is a flourishing barrier reef just offshore and the famed AUTEC Buoys where yellowfin tuna and dolphin abound are within close proximity. By now, I seriously needed to wet a line.
After a refreshing glass of coconut water and formal goodbyes, we dropped off our bags at Nathan’s Lodge—our base camp for the evening—and met up with a few local guides to try our luck on the flats. Our fishing guide was T, and within minutes of leaving the dock we were investigating a vast flat. With the receding tide we could spot aggressive bonefish tailing on morsels trapped in the shallows. We stepped out of the skiff and started wading after I encouraged T to bring along his fly rod. My goal was to maximize photo opportunities and I wasn’t disappointed. Within minutes T was releasing his first bonefish. Demonstrating absolute respect for his catch, T caressed his silvery prize as it remained motionless at his feet. I felt privileged to witness this native ritual with my own eyes.
After a few more exciting releases and a short ride back to the dock, our crowd gathered at Nathan’s Lodge for a memorable meal complimented by an incredible view. The scene was reminiscent of an inviting tropical screensaver. After the delectable grouper and land crab dinner, it was time to hit the sack once again as we had much more to see.
Though it was only a brief visit, it was clearly evident that Andros is a giant diamond practically undiscovered. From romantic getaways to relaxing angling escapes, Andros seemed to offer something for everyone and in every budget. The trifecta of jewels that make up this piece of paradise are a MUST on any Caribbean traveler’s itinerary.
Next stop, Mayaguana. The easternmost island in The Bahamas, Mayaguana is one of the least developed islands in the entire chain and a perfect spot for anyone seeking footprint-free beaches. When we arrived at the airport we were greeted by Mr. Shorty Brown, owner of Baycaner Beach Resort, which was to be our first stop for the day. The unspoiled flats and creeks of nearby Abraham’s Bay are home to some of the most fertile bonefishing grounds on the planet. If you want to experience a hardcore bonefishing trip, look no further as you’ll certainly find everything you are looking for in Mayaguana.
After a long day of touring finished off by a phenomenal dinner with the local commissioner, it was lights out as Acklins Island awaited our arrival the following morning.
Hello Acklins. It’s hard to believe, but The Bahamas Out Islands keep getting better and better. During the flight in the small plane to this remote island I had a chance to ride shotgun and absorb the incredible scenery and panoramas of yet another bonefish haven. Julius Chisholm of Chester’s Bonefish Inn greeted us at the airport and within minutes we were enjoying a delectable breakfast at Ivel’s Bed & Breakfast. After a quick tour of the property we made our way to Acklins Lodge, where owner’s Ruppert and Norma greeted our party with open arms, cool refreshments and one of the most picturesque base camps of the trip. Anxious to discover what Acklins had to offer, I was quickly whisked away in search of the lightning fast grey ghost. Fly rod in hand and packed lunch already on the skiff, I headed out with local bonefish extraordinaire, Terrence. Dodging some gloomy weather, Terrence managed to find a flat away from the growing thunderstorms.
While preparing my arsenal for combat, Terrence spotted mudding fish 100 yards out. I took a quick glance, but couldn’t see anything. By the time I was ready the fish were only 50 feet off the bow. Now I have to admit, this guy had a serious pair of eagle eyes. The entire time he was directing me I never saw a single fish. Without a target in sight, on my third cast a fish locked on to my EP Ghost Shrimp and began to clear fly line at an alarming rate. A few blistering runs later and the crazy fish made a beeline straight for the boat, forcing me to reel like a maniac. Ten minutes into it and my largest bonefish of the trip was boatside. Following the brief celebration of my first Acklins ghost on fly, we reassessed the situation and three casts later I was tight once again. With more success stories to add to my already exciting Out Island experience, we reluctantly headed back to the dock for a sunset dinner of fresh lobster. Accompanied by Acklins’ Commissioner, Gregory Knowles, the evening was filled with local political views and engaging conversations.
Say it with me, Crooked Island. The following morning Earl and Karen gathered up the troops once again and we were off to Crooked Island, the final stop on our fast-paced Out Island tour. Circling the island from the air, I could see why Crooked Island was designated, “the best for last.”
Picturesque rock cliffs and white beaches complimented the emerald flats and azure drop-offs. Visiting Crooked Island Lodge gave me the feeling as though I was walking through angling history. Black and white photos of monster game fish of all sorts occupied the walls of the lounge and I pictured this place as a definite on Hemingway’s bucket list. With connecting flights awaiting our arrival in Nassau, time was too short before we had to hit the friendly skies once again.
While en route to Nassau I found myself in personal turmoil. While it’s nice to head home after a hectic trip, I recalled the quality of life the locals lived and it made me envious. It seemed as though everything they did was at a much slower pace, allowing ample time to enjoy each moment more thoroughly. For most of us, our daily grind is just way too fast. Let’s not forget to mention the best part of the Out Islands, unspoiled flats and fertile offshore arenas loaded with tackle-testing species ready to take whatever you’re willing to toss at them. The bottom line is that whether you enjoy snorkeling, diving, fishing, relaxing on the beach or lounging in a hammock, you simply owe it to yourself to investigate these tropical pieces of paradise. After only a short sabbatical, you too, will be living like a local.