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Mars Bay/Swain's Cay Bahamas 03-12-2011

I arrived in Nassau and took a Safari Seaplane charter into Congo Town. Despite the added cost, the flexibility you get with the charter (where you don't have to worry about airline schedules), and the amazing arrival and departure of wading to your own plane for the trip, is worth every penny to me! From Congo Town it was a 45 minute taxi ride to Mars Bay, the southernmost lodging on South Andros. The weather was windy, but clear when I arrived, and was supposed to be nice for the entire week. Bill, the owner of Mars Bay, greeted us shortly after we arrived and we settled down to talk to the outgoing guests and new arrivals over a couple of Kaliks oceanfront in the comfortable chairs Mars Bay has facing east out over the ocean.

Wake up was promptly at 6:30 am and me and my other two friends were greeted by the smell of bacon and eggs. Breakfast that and every morning was a good selection of bacon, sausage, eggs, grits, toast, and home fries. Twenty minutes later, we were off to the dock a few hundred feet down the road to meet the guides. Bill maintains an excellent fleet of boats in perfect repair for them to use. Mars Bay also has an excellent selection of experienced guides who are all natives of the island. It was about an hour run down to the southwest end of South Andros. The mornings all week had high tides, so we started each day poling mangrove edges looking for bones. We did this for about an hour before the tide would drop enough to start visiting the vast flats offered at this end of the island. Having fished all across the Bahamas, and all over Andros, the flats on the south and southwest side of the island are the largest, hardest, and most prolific flats I've ever seen.

The first few days fishing were hit or miss, and the usual number of fish landed was only 3-4 per day. As the week went on, the fishing picked up until everybody was hooking, if not landing, double digits every day. The bonefish on Andros are the biggest I've seen in the Bahamas, averaging 4-5 pounds, with 6 pounders common. The hot flies were Pink Puffs and Pink Crazy Charlies, with good action on the standard tan Gotchas as well. The last few days I really started to get into some big fish, including one day landing a half dozen 7-8 pounders that took hundreds of yards of backing off my reel. I was glad I had 325 yards of gel spun on there! We mostly fished the south end of the island, but the guides took us a couple of days into the creek systems as well. The wading here is a lot more difficult due to the soft ground, and there's a lot of smaller fish, but some big ones mixed in too. It's a great change of pace for a couple of days from having to make the run to the south end since you only have to go about 20-30 minutes at most to start fishing.

At the end of every day, we'd make the run back to the dock to find Bill waiting for us in his pickup truck to drive us the 2 minutes back to the lodge. Conch fritters, conch salad, or some other delicious appetizer would already be laid out on the bar along with ice and a selection of fine beverages and mixers. There was always a fridge full of cold Kaliks too. Dinner was lobster, chicken, and a lot of other locally flavored foods prepared by the wonderful local chefs that were there every day. Our rooms were always spotless with perfectly made beds every day when we returned, with clean towels always laid out too. I rarely go back to a lodge year after year, but I'm already booking my trip back to Mars Bay again because it's the best run fishing lodge I've ever visited in the world.

My friends both headed back to the US after the first week, but I stayed on and moved up to Swain's Cay Lodge on Mangrove Cay for another week. I arrived to find the resort surprisingly empty for this time of year, but welcomed the peace and quiet. Pam, the manager, was very welcoming and ensured I had everything I needed to start my day. The rooms here were pretty luxurious by Andros standards, and a lot more than I'm used to as a bonefisherman! The resort has a bonefish flat right out in front, and I broke my rod back out before dinner and went to see if I could find some fish. I saw a few small bunches, but wasn't able to get any to eat my fly. Since the resort was empty, I got to choose dinnertime and the menu every day. The staff made sure I had everything I needed.

Sunday I was greeted by another day of perfect weather, and Patrick showed up to take me to the dock 15 minutes away to meet up with DJ, my guide for the day. We headed into the South Bight and immediately started getting on fish. Because of the soft ground in the Bights, you're almost always poling along rather than wading. DJ put me on many good fish and I landed at least half a dozen that day.

Monday I awoke to very cloudy skies and high winds. I decided to brave the weather anyway, and took the short ride to the dock to find Shine waiting for me. Shine and I figured out after a short while that we'd actually fished together about 10 years before. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate, and after 45 minutes of fruitless poling and trying to cast into 35 knot winds to fish we couldn't see until they were 20 feet away, I told him to call it a day. It turned out to be one of the best days of the trip however since Shine invited me to his family's Conch Shack at the north end of the island. I hung around there for the day and played dominoes with Shine and about a dozen other locals while we drank Kaliks, ate conch salad fresh from the ocean, and drank a bit of whiskey I brought along.

The next day the weather dawned clear and still. The water was like a mirror about as far as you can see. The fish were the most skittish I've ever seen, and were laying in holes in the sand not moving at all. You wouldn't see them until you were right on top of them. We managed a couple of fish before lunch, then the wind picked up and we started to really find them. At this point, I was a week and a half into a dream trip and had landed about 50 bonefish, including many in the 7-8 pound range. I stopped casting to anything less than 5 pounds because we were finding so many fish and hooking so many big ones.

The next day the weather again dawned clear and still, and once again the fish were laying in holes and impossible to see. We again managed a few in the morning, but the afternoon saw another day of windier conditions and lots of fish landed. It was an exact copy of the day before. The week continued with another awesome day of fishing on Thursday. It was cloudless all day and we hooked a dozen fish 6 pounds or more. We ended up quitting a bit early because my wrists were so tired from reeling in a half dozen fish that all were easily 6 pounds within a couple of hours that I didn't have the energy to keep casting, combined with a sun that never gave us a break.

The last day dawned bright and sunny again, and we were into the fish before the day had hardly started. I managed about 10 fish in again all over 5 pounds before we ran into a school of the largest bonefish I'd ever seen. I was back with DJ for the final day, and there were a dozen bones so large I thought it was a school of cudas. DJ was practically ready to jump out of his pants when he saw them coming towards us. I put a nice 60 foot cast right in front of them and after a quick couple of strips, one of the smallest fish in the school was on my line. It made a few big runs until it had almost taken my 325 yards of backing to nothing, and DJ had to start the boat to make sure it didn't spool me. Thankfully I got it turned back towards the beach, and after a 30 minute fight I had a 30"+ fish we estimated at 9.5 pounds at hand. After a few quick photos, it was released safely back into the water.

Once again Andros didn't disappoint, and I'll be back again next year and maybe every year after that. Watch out bonefish here I come!

Scott Richter
Colorado foothills





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