Bonefishing on Andros by John Healey
My friend Kim Iglesia and I went to Andros for 5 days of bonefishing, Nov 2-8. This was the second time we’ve gone there this year, having previously fished 5 days in late May. We couldn’t wait to get back to catch our favorite fish.
We flew from DFW to Miami, and then on to Nassau. From there we took a short puddle jumper flight to Mangrove Cay. Harry, our taxi driver, was waiting for us at the airport and drove us to Swain’s Cay Lodge, just a short trip down the road. Swain’s is a clean, economical lodge with a friendly staff.
Harry picked us up every morning at 7:15 for the 12 minute drive to South Bight where we joined our guide Marvin Miller, who had his boat fueled up and ready to go. I can’t say enough good things about Marvin. He’s a 4th generation independent guide with 20 years experience, fishing out of a nice 16-foot flats boat with a 115 hp Yamaha engine. He is passionate about bonefishing, extremely personable, professional, and can he spot fish! We fished with Marvin on our previous trip so we knew we were going to have fun.
On a typical day we were on the water by 7:30 and returned to the dock at 3:30, only taking 10 minutes for lunch, usually while slowly motoring off a flat in order to maximize fishing time. Guided bonefishing is all about teamwork. The guide polls the boat, spots fish, and puts the angler in the best position to make a cast. The angler stands on the bow with line stripped out and fly in hand, ready to go. The angler who isn’t on the bow assists with line management, which can be an issue if it’s windy. Bonefish are constantly moving, and once they are spotted everything happens quickly. The shot only lasts a short period of time and then it’s lost.
Prior to this year we had never bonefished from a guided boat. As a consequence we made a lot of mistakes. Our first mistake was using intermediate lines. Floating lines are the only way to go for bones. They land more gently, can be picked up and recast easier, and perhaps most importantly the guide can see them better. It took us a while to get used to the clock system of casting. The guide will spot a fish and call out: “10 o’clock, 60 feet. Point your rod. To the left. There. Start casting. To the right. Long. Lay it down!” Often times we would get our right and left confused during the backcast and blow the shot. Or drop the line on the final cast. Or step on the line. Or make noise and spook the fish. Or drop the fly on top of them instead of 5 feet in front. Or raise the rod tip instead of strip striking. Well, you get the idea. That’s all part of the game though, and as Marvin said: “If it was easy it wouldn’t be fun.” The good news is that if we made a nice presentation and the fish saw the fly, we were usually rewarded with a hookup.
We used 9 weight rods, and size 2 and 4 Gotchas we tied ourselves. A typical day was 8 fish landed for the boat. On the first day of this trip, however, we were fortunate and got 27 to hand, by far our personal best and particularly surprising given the 30 mph winds and overcast skies. It was due almost entirely to our great guide Marvin. Most fish we caught were in the 3-5 pound range, with the occasional bigger fish. Andros has 100 square miles of flats so we had the fish to ourselves, rarely seeing another boat on the water.
To me, bones are the perfect gamefish. They are found in some of the most beautiful places on earth. They are challenging to see and change color to blend in with the bottom, making the hunt almost as much fun as the catch. They are nervous and spooky, yet will readily take a fly if a good presentation is made. You can watch them track the fly and eat it. The visual aspect adds to the excitement. No blind casting here. And once hooked their fighting ability and long runs are legendary.
Lefty says it best in his book Fly Fishing in Salt Water:
“I was once asked to write a magazine article about what I would fish for if I had only one more day to fish. ‘Think about it a few days and call me,’ the editor said. I answered, ‘I don’t have to think about it. I’d go for bonefish at the Andros Island Bonefish Club. Bonefishing is my favorite form of fishing with a fly’.”