GUEST FLY FISHING ARTICLES
This article was written by Jim Dean. He has traveled to many of the Bahama Islands and others. We will be posting a series of articles written by Jim. If you would like to summit an article about an adventure or fishing trip or even about actual fishing, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
CAT ISLAND , BAHAMAS APRIL 2002
We left Casper on April 11, 2001 to go Bonefishing in the Bahamas ; I had been invited to go on this trip by Dee and Jay Smith, they had asked me to go on another occasion and I had a great time so I readily accepted. The Smiths like to go to a different island each time they make a trip and they had mentioned Cat Island . I suggested we get on our respective computers and look for resorts on this island listed on the web sites, since there are only 4 different lodges listed our choices were narrowed down and we agreed that Greenwood Beach Resort looked the best for our needs. They also had the most interesting and well-done site.
Our itinerary took us from Casper to Salt Lake City where we changed planes and then went from Salt Lake City to Atlanta , where we again changed planes and then went from Atlanta to Miami . After an overnight stay in Miami we went to Nassau where we were to make a connecting flight to Cat Island . When we departed Miami our flight on Bahamas Air was delayed so we missed our connecting flight in Nassau . I checked on the possibility of a charter flight and after checking two places we were able to arrange a flight that would cost us about the same amount as our regular flight plus getting a refund on our missed flight. An interesting thing that happened while we were waiting for our new flight was that I saw a familiar Bahamian face in the crowd and walked over to this guy and said “Hi Rupert”. Here was a guide from Acklins Island that I had met two years back on my first trip to the Bahamas ; he was very friendly and happy to see me but a little disappointed that we were not going to his island.
When we finally arrived at Cat Island we had landed at the airport at Arthur’s Town, which is on the northern end of the island. We now had a 1 ½ hour cab ride to take us to the southern end of the island which is where our lodge was located. As we were driving down the road I asked our friendly cab driver if we had gone by Sydney Poitiers house, as I knew he had been born on this island. The driver laughed and said yes we had already gone by the town where Sydney lived and that one of his daughters had ridden in on the same plane we came in on. Our driver, whose name was Danny King was from Arthur’s Town, was very informative and pointed out several places that would be good spots for Bonefish. He also pointed out damaged areas from last season’s hurricanes, these included roadbeds as well as many houses. I asked him if he would stop at a liquor store so I could purchase a case of Kalik beer before we arrived at Greenwood, I have been doing this on my trips as I find it saves money. I need to mention here that our original itinerary would have had us landing at New Bight which is on the southern end of the island and much closer to our final destination. As a consequence of our longer cab ride the bill was $80.00 instead of $20.00 so be aware. New Bight is also a Customs and Immigration International Port of Entry so you could come straight in from the United States on a charter. Greenwoods web-site has a “How to get here” section and it shows several options as far as flights available and even mentions taking the mail boat for those who have the time. The mail boat (normally) leaves from Nassau to Cat Island on Tuesday but this schedule is somewhat tenuous and takes about 14 hours. Here is Greenwoods address, which will contain all the information anyone will need to get there, www.greenwoodbeachresort.net. I think you will find this a very interesting site to visit even if you are not contemplating a visit.
When we arrived at Greenwood , Dean Sporleder who was the manager and Waldemar and Anna Illing who were the owners greeted us. Dean, who was from Chicago had retired from a high-pressure job and had found his own personal paradise on the island. Waldemar and Anna were from Germany and had also owned property in Canada . They had turned over the operation to their eldest son Chris who was very personable and talked like Arnold Schwartzenegger.You can approximate the location of Greenwood on the map by looking east of Great Lake . I apologize for the map quality, as the fine print may not be easy to read.
Saturday 13th…I spent the first full day walking the beach, I went about 3 1/2 miles south and walked around a cove called Little Winding Bay. Waldemar had told me that he had seen Bonefish in this spot but I didn’t spot any nor did I see any Mangroves along the shoreline, which would be attractive to Bonefish. I really got my exercise in that day as I had already walked about 3 miles fishing in the morning. The fishing was unproductive but I wanted to explore without using a guide and did find some interesting spots. Greenwood is set-up primarily as a SCUBA diving location and they readily admit that they are not that knowledgeable about Bonefishing but would be happy to arrange for guides. Jay and I had fished enough that we wanted to try our luck without using the services of a guide. Dean seemed very interested in our fishing and asked if he might go along with me one day when he had some extra time. I readily agreed, as he had been very accommodating in providing me with transportation to a fishing spot on my first day out.
