JC (Castwell), my husband, saved the day. Actually he
may have saved the whole trip. We deplaned in Ft.
Lauderdale and immediately transferred to the small
commuter plane taking us to Nassau. I was already on
board as Castwell stood at the foot of the steps,
visually scanning the baggage cart for our stuff.
It wasn't there even though it had been tagged "International"
and was to be shipped straight through to our final
destination on South Andros Island, Bahamas.
JC asked the pilot if they matched baggage with
passengers, and he said not really. Opps. JC explained
the problem, nicely, and the pilot said he would take
care of it. Shortly a cart appeared from the main
terminal with our three bags. The important one, of
course, was the one with all our fishing gear, including
rods. Stowed on board we made the next to the last
flight to Nassau, passed through Bahamian Immigration
and Customs and loaded onto an even smaller plane for
South Andros. Both of the 'commuter' flights were Lear
aircraft operated in partnership with Continental Airlines.
Other than a very long flight for us living on the West
Coast, everything did go very well. The folks at Ritz
Beach Resort of South Andros, (where we stayed) are
trying to work out direct flights from both Houston
and Ft. Lauderdale, which would make travel to South
Andros much easier.
We were met at the airport and delivered to our digs
for the next week...on the beach, overlooking the pool
with a wide veranda. Very nice indeed. Our host, Manager
Brendan Foulkes was not at the resort when we
arrived - the owner of the several Ritz Beach
properties had died unexpectedly, and Brendan was
at the funeral. We met with our bonefish guide, and
a lady who would take us on a walking tour of the
famous inland blue holes during our stay. After
dinner we sat outside enjoying the warm evening
and the ocean until we about collapsed. Long flight,
no sleep will do that to you.
Ritz Beach Resort of South Andros was formerly a
government owned lodge, Emerald Palms - some of our
readers stayed there in the past. It was purchased
by a Danish company, who is in the process of re-doing
everything. All the cement, wood, roofs, plumbing
fixtures, air conditioning, tile, pool...everything.
On top of that they built 20 villas or cabins, one
and two bedroom, which look like an old-time Bahamian
village. At least that is what the Danish architect
explained to me...I'm sure none ever had the amenities
of these however. Solid mahogany doors, woodwork,
windows, Jacuzzi for two and pink marble floors.
Superb workmanship everywhere. My first impression
was WOW! The villas await furniture, still in customs,
and will be available for use in about two months. A
Off to fish, 8:15 a.m. at the small boat harbor at
Congo Town, about a 4 minute car ride. Our guide,
Gary Francis has been guiding for ten years on South
Andros and had a game plan for each day we fished.
Bonefish come in from deeper water with the incoming
tide to feed in very shallow water on shrimp and crabs.
They go back out with the falling tide, and repeat the
process on the next tide. Planning where to be on
the correct tide, and stay out of the wind, keep the
sun behind the guides back so he can see, and take
into account a couple of clients who he had not guided
can be daunting. Gary however is a professional
(in fact he is the Guide Master for the new Bonefish
Program at the resort) and he put us on fish. Lots of
fish. For the record, water temperature was 82 degrees.
JC and I have fished Grand Bahama, and North and Middle
Andros, and we were very impressed with a couple of things
especially. The bonefish on South Andros are not as spooky
as the other places we have fished. Most casts did not
require huge, long hauls at all. One of the big fish
I caught was less than 20 feet from the boat! We saw
lots of fish within a 30 foot range. Especially great
for folks who are not long-distance casters. There is
a huge amount of fishable water on South Andros, including
inland cuts and rivers which allow anglers to get out of
the wind. Having seen both North and South Andros from
the air, as well as on maps, it seems there are more big
flats on South Andros. Keep that in mind if you are
thinking bonefish. Far fewer lodges and less competition.
We did keep a running total, and ended up with each of
us boating 6 nice fish. That makes a tie, especially if
you don't count the really big one I lost when the tippet
broke just below the knot to the leader. My fault (or JC's)
because we didn't replace the section after he landed a nice
six pounder. Ok, ok. It was ten pound leader, eight pound
tippet, surgeons knot.
