Thursday, August 3, 2017

R.I.P. Snake Guides Blog 2007-2017

I got back from the Bahamas last April and posted the adventure.  Some really good fishing trips ensued but I failed to post.  I thought I just needed a little time to collect my thoughts and eventually the trips would get written and the photos would hang here.  It's August now and I've spent some time over the past months thinking this all through.  10 years. It's been a good run.

I want to thank all of you who have posted comments, shared links on social media and (perhaps most importantly) told me that you've enjoyed the blog.  The fish will still be chased, flies tied, tents staked, boats rigged and friends will gather.  The stories will still be made, you'll just need to buy me a beer to hear them.

Thanks again all, for reading along.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Bahamas...Day 6

Bonefish, skiffs, tides, flies, conch fritters, sharks, rum, flats and more bonefish.  We've had a good run and today feels like a gravy day.  After yesterday, all that is left is taking a deep breath and soaking it all in until we can come again.

I am happy that was my attitude going into today because we got beat down.  Badly.

The sun was up and the light was good.  On the first flat I jumped out of the boat and climbed through the mangroves to get some shots of CA and Ezra working.  Back on board, I gave the bow a turn and came up blank.  CA had a few really good shots at some fish but they were not having it.  It seems they must have chowed down too much yesterday.  They'd track the fly and then turn away.  I had my best shot at a triple working through some sparse mangroves.  The lead fish sped up and tipped down and when I strip set I watched the fish turn and swim away.  Meanwhile I felt tension on the line and for the second time in two days found myself attached to a little fish the locals call a shad.  It ate before the bonefish could and the bone simply admitted defeat and swam away.

In the afternoon, the tide was high into the mangroves and we weren't seeing many fish.  CA spotted one that was creeping around at the edge of the mangroves and tried to get it to eat.  It simply moved 5 feet back into the roots and hung out, which makes for terrible fly fishing but decent photography.  I stood next to CA on the bow and rattled off 30 shots with my camera.

By late afternoon it was obvious what kind of day we were going to end up with.  On deck, Ezra pointed out a fish and I attempted to shoot the line and fly the necessary 50' but watched a gust of wind dismantle the cast mid-shoot.  The fly and line crumpled way short and way to the left.  The fish started moving and I sent another cast out, this time it unrolled but was still 12' to the left.  Ezra said, "leave it."  The water was deeper there and bottom was dark.  Ezra said, "Short strip."  The next moment the rod was bouncing and line was flying and it was one of the most disconnected eats I had ever played a part in.  I really had no idea what was going on.

We landed the only Bonefish of the day, tried one more flat and then beat feet back to the dock to pour a Kalik into our wounds.  Somebody said something about "that's why they call it fishing and not catching..."

With the warm sun slowly dropping it was Rum and Cokes and laughs and then some packing.  Dinner was delicious as always (Thanks Kay and Cil!)  Sidney laid out some logo'd shirts for CA and I to pick through and we each selected one.

I sat in a presentation a year or so ago, given by Jeff Currier (Google him if you don't know who he is) and he said something along the lines of this:  If you book a trip for 5 days, expect 1 great day, 1 terrible day and 3 days of something in between.  It seems that Mr. Currier was right.  Luckily there is more to a fishing trip than just catching fish.

Many thanks first and foremost to my family for letting me go on these adventures.  I will always return a better man.

A hearty thanks to CA for being the guy he is.  Fishes hard, is one of the most positive people on the earth and as authentic and equitable as they come.  Always a pleasure man.

Finally my sincere thanks to the gang at the lodge, Sidney, Ezra, Greg, Kay and Cil.  A home away from home, but with better bonefishing.

Until next time.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bahamas...Day 5

If day 4 is the day you hope doesn't repeat itself, then day 5 is the one of daydreams.  Day 5 is the one that defines the trip, skews reality and validates all the airline hassles, hours at the vice and fish that ignored your cast yesterday.

The morning broke with sunshine and only a few clouds.  The wind was still present but it was just a reminder to keep your loops tight...not the ominous bitch that makes those loops impossible.

The tide was just starting to come in when Ezra untied the skiff and turned the bow to the east and set out for my favorite water.   I start each day cleaning my polarized glasses to give me every edge while out searching fish.  Most days they are salt sprayed within 10 minutes of leaving the dock.  Today was no exception. 

No matter.  

We were heading to light bottom on a sunny day with an incoming tide.   After 30 minutes of running Ezra killed the engine and started poling.  The creek flat we were entering was bright and vast.

Ezra asked me to jump out and start wading as the skiff was still 200 yards off the mangroves and the water was too shallow to take it in any further.  I reached for my pack and my 8 wt and commenced hiking.  I had one shot at 3 fish moving fast but then came up blank for the remaining distance.   Meanwhile, Ezra had poled CA around a shallow point in the flat and motioned to me to make my way to them.

When I got there he explained that a few fish had already made it onto the flat and directed me to wade quickly up the mangrove edge until I either saw or spooked my first bonefish...and then he instructed me to slow down and keep my eyes open.

The water was just a little past ankle deep and it felt like I was going to spook everything with my splashing steps.  It was about 150 yards into my sloshing that I picked up a glint 200 feet away.  I stopped and stared and saw the unmistakable shimmer of a tailing bone.   It's during moments like these that I start talking to myself.   "I seeeee you...just keep eating.  I'll be right there."

