BONEFISHING ON ABACO: A CHALLENGE IS ACCEPTED


Abaco Bonefish a

BONEFISHING ON ABACO: A CHALLENGE IS ACCEPTED

Here is my fly box. It is a qualified success, as is my fishing. The fly box is rather better organised than I am, though. Some of the flies in it are routinely ignored by others to whom I helpfully offer the box.  I’ve found the best plan is to stick with the silvery shrimpy patterns, especially the ones with pink heads. Then nobody gets upset. And from time to time I get lucky (see header image).

BF flies3a

Recently, a proper fisherman started to follow my blog, and I his. I immediately recognised one of the fishing lakes on his site, one where I have fished in the past. One thing led to another and I seem to have agreed to trial some of Mark’s expertly tied flies on the Abaco flats in March…

Mark’s Bonefish Patternsimage24

I am very keen on the principles of ‘Catch and Release’. So keen that I have developed my own specialist methods (designed for fishing with barbless hooks) using what might be termed ‘Early C&R’. These may include some or all of the following on any given day: 

  1.  ‘THE PHANTOM CATCH’ As the fish follows the fly, and the instant before it commits to a lunge for it, abruptly whisk the fly away from under its nose with a sharp reflex ‘trout-strike’. This will ensure that both the fish and your fly remain untroubled by actual contact. This is the most advanced form of Early C&R.
  2. ‘THE BIG MISSED TAKE’ As the fish takes your fly firmly in its mouth, become preoccupied by the fact that your left foot is planted firmly on a horrid tangle of line around your feet. You will feel the solid take, but instantly realise that your retrieve is hopelessly compromised. With some relief, you feel the line go slack as the fish shakes itself free…
  3. ‘THE REEL THING’ Hook the fish. Feel the weight on the end of the line. It’s heavy. Nice one! Turn in muted triumph to your boat partner to shout excitedly “Got One”. As you do so, allow the line somehow to snag round the rod handle and the reel simultaneously. Before you have even begun to figure how to sort this out, the fish will have released itself and be heading for the horizon.
  4. ‘THE STICKY SITUATION’ Hook the fish. Reel in confidently, keeping the line taut and the fish under your masterful control. Allow it to run if it wishes. Proceed with the same efficiency until you notice a single mangrove stem sticking out of the water 30 feet away. Using your skill, ensure that the fish suddenly has the chance to move to the other side of the stick, winding the leader or line (either will do) round it. Prepare for the ‘twang’ when the inevitable break occurs.  Your fish is away.
  5. ‘THE MANGROVE SWAMP’ Hook a fish. Play it competently until the moment your boat partner or guide gives you some word of encouragement or (worse) praise. Immediately, permit the fish to make a fast break for the nearest clump of mangroves even if it is over 100 feet away. The consequent entanglement round the myriad stems will be sure to lose you the fish and your fly. NOTE: all third party encouragement will diminish after this form of EC&R. Praise will not be repeated.

image4

Mark has just made a challenge public on his website in a post called  All aboard for Abaco! “This little packet of flies is destined for the Bahamas… What stories will they conjure up in time? Rolling Harbour, Abaco… All will be revealed in time! Thanks in advance to RH – I will keep everyone posted in due course! Looking forward to some beautiful pictures of Bonefish…” The flies in question are shown below. It is expected that they will prove to be effective. The expectation is Mark’s. My own feeling is more one of hope. I hope he knows what he is doing. I hope I know what I am doing.*

Rolling Harbour, Abaco... All will be revealed in time!

*The plan is to ask my boat-partner and guide – anyone with access to a rod, really – to “have a go with one of these little guys”. They are far less likely to be as skilled as I am at Early C&R, and are therefore far more likely to boat a fish. Job done…

Photos: RH, 1st two; the rest by Mark

ABACO BONEFISHING Pt 1: A NON-ANGLER’S SKIFF-VIEW – WHAT, HOW, WHERE & WHY?


             BE NATURAL (YET SHARP) ON THE FLATS - PART 1  

WHAT, HOW, WHERE AND WHY?

