Chasing Bonefish in the Bahamas

07/12/2017

The Bahamas is a bucket-list destination for avid anglers looking to add to their resume of fishing adventures. A trip like this is usually only a dream. Finally, it was time to get some plans and people together to turn it into a reality.

This trip seemed to have begun long before it even started, as we had been planning for over a year to head down to the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas as a group in pursuit of bonefish and tarpon. After a hundred phone calls and texts, coordinating schedules, and loading up on gear, we were almost ready to make the journey. One of our compadres scored us a place to stay on Abaco at the last minute, which was the final piece falling into place for getting this trip set in stone. After hearing rumors of potentially tough fishing conditions, shady transportation and overpriced meals, we were excited and anxious to see how seven dudes would survive in an unfamiliar foreign country with few priorities aside from fishing 24/7. The time finally came when we could all make the trip, so we loaded up on fly tackle, sunscreen and our Fish Hippie Solarhaze Performance gear and hopped on a southbound plane. It was finally go time.

Summertime in the Bahamas is typically characterized by warm weather and glassy, calm seas, which make it heaven for a sight fisherman. The vast flats are home to hundreds of bonefish, tarpon and many other prized light-tackle species. Unfortunately, on this trip, we were dealt the card of 20 mph winds that made sight fishing the bonefish flats next to impossible. We soon realized we would have to get creative with our fishing in order to be successful. With the heavy winds, we decided to try our luck at spearfishing so we could provide a few meals for ourselves and stay away from another expensive dinner tab.

We speared a bunch of fish, but as the number of fish we caught grew, so did the very real possibility of encountering sharks. After a few shark sightings, we had seen just about enough. Once we had caught enough fish to keep us fed, we decided to call it a day.

Even though we were fortunate enough to take a variety of fish spearing, we needed to get our fly-fishing fix as well. The Bahamas is home to the third-largest barrier reef in the world, and the abundance of life surrounding the mangroves, canals and reefs allows for ample opportunity to take fish like grouper, snapper and hogfish. With such a large party of seven guys, fishing the same system of flats in 20 mph winds wasn’t going to work. We decided our best course of action would be to split up, so we sent half the guys on paddleboards to fish the world-famous Marls of Abaco and the rest to wade some ocean side flats in search of big bonefish.

The wind, being our biggest opposition, made it difficult to cast to bonefish on a paddleboard, and we had only limited success. Fortunately, the oceanside flats are home to many species of fish, including sharks, mutton snapper, barracuda and, of course, bonefish. The one downside to fishing for the oceanside giants is that they didn’t get big being dumb. After casting to a few really big, happy fish and being denied time and time again, we had to change it up a bit.

We decided to salvage whatever willpower we had left for fly-fishing and started targeting the numerous lemon sharks that frequent the flats. Sharks are an extremely underrated fish to target on fly while wading the flats, as they pull hard, occasionally jump, and provide a little extra adrenaline rush given that they could take off a hand if they wanted to. As luck would have it, we caught plenty of sharks for fun, and we managed to catch a few big bonefish while we were at it!

After seven days of endless wind, we were finally given a day of calm seas. We were not going to let this day go to waste, so two of us decided to stay behind and book a day at Abaco Lodge, one of the finest fly-fishing lodges around the world. As we rolled up to the lodge, our decision to stay behind felt right — the water was absolutely glassy, and we knew we were in for an amazing day. After about an hour-long run to an outer island where we’d heard rumors of double-digit bones and tarpon, we hopped up on the bow of the boat in search of the elusive Bahamian tarpon.

Our new Fish Hippie Performance shirts didn’t skip a beat in the brutal sun, and we were all able to stay cool in the sweltering heat. As we poled around for a few hours, we were lucky enough to come across a few tarpon, but were unable to capitalize on them. The rest of the day ended up being very similar to the rest of our trip, with very few fish being seen, and the fish we did see spooking long before we could get a cast off. Even without fish, long days like these on the water are always better than days at work, and although the fishing was slow, we still had a great time.

We headed to the Bahamas in search of world-class light-tackle fly angling, but what we didn’t realize was the amount of incredible memories we would make on and off the water. These kinds of trips will test an angler’s skill set and gear at every turn, and the Fish Hippie Performance products that we lived in didn’t miss a beat. From walking the flats in scorching heat to heading back to the dock and out to dinner, we had all the bases covered with the new Performance gear. The Bahamas trip may be checked off our bucket list, but we’re pretty set on it becoming an annual event. We will definitely be back next year!