To be absolutely fair, I do need to tell you we were
looking for big fish. We had opportunities to fish
to schools of small fish. One such school must have
had 500 bonefish in it. We could have anchored the
boat and caught lots of small fish. We chose not to.
If we had never caught a bonefish before I'm sure we
would have jumped at the opportunity. That school was
swimming past less than 15 feet from the boat.
The largest fish I caught, measured against the rod,
went a couple of feet. JC's was guesstimated by Gary
at about 10 pounds. We really wanted photos of that
one, it had Al Campbell's Shrimpf fly hanging from
it's lip. Gary leaned over the gunnel slid a hand
under it, when the strain went off the tippet the
fly fell out, and the fish swam off.
We tried several flies and I even had one fish take
the fly in it's mouth and spit it out! Enough of the
Crazy Charlies, Gottcha's, Clousers and Pink Puffs.
We put on one of Al's Shrimpfs and every fish we
caught was caught on it. We lost two flies, the
one which broke off, and one swallowed by a bonefish.
The same fly caught every other fish. The evening
we arrived another guide said they had cast to a lot
of fish that day, but they were just not biting.
They had not had a fish on.
We only had three fishing days. A big storm came in,
waves on the beach to about five feet. Very pretty to
watch, and I spent about an hour tromping up the beach
in it. I just wanted to get out in the weather. The
sand bottom in this region, and I believe most of the
Bahamas is very fine, so when winds and waves stir it
up, it's impossible to see anything. It took a couple
of days to clear.
We lazed around, took a walking tour with Sharon Henfield
of the inland Blue Holes on 'Crown' land. She showed us
the trees and plants used for centuries by the locals
for everything, lots of birds and critters. There were many
variety of orchids and bracts. There is a
movement on South Andros to have this land declared a
State Park to preserve it - and considering there is a
sizable Yellow-crowned Night Heron rookery on one of the
Blue Holes, I'm amazed one the major preservation groups
hasn't jumped on this.
There are many protected trees on this land as well.
Sharon does an outstanding job of connecting the native
materials with their uses and history of the region.
I would recommend anyone taking this tour, about and
hour and a half, plan to do so early in the day as it
is very warm by noon. Wear sturdy shoes,
the trail is over rock and uneven footing. The views of
the Blue Holes are magnificent, and one even has a ladder
so you could take a dip! Everyone in the Bahamas is
a swimmer, so this is a popular local place.
One of the highlights from this trip was seeing the
changes daily at the resort. Amazing progress.
The gentlemen doing the work, the main three, Anders, Jacob
and Eric are all from Denmark. A crew of local men filled
out a crew of a dozen or so. Anders Bønløkke, the General
Contractor was kind enough to let me use his laptop
(connected to a satellite uplink right on the
property) to access the Bulletin Board and Chat Room.
It was interesting using it, until then I had no idea
keyboards aren't universal.
While we were there the pool was completed as was the
new outdoor Jacuzzi. The Manager of the resort,
Brendan, JC and I took the inaugural swims and soaks
in them. Wonderful teak tables and chairs for the
outdoor patio appeared - and we had a candlelight
dinner on the first one. The new bar poolside was
almost completed when we left, as were the remaining
walks around the Lodge rooms. The painting crew was
working on the rooms, and the set-up of the system
allowing guests to access the satellite uplink
remotely was in progress. Just think, you can go
bonefishing and check your email wirelessly at poolside
when you return. Not bad. Hmm, it also means I could
actually put up an issue of FAOL from down there.
This week Brendan will be interviewing for a chef and
food and beverage manager. I fully expect the food to
be of a quality matching anything the big name hotels
in Nassau offer; or better.
It was a great trip. We caught fish, meet some terrific
folks, hopefully made some friends, and set the
groundwork for a possible "Bonefish Fish-In" in the
future. Brendan was a wonderful host. My sunburn is
about gone, and most everything has been cleaned and
put away for the next trip. Well, there is the laundry.
But for right now, I think I'll just remember lying in
the hammock. ~ The LadyFisher
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