Lessons Learned

Relaxing in the Bahamas
Don't forget to relax.

A couple of weeks ago we ran an entertaining article by Kyle Perkins about his experiences getting ready for and joining us at our Andros South FIBFest last year.  Today Kyle is back with some very practical lessons learned.

Lessons Learned at Andros South

There’s no better place to go stalk bonefish than Deneki Outdoors’ Andros South Lodge. Here’s a few things I learned as a beginner, that I’ll never forget.

  • Limit Cotton. Yeah, I had too many cotton pants, socks, shirts, and underwear. While most of my stuff was quick-drying, I found myself sitting in a sand hole with cotton underwear early one day. To say the least, I was uncomfortable most of the day. Don’t forget those silk underoos.
  • Limit Zippers.  I realized after my first salt experience that you really need to rinse everything when coming back to a dry climate. Those zippers were a bitch. I lost a few things, but most were saved by the great advice to soak and rinse all your gear in the bathtub once you’re home.
  • Rinse those reels and rods.  Props given to the staff at Andros South for having a plan to rinse all rods and reels every day. If I didn’t see them doing it, I wouldn’t have thought about it. When you arrive home, take off the lines and rinse everything again.
  • Pack less. While most think you need everything for a week that you would need on a resort in Mexico sipping cocktails with your wife, you can usually wear the same gear a few times. Don’t go overboard, and only pack essentials – you’ll need the room after you buy your family goodies from the ‘shell man’.
  • Drink your water.  Important: Drink all the water you can during your fishing trips. You might not notice because of the beautiful sun soaked weather and breezy conditions, but you’re sweating. Stay hydrated, because after the day is done, Andros South provides the beer while you share your experiences at the Slack Tide.

More Tips for Andros South

All the Important Questions

Kyle at Andros South
He loosened up eventually. Photo: Cameron Miller

Kyle Perkins was one of our attendees at FIBFest at Andros South last spring.

That trip was Kyle’s first experience on the saltwater flats, and he put together today’s really insightful article about getting ready and making the trip.  We think you’re going to like it – especially the end.

Thanks, Kyle!

All the Important Questions

You’re a month away from your first bonefishing experience, let alone your first salt fishing trip. While you grew up on small streams in the Rockies stalking pocket water for pigs as you slowly hike through brush or snow, you know this is going to be different – but how different, exactly?

The first thing you do before a trip to South Andros and Deneki Outdoors’ Andros South Lodge is talk to people who have been to flats in search of bonefish before. Luckily, a few close friends plan yearly trips, so you’re in good hands.

Key points of advice are to practice casting longer distances (with wind if possible) and remember to strip-set instead of the usual trout-set. After a few lessons, the results are something like, “Nope, you need to double-haul that cast”, or “Nope, too many false casts.” As you can imagine, anxiety rears its ugly head.

As time passes, your anxiety about failing increases. It seems the only thing you can do right is tie up Gotcha patterns. Finding a suitable way to create the salt flat experience in a high- altitude, snowy climate just isn’t working.

So the time comes to catch the first red-eye, then another flight in the morning, and finally a short hop over to the island of South Andros. Beautiful skies, sand filled beaches, and of course Kalik await. You hang out your first night at the Slack Tide, tie a few flies, and discuss the possible destinations for the next morning.

With a loud 6 am wake-up call, you jump out of bed and feel the lump in your throat almost growing by the minute – it’s time. After a great breakfast and full spread of lunch items (in which you only make peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, of course), you set off to the launching dock. You’re met by your first guide of the day, and the announcement that you’re heading to the West Side more than excites your comrade and boat buddy for the day.

The run is about 30 minutes, and then it’s time to grab a rod and get up on the bow. You wait, nervous, as your guide slowly poles a flat. Small lessons are already being learned: pull enough line off your reel, leave enough leader, and line off the end of your rod. Don’t forget to hold that fly loosely in your left hand. It’s silent, only wind and small waves making subtle sounds.

Then, it happens – you hear, “30 feet, 11 o’clock.” Your bare feet shuffle, you cast and just about pop that fish on the head with your fly. Nothing more to say other than that fish is long gone. You knew it, knew you were going to fail.

While searching more flats, your guide is very instructional in an almost comedic way, as your fishing mate sits back and laughs quietly at your attempts – almost assuming you’re getting skunked your first day.

