I spent a few years messing around with the fly rod when I was younger, mainly casting Betts poppers at bass and bream in the lily pads…nothing too serious. My real addiction to the fly rod came about 10 years ago when my wife purchased an 8wt TFO fly rod for me. I doubt she knew what she was getting into…because I’ve been ruined ever since. Being completely enthralled with my new past time, I would soak up as much information as possible, much of it fueled by saltwater fly fishing magazines. Although our local Carolina species got some love in those magazines, most of the articles were dedicated to the magnificent three: Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish. They were the glamour species, and they were etched in at the top of my bucket list. I’ve was lucky enough to scratch the Silver King off the list a few years ago. Permit, well…I’ve seen them, cast to a few, and I’m sure I will eventually catch one and it will probably be complete dumb luck. Bonefish, on the other hand, seemed like more of an attainable goal - I just needed to get to them. There are still bonefish in the Florida Keys, but any honest guide will tell you that their numbers dropped significantly a few years ago. There are lots of differing opinions on what caused this drop. Luckily, I’m hearing better reports of bonefish in the Keys lately, so hopefully we’ll see them make a big comeback in the near future. I realized that to really have a great bonefish experience, I needed to get to the Bonefish Capital of the World…the Bahamas.
Fast forward several years and I finally decided that there were no more excuses, it was time to scratch the Bonefish/Bahamas goal off the list. I spent a lot of time researching a DIY vacation for my wife and I in the Bahamas. I looked at several of the islands and read reviews of each. After a lot of thought, I settled on doing a trip to Grand Bahama Island. My goal was to get the best experience possible for the lowest price…two things that don’t often go hand in hand. I started pricing flights to the Bahamas from North Carolina and looked into driving to Ft Lauderdale and taking a hopper flight over. Ultimately, I came across a ferry service that runs people from Ft Lauderdale to Freeport Grand Bahama at a really good price. We rented an apartment off of VRBO and reserved a rental car on the Island. Once everything was set, I jumped into researching DIY bonefishing opportunities and looked into fishing with a local guide for a day. Grand Bahama Island has a few really nice lodges and independent guides. I had almost settled on an independent guide outfit when I ran into Robert Neher, the co-owner of East End Lodge, at the Winston Salem Fly Fishing Show. Robert spent some time with me talking about bonefish, Bahamian food, and other adventures to be had on the Islands. He happened to have an opening on one of his boats during the week of our vacation, so I reserved a spot to fish with his operation.
Last week, my wife and I had a fantastic time on Grand Bahama Island. Friendly people, killer food, amazing views, fantastic snorkeling, and the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. What about the fishing? It was amazing. Grand Bahama Island isn’t known for having a lot of wadeable flats (most of it is boat fishing) but I was able to find some wadeable beaches with lots of bonefish working in with the rising tide. The best part of the trip, though, was our day on the water with East End Lodge. These guys run a fantastic operation. Co-owners Robert and Cecil met my wife and I at our car as we pulled up at the lodge. We spend a little time catching up and then made our way to the docks. The guides fired up the Dolphin Super Skiffs that were tied up to the dock and we jumped in with Cecil and took off.
We navigated through a creek taking us from the south side of Grand Bahama to the North Side and then we ran several miles across crystal clear water over turtle grass until we reached our destination. Over the next eight hours I had the pleasure of standing on the nose of the skiff as Cecil push-poled over grass, sand, and coral, and through mazes of mangroves as we spotted and cast to bonefish after bonefish.
I never attempted to count, but we must have seen hundreds of bones that day. Some I spooked, some I missed, some I never saw, but there were several occasions when all the stars aligned and a bonefish would come to hand. If you’ve never had the experience of gliding across a Bahamian flat, watching giant barracuda, sea turtles, sharks and tons of bonefish swim around the boat, then you are missing out. It’s an amazing thing to watch a bonefish break away from the school, rush your fly, inspect it, tip its tail up, inhale the fly and then make a 75 yard dash across a flat in about 5 seconds. I highly recommend it! I’ll be back next year, there’s no question about it. I’m already dreaming about fresh conch salad and those supercharged bonefish. If you are thinking about giving it a try, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to pass along some information.
Capt. John Mauser
Tailing Tide Guide Service