Posts Tagged ‘wading’

Religious Experience vs Purpose in Life

October 23, 2013

Religious Experience vs Purpose in Life

by Chip Bates

In his fascinating article in the November/December issue of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters entitled, “Thinking Outside the Boat”, Editor John Frazier refers to his wading experiences at Grey’s Point Bonefish Bonefish Inn, Acklins Island, Bahamas, as a “religious experience”.

I’m an extremist member of that congregation.

I’m celebrating a half century of fly fishing this year. I’ve seen my passion for the sport get more and more focused over the years. In the 70’s, I caught my first bonefish on a fly in the Bahamas. In the 80’s, I added tarpon and permit (Belize, Mexico, Bahamas, Los Roques and Florida Keys). In the early 90’s, I chalked up my first double digit bone (Andros). In the late 90’s, I gravitated toward wading, mostly to enable my partner and me to fish at the same time, one in the boat, one on foot. That was also the decade I fished the Seychelles for the first time. Wow!

All-day-walking miles of gorgeous flats, searching for underwater movement of any kind, keeping sharks at bay when bones were in sight, mixing it up with milkfish, trevally and permit. It was way too much fun to call exercise.

By the year 2000, I had blinders on. I’d become a wading junkie, transfixed by catching big bonefish on foot in water so shallow, the fish couldn’t hide it’s own body parts!

Bonefish-tailing-on-the-Flats

Knowing where to find them, what tide, time of day, how to approach and catch these hyper sensitive, actively feeding fish, became my “purpose in life”!

Being in the right place at the right time, then having it confirmed by the sudden appearance of an enormous tail, creates an explosion of urgency, nervousness, opportunity and energy …. An adrenalin rush beyond compare. You get pretty good at judging the size of the fish by the thickness and width of the fork in his tail. Think jaws of life, not pruning shears!

Chip’s progression:
Sightfishing
Fishing for bonefish
Fly fishing for bonefish
Fly fishing for big bonefish
Fly fishing for big tailing bonefish
Fly fishing for big tailing bonefish while wading!
 
That's a big tail!

That’s a big tail!

Back to Fly Fishing in Salt Waters Editor, John Frazier.  John fished 3 days at one of the premier wading destinations in the Bahamas, Grey’s Point Bonefish Inn on Acklins Island, with Angler Adventure’s fishing “pro”, Doug Schlink. Three days was hardly enough, but John adapted quickly, caught lots of fish to 6 pounds and got a shot at a 10 + pound fish in 6 inches of water! I’ll give John a few years to ratchet up “religious experience” to “purpose in life”.  For a great read, by a talented writer, fisherman and photographer, check out this link to the:

  “Ultimate Wade Fishing Special” in the November/December 2013 issue.

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Preparing for Your Bonefishing Trip: Wading

October 14, 2013

Protect Your Feet with a good pair of wading shoes or boots designed for flats fishing, a few pairs of wet wading socks, and don’t forget to break in your shoes.  Wading shoes and socks will help to keep sand out and reduce blister forming friction, as well as giving support for a day of wading.  But, if the first time you put on your wading shoes in the Bahamas, it’ll be a long week.  Break in your shoes by wearing them around the house for an hour or two a couple times per week.  It’s much better than blisters or sore arches.  Do Not wear last years sneakers with cotton socks or open sandals – your feet will thank you.

 Click here for more information on wading shoes

Find a Comfortable lumbar pack or chest/sling pack.  Bigger is not always better.  The pack should have the essentials (flies, leader and tippet material, nippers, hook file, pliers / hemostats, light rain jacket, camera, water bottle, and maybe your lunch / snack) but not packed full so it disturbs your casting.

Wading is Exercise and it can be a lot of work, especially at a destination like Grey’s Point Inn, South Caicos or the Seychelles where there are extensive flats and you might wade all day.  Some flats are firm and easy to wade, while others can be slightly soft or have uneven bottoms, which make walking more difficult.  To be sure you’re physically prepared for long wading sessions, schedule long walks or hikes months before your trip.  It’s also a great way to find some more remote areas on your local waters, so don’t forget your rod and a box flies!

A Little Practice Casting can make the difference between getting your fly to that 9-pound bonefish, or watching it leave a rooster tail as it runs for deeper water.  The majority of shots at bonefish while wading happen between 40’ – 60’, so accuracy and versatility are more important than speed and distance (but the later can also be helpful).  The best practice casting is to targets in that 40’ – 60’ range, from different angles (click here to see a diagram of the casting clock).  Be sure that you’re not just casting with the wind at your back – knowing how to handle wind blowing in your face or from your right / left will make getting your fly in the right place much easier.  Don’t forget to practice your casting while wearing your pack!

Want more tips on flats fishing; check our “What to Bring” list by clicking here.

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Go Small. Go Light. Go Weedless.

