By: Trey Dyer
Florida is the fishing capital of the world and the diversity of fish you can catch there is astounding, but sometimes it is nice to get away and explore some new waters. My chance to do that came earlier this month when my family surprised me for my birthday with a trip to Great Abaco in the Bahamas to chase down some bonefish, my first time fishing for them.
Florida is home to bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Keys, but the Bahamas, particularly Great Abaco, is home to some of the largest populations of bonefish in the world. Bonefish are known for being spooky, elusive and picky eaters. They are also known as the Manny Pacquiao of fish (the best pound for pound fighters in the world!) busting off huge runs deep into your backing. Catching a bonefish with a fly rod is an accomplishment that most fly fisherman only dream of. With this trip, I was ready to set out and finally bring one of these grey ghost to hand.
My girlfriend Mythy and I booked two days with J.R. Albury, a local guide whose family had been fishing the waters of the Abacos for 17 generations. We were picked up from the Abaco Club at 9 A.M. and headed south to Cherokee sound, a place known for big bonefish. At the dock, J.R.’s Son, Charles, was waiting for us with a traditional flats skiff.
Before we even left the dock, two roughly six-pound bonefish were circling around the canal we launched from. Not even 30 seconds later, we were on the flats with a school of bonefish in casting range. I was throwing my fly rod, Mythy was on the spinning rod throwing conch. We sight fished big bonefish all morning along the shorelines, seeing schools of dozens one after another. None would hit a fly and were all very spooky. As the tide continued to fall, we decided Mythy would anchor up to soak some chunked conch and I would go for a nice long walk on the flats in search of bones. In typical fashion, Mythy almost immediately catches the first bonefish of the trip, while I continue to get refusals from bonefish after bonefish.
While I continued to move around and look for schools of bonefish, Mythy had moved onto catching us dinner in the channel and used the same piece of conch to pull up 20 snapper, hand selecting the ones to cook that night. At this point it was late in the day, and the only fish I had caught were a blue runner, a snapper and a barracuda (all popped up and ate my fly while I was sight casting to bones).
I creeped along and suddenly, very suddenly, 4 schools of bonefish converged on me, to the point that I could hardly pick water there was not bonefish in to try and present a cast. I presented a light cast and slowly stripped my fly in and became tight on a big bonefish that had my rod bent completely over. Almost immediately after that, the 30-pound leader snapped right at the fly line and every single fish in the four schools (probably 100) spooked and took off down the flat and out of sight.
Unfortunately, this was how the day ended in Cherokee sound. We bid Charles goodbye and headed to the local grocery to pick up the ingredients we needed for a ceviche and fried snapper dinner. Once back at the Abaco Club we stayed at, I decided to walk the beach to see if there were any cruising bones on shorelines. No bones were to be found, but I got to play with some Jack Palometas (a species that looks so much like permit that I had to look online to identify the difference later).
I had one more day to put a bonefish to hand and the pressure was on. My fishing was going to start at 8 AM tomorrow, so after our fresh snapper dinner and a little bit of playoff hockey, I headed to bed to get ready for a crucial day fishing.