On the bow again, your guide spots a large school of bonefish. While you can’t see a thing, you trust his instincts and just start launching flies into the area – “50 feet, 9 o’clock!” Strip, strip, strip, “fish on!” your guide yells. First thing you do is try to trout set.  Then you reach for the reel, “No, let him run, mon.” After about 20 minutes of your heart racing, the fish making runs, and all the while your buddy in the chair laughing, you have almost got the fish to the boat. Everything has seemed minimal before this – you’ve landed your first bonefish on your first day ever saltwater fishing.

Everyone is ecstatic, and you have your first bonefish in your hands. The camera flashes, but one question you forgot to ask was how to handle these fine fish…

Kyle Hero Shot

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FIBFest is Going Strong

FIBFest Report
Bloggers hard at work. Photo: Cameron Miller

We’re nearing the end of Andros FIBFest 2011 – a gathering of fly fishing bloggers at Andros South in the Bahamas.

Good times are being had!  A couple of folks caught their first bonefish ever (on day 1, of course).  A couple of folks produced a truly hilarious photo (don’t forget to weigh in on our caption contest).  Fishing has been great, socializing has been fantastic, and the time in the sun been much needed by all.

Our attendees have written a whole bunch online about the trip already, and we’ve got lots more to come.  Click here to check out the running list of posts on FIBFest.

Thanks for tuning in this week, and thanks to Rebecca Garlock, Michael Gracie, Tom Larimer, Cameron Miller, Kyle PerkinsEric Rathbun, and Bjorn Stromsness for making the event such a success.

More on Fly Fishing Online

Facebook Caption Contest

Bonefishing Picture
Only Facebook comments count! Photo: Michael Gracie

Andros FIBFest 2011 is happening right now at Andros South.  We’re hosting a group of folks who write about fly fishing online, and we’re having a pretty darned good time doing it.

The first day of FIBFest yielded a pretty incredible photo, and it was immediately clear to us that we needed to run our first Facebook Caption Contest.

Kyle Perkins and Michael Gracie teamed up to produce the glory that you see above.  To enter our caption contest and maybe win yourself an Andros South T-Shirt, click right here to go to Facebook and add a comment with your caption for the photo.  Only Facebook comments with caption entries count in the contest.

Thanks, Michael and Kyle!

More Silly Pictures

Andros FIBFest 2011

Andros FIBFest 2011
Typical blogger's office - this week, at least.

It’s time for FIBFest!

This week at Andros South we’re hosting a great lineup of folks who write about fishing online.  Here’s the plan: we’re all going to go fishing, and write about it online.  FIB stands for Fishing Industry Bloggers, and is in no way a reflection of the tendency of anglers to get creative with the truth.

Following Along

We’ll keep this page updated during the week with updates on the action on South Andros.  We’ll maintain a section down below with links to all the FIBFest content that our attendees post.

We’ll have lots of updates on our Facebook page.

If you really want the blow-by-blog you can see Twitter updates from all of at the FIBFest Twitter List.

The Lineup

Please help us welcome this star-studded lineup to Andros South.

Andros FIBFest 2011 Posts, So Far

Pre-Trip

Posts During the Week

Post-Trip

FIBFest is Back

FIBFest 2011
We'll be doing some of this, probably. Photo: Louis Cahill

We had such a good time with it last year that we had to do it again.

It’s Deneki FIBFest!  It’s an in-person gathering of folks who write online about fly fishing.  FIB stands for Fishing Industry Bloggers, and FIBFest is the most cleverest name we could come up with.

Starting on March 26th, a small group of us will spend a week at Andros South.  We’ll catch bonefish.  We’ll write about it online.  That’s the program!

Here’s the current lineup for Andros South FIBFest 2011 – in alphabetical order of course.

  • Rebecca Garlock writes The Outdooress, and created an incredibly successful platform for outdoor bloggers called the Outdoor Blogger Network.
  • Michael Gracie is an alumnus of FIBFest, and cranks out some of the most intelligent writing about fly fishing online at michaelgracie.com.
  • Kyle Perkins writes Compleat Thought, a blog on conversation, education and new media in fly fishing.  He’s also done a bunch of marketing consulting work for a variety of fly fishing causes.
  • Eric Rathbun is one of the masterminds behind Moldy Chum, a fly fishing blog that’s busier than Times Square.
  • Bjorn Stromsness – if there’s one guy who’s the right guy for FIBFest at Andros South, it’s Bjorn.  He writes Bonefish on the Brain, a blog about nothing but bonefish.