Church was interesting but long; the cook was really helping the preacher by shouting responses from the audience, lot of “Amen’s” and “Praise the Lords” I did enjoy the singing, the little gal from the kitchen crew got up in front of the congregation and sang acapella and did a great job.
After church we put on our fishing clothes and Jay and I fished a large circular flat, this was ideal Bonefish habitat and was great for wading. When you fish for Bonefish in the flats you do a lot of wading and looking, watching for any kind of movement or disturbance in the water. I spotted a fish cruising by itself and threw a long cast his way, he followed and followed and finally took the fly right out in front of me and I realized I had hooked a Boxfish. Jay waded over and took a picture of the fish before I released it but the picture didn’t turn out well enough to include in this story. We saw some large Bonefish cruising around but couldn’t get within casting range and gave up and went back to the lodge in the vehicle that they had let us use.
Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th…I fished by myself the next couple of days; Dean did ride over with me one morning and fished with me for a little while. He is still learning how to cast a fly rod and we didn’t do any serious fishing while he was with me. I had a real interesting experience the next day while I was fishing by myself. I had waded along the main creek channel looking for fish and was not having any luck so I decided to cut across some land to go over to the large circular flat that Jay and I had fished two days before. While cutting across a mud flat I noticed the tide had started to come in and there were some dark forms in the shallow water out in front of me. When your eyes get trained at spotting fish there is no mistake, I was looking at a school of fish that looked like large inverted exclamation marks in the water and they were facing and moving toward me, Fortunately I was far enough away that they couldn’t see me and I crouched down low and moved closer to get within fly casting range. I was looking at a school of Bonefish that contained over fifty individuals and they were feeding in very shallow water and moving further up into the mangroves and mud flats as the tide rose. Since I had no cover behind or in front of me I had to get down on my knees to avoid being seen as I made my casts. I was foolish to be trying to catch any of these fish as the “creek” was still filling from the rising tide and there was a large mangrove bush just to the right of the school. I knew that any fish I happened to hook would quickly get me fouled up in the mangroves as their initial run is so strong you can’t turn them with a fly rod. Since I hadn’t been able to “go to the salt” for over a year I needed a Bonefish fix real bad and continued in my futile pursuit. I did manage took hook two fish, one broke me off and the other managed to get rid of the fly after a short but exciting tussle. While I was still on my knees and continuing to try and get another hook-up from one of these fish I heard a splashing just off to my left side and about 10 feet in back of me. I carefully looked over my left shoulder and there was another school that had made their way back into another area that was filling up with the rising tide. These fish were in about 6 inches of water and were actively feeding but were so close I couldn’t cast to them without spooking the whole school. I spent some time just watching these fish and decided I needed to follow the water back to the main channel so I could see how these fish were getting into this area. I located the mouth of this little creek and decided to come back the next day before the tide stared rising enough to get into the “creek” and see if I could get in some casts in the main channel where I would have much better chance of fighting and landing fish. I did fish for a while in the main channel as it had some very blue and deeper water in some areas. While I was doing this I noticed a large dark shadow well downstream and moving upstream toward me. From past experience and the way the fish was hunting I knew I was looking at a good-sized Barracuda. This fish was well over three feet in length but I didn’t throw my fly at him, as he would have cut right through my leader.
Wednesday 17th…the previous evening at supper I told Jay about my experience and we decided to go back to this spot the following day and try to get an opportunity to throw a lure at the big “Cuda” with Jay’s spinning rod. We drove over with a vehicle loaned (at no charge) to us by the lodge and parked and prepared to walk in to my newfound spot. While we were setting up our fly rods a white flatbed truck drove up and stopped. I walked over to visit with the two Bahamian guys inside and they asked me if we had a guide. I told them that Jay was a guide from Wyoming as I thought they were just kidding around. They informed me that it was illegal to fish without a guide in the Bahamas . We told them that we had fished without guides before and had never heard that we needed one. I guess they were just trying to fool us into hiring them because just as soon as I told them we would go back to the lodge and get it straightened out they backed off and said go ahead and fish.
