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Sportfishing

Magic Carpet Ride

Photographer Jeffery Salter and I were just finishing a superb dinner at Angler’s Restaurant in Marsh Harbor, smack dab in the middle of Abaco Beach Resort, when I hit our hosts with a little misguided humor. What the heck—you only go round once in life, right? Why not have a few laughs en route?

“Lemme ask you guys a question,” I said, directing an earnest gaze first toward Triska Wiethuchter, the resort’s guest-services manager, and then toward evening supervisor Nick Bates. “Is there some place around here we can buy a bonefish or two? Even frozen’ll do, worst-case scenario. For photography purposes?”

Wiethuchter and Bates sat silent for a moment, trying not to look horrified. For them, the entire point of the next two days was for me to catch oodles of bonefish in the wild, have Salter shoot oodles of photos of same, and by publishing a big, four-color PMY story, prove to the world that the Abacos in general—and Abaco Beach Resort in particular—is one helluva bonefish-on-fly destination. So hearing The Great White Bonefisher himself ask about snatching photo ops from a supermarket was obviously disconcerting.

“Just kiddin’,” I said, trying to salvage the situation. Then, pushing the salvage operation even deeper, I launched into what I hoped would be a bolstering clarification, explaining how I’d been saltwater fly fishing for the past three years, how I’d fished scads of great fly-fishing destinations during that time (including Belize, the Florida Keys, and the Virgin Islands), and how my experiences had made me a passable fly caster, albeit one who’d not quite caught a bonefish yet.

The clarification fell flat. While Wiethuchter and Bates stalwartly attempted to transform their faces with stiff-upper-lip smiles, the mood of doubt and apprehension lingered. Gone, it seemed to say, were the oodles of bonefish. Gone were the oodles of photography. Gone Abaco Beach Resort’s big shot at becoming the next international bonefishing mecca. Gone! Gone! Gone!

The next morning I awoke a couple of hours before Salter and I were supposed to meet our guide Danny Sawyer in the lobby of the resort. I checked the clock on the nightstand—yup, plenty of time to worry. I examined the ceiling of the spacious condo I was staying in and sighed. On the positive side of the ledger, things were going swimmingly. Salter and I would soon jump into a flats boat with a reputable resort-provided fishing guide and spend the whole day stalking the beautiful backcountry wilderness of the Abacos for bonefish. Then at eventide we’d probably polish off another gourmet meal at the Angler, withdraw to our separate balcony-accoutered rooms, snooze the night through in air-conditioned comfort, and do the whole dang thing again the next day. Neat, eh?

But the ledger had a devilish side to it, and the devil was in the details. The gloomy fly-fishing track record I’d put together over the past three years topped the list. Oh sure, I’d invested in excellent equipment—the superfine, nine-foot, ten-weight Sage fly rod (with heavy Tibor Riptide reel) carefully laid out on the nearby credenza was mute testimony to that. And I’d spent plenty of time and money on instruction, whether from videos or from instructors. And I’d also fished with a whole passel of excellent guides in all the spots I’d blabbed about at dinner. But except for a few sea trout feeding in an oily chum slick in Destin, Florida, I hadn’t caught squat.

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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