We’re going to do our darndest to give you a bunch of different viewpoints on what a week on South Andros is all about.  If you want to follow along with us during the week, you’ll have plenty of chances.  Don’t worry, we’ll give you a reminder or two when the event is about to start…

More on Fishing Bloggers

Things I Learned at Andros South

See Pete's fourth paragraph, please.  Photo: Louis Cahill
See Pete's fourth paragraph, please. Photo: Louis Cahill

Pete McDonald was part of the elite (ahem) group of angling writers who fished at Andros South this past May at our inaugural FIBFest event.  Among other things, Pete writes a super cool blog about fishing called Fishing Jones.

Today Pete checks in with a few somewhat unusual lessons learned on his trip to Andros South.  Isn’t it funny how some of the best writing about fishing isn’t really about fishing?

Thanks Pete!

Things I Learned at Andros South

The drink is called sky juice and it’s a mixture of condensed milk, coconut rum, gin, and whatever other bottles are open at the time. Torrie Bevans mixed it up at the Slack Tide on what happened to be my last night at Andros South and it made the start proper.

I didn’t get to fish with Torrie, but if I go expat and move to Kemp’s Bay I’m inviting him to my Christmas party. In a scene mixed with Olympic medalists and other guides with outsized personalities, he owned the Tiki.

I came in as a third-day interloper and a Western Air scheduling glitch curtailed my fishing time by a full session. As far as bonefish advice, what the hell do I know?

I know you can go out all day with top-level guides or, if you’re Johnny Spillane, you can catch a fat bone while blind casting for snapper under a sailboat. (He was trying to win a contest.)

The flight from Nassau to Congo Town is exactly 17 minutes long. In the air you will notice the contrast between the green water and a band of the darkest blue you have ever seen. This is called the “Tongue of The Ocean” and it extends along the whole eastern coastline of Andros and then hooks like a hockey stick toward the Exumas. The floor of the ocean at its deepest there is two miles down, and its sheer volume dwarves the tidal flats that look so endless when you’re standing on them. It’s a reminder that a fish rooting for crustaceans in five inches of water is a unique event in the scope of oceans, and your casting to it is a singular undertaking whether it eats or not. Better when it eats.

The Lucayan Arawaks lived on Andros before Spanish explorers “discovered” it and made them disappear. That went down five centuries ago but even today Andros is pretty empty. There are a few thousand people born on-island and more from elsewhere classified as driftwood. Over 150,000 acres of land still remain untouched, except maybe in the 80s by things dropped from low flying planes. The unpopulated western coastline is accessible from Andros South by skimming through tidal creeks. The tides never lined up for us to get west, but supposedly the fishing there is crazy good. I thought the flats we did fish were as good as good gets so if that’s true…Jesus.

I read once that as train travel came to pass in the 1800s, science types worried that moving at speeds over 20 mph would drive a man to insanity. My flight from JFK to Nassau peaked at 574 mph, but I came out of it all right. When you watch and feel a bonefish peel line off your reel in 25 mph bursts, though, it definitely touches you in the head. Maybe those 19th century science types had it partly right. Whatever, a drink back at the Slack Tides evens things out.

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Myth Busting, Andros South Style

Dispelling myths at the Slack Tide.  Photo: Louis Cahill
Dispelling myths at the Slack Tide. Photo: Louis Cahill

Michael Gracie was one of the participants in our first ever FIBFest (that would be a gathering of fly fishing bloggers), held at Andros South this past May.

Today Michael weighs in with a guest post on misconceptions about bonefishing on South Andros.  We think he’s dead on.  Have a read!

Myth Busting, Andros South Style

It’s no big secret that there are a lot of bonefish swimming around Andros Island, The Bahamas. It’s almost just as well known that Deneki Outdoors’s Andros South is perfectly situated for you to cover virtually all of the territory where those torpedoes of the flats might be found. Whether it be full day walks in tidal creeks, running and gunning on the southern tip of the island, or bolting to the west side for lone pigs haunting endless mangroves, the lodge can get you there. You most likely won’t get your butt kicked in transit either.

Still, there are a few erroneous beliefs regarding what to expect while bonefishing, and I’m here to set the record straight. I’m not talking expert guidance – I’m by no means a pro, and this was the first time I’ve set foot in the location with fly rod in hand. No, I want to clear up the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) from the layman’s point of view, and what follows are what I see as the three biggest misconceptions about fishing South Andros Island.