We proceeded over to the main channel and as we approached I noted the familiar large inverted exclamation points in a shallow part of the main channel, which was right by the mouth of the “creek” I had fished in the day before. There they were probably some of the same fish I had seen the day before, waiting for the tide to raise enough to refill the creek channel. Jay and I made some casts at this school and managed to get several hook-ups. Here is a picture with a Bonefish that Jay caught that morning.
While we were at the lodge Dean downloaded my pictures and this is one that he put on the web site. Just to the left of this picture is a large school of Bonefish . The area over Jays’ shoulder is a very large circular flat that had a lot of fish in it. I talked to a guy who said he caught and released an 8-pound fish there a few days earlier.
When returned to the lodge that afternoon I decided to relax in a hammock that was hanging between two palm trees. As I looked overhead I saw a potential hazard and went back to my room to get my camera to record this problem. If one of these coconuts decided to fall while the hammock was in use it could be fatal. It did make a great picture; I’m very pleased with my digital camera. This picture turned out so well If I look at just the picture I can actually visualize myself right back on Cat Island .
Thursday 18th…Jay and I fished in the morning and he caught one nice Bonefish and a small Barracuda. I hooked a Barracuda with Jay’s spinning rod and lost the fish. That afternoon Jay and Dee went beachcombing and I took Erik Tebbe-Simmendinger with me and showed him how I was fishing. He was a real nice German kid who had spent some time in the military and was on the island to do some diving, he was also very curious about our fishing methods. I saw two schools of Bonefish and pointed them out to Erik but we never could get close enough for me to cast to them.
Friday 19th…Jay, Dee and I rented a car at New Bight Car Rental and toured the lower part of the island. We went to Mt. Alvernia , Father Jerome’s Hermitage, the Hermitage, which was built by Father Jerome, sits on the highest point (hill), Mt. Comer in the Bahamas at 206 feet. Father Jerome spent a good part of his life working on this building, which looks like a miniature hermitage from Europe .
Saturday 20th…guests were coming and going at the lodge and we met an interesting couple from England , named Stu and Eunice. They were avid divers and also a couple of real characters. Stu had some kind of debilitating muscle disease and was gradually losing control of his muscles but still had a great sense of humor. Eunice told us that the universal signal for divers is thumbs up for ascending or thumbs down for descending. She laughingly told us Stu had enough paralysis in his hands that he could only use his middle finger. Eunice also related a story about diving on a nude beach… they had unknowingly parked next to a nude beach and had to walk by all the sunbathers on their way to the water. When they got into the ocean and were underwater the dive master was pointing up at the surface swimmers and laughing behind his mask. Eunice said she looked up and there were “willies” pointing every direction. Dee broke in at about this point and said, “What are ‘willies’”? And I said, “Think about it”, and at this point she turned red and broke out laughing. After the dive Stu and Eunice and the rest of their dive group made their way past the nude sunbathers and back up a trail to their vehicle. They were changing out of their swim suits using towels for modesty, when a couple of the nudists strolled by with towels draped over their arms.
I had become acquainted with the German lady named Dagmar who was a certified SCUBA diver and instructor and while conversing with her after supper one evening she told me that I should be looking at the fish and not trying to catch them. I told her that I had brought down some snorkel gear and could look at them this way. Dagmar told me that snorkeling was too hard and that SCUBA diving was a much better way to see more varieties of fish. I told her that I was a dry lander from Wyoming and that I was basically afraid of water and did not swim that well. She told me that to learn to SCUBA dive you did not have to swim very well and that she would give me a free lesson. I told her that I would have to think about it but she was very persuasive and very easy to look at so she convinced me to try.