[I published the original of this post a year ago. I discovered that it had been put badly out of kilter by recent blog format change, so I have amended and to an extent updated it, with larger photos (NB the video was my first feeble foray).  So yes, it's a retread, which I rarely do; but I wasn't tooled up with Facebook & Twitter then, and thankfully a couple more people now read this thing, so it possibly deserves a fresh outing. No? Well I'm doing it, regardless]

It’s 7.15 and breakfast time at Delphi. At 8.00 the trucks, skiffs, guides and fishers will set off to the fishing grounds for the day, leaving you with an empty beach, shells, warm sea, the pool, the hammock and your book. For the moment, the talk is of the excellent ‘Full Abaco’ breakfast, the weather, ‘Delphi daddies’ & ‘crazy charlies’ and someone’s mislaid reel. Sandy enters to announce that there’s a place free on your partner’s skiff… and offers it to you. So what should you, a non-angler, expect of a day out on the flats?

THE SKIFFS These are top-of-the range boats, capable of considerable speed getting out to the fishing grounds. The ride can be bumpy, splashy and even chilly in the early morning, so bring a fleece and a waterproof top. Camera? Essential. Here is a Delphi skiff on a sand bar in Cherokee Sound, parked for lunch and some quality conch and sand-dollar hunting. So for a start, the day isn’t ALL about fishing…

THE FISHING GROUNDS You will leave from one of three launch points and speed across the water to the bonefishing areas. The main one is “Nettie’s”, with access via a narrow man-made channel to the Marls…

… more than two hundred square miles of mangrove swamp, islets, channels and fish. The journey to Nettie’s may seem quite a long way as you bump along through the pine forest on a network of logging tracks. Watch out for small birds flickering all around as you pass.

 

———————————

Launching a skiff at Nettie’s

Plans are hatchedGood to go…

Stowing gear in the front (forrard?) locker. There’s also one behind the seats for the lunch cool boxes. And the fuel…

The other two launch areas are Crossing Rocks (a short drive south of DCB) or Casuarina Point for Cherokee Sound (a slightly longer drive north of DCB)

The jetty at Crossing Rocks – skiffs being prepared

The launch point at Casuarina. A channel leads out to Cherokee Sound

Two boats in the channel – the authentic James Bond chase experience

WHAT’S THE POINT? Bonefishing! You’ve heard all the Club talk, you’ve seen your partner fussing over all those bits and pieces in your room: now see it in action. Once you get out to a fishing area, the guide cuts the engine… and suddenly you are being poled very slowly and almost noiselessly across the shallow flats

The guide stands on the platform at the back of the skiff, using the advantage of height to scan the shallow water; the fisher stands at the front looking tensely for grey shadows underwater, waiting for the magic words…

 “…hey, bonefish, 10 o’clock, 4 of them moving right, 30 feet… see them?” 

And it’s ‘game on’. This isn’t the place for a discourse about casting technique and style – I have neither (Sandy, of me: “Muppet”) – but I promise that you will get completely caught up in the excitement when a fish takes the fly and takes off towards the horizon, stripping the line and backing from the reel… (I realise the image above may suggest… well he’s just fishing, OK?)

THE QUARRY - grey ghosts below water, bars of silver above. Caught on the ‘fly’ which are in fact shrimp or crab imitations, with barbless hooks to make the chance of losing a fish that much greater… This ensures that a boated fish can be returned to the water as easily and quickly as possible. It’s all ‘catch and release’, though some (me) find that mostly the fish very sensibly self-release long before they ever reach the boat…

Abaco bonefish off Crossing Rocks (just caught and released)Guide Ishi with Abaco bonefish caught on the MarlsGuide Robin Albury removes the barbless hook before returning the fishgood specimen‘Ishi’s Fishy’, as he would say

All images, and indeed fish, ©RH

There is even the possibility that at some stage you may unexpectedly be handed a rod (even if you have never held one before, or wanted to) with ‘fish on’… Here, Robin has hooked a 2.5 lb fish and handed the rod to Mrs RH (then engrossed in eating a cheese roll) who successfully played and brought in her first ever fish…