I moved slower now, trying to set my feet down softly.  At 85' I began to false cast to judge the distance.  The fish turned and started feeding away from me.  Dropping the cast short, I stripped in line and continued my foot pursuit.  In the minutes that followed I put 8-10 casts in close but the fish never picked up the fly.  Finally in a stroke of luck, the bonefish turned and headed toward me.  Its tail and dorsal fin glinting and winking as it searched for shrimp and crabs in the shallow water, with its back partly exposed to the morning sun.  With the fish at 70' (and closing) I dropped the fly at 65' and waited...for just a second.  I took the slack out of the line and twitched the fly.  The bonefish lit up with it's tail wagging and shot forward.  Another twitch and it buried it's face in the bottom, a long slow strip to get the hook set...nothing.  Another short strip and the fish lit up again in chase.  We repeated this game of cat and mouse for twenty feet until, on the last long slow strip, the fly stuck and the fish erupted.  With the fish released, I looked around.  Ezra and CA were walking up the the far side of the narrowing flat and CA was casting.   There were fish here.

Another bonefish betrayed itself with a tail wag 200' away.  I started moving in but a cloud covered the sun and I lost the light to find it.  In seconds the sun poked back through and I got radar lock.  I stalked, cast and the second bonefish of the morning ate without hesitation.

Ezra motioned me back.  He explained the new plan.  He and CA would head back to the boat and pole around to the west where there was another bay to this flat.  He told me to keep walking in the direction I had been heading and follow the narrowing channel to the right.  He said the channel would widen and then pinch back down.  I would meet them on the bay on the other side where a mangrove creek connected all of this tidal water.

This was a great plan.  I like fishing on my own.   I like wading and spotting fish without help.  This is not to say that a great guide like Ezra isn't important.  Because they are... critical even.  Today, however, I was going to run the program solo.  The water was shallow, the sun was bright and the bottom was light.

They reached the boat and poled away, leaving me to my own devices.  Moving slow, I scanned and waded.  Around the right corner and into the widening that Ezra desribed, the water deepened to about 12" and the color of the bottom changed from yellow to light blue.  The bonefish were there, in groups of 2's and 3's and 12's and they were hungry.

It was to be the best day of bonefishing I have ever experienced.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bahamas...Day 4

Aaaah Day 4.
Every trip is likely to have a day like Day 4...Just hope you don't have more than one.

We woke at predawn and the wind was already clipping.  I couldn't tell if the lack of light was the hour or the cloud cover.  By launch time the sky was partly cloudy.  That would become "mostly" in a few hours.

We started fishing shortly after leaving the dock.  It seemed that all three guides knew that the day was going to erode quickly as they all cut engines and started poling a few minutes after departure.

We went some time before seeing a fish and I don't recall whether we got a shot at it and blew it or if the fish took off too quickly.  One thing was apparent, the tide was moving in fast and by mid morning the fish had full access to the mangroves.  A place we couldn't reach them.

CA got the skunk out of the boat at around 10 am.  I hooked another but it tore hell into the mangroves and popped me.

We took a break for lunch and poled around the lee of an island to get out of the wind.  By now the sky was gray, the wind was still bucking and we weren't seeing bonefish.

I reeled up and suggested a plan "B".  Kay, the nicest lady you'll ever meet and the head cook at the lodge loves to eat pan sized snapper.  Greg, CA and I held a brief council and decided that the day would be better spent trying to bring some fish back for Kay.

Greg knew a few spots and the snappers were happy to chow down on our flies.  By 4:00 we were headed back to the dock.

To the surprise of nobody, the other two boats were already moored when we arrived.  The story was the same from all.  No light, stiff wind, high tide, few fish.

CA and I grabbed a Kalik and our 8 wts and headed down the shore to the big dock to try and tempt some more snapper.  I got delayed sifting through some flotsam and by the time I caught up with him,  CA had landed a beauty of a gray snapper.  For my delay, I picked up a Cuban beer bottle from the 1940' or 50's to add to my Bahamian bottle collection.

Each clutching our own treasures we made our way back to the lodge.  Dinner wasn't quite ready so I headed up the hill behind the lodge with my camera to try and get some shots of the resident vultures.  It was worth the time.   There was a full flock of them and they had no discernible fear of me.

After dinner, I poured myself the last glass of Gray Goose vodka that Sidney had sent out to the island for me.  It was a "Thank You" gift for designing the lodge logo after my last visit here.  I emailed him the logo after that trip and wasn't sure if he'd gotten around to using it.  When Greg picked us up at the airport the first day, I was happy to see the logo embroidered on his shirt.
It's always great to see your designs getting used.

Not a great Bonefishing day, but a good day, nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bahamas...Day 3

Day three in pictoral format...

Sunrise...time to start getting serious

This little lizard opted to spend the night somewhere warm.

The customized push pole ends to keep things q u i e t....
I kept an eye out for bird life but there wasn't much on the flats...

This is exactly what I went to see...nothing like a shallow water bonefish!

CA cocked and loaded.

The drill was, when a fish was hooked, I grabbed my camera...

...If it was my fish, CA removed the hook and released so I could shoot.

snappers in the mangroves at one of our lunch spots

want to know why they are so damn fast?

Look at the water that tail moves!

Starting to settle down after a long run...or two.

Bonefish, post release, heading into my contrail.

Green gold and silver

The boys starting a shark frenzy after a day on the flats.