Saturday afternoon was the most interesting; Dagmar had convinced me that I should learn about SCUBA diving. We spent time at the dive shop getting the equipment ready to practice in the swimming pool. She had to customize a weight belt and showed me the regulator/ mouthpiece and how it worked. There was also a spare to be used as a back up or shared with another diver in case they had run out of air. Another attachment had buttons to inflate or deflate a bladder, which was built inside the Buoyancy Compensator (vest). The fourth attachment had a gauge on it to show how much air reserve I had in my tank. These four items make up what is referred to as an Octopus. The experienced and professional divers also have a type of computer that they use; I remember Dagmar was disappointed that someone had made off with her personal gauge equipment.
We then went to the swimming pool for my first lesson. Dagmar showed me the proper way to put on my fins, mask and mouthpiece and I went under for the first time. She was very patient and a good teacher as I was breathing too fast and was clenching my teeth around the mouthpiece and this lets water into your mouth. After I got somewhat comfortable with my head underwater and breathing properly she told me that we would establish neutral buoyancy. After letting the air out of the bladder on my BC (vest) we sank to the bottom of the pool and lay there rising and falling with our breathing. Everything is slower underwater, as you breathe in you slowly start to rise off the bottom and as you breathe out you slowly sink back down. After practicing this for a few minutes we swam around the bottom of the pool, the sensation of floating or weightlessness is very strong.
Today instead of pursuing Bonefish I took a twenty-minute lesson in the pool. You are supposed to get about 4 hours in the pool before going to the open ocean but Dagmar told me she would be with me and I got the accelerated course. Here is a picture of the pool lesson; I have on a (BC) Buoyancy Compensator. The BC performs several functions including positive buoyancy on the surface, neutral buoyancy underwater, and a place to fasten your tanks and accessories. I also had on a wet suit, weight belt, air tank, facemask, octopus and fins. The octopus has a main regulator and a spare, a depth indicator/timer and an inflator for the bladder in the BC.
After my twenty-minute lesson in the pool we headed for the ocean and swam out underwater hand in hand along a reef, which was angled down into deeper water ahead of us. Dagmar would look over at me at give me the “OK” signal and the first time she did this I responded, “OK” back to her. We swam a little deeper and the second time she gave me the “OK” signal I responded with a (I am not sure) wave of my hand. We swam a little deeper and the third time she gave me the “OK” signal I responded with a walking motion with my fingers indicating that I wanted to get back on the beach. I could see her smile through her mask as she complied and we headed back towards dry land. As we returned to shallow water I stood up and my weight belt fell off. As I was fooling with this one of my fins came off in the surf and Dagmar had to find and retrieve it. I did notice during our dive that we were able to swim right up to fish and the bottom structure and coral were very beautiful. At one time during the dive I noticed Erik in the background playing with a small lobster. Following is a poem that I composed that afternoon after we returned to the lodge.
THE BAVARIAN LADY
I went to an island in the Bahamas named Cat,
We were looking for Bonefish in their habitat.
We fished for 4 days and did a lot of walking,
This is very relaxing, and you don’t do much talking.
The Bonefish were there but were very hard to find,
But all things considered, we didn’t really mind.
The scenery was magnificent and the people were grand,
The Bahamians truly have a very beautiful land.
I met a beautiful young lady, Dagmar by name,
Who told me Bone fishing was not a fair game.
She said, “SCUBA diving was the real way to see fish.
And she would not eat one, if it showed up on her dish.”
She convinced me to try diving in the ocean so blue,
She said, “Don’t be nervous, I’ll hold on to you.”
We practiced the basics in Greenwoods fine pool,
Then we went to the ocean, and I felt like a fool.
We put on our gear and went wading in the sand,
I had fond thoughts of Wyoming and good firm dry land.
Erik and Dagmar had to help me with my fins,
When it comes to dominance the ocean always wins.
With heads underwater, we swam out from the beach,
Dagmar was close by and always within reach.
We soared over the bottom and out towards a reef,
And I saw things that were truly beyond my belief.
We flew like two eagles, side by side, hand in hand.
I came to appreciate there is more to Earth than just land.
I met many wonderful people and had a great time fishing, touring and yes even SCUBA diving, thanks again Dagmar.