Think only the well-heeled can afford a Bahamas bonefish adventure? Think again. Here’s how to get in on the action with breaking the bank
It wasn’t a huge bonefish, at least by Bahamian standards, but it was a perfect specimen: solid and streamlined, with huge eyes, a deeply forked tail and glistening, mirror-like scales. Even better, this particular fish was the product of one of those rare and precious angling moments when everything goes just right.
It was my final afternoon of fishing the saltwater flats around North Andros, one of the Out Islands of the Bahamas, and the scene around me resembled a tropical tourism poster. Not that a poster could capture the feeling of clean salt air in your lungs, and the warm wind whipping your clothing as you stand on a small skiff, intently searching the water for signs of life.
When I first arrived in the Bahamas, there were the usual ups and downs you’d expect on a fishing trip, including some clunky moments as I worked out the kinks after a long layoff from saltwater fly fishing. But on this day, like the one before, I was in the groove. I even spotted the fish before our guide, Andros legend “Crazy” Joe Braynen, saw it. Of course, he’d been washing off his polarized sunglasses when it came into view, along with several other bonefish. But still.
After they emerged from behind a point with the incoming tide, the fish headed across the bow of our boat within easy casting range. I judged their speed and distance, and dropped my shrimp fly into the knee-deep water a few feet ahead of them. It had almost settled to the bottom when I made one short strip to imitate a fleeing crustacean, and the lead fish turned toward it. I let the fly sit for a few agonizing seconds, then the bonefish sucked it up. I set the hook, and the grey ghost of the flats sped across the bay, taking my entire fly line and 50 yards of backing in less than 10 seconds.
After a textbook-perfect fight involving several more vigorous runs, and much cranking of my single-action reel, I brought the fish to hand. Then my fishing partner, Chris Clackner, scooped up the camera and snapped a quick photo that captured everything magical about bonefishing—my delighted grin, raccoon eyes and peeling nose, the fly rod dropped on the deck, the mangrove shoreline and vibrant Caribbean sky and, of course, the shimmering fish itself (top of page).
One of the reasons I relish that photo is because it represents a moment—and a trip—I never thought possible. I always believed bonefishing in the Bahamas was financially out of reach for anglers such as me. And it is, if you go to the prominent lodges owned by, and catering to, wealthy Americans and Europeans. There are also locally owned lodges, however, including two on North Andros. They offer the same quality of fishing, but they’re much more affordable, provided you’re willing to carry your own luggage and fetch your own refreshments from the fridge. If that sounds like your kind of action, here are seven things you need to know about bonefishing in the Bahamas on a budget…