FUD #1 – Andros is full of nothing but large schools of small bonefish

This is probably the worst of the worst in terms of ill-conceived rumors. Andros is a big place, an absolute monstrosity in fact. The sheer breadth of fish habitat is mind blowing, and with that comes enormous variability regarding fish congregation and size. Yes, I saw big schools of fish. Some of those schools were gigantic – numbering hundreds and hundreds. But we generally ran into these schools in places that were otherwise inaccessible except when the tide and wind conditions were perfect. The guides at Andros South are seasoned – some of the most knowledgeable I’ve come across anywhere. They know the island like the backs of their hands – hence we were afforded the opportunity to get into “take your pick” fishing.

Not all of the fish in those schools were small, however – some hooked were 5+ pounds, and there were bigger boys buried deep in those schools that could have gone 1 ½ times that. We also saw a lot of singles and doubles prowling around on their own. These fish are the extremely wary types, the survivors. They are big too, and I’ll guestimate that I had shots at several fish that would have pushed the double-digit mark. No, I didn’t catch them, but that’s because the author just isn’t that good. But several anglers on our trip did pull in bones up to nine pounds, and often with the same guides I’d fished with in days past.

Bottom line…there’s a wide variety of bonefishing opportunities available. All you need to do is talk to your guide about what your want to do, and they’ll get you on it.

FUD #2 – Bonefish are very picky, so bring a wide variety of flies and be prepared to change them often

Next on the list may be true in some parts of the world, but not on Andros Island. I haven’t “traveled the world” in search of bonefish, but I have spent a good deal of time in the Middle Keys and Biscayne Bay. Bonefish there have turned away from my patterns, scowled at my presentation, and generally kicked me to the curb on more occasions than I care to admit. But there is a big reason for that (other than the fact that I can’t fish for shit) – bonefish in those easily accessible locations see a lot of flies! The best spots are well known; hence there are a lot of guides and a lot of fly fishers there. I found Andros quite different.

First and foremost, over the course of six fishing days, I counted two other boats (from other lodges) while I was out on the water. The bonefish in South Andros Island simply don’t get the kind of pressure that an Islamorada native does. Second, as I mentioned earlier, the place is massive – there is so much water worth covering that there was little need to fish the same place twice. Last but not least, the guides knew where to be, and at what times; they also had a sixth sense regarding what fly to throw.

If none of that convinces you, then consider this: I’m no expert fly tier, but I did a lot of production before my trip. With the exception of the very last day, I used only my own flies, sometimes a single pattern for the entire day, and consistently caught fish. If an Andros Island bonefish will eat a Gracie tie, then Gracie is convinced they’ll eat just about anything.

FUD #3 – If you can’t cast a full fly line in a 20-knot wind, you can’t catch bonefish

Last by not least as far as bonefishing lore goes, this myth is nothing but. Further, perpetuating such rubbish runs counterintuitive to the idea of getting more people into the salt with fly rods in hand. Let’s bust this puppy, shall we?

While I was there, conditions on South Andros Island ranged from bright and sunny with moderate gusts to dark and hazy with dead calm. At times I struggled, but not because of the wind – we chased singles and doubles in tight mangroves – it was high-pressure target fishing. Other times the wind blew, and hard, but the guide always had me positioned to take advantage of it. I’d lower my rod tip to the side on the backstroke, and then let ‘er rip with the wind at my back.

I didn’t need a masterly casting stroke to catch fish, and actually found the quiet days much more challenging anyway. We’d march creeks that were nothing but glass, jumping fish when they were inside 30 feet. The game was much more about short, quick shots and delicate presentation versus airing it out. For the week, I suspect I hooked 80% of my fish inside fifty, and several were taken when very hungry bones followed my fly to within a leader length of the rod tip. It’s a battle of accuracy and touch, not power and distance. The experience firmly convinced me to carry a seven weight, or maybe even a six, next time I’m there.

Conclusion

Don’t let the naysayers tell you it’s an impossible task, catching a bonefish on the fly, or that you need to clear out your local shop’s fly bins to make it happen. Don’t let them tell you South Andros should be a “practice session” either – it’s anything but, and like most adventures, you get out of it what you put into it.

And, oh yes…there will certainly be a next time.

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Want To Go Bonefishing?

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