October 11, 2013

Bonefish on Grass Flats

Go Small.  Go Light.  Go Weedless.

by Chip Bates

You can encounter tailing fish on any fertile bottom, but weedy bottoms hold the most prey, therefore the most fish. Big fish seem more comfortable feeding in the shallows over a dark bottom.  Click here for tips on Shallow Water, Tailing Fish.

The end of the outgoing and beginning of the incoming brings the skinniest water that’s when you’ll find fish tailing over the weeds. To catch them, you’ll need a fly that doesn’t “plop” when it hits the water: go small.

A tailing fish is focused on a small area.  Frequently he’ll create a cloud of sand or mud where he’s feeding. You must put the fly in the area where’s he’s rooting, a matter of inches from his nose. You must throw a fly that doesn’t spook him when it lands: go light.

Once the fly lands in front of the fish, let it sink, then give it the tiniest of strips: go weedless.

Without a weed guard, your fly will invariably snag on grass and stripping a fly that’s hooked on a weed is like drag on a dry fly.  Click Here for Tips on Tailing Fish over Weedy Bottoms.

There are loads of excellent flies for bonefishing in skinny water, but our number one fly is the Bunny Bone when we need to go small, light or weedless.  Having a variety of Bunny Bones in your fly box is a necessity, especially when wading for bonefish.  Tan or brown (tied with tan or pink thread) rabbit fur tail with a little gold Mylar and mono eyes are top producing colors.  It’s also a great fly in slightly deeper water with small or medium bead chain eyes, instead of mono.  Try adding crazy legs and don’t forget the weed guard!  Click here for more information on tying bonefish flies, including the Bunny Bone.

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Update on South Andros

May 10, 2013

Most anglers identify South Andros as a huge expanse of wadable flats around the southern and southwestern tip of the island:  Flats filled with large schools of uneducated bonefish in the 2-4 pound range eager to eat flies.  Anyone interested in seeing larger fish in singles and doubles would gravitate the North Bight of Andros, the West Side of Andros, or the North Shore of Grand Bahama.  Think again!

Over the last few years, more and more clients fishing Bair’s Lodge, Andros South, Pleasant Bay or Mars Bay are catching big bonefish.  The 7 – 10 pounders are being landed every month.  Mars Bay has kept a record of the bonefish caught this season, here are some highlights.

1)      The numbers of fish being caught over the spring and neap tides are virtually identical, but the “moon” tides are producing bigger fish.

2)      Anglers are landing good numbers of fish in the 27” – 31” range in each month.

3)      The largest bonefish landed was an astounding 36”.

To put some of this into perspective, and provide information on how to estimate the weight of your Atlantic bonefish, please refer to the table below, which has been excerpted from page 20 of Randall Kaufmann’s Bonefishing!.

Size (in)

Weight (lbs)

Size (in)

Weight (lbs)

18″

3.5

28″

8.6

19″

3.8

29″

9.6

20″

4.1

30″

10.8

21″

4.6

31″

11.9

22″

5.1

32″

13

23″

5.5

33″

14.4

24″

6

34″

15.6

25″

6.5

35″

16.8

26″

7.2

36″

18

27″

7.7

37″

19.2

This method of estimating weight is not as accurate as [girth2 x length / 800], however it does highlight the massive size of a 36” bonefish!  For those of us with ruler marks on our rods, it also provides an easy way to estimate the weight of our bonefish and minimize the amount of time spent handling the bonefish (click here for best practices for on handling and releasing bonefish).

Go ahead and speculate why there are so many more big bonefish being caught on the South Andros flats.  It could be cyclical, climate change, guides getting better at finding bigger fish, or better anglers doing the fishing.  With anglers landing plenty of fish in the 7.7 to 11.9 pound range, our conclusion is that this might be the best time to fish South Andros.

Seychelles Best Flats Fishing – Farquhar Atoll

August 17, 2012

The Seychelles became a bucket list destination because it’s a beautiful, remote destination with fantastic wading for bonefish on hard sand & coral flats and a variety of other species both on and off the flats that added depth to the fishery.  Recently, a new fishing operation has opened on Farquhar Atoll, which has taken those credentials to the next level.  

Beautiful and remote? Farquhar is called the “Jewel of the Seychelles” and considered to be the most beautiful island in the archipelago and also the southern most atoll (2 hour flight from Mahe).  The staff and guests are the only people on the atoll, living in the islands only accommodations.  Check.

Fantastic Bonefishing? The fishing is 100% wading.  The average schooling bonefish is 4 – 6 pounds and there will be quite a few bonefish in the 6 – 8 pound range.  Most anglers end up leaving the schools to find fish in single and doubles for a bit more of a challenge.  Check.

