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