With some luck, twice in my life I have had the opportunity
to pursue Bonefish in the waters known as "The Jolters." The
second time was just this last February of 2002. Located on
the north end of Andros Island in the Bahamas, channels known
by the local guides allow passage of skiffs to flats that extend
for miles and miles. Hard white and tan bottoms allow wading
for feeding Bonefish that once hooked, can take a flyfisherman
into his backing before he can say his full name.
Like any day fishing, the weather can be as much of a challenge
as trying to hook a fish. With very few obstructions to block or
slow the wind, it is important be prepared for steady winds that
make accurate casting close to impossible. Yet, I learned that
your satisfaction can double when a Bonefish that was hooked
resulted from a forty or fifty foot cast into the wind. I have
been amazed when watching a Bahamian guide face and cast an
entire flyline directly into the wind. It is also obvious that
they take great pride in doing so. (So would I!)
My guide Herman Bain launched his boat as I assembled my nine-foot,
eight weight Italian flyrod (Gatti). Oh, it felt so good to be back
here again where I had enjoyed some of the best days ever on the
flats fishing for Bonefish. While the wind did not appear to be
blowing stronger than during my last trip, the air was definitely
much cooler. That caused me to don my rain jacket so it would
work as a windbreaker as we snaked through the channels to our
destination. While the flat toward which we headed was only five
or six miles from our launch, we must have covered twice that
distance. It reminded me of traveling at home. Since I live in
the mountains, it is almost impossible to go anywhere "as the crow
flies." Mountains or canyons require routes that often more than
double the distance from home to any destination. Likewise, Herman
made many turns in following channels until his engine slowed and
we came to a stop.
Anchoring the boat is important. Fishing the flats involves timing
with the tides. If the tide is going out, you don't want the boat
to be caught high and dry. Well, we were to fish on the falling
tide, so Herman anchored his boat for an easy exit later on. We
cleaned our polarized sunglasses and stepped off the boat. Ahead,
the sun was unobstructed and the bottom of the flat was lit like
a jewelry store showcase making it's treasures visible. It would
even be easy for me to spot Bonefish on a day like today.
"This is Heaven's Flat Uncle Don," Herman said with a big smile
on his face.
He told me that since my last trip fishing with him here, he now
refers to this place as Heaven's Flat. He reminded me how I had
enjoyed a remarkable day here catching several feisty Bonefish.
As we walked back to the boat toward the end of the day, I told
Herman that if there was Bonefishing in Heaven, the flat there
would look just like this one.
If there is a map of the Jolters you may see a few of the cays
named, but you will not see the name Heaven's Flat. If I were to
describe it to you, I'd tell you that from one end to the other,
you could make out the curvature of the earth. You would see
nervous water as schools of Bonefish moved from place to place.
What might look like a sailboat regatta, would actually be a
school of tailing Bonefish. And, if you see a laughing guide
named Herman and a short Montana fisherman, rod bent and reel
screaming, either you are on Heaven's flat in The Jolters off
Andros Island, or you have died and gone to Heaven. ~ Uncle Don