PART 2 will deal with what else goes on during the day: the scenery, birdlife, sharks, turtles, blue holes and so forth. For now, here is a short clip of the skiff ride out to the Marls, to give you an idea. NB this was a very calm day – things can get a little bumpier and wetter at times. The seats are padded, but not very… 

 [Ultra-cautious music credit to Joe Satriani who sued Coldplay for alleged tune 'borrowing' saying "I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much". Case dismissed + unspecified settlement...  Way to go, Joe! Want to check? Cut 'n' paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB024bZoB4&feature=fvwrel Then by way of counterbalance try John Lennon's Imagine vs Coldplay's 'Fix you' at (cut 'n' paste)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksjpsAe3vk&feature=endscreen&NR=1]                

CLICK LOGO for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

 

BONEFISH! POLING THROUGH THE MANGROVES ON THE ABACO MARLS


BONEFISH! POLING THROUGH THE MANGROVES ON THE ABACO MARLS

I recently posted a short video giving an idea what it is like on a skiff as it skims fast over the water to the bonefish feeding grounds of the Abaco Marls SKIFF VIDEO Having arrived among the mangroves where the bonefish are lurking, the game changes. Instead of the roar of the engine and bump of the waves, the engine is cut and in near-silence the guide poles the skiff very slowly through the low water…

There’s a regular gentle scrape of the long pole on the sea-bed, as all eyes – guide, the fisher ‘up front’, and fishing partner – scan the water and the margins of the mangroves for bonefish or signs of their feeding. There might be tell-tale grey holes in the sandy bottom – or, as below, a ‘push’ wave as one or more bonefish move on to another area

There are bird calls such as the strangely melancholic metallic double-note of the RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD  sounding like a rusty door-hinge.

Otherwise, very little noise until… the urgently whispered “Hey! Bonefish 9 o’clock, 30 feet, moving right, 3 of them…” and the hunt is on

This short video shows the skiff’s slow progress across low clear water close to the edge of the mangroves, while we search for the dark shadows cast on the sand by the bonefish as they work their way through the flats hunting shrimps and small crabs… and in due course, with luck a well-placed “Delphi Daddy”

Credits: Red-winged Blackbird call – Xeno-Canto; Video Music – Albert Ross (formerly of Fleetwood Mac); R-WB below – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

MANGROVE FLATS & BONEFISHING: CAST IN THE RIGHT PLACE [VIDEO]


BONEFISHING ON MANGROVE FLATS

The rollingharbour wildlife enterprise doesn’t normally mix with the technical side the bonefishing on Abaco in general or at the Delphi Club in particular. rh is personally adept at failing to boat fish even where he is lucky enough to hook up; and in turning genial, amiable guides into scowling cursing wrecks in a day.

This is an exception: an excellent 4.5 minute video from Dr Aaron Adams (marine biologist and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Operations Director) on how to maximise your chances on the mangrove flats by not spending hours flogging the water pointlessly in obviously unproductive areas. Clearly if you have a guide, this is unlikely to happen – but what if you are wading or otherwise going solo? 

The reason to post this informative video here is for the insight into the structure of mangrove swamps, with clear underwater photography and commentary as a skiff glides the flats over ‘dead’, & productive, areas. What is a mangrove swamp? Where do the fish favour? Why? This video will help your understanding.