Variety of Species?  In addition to Bonefish, there are the normal fish you’d expect to see on a flat in the Seychelles: Shark, Barracuda, Snapper, Triggerfish, Trevally (including Giant Trevally), Milkfish, Napoleon Wrasse and Indo-Pacific Permit.  The guides on Farquhar have also figured out how to catch Humphead Parrotfish, which were previously though to be uncatchable on the fly and become experts at targeting GT’s (Giant Trevally).  You can also fish deeper water for Sailfish, several Grouper species, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Job fish, and more.  A client of our landed 18 different species on the fly…all with a floating line!    Check.

This is truly one of the special fishing destinations in world, and the reservations book shows it – the first availability is for late-October 2013.  If you’re interested in fishing Farquhar, we suggest getting started now.  Like Farquhar, but more interested in Bonefishing?  Check out Farquhar’s sister operation St. Brandon’s Atoll, which has better bonefishing with less variety

Farquhar Bonefish

Bonefish!

Turneffe Flats Resort – A Tarpon Story

May 5, 2011

The following recap of Angler Adventures owner Chip Bates’ trip to Turneffe Flats Resort appeared as a newsletter in September 2010Kevin Sheehan’s recent report got us excited about the summer tarpon fishing on Turneffe Atoll as the numbers of large, migratory tarpon rapidly increase over the next few months.  Enjoy!

 My son Tyler wanted to catch a big Tarpon on a fly and I wanted to wade flats for Bonefish and Permit in case the Tarpon weren’t “on”. We had a week in August between Tyler’s summer job and school.

The Turneffe Islands have a migratory population of big Tarpon that usually arrive in May and remain through most of October. Bonefish and Permit are year round. On paper, it appeared that that Turneffe Flats Resort had what we were looking for. In reality, it was better than expected.

First, it’s great bonding to travel with your son. Because of his work and college schedule, we hadn’t done this since high school. Secondly, Tyler and I love the fishing lodge schedule: up early, eat, fish, eat, and to bed early. Well, that’s where we differ…at least I was in bed early.

We were assigned Dubs as our guide. Dubs is an upbeat, happy guy who takes his fishing seriously. The only disappointment of the trip was that neither of us landed a Permit. Not for lack of trying. We had multiple, if not dozens, of shots daily. We’ll save the Permit for another trip.

Nice Bonefish from Turneffe Flats Lodge

Chip's 8 lb Belize Bonefish

We warmed up on Bonefish and caught plenty. Turneffe Flats has some of the best wading anywhere, but we also poled some deeper flats for larger fish and caught bones up to 8 lbs. To me this was a delightful way to fill in the gaps between Tarpon and Permit.

One afternoon about 3:00 PM, Dubs suggested the tide was good for Tarpon. We motored back to a large creek, adjacent to the lodge, that connects the ocean to the lagoon. This creek is too deep to pole, but it’s crystal clear. As we approached the creek, Tyler spotted something break the surface at a distance.

We stopped and looked but could confirm nothing. We continued towards Dubs’ favorite Tarpon spot. Dubs dropped anchor and asked Tyler to cast his intermediate line perpendicular to the current, let the fly sink, then swing in the current on the retrieve. While Tyler was straightening his line, Dubs saw activity in the area we’d just come from. Next we saw two 100 lb Tarpon come completely airborne like dolphins at Sea World. Holy #$*@!, we all said in unison. Up came the anchor and we got our butts to that spot in a hurry. For the next 45 minutes it was mayhem. Big Tarpon everywhere around the boat, under the boat, airborne on both sides of the boat, all chasing big needlefish and ballyhoo. It was one of the most incredible sights I’ve seen in lifelong fishing career. 

Bottom line: Tyler jumped 4 tarpon from 80 – 120 lbs. Every fish eventually threw the fly. The frenzy petered out just before dark. Time for dinner. Dubs said the tide would be good again in the morning. He wanted to be on water before sunrise.

Gorgeous 80 lb Turneffe Atoll Tarpon

Tyler, Dubs and a nice Tarpon

We got to Dubs’ favorite spot in the pre-dawn light. It was beautifully quiet and calm, except for the tide. Tyler straightened his line, ready to cast the black and purple Puglisi Tarpon Streamer tied on a circle hook, the same fly the 4 tarpon ate the day before. It wasn’t long before we saw Tarpon roll in the current left of the boat. One cast and Tyler was dancing with a tail walking Tarpon that again spit the fly.

Not being a fan of circle hooks, I suggested to Dubs that we change the fly. We selected the exact same pattern tied on an Owner Aki traditional bend hook. Tarpon remained active around the boat and it wasn’t long before Ty connected again. This time the fly held through the first jump, the second and third jumps. 30 minutes later we landed this gorgeous fish, estimated at 80 lbs.

The Tarpon had stopped rolling. We were back in time for breakfast, ready to sight fish for bones and permit the rest of the day.


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