Seven buddies and I just returned from spending the week of April 12-18 at Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge on South Andros. I thought I would give you the after-action report.
One of the reasons why we selected South Andros was the ease of access from the States. It's a straight shot from either Miami or Fort Lauderdale and it is not a Spring Break destination. All that was required to get there was an effortless one hour flight. No crowds, no delays, no lost luggage, no stop in Nassau. Five of us had been on a previous bonefishing trip that required us to overnight in Nassau and our luggage went on a vacation of its own, a repeat of which we wanted to try to avoid at all costs.
The other reason that we selected South Andros Island, and Mars Bay Lodge in particular, was because I had had 2 previous good trips there, one about 12 years ago under a previous owner and again in May 2006 under the current owner, Bill Howard.
With all of that as background, let me state that this trip did not fall short of our expectations in any way.
Our meals were excellent; superbly prepared and served by Bill's competent and personal staff. Among the dinner entrees were rib eye steaks, rack of lamb, conch, fresh snapper and roast chicken, all served with salads and fresh vegetables. All beer, wine, hard liquor and soda were included in the trip cost.
The air-conditioned lodge sits on the beach on the east side of the island. Each morning we watched the sunrise over the ocean as we had our coffee, and each evening we gazed seaward as we had drinks and shared our experiences of the day.
And what days they were! We started each day with a 45-minute boat ride south to the keys at the south tip of Andros... 2 fishermen and 1 guide to a boat. The flats there are so extensive that I believe you could fish them every day for a month and never touch the same water twice. Our guides knew the area intimately. They varied our locale by what the wind, tides and fish movements dictated and we seemed to be on fish on a regular basis.
Occasionally the fish were singles or doubles, but by and large we fished to groups of fish varying in size from a dozen to several hundred. One of the boats fished to a group of bones that the guide estimated at well over a thousand...and no one doubted the veracity of that estimate. Most of these pods were fish of mixed size. Lots were in the 3-5 lb range, but occasionally we would spot much larger fish in the midst. The trick, of course, was to get the fly past the little guys and to the bruisers.
Seeing fish and catching them are not always the same thing. This is demanding fishing. The water is clear and skinny and the bonefish were, well, bonefish. Some days the wind blew 25 mph and other days it barely reached 10 mph. Each set of conditions presented its own challenge and each challenge demanded casting skills. There is a whole essay in that statement, but let it suffice to say that you can't catch them if you can't reach them. If you don't have a good double haul in your set of skills and if you don't have a good stiff rod in your arsenal, at the end of the day you might end up drinking a lot for the wrong reasons.
Even at that, we had full and satisfying days, having had lots of shots and having released fish on a regular basis. With one exception, we were all experienced bonefishermen and knew that this is end-game stuff. Even the newbie had a great time and understood that bonefishing, no matter what your experience level, is a work in progress.
For other folks heading to Mars Bay, let me answer the first obvious question... what worked? Every fish I caught except one was on a pink puff. I had hardly any refusals on that pattern unless the fish that were already stirred up by sharks or fishermen. I used a #4 pink puff most of the time, but if the fish were picky or the conditions bright and still, I used a #6 puff with smaller eyes. I tied some my the puffs with a rabbit strip tail instead of the standard calf tail or craft fur and they seemed to work just as well as the standard puffs. The second best fly was a Gotcha. That pattern took my only non-puff bonefish and others in our group used it regularly. If you had those two patterns and a few Charlies of various size and color (pink, white, tan) in your "A" box, I believe that you would not compromise your success at all.
Thanks to you all at Angling Destinations for your efforts in making this a great trip and thanks to Bill Howard, Cathy, Constance, Yvette, Andy, George, Ronnie, Timothy, Chris and Stinky for their direct and exceedingly professional service to the same end.
Written by Chuck Ash, for John Higgins, Greg Lagermeier, Al Longfellow, Rod Storey, Scott Tanner, Hans Thallmayer and Al White.