DELPHI CLUB ABACO & ARIST RICHARD BRAMBLE: BONEFISH, CRAWFISH & PERMIT ART


Well-known artist Richard Bramble already features in his own page here under the CONTRIBUTIONS drop-down menu. For the previous post of RB hard at work on new designs at the Delphi Club CLICK EXAMPLE PHOTO BELOW

RB and Crawfish model posing (both)

Richard has broadened his already considerable range of paintings and ceramics to include the Abaco marine life he painted while at Delphi. In addition to his very elegant Bonefish, there are now Permit and Crawfish plates (with the original ‘life model’ pictured above). Some weeks later I was at Richard’s studio in Dorset as he prepared to transfer these designs to ceramics, with crawfish cut-outs artfully strewn around the floor. Here are his new items, with his characteristic captions:

 (I have an oval bonefish plate to remind me of the ones I… I…’let go’ by mistake)

Richard’s comprehensive website featuring his entire oeuvre is to be found at the sign of the Crawfish   together with an elementary purchase method to take advantage  of the excellent online shopping opportunities (he might be too modest to say). I write this with Christmas-tide a mere 2 weeks away. You’ll find sea water and fresh water fish / creatures, shells, all manner of game birds and farmyards animals, on every conceivable type of ceramic platter, utensil and kitchen gizmo. 

(With apologies that this site seems t0 be turning into a cross between an online Mall and an advertising agency… Nature Tours. Boat Expeditions. Arts & Crafts. Kitchenware. Books. Cameras. Yup, ticked them all. But there’s plenty of other stuff to look at in these pages)

THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACO – TROUT & SALMON MAGAZINE ARTICLE


                   THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACO, BAHAMAS                    TROUT & SALMON MAGAZINE ARTICLE

Trout & Salmon Magazine is essential reading for the freshwater game- fisherman. However, it occasionally spreads its net wider than rivers and lakes, and this month’s issue trails important news for the Delphi Club: an article in the December issue to be published on 24 November 2011 entitled BONEFISH DELPHI STYLE – Michael Shortt finds hard-fighting fish in a Bahamian home from home. I expect further details will appear on the Club website but I mention it in passing before turning to another feature in this month’s T&S issue. For DCB website CLICK ===>>> DELPHI CLUB ABACO

TROUT & SALMON NOV 2011: WATERPROOF CAMERAS REVIEW    You’ll find details of an early version of a cheap and cheerful Kodak underwater camera at the end of the rollingharbour GADGETS page. This straightforward little camera is now into its third version at much the same price, and in due course I will update my original post.

T&S has now reviewed 3 other waterproof cameras, all in a higher price bracket. They may be of interest for those planning a stay in 2011–12. For a fishing trip on a skiff a waterproof camera is not really a necessity. However, it is highly desirable if you are planning a scuba or snorkelling trip, for example with Kay Politano’s excellent ABACO ABOVE AND BELOW – see FOWL CAY REEF posts.

There’s always the Rolling Harbour beach to investigate at the Delphi Club, where there are areas of sea grass that shelter numerous small species. I haven’t yet used my little Kodak there, but I’ll get the chance in early 2012 – who knows what’s to be found? In theory you (but not me – I don’t get very far out of my depth before turning turtle) could take a Club kayak out to deeper water, which could be very interesting… Anyway, here is the review: © Trout & Salmon Magazine, reproduced without express permission  yet but in the hope that they will approve of the publicity, and not cancel my sub…

AFTERTHOUGHT: if you arrived on this page via a G**gle search for Trout & Salmon Delphi Club / Abaco / Bonefishing, and all you got ‘was a lousy camera review’, bad luck – this is the unruly younger sibling of the main DCB website, to which the correct re-directions are CLICK ===>>> DELPHI CLUB ABACO

ABACO BONEFISHING Pt 1: A NON-ANGLER’S SKIFF-VIEW – WHAT, HOW, WHERE & WHY?


             BE NATURAL (YET SHARP) ON THE FLATS - PART 1  

WHAT, HOW, WHERE AND WHY?

It’s 7.15 and breakfast time at Delphi. At 8.00 the trucks, skiffs, guides and fishers will set off to the fishing grounds for the day, leaving you with an empty beach, shells, warm sea, the pool, the hammock and your book. For the moment, the talk is of the excellent ‘Full Abaco’ breakfast, the weather, ‘Delphi daddies’ & ‘crazy charlies’ and someone’s mislaid reel. Sandy enters to announce that there’s a place free on your partner’s skiff… and offers it to you. So what should you, a non-angler, expect of a day out on the flats?

