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Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

Mars Bay, The Second Time Around, Part 2

Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

The day came and went with fish caught by all and Peck catching a Barracuda with the super fly (reconfigured) but the anticipation of Ron's declared "liquored tarpon" night hung heavy in the flats. We met on the porch, ate dinner and got fired up for the long anticipated event. The ride down in the back of the truck with Ron and Todd, already at full volume from some early sipping, took about five minutes. Nothing is very far on this south end. The bar was called "Cathy's" and Cathy was in full flower with the bar full to the brim with locals and expats. There were two rooms to the place and the floor was swept sand. Todd took over the corner of the bar and started in on the orders for rum. "A rum" was a half pint and coke, no matter what you asked for with it.

I went to the bridge right off and Ron and Bill emerged about the time the first tarpon showed up behind the pilings on the north end. Bill got down beside the far side and started tossing plugs. It took only a couple of casts to have a big horse-eye jack in the bucket, about five pounds. Ron went down to toss the spinning rig as I tried to figure out a way to get a fly on the fish I could see. When they switched to the other side of the bridge the neighborhood dogs stole the big jack. Finally, Bill hooked a big (60 pound?) tarpon and got one jump out of it. That was enough to complete that part of the special night for Ron and he went back to the bar to help Todd who was now dancing on the bar and playing with the band. Bill got more fish to replace the one the dogs were fighting over in the bushes.

While Ron picked up the "saw" to accompany Todd on the marimbas and the night progressed, Peck and I dropped out and got Bill to take us back to the shack. Bill rejoined the band singers and it took until 0130 to get them out of the bar. It seemed they needed all that time to learn the words to the number one song on the island, "Catch the Crab Boy." They were able to master it after only 147 times singing it. So quickly, because those were the only words sung over and over again for three minutes. Ron was still singing it all next day on the flat and for the rest of the trip. A note here about the band: there was not a band in a classic sense. If you did not count the pool cues thumping on heads, the saw and marimbas were the only things to accompany a boom box.

Breakfast came early for some of us. Todd pushed his bacon aside and pondered his eggs. When the guides came and said the tarpon trip was off due to bad tides, Todd went back to sleep. He said he had some contract to work on...yea mon! Ron got both of his eyes to turn forward and we went fishing.

I got the honor of fishing by myself with George this day. The weather had changed with a passing storm blasting the islands to our east 25 miles. While those islands were in 40-knot winds, we were in flat calm clear weather. The tide was high again and, with no wind, fishing tough. We poled through some of the most beautiful mangrove rivers and over crystal clear flats from 0800 until we sighted our first school at about 1100. George commented the fish 'must be on strike.' The first fish sighting was at 1107 and it was really tough fooling them. Slack tide and flat water forced me to 15-foot leader, 10-pound tippet and flies as small as #8 without eyes. Any sound on the water and the fish scattered. The tide started out and the fish came out of the mangroves in bundles of many hundreds. A breeze started up making it easier to fool them even if making the casting harder. It started with a few and worked up to big schools. I was tossing long casts again so the boat would not spook them and had problems getting the hooks to stay put. I had a half dozen fish in the next hour. We worked along deeper water looking for big fish but did not get into anything over five pounds.

George moved us out to some distant southern flat of pure white sand. To get to it we had to cross a reef, which was loaded with all sorts of animals in small pools. George started collecting tiger whelks, a big snail with a trap door, as he claimed they are really good to eat. I got some for our group and then tip toed onto the prettiest flat I have ever seen. Small schools of fish were working around the flat and with it that calm you could see the fish at a half mile. The calm water demanded really small flies again and long tosses to keep from being seen. I lost several more to the stretch in the line (my best excuse) and then got two more of the little beauties by waiting for closer shots. It is hard to wait when you see so many coming right at you for so long. One little shark took a liking to me and came full tilt from a hundred feet away right at my feet. I picked up my right foot and stepped right on his nose when he would not change direction. That put an end his run and he ran away like a scared puppy.

We walked back to the boat and picked more snails off the rocks before going to another grassy flat. This one is not fished much as the trade winds are always blowing waves across them. I got shots at barracuda that I was actually glad did not take it. My ten-weight rod was no match for a fish six feet long with the speed of bullet. I didn't have Peck's super fly and mine was probably too small. We gave up and blasted home in record time on the flat seas.

Todd was waiting serenely on the back porch with a glass of water in his hand. My ten fish did not make him feel much better and the other guys had done a few fish each. George was the fish finder for the day for the second day running.

