After years of hearing stories, I finally got to this turquoise gin wasteland, home to the eighth fastest fish in the ocean, and, honestly, I did not know what to expect. I’m at the Bahamian airport with all the equipment I need, ready to play.
Did I bring much? Have I filled the packaging? You would think after reading forums, websites and endless articles, that I would have everything I need to succeed – the only question now is, “Where do I start?”
I had come from the mountains of Wyoming to a place that was completely unknown to me, but with many great hopes of catching the bone fish of a lifetime. But, after all, being more at home catching jokes and coffee, I was at the mercy of my Bahamian guides, whom I could not wait to meet.
Coming to an island like this without any expectations creates a lot of excitement. But knowing that Hurricane Dorian had devastated the island in 2019, I was expecting to see a community recovering from the devastation and hoped to see the reconstruction and hear the locals think about the state of affairs.
Sydney, the host of our lodge at Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge, said COVID had suppressed their business more than any strong hurricane: “You can rebuild from a hurricane with others coming to help; “COVID simply suffocates because there is no money coming from anywhere to keep these family-owned lodges alive,” Sydney told me.
Fishermen keep these lodges alive along with ecotourism on the island, both keen to see the gray ghost in its natural habitat.
We feed money on tourism and, on the other hand, that money helps conservation.
Undoubtedly, I was there for the bony fish, but I felt good that I was approaching my pursuit knowing that trips like this are part of the recovery process of this island community.
And, I was ready to do my part, from the point of view. I came fully equipped with a host of rods, coils, flies and camera equipment. My favorite on this trip was an eight-weight Midnight Special from Moonshine Rods, which combined perfectly with the new 7/9 ROVE wrapper from Abel, wrapped in an eight-weight tactical wrapper Airflo Ridge 2.0 Flats.
If I were to blast my chance at a bone fish, it would not be for lack of equipment.
I had fished for salt water before, so I vaguely knew what to expect from the “beginner” fish in the fantastic Caribbean Grand Slam – spooky, fast and ready for an endless fight. They lived up to their reputation.
These fish were as much fun as I expected them to be, putting in a long time my support in the initial connection, facilitating for a quick spin on the boat before leaving again at full speed.
Taking bony fish like these in the boat was something I looked forward to for a long time and seeing up close, with their iridescent scales shining and changing color in the Caribbean sun, is something I will not miss. never forget.
Having a winding with a strong and smooth pull made all the difference in those initial runs and ROVE Reel performed perfectly, without slipping and made it easy to land fish after fish.
From mutton and mangroves to the fastest fish in the flats, I found my eight-pound fish to be treated phenomenally, but having a ten-pound weight on the boat would be a good idea if you are aiming for some of the fastest species gave me.
After all, this trip was an eye-opener for me, both from a singing and a human perspective.
There were still houses that used candles for light, almost three years after Dorian’s blow. Despite this, the spirits of the locals did not weaken and they are continuing efforts to restore Abaco Island to its original and glorious state.
My time with Sydney, his wife Keeta, our guides Greg and Dominic, and the rest of my group was filled with laughter both on and off the water.
I will have those memories, formed in Caribbean waters with a cold Kalik in hand, for years to come.
Article and photo by Dan Towsley. You can follow him along with Dan on Instagram at @dtowsley.
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