THE SKIFFS These are top-of-the range boats, capable of considerable speed getting out to the fishing grounds. The ride can be bumpy, splashy and even chilly in the early morning, so bring a fleece and a waterproof top. Camera? Essential. Here is a Delphi skiff on a sand bar in Cherokee Sound, parked for lunch and some quality conch and sand-dollar hunting. So for a start, the day isn’t ALL about fishing…

THE FISHING GROUNDS You will leave from one of three launch points and speed across the water to the bonefishing areas. The main one is “Nettie’s”, with access via a narrow man-made channel to the Marls…

… more than two hundred square miles of mangrove swamp, islets, channels and fish. The journey to Nettie’s may seem quite a long way as you bump along through the pine forest on a network of logging tracks. Watch out for small birds flickering all around as you pass.

 

———————————

Launching a skiff at Nettie’s

Plans are hatchedGood to go…

Stowing gear in the front (forrard?) locker. There’s also one behind the seats for the lunch cool boxes. And the fuel…

The other two launch areas are Crossing Rocks (a short drive south of DCB) or Casuarina Point for Cherokee Sound (a slightly longer drive north of DCB)

The jetty at Crossing Rocks – skiffs being prepared

The launch point at Casuarina. A channel leads out to Cherokee Sound

Two boats in the channel – the authentic James Bond chase experience

WHAT’S THE POINT? Bonefishing! You’ve heard all the Club talk, you’ve seen your partner fussing over all those bits and pieces in your room: now see it in action. Once you get out to a fishing area, the guide cuts the engine… and suddenly you are being poled very slowly and almost noiselessly across the shallow flats

The guide stands on the platform at the back of the skiff, using the advantage of height to scan the shallow water; the fisher stands at the front looking tensely for grey shadows underwater, waiting for the magic words…

 “…hey, bonefish, 10 o’clock, 4 of them moving right, 30 feet… see them?” 

And it’s ‘game on’. This isn’t the place for a discourse about casting technique and style – I have neither (Sandy, of me: “Muppet”) – but I promise that you will get completely caught up in the excitement when a fish takes the fly and takes off towards the horizon, stripping the line and backing from the reel… (I realise the image above may suggest… well he’s just fishing, OK?)

THE QUARRY - grey ghosts below water, bars of silver above. Caught on the ‘fly’ which are in fact shrimp or crab imitations, with barbless hooks to make the chance of losing a fish that much greater… This ensures that a boated fish can be returned to the water as easily and quickly as possible. It’s all ‘catch and release’, though some (me) find that mostly the fish very sensibly self-release long before they ever reach the boat…

Abaco bonefish off Crossing Rocks (just caught and released)Guide Ishi with Abaco bonefish caught on the MarlsGuide Robin Albury removes the barbless hook before returning the fishgood specimen‘Ishi’s Fishy’, as he would say

All images, and indeed fish, ©RH

There is even the possibility that at some stage you may unexpectedly be handed a rod (even if you have never held one before, or wanted to) with ‘fish on’… Here, Robin has hooked a 2.5 lb fish and handed the rod to Mrs RH (then engrossed in eating a cheese roll) who successfully played and brought in her first ever fish…

PART 2 will deal with what else goes on during the day: the scenery, birdlife, sharks, turtles, blue holes and so forth. For now, here is a short clip of the skiff ride out to the Marls, to give you an idea. NB this was a very calm day – things can get a little bumpier and wetter at times. The seats are padded, but not very… 

 [Ultra-cautious music credit to Joe Satriani who sued Coldplay for alleged tune 'borrowing' saying "I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much". Case dismissed + unspecified settlement...  Way to go, Joe! Want to check? Cut 'n' paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB024bZoB4&feature=fvwrel Then by way of counterbalance try John Lennon's Imagine vs Coldplay's 'Fix you' at (cut 'n' paste)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksjpsAe3vk&feature=endscreen&NR=1]                

CLICK LOGO for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

 

A DAY AT CHEROKEE SOUND (ABACO) by TRISH FINDLATER


A MEMORY OF A DAY BONEFISHING ON CHEROKEE SOUND

First I thought it best to look up in the dictionary the meaning of the word ‘Sound’ in relation to ‘Cherokee Sound’ – it has such a poetic name. Sound: a long arm of the sea forming a channel between the mainland and an island or islands; or connecting two larger bodies of water.

