Then there was time. Stacked up alongside three grinding years of nada, a mere two days to accomplish the miraculous wasn’t much, especially with the ol’ personal demons hammering me with suggestions like, “Wouldn’t badminton be a better sport for you, Bill?” and “Don’t you think, Bill, that the chances of actually catching a bonefish at your advanced age are just about zilch?”
Of course, truth has a way of arising with the subtlety of a tropical breeze. And mine came when I quit worrying long enough to sit down on the balcony of my condo, watch the sun rise over a purple Sea of Abaco, drink some coffee, and read a bit from one of the esoteric little volumes I carry with me on the road, Theophane the Monk’s Tales of a Magic Monastery:
“On the last day of my retreat, I told the guestmaster that I didn’t think that I would be able to get back soon because I didn’t have time. He came right back with ‘The problem isn’t time; the problem is heaviness.’ He turned and went downstairs returning with a little carpet. ‘Here take this. It is a magic carpet. If you sit on it and let go of your heaviness, you can go anywhere you want. It’s not a question of time.’ I have come to know that this is true. People laugh at me when I tell them. Will you laugh, too? All right. Then stay there.”
I reread the passage several times, eventually coming to wonder whether issues like doubt, worry, and other forms of “heaviness” were maybe my real bonefishing hangups, not dicey track records and two-day time limits.
Salter knocked on the door saying we needed to be going. As you can tell from the photos he subsequently shot that day and the day following, I tossed Theophane’s magic carpet onto the pile of fishing gear we took along with us that morning, and the darn thing worked!
Abaco Bonefish Blast
While I caught several gorgeous bones the first day I fished with Danny Sawyer and several more the second, I’m only going to tell you about the first fish because it was so darn special. Sawyer’s an Orvis-trained guide and a local, and perhaps to prepare me for the skittishness of the indigenous predator-besieged creatures we were going to hunt on the marls of Great Abaco Island, he made the following statement while launching his Hell’s Bay flats skiff: “Bones are born scared, live in terror, and die of a heart attack.”
The marls were burgeoning with wildlife and virtually devoid of humanity the two mid-November days we visited. We zoomed across untrammeled mangrove wilderness for hours and never spotted another boat, let alone another person. The wind blew 20, maybe 25 knots the first day, which made casting a challenge. The second day was calmer, easier.
I caught my first bone with a low, 40-foot, upwind cast to a pod of five or six fish moving across our bow from left to right. I was trying to keep myself relaxed at the time, unworried, magic-carpet style.
My fly, an H20 Super Shrimp, settled quietly ten feet ahead of the pod at the end of a 12-pound-test Scientific Anglers leader. “Let it sink...let it sink,” advised Sawyer. Then, after a few seconds, he told me to begin stripping in line, fast at first, then slow. Eventually, thanks to a pair of wraparound polarized Ray Bans, I could see the fish myself, following the fly, coming straight for the boat, maybe 20 feet off. When the time was right, I set the hook by snatching back carefully with my line hand as Sawyer did commentary on the down-low: “Doesn’t know he’s hooked yet...okay...now, get ready...get ready...”
Wham! My ol’ Tibor reel came unglued like a hand grenade. The fish snatched left, then rocketed right on an arrow-straight, whizz-bang, hundred-foot run with such speed and violence I was drop-jaw awestruck. Within two seconds, as Sawyer yelled repeatedly from the polling platform, “Don’t thumb the reel…don’t thumb the reel…you’ll burn the hell outta yer thumb,” the wild and crazy little three-pounder had ripped off all the slack stacked at my feet, all the line remaining on the Tibor, and a sizable chunk of the backing as well. “Whaa!” I yelped.
“Get the slack out...get the slack out,” yelled Sawyer as the fish came blasting back and I cranked like a fiend, finally drawing him close. Once I’d landed my catch, he glistened like burnished silver in the sunlight!
“Nice cast,” noted Sawyer, matter-of-factly. “Thanks,” I replied with a grin, easing the fish back into his element. “Folks at the resort are gonna be much relieved. Trust me!”
Danny Sawyer: (242) 367-3577
Okay, besides Theophane’s magic carpet, maybe my success with the Bahamian bonefish had something to do with the groovy, laid-back atmosphere that prevails at Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbor. The food’s excellent (especially the fresh-fish tacos at the tiki-style Sandbar Restaurant), the service is friendly but unobtrusive, shops and art galleries of Great Abaco Island’s Marsh Harbor are within walking distance, and the completely different cays of Green Turtle, Treasure, Great Guana, Man-O-War, and Elbow (home of Hopetown and its famous lighthouse) are just a short ferry or rental-boat ride away.
Did I say groovy? Newly decorated rooms, suites, and cottages offer individually controlled air conditioning, direct-dial telephone service, and either coconut-palm-shaded balconies or private patios. TV is piped in from the States, and from nearby Marsh Harbor airport it’s just a short hop to Nassau as well as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Moreover, while most of my stay was spent standing on the casting platform of a Hell’s Bay flats skiff, I could have gone scuba diving, snorkeling, or even deep-sea fishing aboard one of the charter vessels working out of the 200-slip marina. Now that’s groovy!
This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.