It was a mighty quiet night for Ron. Peck only needed to clean a half dozen rods and a couple of reels this night and most of us were in bed early after deciding we would not have to leave early as the storm on the nearby islands was turning into a weak hurricane but not going to affect us much, that is if you call calm winds no effect.

What calm wind means to this island is six billion bugs per acre can fly out of the jungle and eat something. Most islanders do not have air-conditioning and they start fires (in stifling heat) of coconut husks to smoke out the flying vampire-like bugs. The "doctors" don't fly at night but mosquitoes do enough damage. "Doctors," for the new folks, are a deer fly like bloodsucker that finds you during the day by following CO2 trails. Once they find you they take a bite. It is not a subtle bite at all and you will have to kill them to keep them from biting. They don't leave the table until finished.

Bill announced, "nobody go outside until morning or we will be overrun in seconds." Peck probably did not hear this over the din of his line stripping and had left a rod on the porch. He marched over and opened the door. I was sitting on the couch and was covered by a black cloud that choked off the scene of Lance on the TV. He left the door slightly open while he went for his rod 20 feet away. Bill came running out of the back and slammed the door while he grabbed a can of spray and started to drop the bugs by the thousands. Peck reopened the door from the outside and started pulling his rod through only to let seventy million more bugs in with Bill getting a sore finger from the spray can. Bill's fine technique with the DDT saved the day and the doors stayed closed and locked after that. I slept in a body bag just in case.

Morning was a hoot. We planned our escape to the truck in a group, which made anybody late a little more noticeable. Bill had to go out and work with the boats and gas cans but had also worked over the outside with plenty of poison. I went out to get a picture of the sunrise and lost only a pint of blood. It was really not all that bad in the daylight with Bill making it safe for human travel. Once on the boat with smooth seas and engine caused wind, all was fine. Most fly guys pray for a no wind situation. Out here it is a multi-edged sword.

This fifth day found me with Ron in Wilford's boat. We had a ball and both got a half dozen fish on a day when we found many but caught only a few. We started in deep water along the mangroves and Ron got one and I two right off the bat. I thought we would end up with a big count with that start but the water kept rising and we had to move south to get to a spot earlier in the tide cycle.

There was little walking on this day but on one short walk I got a nice one out of the only school that passed. Wilford had moved around our walk and waited beside a mangrove forest. Up in front of us he started waving like mad for us to catch up. We ended up on the edge of a mangrove stand with about a trillion fish swimming less than twenty feet from us. It was the prettiest scene I have ever been allowed of this mirror like fish. To cast to them would only get you snagged, so watching was just the best thing to do. We both hooked up to fish during this episode when they were outside the edge and we thought they might run out instead of in, but both did the "back in and stitch your name" in the bushes thing. They finally tired of getting watched and wondered deeper in the mangroves as the water came up. The tide got really high and went slack for a long time wiping out most of the rest of the day. We poled along the edges of the mangroves listening to the fish thrashing around deep in there eating without the sharks to worry about. The sharks were out with us patrolling the edges waiting for the water to drop again.

The last walk of the day was along a big flat with no bonefish to be found. I saw many boxfish, a wood stork chasing fish with a flurry of jumps and hops while three oystercatchers walked down the flat beside me.

If you think you can get by without long pants on the flats, forget it. Ron took his off for this hour walk and the score was the "Doctor" five, Ron four. He had to kill all nine but five got him before he could get them. I would have hated walking this flat trailing blood like that.

Next was Saturday and our sixth fishing day of a five-day plan. We talked Bill into another day on the water and paid a full day fare for it even though we had to be back at about noon or noon thirty. The taxi left at one o'clock for a two o'clock departure.

So, George has Ron and me in the boat and only runs about three minutes and shuts down within sight of the lodge. Thinking back on the long rides to the south we just looked at each other then asked, "why do we suffer each day?" George explained that the tides, incoming as they were, made this a good bet for fish..."only today during this week." I was skeptical but when we sat there for a couple minutes I could already see the tails waving up in the corner of the mangroves. We forgot the discussion. We spread out and at 0715 and Ron had a fish on. The sun was over our shoulders, no wind and fish were everywhere. You did not need to see the bodies as fins and tails were sticking up like asparagus in a field. Ron hooked four and lost two in mere minutes. I started in and got five in a row after losing one to a poor hook set. As the sun rose with us just sitting there taking shots I once again had to pinch myself to see if it was a dream. In an hour we had about fifteen between us. The tide was screaming in and we were up to our knees as the fish left us for newly covered beds of food deeper past us. Ron had one particular fish in this series that he sighted as big one and stalked to a perfect cast. It took him into the backing several times and then he had a long close in fight before pulling a seven pounder out of the water. George went to help him only when he saw the size of the fish. Ron commented, 'that fish made the extra cost of the day worth it alone.'