“No one knows for sure where ‘the place’ got its name but one theory is that it was named after a local wild cherry tree and according to some old-English sailing charts was identified as ‘Cherry Cay’ (cay pronounced ‘key’ locally). Another story about the first settler being an old Indian woman who was supposed to have come from the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina during the American Revolution, and she named the settlement after her ancestors.”          By Lee Pinder, Cherokee Sound, Abaco.

About 40 kilometres or 25 miles south of Marsh Harbour, capital of Abaco, is the seaside settlement of Cherokee Sound. It is only fifteen minutes from the superb Delphi Fishing Club at Rolling Harbour where we were based. We set off for a day’s fishing at Cherokee, the home to fewer than 150 families, where most make their living fishing for crawfish, bonefish guiding and taking parties out deep sea fishing. Some of the finest bonefish guides live at Cherokee and none better than young Dana Lowe, daughter of Delphi’s senior guide Donnie Lowe. She has learnt since childhood from her experienced father and knows every inch of the complex waters, and where best to fish under various tide and cloud conditions (perish the thought, it is almost always gloriously sunny).

Dana has developed her own relaxed approach to guiding, and takes a missed opportunity in her stride, seldom getting upset by a client’s failure to engage with the incredibly spooky fish in the Sound. She calls clearly to the fisherman on the bow from her poling platform high above the 40 horse-power Yamaha at the stern of the 14 ft skiff: Fish 40 yards off, prepare to cast (and a minute later) give me 40 (feet) at 11 (o’clock, the bow is always 12). The angler has sufficient line stripped from the reel and with one false cast and a slight single haul lands the fly in the fish’s path.

After a momentary pause she quietly asks (with reference to the line): ‘strip, strip, stop, strip, raise the tip, GOT IT’ as the fish yields to the temptation of the inviting fly – and in a moment, like a bat-out-of-hell is 100/120 yards off, heading for the horizon! Then it pauses and turns which is the start of a real good angling experience until it gives up and is released from the barbless hook to rejoin its pals and recount the experience, often being honoured with leadership of the shoal. Such is the order of nature!

Dana is at one with her surroundings and encourages her guests to take in all that Cherokee has to offer. At low tide she loves to have her guests wade in bare feet on the silvery golden flats, sand as far as the eye can see, and cast to the occasional meandering fish or even a shoal of them. Easy to visualise the silvery sand, the blue green of the water, and the royal blue sky off set by soft fluffiness of the pure white clouds and almost uninterrupted sunshine. I love the lunch stops on a little mangrove island under the limited shade of a coconut tree, and the opportunity to collect a few shells for my nieces. I particularly like the sand dollars that have the appearance of engraved roman coinage, but are transparent porcelain white. And the various shades of pink of the conch shells are much liked by our local jeweller for engraving most appealing cameos. From the boat again she can show you, in season, the Ospreys nesting in their very square constructions of straw and wattle, green turtles snorting, and a plentiful number of ray, shark and barracuda cruising sinisterly around and with no evil intent to the peaceful anglers! As the evening draws in we call it a day and say our goodbyes to Cherokee Sound. Dana brings us back to the little jetty where our jeep from Delphi is awaiting us and we wave our fond farewell for another year and watch as Dana punts quietly out into the bay to her lovely home further along the shore line. The slow-paced tranquil daily life here feels as if it has not changed for many years and we hope, if that is fair to the residents, that it remains so for years to come.

Trish Findlater June 2011

AND FINALLY… unknown to Trish, rh was on the other skiff with a camera. For an independent view of what was going on in this idyllic place CLICK HERE