Bahamas: Sea Hunter 2010
We all collected at the Orange Hill in Nassau. We were mostly old friends and many of us had met before in similar spots on our way to Russia, Mongolia or the Seychelles.
We were now on our way to South Andros where we would meet the Sweet Jessie at Kemp’s Bay and if everything went well, we would be on the Sea Hunter by 11:00 AM and fishing by noon. It did and we were.
I had only four days on the Sea Hunter so this added afternoon was all angling gravy and a tasty sauce it was! As usual there were lots of fish on South Andros, but with strong winds pushing a rapidly filling tide, the fish were skittish and nervous.
This has been a weird spring in the Bahamas. Consistent cold fronts have driven big winds cooling the flats to unfamiliar levels. Some say this was the coldest spring in 30 years and all over the Bahamas, the fishing has been inconsistent. From February thru April, when the weather has been good, the fishing has been hot. When the weather has been cool, with the usual accompanying winds, the refrain has always been the same “ We caught some fish, but the fishing was off.”
So it was for us. Consistent 20-30 knot winds with intermittent cloud cover made for tough casting and fish spotting. The fish seemed reluctant to settle down and feed, but having said all this, my slowest day was probably 8 fish and I had a couple days that I left the sure bet of the schoolies to look for singles and doubles that might be filtering into the very shallow water. You know when you leave fish to find fish, the fishing is good.
Scott and Steve walked downwind with Sea Hunter captain Zyndall McKinney. They were on the outside edges of a broad crowned flat and I was wading the other side of one of the channels that fed the big basin ahead of us. It was raining lightly and quite cool. We had all donned rain coats and the light was terrible. We would have to find surface activity and in the winds of the last few days, this had been a tall order.
To my left, a wet and scraggly osprey warned me off the flat with his kind’s shrill whistle. He huddled under his partially spread wings either in an attempt to dry them out or hide from the rain. Either way it wasn’t working and now he had to contend with another fishermen. A heron seemed oblivious to it all as he picked fish after fish out of the potholes formed by the quickly emptying flat. Up ahead, I could see a series of wind slicks formed between the main channel and the dry flat. If there were fish on this flat, these wind slicks would provide my best chance to find them.
I slowed my pace and when I came to the first slick, I scoured it. It just looked perfect - pale green runnels laced thru sandy hummocks. Here a bonefish could wind its way thru very shallow water undetected by fisher whether it be man or an osprey.
As if on cue, a tail popped up. I kneeled with my knees resting on a sandy knoll. I made a short cast. The tail fluttered. I pulled gently on the line and it came fast. The fish raced for the channel with my line in tow. I stood up and eventually landed the fish. I would repeat this process in each of the next five or six wind slicks that spread out before me... until there was just one left. Beyond this slick there was just dry land.
Scott, Steve and Zyndall were running out of room too. If I didn’t want to interfere with their fishing, I would have to turn around soon and find a new flat to fish. That would require a short walk over the dry land to where another channel was filling the same basin.
But I had a moment, so I took one last look at this final wind slick and in it was a fish. It was not tailing. It was bodying. It was scuttling along in very shallow water with the tip of its nose to the end of its tail out of the water. It was almost out of the water. I didn’t know how to make a cast to this fish. There was virtually no water into which to drop a fly... just sandy mounds and shallow canyons. I watched the fish until I could see he was headed for a pool that was a bit larger... a pool about the size of a child’s inner-tube. Just before he crawled into the pool, I hatched a plan. I could cast my line on the top of the knob just beyond the pool. That might not spook the fish, then I could... Suddenly the fish started moving quickly so my leisurely planning ended there. It was time to do something.
I actually cast a bit too far, but I was able to strip my line without snagging until I could see my fly resting on dry land. The fly sat on the tip of the sandy knob inches from the pool, I hoped, the fish would eventually reach. All that was in the pool was leader. After slowing his progress, eventually the bone crawled over a 4” deep ridge and into the pool. I stripped my line slowly sliding the fly off dry land and into the pool. The bonefish immediately saw my bunny gotcha and ate it on the way down. I struck and the fish went berserk flinging water and sand from the pool until it beached itself. The fish then wiggled into another pool, shot away in a cloud of water and sand and beached itself again. This time there was nowhere to go. Net run 25 feet....MAX! No classic run here... no way into my backing etc. Hell, he hardly pulled thru the head of my WF fly line. I raced over to the flopping fish not wanting him to hurt itself and scooped him up. I ran 15 paces and deposited him in a deeper pool that led into the main channel. This was an AAR “Angler Assisted Run” and when he hit the water he rocketed away not depleted one iota by the 10 second 25 foot fight. He was gone in a flash.
“That was cool.” I muttered to myself. Then I turned around to look for another flat to fish.
Our time aboard the Sea Hunter was great. we were up shortly after dawn and on the way to the flats before 8:00 AM each day. We fished until we got tired... usually around 5:30 or 6:00 PM.
Every night we had fresh seafood dinners including lobster, mutton snapper, lane snapper and mahi-mahi. Evenings were filled with dominoes, music,and catching up.
If you are interested in all the Sea Hunter details please go to my previous trip reports at:
Click here to see trip report 1
Click here to see trip report 2
Thanks to our great crew Zyndall, Elliot, Coco, Mike and Donna and to my fiends Danny Sheldon, Doug Jeffries, Steve Peskoe and Gray Drummond. It was GREAT to see you and hard to leave. Thanks for everything!
Written by Scott Heywood