We got in the boat and poled around the corner from our start point on an inside creek through the mangroves. All at once we were in a pool of fish all around the boat. Ron hooked up and jumped out to fight the fish. He landed that one and started on a big one tailing up beside the mangroves. He hooked that one which immediately wrapped itself around and around the mangrove he was hooked beside. Ron was working toward that fish and the tangled mess when I hooked up a big fish that ran the other way. I was standing in the boat with George and he had both of his anglers fighting fish in different directions. Mine took out about half of my 300 yards of backing before I could get him stopped. Ron was waist deep trying to unwrap his fish. I got mine back to boat and at the stern he just came unbuttoned and swam away. From the other side of boat came a scream and we looked over to see Ron backing away from the bush like a crab from a cooking pot. He was calling for the boat and fast. He just about had the fish in hand when a shark flashed in and bit the fish and shook it in half. A big ball of blood formed from the remaining half of fish and mud from Ron working his way out made for a scary situation. When he got in the boat and we could see, there was nose of a fish lying on the bottom. By the time we got over and picked it up, from the boat, there were three more sharks doing passes through the waning blood cloud to get the rest of their breakfast. We took a picture of the head and tossed it back. Four three-foot sharks were fighting over the head as we moved on.

The number of black tip sharks out hunting the fish along side you is just an indication of how good the fishing is. They don't want humans at all and are not too big so I find them more interesting than a threat. They often take your fish off the line for you. Barracuda are also abundant but don't seem to get too close. You feed these sometimes also. Both should be targeted to add to the fun on a trip like this. Either will end up on the table for dinner. Note that you have to be in a boat or on shore to fish for them, as the guides will not try to pick one up standing in the water.

Blood pressure down again, Ron got another fly on and again fish surrounded us. We had a double in seconds and then went on to have a triple. I got two while Ron was fighting his one. This worked for us for about 15 minutes and then most of the fish trailed off deeper into the mangroves. They were just waiting on the outside for it to get deep enough to get inside and eat the crabs made available only at the high tide.

The day was about over for us except for Ron getting a shot at the biggest bonefish I had ever seen. George thought it might be the biggest he has seen too. It could have been over 40 inches and looked like a 'cuda. It was just sitting there like a barracuda too. When Ron realized what he was looking at, the fish was starting to move away and the flurry of movement, which included a water slap of the fly, finished the moment. He never got the fly close. What a way to end the day!

I think we had 25 fish between us and we got back on time to shower and finish packing. The other guys had five or six fish between them. They did not find fish like we did even though they started within a quarter mile of us. George was the fish finder supreme once again.

The flight home was fine with the plane right on time. We were a tad late because Ena, the cab driver, had to gas up.

The gas stop consisted of us driving through her yard and up to washtub full of diesel fuel. Her husband came out and scooped the fuel with half a bleach bottle gave a hug and we were back on the road. BP could use some lessons on "full service."

This fantastic trip provided us a chance to break up our summer tarpon and redfishing season to chase the exotic bonefish. Our best count, (Peck documented everything) was 171 fish total. We had more last year but the tides were very different.

A couple of things we did that were contrary to printed word. Not all the flies should be on 2s and 4s. The need for smaller lighter flies can arise. If the wind goes down have your DEET and have it 100%. The belief that the fish are not there in the summer is flat wrong. There are no fishermen to see the fish. We had 300 square miles of flats to ourselves. Other than the flats fish, I think Bill will work up to billfish sooner or later. It is "warmer" in the summer but preparation works. Good shirts and pant and a fine hat combined with plenty of water works. Of course, the guys I fish with would rather fish than breathe.

Bill's touch is going into every aspect of this venue and his standards are very high as is his enthusiasm. We are going back if he will have us. That's him above.

"Let's get liquored up and catch tarpon Wednesday night," could just be a social even to be repeated.

For grins, the web page for Bill's Mars Bay Lodge is www.androsbonefish.com. ~ Scud

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