This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

December 1st, 2003

He Stood Upon The Bobbing Deck Casting Blindly, What the Heck

Our recent trip to South Andros had some wonderful times, and (well other than not fishing for 2 days because our bag was missing) some frustration which turned into an interesting opportunity to learn something else.

The next to last day was very windy, Uncle Don's guide, Herman Bain, is based on North Andros and the trip across the byte is about a mile. Herman, who is an excellent seaman, started across and turned back. None of us fished that day. We could have fished from the dock, but really, it just wasn't fly rod weather.

The next day was our last day to fish, we were leaving early the following morning. So even though we knew it wasn't going to be easy, the decision was to fish. The wind was still blowing, but down to about 35 mph, and we all thought if we stayed on the south side we wouldn't be in much danger, and might even see a fish.

Uncle Don had mentioned on another day he got frustrated and was just blind casting toward mangrove roots or any structure. He connected with a couple of mangrove snappers (good eating) and had fun with them. In fact, his guide even dug one out of a coral cave when it hid upon seeing a large barracuda.

Our guide, Gary Francis, did know of some inside channels where we could get out of the wind and where the bottom wasn't riled. We saw some VERY big bonefish but missed shots at them. Eventually we came out on the flat itself, and the bottom was riled so visibility was quite limited.

So my husband, JC, discussed our options with our guide Gary. When JC had the opportunity he was blind casting ahead of us. We had no idea of what might take the fly. I must say that was interesting in itself - the variety of fish there is a big difference from what we have available up here in cold water. In the many times we have been bonefishing, occasionally under poor conditions, no guide ever suggested standing on the deck and casting to see what the gods might offer. We were caught in a couple of squalls, got drenched (it was warm, we dried fast) and at one point it was rough enough that JC stood in the boat casting instead of on the deck.

We did catch a couple of bonefish that day, regardless of the poor conditions - and JC caught a barracuda, lost a mangrove snapper, and had a needlefish bite off his fly. Eventually we were both just tired out and told our guide to head for the dock. Not a perfect ending, but we didn't get skunked either.

In an email, Capt. Scud Yates mentioned he hadn't heard enough about the actual fishing on this trip, and that for him, bonefish and tarpon were as close to pure sex as fishing ever gets.

I've only caught one tarpon, and that was many years ago. The parts I remember was the take and the initial run. I had never seen anything like it and was in absolute awe. I also remember the rod was far too soft to efficiently land the fish, it was about 60 pounds, and my ex-husband ended up bringing it in. There is a difference between dry fly fishing and fishing for saltwater fish - but some of the sameness certainly is in the take - and casting to a fish you can see. However, I have to say the speed of bonefish still amazes me. One of our friends who has fished steelhead and bonz made the comment, "Tied tail to tail, a bonefish will strip the scales off a steelhead in nothing flat!" I believe that.

Is fishing in the Carribean a romantic dream? For many I'm sure - and there is certainly something to be said about big fish in warm water who suck up your fly and take off for parts unknown.

I'll close this with JC's big fish story.

We're drifting across a shallow flat, wind at our backs, about 30 mph, and JC has been blind casting ahead of us. Long casts with the wind sailing the fly line zinging it out. The guide says, "Big Bonefish! Twelve o'clock!" We see it! It has JC's fly in it's mouth!

It's swimming toward us...we're drifting toward it. (Oh yes, he had three buddies with him, about the same size, 14 pound range.) JC is stripping line as fast as he can...nothing happens. He keeps stripping. The fish keeps swimming toward us. It's dragging the fly line behind it. Strip some more. Finally, JC puts the reel under his arm pit and is stripping with both hands!

The fish swims directly up to the boat, spits out the fly and continued on his way. JC never had control of the line to set the hook. So the big fish story is just that, a story.

We've talked about it several times since we've come back - and there doesn't seem to have been any fix for the situation. I remember asking old David Pinter at Deep Water Key, what to do when a bonefish swam directly at me instead of taking off in another direction. He looked at me, and just laughed.

We may laugh later. ~ The LadyFisher

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