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Abaco Island, Bahamas, Sandy Point & Treasure Cay 11-11-1995

We arrived to heavy thunderstorms and rain. Eventually we joined up with the rest of the group, Dr. Craig Johnston and Al Raychard. Al is writing a book on flats fishing for Frank Amato Publications. We were really anxious to show him the great fishing around Sandy Point. A lobster dinner made us forget temporarily about the weather outside. We awoke to worsening conditions. Lightning struck a transformer across from the lodge at 9:30 A.M., knocking out electrical service to the village. We retired to the dining room to drink coffee and repeat tired cliches in a failed attempt to be philosophical. We spent the remainder of the day watching the rain, reading, trying to keep a sense of humor and not be too much of a burden to our friends.

The next day we awoke to clearing skies and impatiently Craig, Al and I motored over to More's Island with Patrick Roberts, head guide at Sandy Point. Ron Apter and Anthony, meanwhile went south to Eagle Bay. Craig and I immediately hooked into a double... two big, strong More's Island bones. Al tracked a permit unsuccessfully on a beautiful, white sand flat inside the cut. Four cruising 8-10 pound fish maneuvered their way gracefully around Al and then Craig's fly offering and eventually disappeared into the blue water of the cut. I did manage to hook a 6-7 pound bonefish from a school of 100 monsters that appeared suddenly at my side. What a second earlier were sponges and turtle grass suddenly became huge bonefish. How do they do that? We saw three large permit and a few more bonefish but the majority were holding off in the deeper water. Had the lightning and thunder scared them off the flats? We didn't know, but we could see many fish in 10-12 feet of water, but they just wouldn't venture onto the shallow flats or take a fly. We returned to find that Ron and Anthony were in bonefish all day. They even decided to quit bonefishing and go pick up a few yellow tail snapper for dinner. We were appropriately pleased at their bonefishing luck and our stomachs were pleased with their snapper success.

The following day found us in Treasure Cay. The sky was clear, the air was warm and we were scooting across the bay opposite Cooperstown. O'Donald McIntosh, our guide, deposited Al and me on a beautiful flat between two islands and then motored off to take Craig to another spot. As the tide dropped, the flat revealed a network of shallow, light aqua trenches woven through hummocks barely covered by water. These ridges and depressions were pockmarked with the pale gray, fist-sized holes of feeding bonefish. A light chop roiled the surface and when combined with the flat's topography and the gray roots, it made spotting bonefish virtually impossible. I knew that these undulating flats provide perfect travel paths for bonefish and that sometimes they will move into impossibly shallow water in these areas. The bonefish will slink through the depressions or sit quietly in the potholes always knowing they have an avenue for escape.

The wading was energetic and noisy, but fortunately in the next two hours, I barely had to cover 200 yards. I concentrated hard, my occupation going from fisherman to hunter. Suddenly from my left, I noticed motion. I quickly flicked my apricot charlie at the now materialized bonefish and a tail finned excitedly, moving ever closer to me. I set the hook and we were off and running. A 7 pound bonefish was subdued, but not without considerable effort. My eyes now conditioned to the flat, I realized the fish I was releasing was the vanguard of many other bonefish scurrying to leave the flat on the falling tide. What transpired over the next one and one half hours was pure magic. I started spotting fish after fish. Al was having trouble spotting the fish so we worked together until his eyes began to click in. I never changed flies; I only re-tied my decimated charlie after each fish. I hooked one 10-pound fish that I saw tailing in what can only be described as a puddle. He was almost completely surrounded by dry hummocks. I lost the fish. He came close to spooling me. I tried cranking my drag down, but I couldn't stop his charge. I broke him off with only feet to spare not wanting to risk losing my fly line to a knot tied too long ago at the backing's end. Al, Craig and I saw fish all day. Maybe I should say we were with fish all day, but seeing them was ephemeral at best. Grey ghosts of the flats - definitely. If Al needed a chapter for his book on spotting bonefish, this was the day to test your skills. The next day rivaled the one before. Craig and I hooked and landed numerous bonefish all in shallow water on beautiful, hard bottom flats in a protected archipelago of bays and bushes. The quiet was only shattered by the noisy mating activities of the nurse sharks - (see National Geographic, May 1995.)

O'Donald is, without a doubt, one of the most knowledgeable bonefish guides I have ever met. A quiet gentleman, he knows the habits of bonefish and plans his day in a very scientific way, taking into account winds, tide, and weather, and fashioning a successful schedule. How many more guides of his caliber labor in obscurity while guides with more skills at marketing themselves than at bonefishing collect all the laurels? The answer is too many! Ron and Al spent the day with another wonderful fellow and guide, Orthnell Russell. They motored 35 minutes to the North end of the Marls. Al landed a 10-pound bonefish and a dozen others.

At sunset as we dined on a sumptuous dinner on the porch of our condo, we all decided that this was the perfect spot: a luxurious condo that can be rented inexpensively and offers a beautiful view of the harbor at Treasure Cay, wonderful home cooked meals served to you in your condo less expensively than you can buy them in the local restaurants, cold beer and snacks in the fridge, and the NBA semifinals on TV. The best part is that all of this is within 30 minutes of incredible bonefishing.

Written by Scott Heywood

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