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
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
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
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
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
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
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.