I literally stumbled out of bed at 6:50 A.M. smacking my knee on the corner of the bureau. I'd arrived in Freeport at midnight last night and was now ensconced in a lovely condominium that is the temporary home of North Riding Point Club. The construction of the real NRPC will begin in July. I was in Freeport to speak with the owners, Ed and Carol Dawes, and to sample their flats fishing opportunities.
Over breakfast, Ed showed me the blueprints for a lodge totally devoted to flats fishing and flats fishermen. Large bedrooms, airy verandas, and fly-tying rooms all had been meticulously planned. It will be lovely. But what really caught my eye was the attention to the details that make or break a trip.
Ed had designed a building for his vehicles, boats and motors. A full time mechanic will be on duty to keep everything in perfect operational order - no down time due to equipment repairs. Carol's responsibility will be decor and meals. With her experience, we can count on five-star meals. Ed plans to use Grand Bahama's beautiful and rarely used road system to trailer fisherman and flats boats to different fishing grounds thus eliminating much of the travel time to get to remote flats. I don't know many fishermen who wouldn't trade 30 minutes of pounding in chop for a quiet ride in an air-conditioned Scout.
NRPC will be using specially designed Dolphin skiffs. Ed has put two very comfortable seats ahead of the console, a stainless steel thigh brace on the casting platform, and a cowling around the casting platform to keep your line from blowing off the deck. Obviously a fisherman himself, he has thought of everything that drives a flats fisherman crazy.
This will be a resort designed to maximize fishing time and allow a bone-weary (is that possible?) fisherman to fall into the deep luxury of fine food and a beautiful villa. But what good is all this: the great meals and wonderful accommodations, without great fishing... my question exactly.
Ed introduced me to Stanley Glinton, his head guide. Stanley has 25 years experience at Deep Water Cay Club as a bonefishing guide. While moving the boat to Dover Sound, (a beautiful drive by the way), I listened wide-eyed to Stanley's account of recent explorations of this newly discovered bonefishing area. Ishmael, his apprentice guide, quickly put the boat in the water and we were off.
Stanley proved to be a very knowledgeable and affable companion. I was impressed with his understanding of fly fishing. He made appropriate fly suggestions and tailored my retrieve to bottom conditions. He even suggested that I retrieve very quickly on one flat because the turtle grass was especially dense and would foul my fly.
The first fish I caught was tailing in nine inches of crystal clear water over a hard, dark brown bottom. I threw a gotcha at the fellow and he excitedly scuttled over to inspect my offering. He tailed, I strip-striked. The fish was on. I braced for the explosion... the screaming run, the line burning through the guides... I got ...nothing, The comet of the flats, the silver bullet that was attached to my right arm casually swam in front of me, oblivious to the two strong hook sets I had powered through my 8 weight. Was this some sort of bonefish mutant? Was he the only bonefish in the Bahamas with a death wish? My past experience in the Turks and Caicos had taught me that especially large fish, that is 10 pounds plus, don't immediately panic like their smaller brothers. Just as I struck again, Stanley settled the issue with a wide grin... he charged the fish waving his arms wildly.
The bonefish took the hint, as well as all my spare line, rattling it through the guides in a demonstration of pure power. After my line finally cleared, my reel then erupted, the handle banging on my chest pack where I had casually rested the fighting butt. Now in front of me, a rooster tail appeared at a spot where my singing line met the water and it continued to move forward impossibly far behind the streak that was now moving off to my right. Stanley, calmly watching his handiwork, suggested I follow the fellow as my backing was so quickly disappearing. Suddenly the fish stopped and after madly retrieving backing, I was able to change the line's wide arc into a straight line pointing directly at the fish. After two more heart stopping runs the bonefish was strongly circling me still tethered to my racing heart. I picked him up and Stanley and I put a tape to him marveling at his broad shoulders ... 27 inches at the fork. We quickly released him and congratulated ourselves on our luck.
It wasn't over. Among the extensive, hard bottom flats and mangrove bushes cruised many singles and doubles. This was a land of big fish. One five pounder took me on a tour of the mangroves. I followed passing my rod under the arches of the roots while Stanley and Ishmael laughed and shouted encouragement. I did finally land the fish, but I was definitely more tired than he was. Unfortunately, we also watched a lemon shark purposefully track a previously caught bonefish for over a half mile before dispatching him in a cloud of red. Sometimes in the ocean, catch and release is only a temporary reprieve.
This was a great trip. I fully expect this area to one day be viewed as one of the premier fisheries in all the Bahamas!
Written by Scott Heywood