Our arrival signaled the capstone of our month long sojourn in the Caribbean. As the ferry workers unloaded our pontoons onto the dock, we patiently awaited the arrival of our wheels with our eyes affixed towards the flats. We were pumped to say the least, our minds warped by heightened expectations and two long weeks of very slow fishing and bad conditions. This was our time to shine.
The SUV rocked from side to side with two pontoons awkwardly placed on top, as we made our way down a dirt road. Soon we were sinking into a drying salt pond as we drove all the way to the edge of the mangroves. Stepping into the hot Caribbean sun, we slowly rigged up several rods, tied and checked our knots, and examined boxes of flies. We settled on a three pronged attack over almost a mile of water. Adam settled on the inside lane with Matt in the middle, and myself on the outside. Overlapping our peripheral vision to increase our chances of spotting the elusive golden ghost.
Elusive may be an understatement. This is not Andros South, and we are limited to foot pursuit fly fishing. On a daily basis, walking several miles, we only had 1-4 shots at bonefish each day. The bones are not in vast schools and instead are in singles or pairs. Our time on the flats was spent hoping that the shadow of a bonefish would come into your viewpoint, when they had the entire horizon upon which to roam. Our patience and concentration was pushed to the limit. When the chances came, we tried to be ready, and either reveled in glory or dwelled on our failures.
After an hour of walking, a shadow crept into Adam’s cocoons. Without saying a word, he flipped personalities and his body language changed. He bent at the waist and knees to hide his profile from his quarry. He made his presentation and varied the retrieve, matching the pair of bones advancing towards his position. Matt and I heard the fly line in the air and turned our heads, reluctantly losing focus on a foreground of nothing but sand and water. Stripping tight to the first bonefish of the trip, Adam let out a hoot and several sentences that did not make sense. He was in a state of pure bliss and was wearing his emotion on his sleeves.
Ten minutes later, the scenario repeated itself. Adam quickly landed another great bonefish leaving Matt and I down 2-0 with several hours of day light remaining. Matt and I had our chances during our three hour march downwind but we came up empty handed. Exiting the water, we had a hike back to the car. The sun had depleted our bodies of hydration and our water bottles were empty. Nonetheless we headed back to the car where we found hot water and roasting cans of ravioli to refuel upon.
With only a few hours remaining on our first day, we headed to a shallow area along the coast, looking for tailing fish. We found them. With Matt and Adam sitting on the sand, I stalked a large tailing fish in mere inches of water. He was completely unaware of our presence, while actively feeding on a bottom of rolling piles of sand. A close presentation and a very light fly was needed in such skinny water. On my third cast, he noticed an easy meal and charged leaving a wake upon the water. Just like that, I am into my first fish of the trip and he took off towards the mangroves. I placed the brakes on him and brought him to hand. Although you couldn’t see it beneath my stalker mask, a smile finally spread across my face.
With the sun setting behind the tiny island, we made our way down the beach to our new mothership. We had to find a place to stay for the night amongst marauding no see ums and mosquitos. Along the way, we exchanged stories of our chances during the day. We talked of stand offs, spooked fish, and a large 10-12 pounder that snuck up behind us on the flat, carrying several pilot fish with him. We tried to comprehend where we were and what we were experiencing but we could not. A shaking of the head was all we could muster. Such is the case when one finds themselves in the moment.