Wakes rippled the water’s mirror-smooth surface, revealing the school of bonefish as they worked their way off the vast shallow flat.
Moving toward open water on the quickly falling tide, they were tracking a coral edge that fed into the middle bight of Andros Island, the largest and least populated of the 700 islands in the Bahamas. When they were 30 feet away, I launched a roll cast, made one false cast, and landed my Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp two feet ahead of the school. I started my retrieve with a long, smooth strip that got the lead fish’s attention. As soon as it changed direction to intercept the fly, I paused, letting the fly dive for the bottom. When the bonefish got close and started to “tip” down on the fly, I made another long strip that was quickly intercepted. A short, sharp, strip strike set the barbless hook and I immediately prepared for the laser-fast reaction I knew was coming.
True to form, the bonefish streaked to deeper water, making the fly line “rooster tail” across the surface in what must be one of the most electrifying experiences in fly fishing. The first long run went 50 yards into the backing before the fish reversed course and raced back towards me faster than I could recover the line. I thrust the tip of the rod in the water to prevent slack from forming that might loosen the barbless fly and left it there until I was able to “come tight” again.
The first run was followed by three more, each a bit shorter but equally thrilling before I was finally able to get the bonefish’s head above water and work it to the boat. Reaching into the water, I lifted it belly first, causing it to quiet down for a quick posed photograph and release. Wave after wave of fish poured from the flat that morning on what would be my best day of bonefishing ever. My companion, Rallis Pappas, and I took turns landing fish until I decided to get out and wade. Rallis and I were able to land close to 20 bonefish between us before the falling tide emptied the flat. In the water, I had shots at multiple schools of fish, allowing me to land three and hook a fourth in quick succession. This was Pappas’ first time bonefishing, and I was quick to let him know what an amazing first day he was experiencing.
I was fishing with a group of friends out of Frankie’s Two Boys Inn, in the Behring Point settlement on Cargill Creek, situated on the southern edge of Andros’ northern island. The “middle bight,” a vast and pristine wilderness of mangrove-lined cays surrounded by azure channels and seemingly endless flats, is just a short ride from the lodge’s docks. On days with good weather and tides, anglers can elect to make the hour-long run to the West Side National Park, arguably one of the most remote and unspoiled areas in the Bahamas chain. Having fished South Andros for many years, I made my first trip to Frankie’s last March and the experience led to this return trip. Andy Grosso, a friend from Sarasota, and I made that first trip where we met Greg Huffman from Sarasota and Dana Fogle from DeLand. This year, they joined us again with friends Michael Riter and Jimmy Harris, owner of Unicoi Outfitters in Helen, Ga. We were joined mid-week by my brother from another mother and father, (stepbrother) Rallis Pappas from Atlantic Beach, Fla.
Readers of this column know of my love of bonefishing in the Bahamas, an experience I was eager to share with new fly anglers Riter and Pappas. Harris and I have fished the rivers of north Georgia many times over the years, and he has introduced me to many memorable experiences hunting for trout, stripers and bass on his home waters. During our week at Frankie’s, owners Melinda and Frankie, the guides, and lodge staff looked after our every need and, although we experienced some rainy and windy days (typical of all my fishing trips), everyone had outstanding fishing for bonefish. While the fishing was the “main course,” afternoons and evenings around the bar and dining room table were memorable for the hilarious jokes and camaraderie.
Frankie’s is a great value and while it isn’t on the water and doesn’t have amenities for the family, it provides everything a dedicated bone fisher needs. If you’ve never fished for bonefish or are a dedicated angler, Frankie’s is a great choice. Getting there was quick and easy flying from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport with Makers Air. For more information, check out Frankie’s Two Boys Inn.