Bucket-List Bahamian Bonefish

IMG_0275 My father Fred and I recently returned from an adventure to Mangrove Cay Club in the Bahamas.  We had planned the trip for over a year in hopes of getting him into his first-ever bonefish.  For me, it was a return to the flats after an absence of about 20 years.

Coming as it did on the heels of my trip to Brazil, I had spent the two weeks leading up to that trip wrapping up a box of sure-fire bonecrushers.P2170009After a reasonably uncomfortable red-eye, cross-country flight, we arrived in Nassau dazed and excited.  A short hop followed over to South Andros Island, and Mangrove Cay where we were to spend the next 5 days.IMG_0333Dawn broke with clear calm conditions and not a ripple on the water of the Middle Bight out in front of the lodge.IMG_9734In other words, conditions were perfect for good bonefishing!  We were paired with veteran Mangrove Cay guide, Kiki Adderley, for a crash course in the finer points of angling for the elusive “ghosts of the flats.”IMG_9752Fred and I took turns on the deck at the front of the boat. Kiki called out the incoming targets, and we each landed several nice fish from 3-4 lbs through the course of the morning.IMG_9746IMG_9743No matter how good of an angler you think you are, this fishing is challenging.  Fish are hard to spot (Fred admitted on day 2 that, even though he had landed a half dozen bones, he had only seen one before it was hooked).  Success was often only possible by the skill of the guides in directing the cast and retrieve when the fish were in range.

The next day, we woke to less-than-optimal weather conditions.IMG_9768After the morning rain squalls passed, we were left with a freshening wind from the southwest and intermittent clouds, making for much more difficult fishing than the first day.  Fred got a couple from the boat with Kiki, while I opted to wade some promising areas, leading to several shots at cruising fish and one landed.  We hoped for better weather the next day.IMG_9773IMG_9770We woke the next day to gusting winds and heavy rain buffeting the cabin.

IMG_0327Not good.  A couple boats from a neighboring lodge braved the conditions, the guests looking miserable in full rain suits and taking a beating from the chop.  Alton Bain, one of the owners of Mangrove Cay Club, and the guides huddled and finally decided (after several false starts), that there would be no fishing that day.  Ouch!  I took some solace in remembering being weathered out on a bonefish trip to the Florida Keys 20 years before.  That experience taught me that bones are fair-weather friends: on days like this, bonefish action would not be good.  So we had a day in the lodge.  There are worse places to ride out a storm.IMG_9823IMG_9818IMG_9820IMG_9803The next day, the wind shifted to the east, and the rain abated.  Fred and I went for a long run to the cays of the western end of the Middle Bight with guide, Percy King.  On this day, I had several shots at bigger single and paired bonefish, but the clouds and chop, along with murk in the water often made it hard to see them before they were too close to the boat for a good presentation.  Even Percy had trouble picking them up.  So most shots were like, “2:00 – 20 feet!”  And when I did get a fish to respond to the fly, the unsettled weather had them even more wary than usual.  Lots of refusals. In the end, although we were on fish all day, including some very nice sized ones, we only got one to hand.

On the last morning, Fred and I opted to fish before our afternoon flight out of Mangrove Cay.  The weather was finally clearing, but the steady wind persisted.IMG_9788IMG_9787We fished this day in closer range of camp.  Our guide, Prince Moxey, was all-in on my desire to target larger fish.  Fred graciously let me have the front of the boat for the entire session.  Perhaps too, he didn’t relish the prospect of trying to cast in the steady 20-knot wind.download-9

This turned out to be my favorite session of the trip.  Prince encouraged me to dig into my fly box for something meatier than the standard redhead Gotcha that most of the guides favor.  On the premise that big bones like big flies, I tied on Gumby’s Big Bone, a fly Scott had tied and given me for the trip.  It worked!  Bigger singles and fish from pairs ate it with confidence.  Soon I had landed 4 and lost a couple others, although none cracked the 5 lbs+ mark.IMG_9800IMG_9797We ended the session by poling a few passes on a giant flat in mid-channel of the Bight.  Prince said this area is rarely fished, and that the deepwater bones that are found here are bigger and stronger than elsewhere in the region.  I was on high alert at all times.IMG_9795On our last pass, I saw a big green-backed bone meandering along the edge of the drop-off at a good distance to get the cast to him.  Looked to be maybe 6 pounds and clearly would have been the best of the trip.  Alas, the wind and the whims of fishy discretion were not in my favor.  The big fly landed a little too close, the fish noted its presence, made a pulse-quickening feint in the direction of the sinking morsel, and then broke my heart by turning and bolting off the flat to the deep water.

Back at the lodge, Fred and I packed up and readied for the return to everyday reality.  Although the weather had made it tough for us, the trip was a success by any metric.  But as we left the beautiful lodge and the warm and attentive staff, heading for the airport,  I couldn’t help but feel that I had left some great opportunities on the table.  Hopefully it won’t take another 20 years to get my next shot.IMG_9815Two Dudes Fly Fishing is your resource for adventure travel off the beaten track.  Give us a call for information on hosted trips and details for adventures of your own.

Agua Boa Amazon Lodge Fishing Report, Spring 2014

IMG_8918I just returned from a 5-week fly fishing adventure in the Amazon Rainforest, courtesy of Agua Boa Amazon Lodge and Sweetwater Travel Company.  This fishery has always been on my radar, but this was the first time that all the stars aligned for me to make the trip.  And what a trip it was!  A true kaleidoscope of experiences at one of the best fishing lodges in the world.  Here is a virtual sampler of the action from the Equator:

The launching point for the adventure is the capital of the state of Amazonas, Manaus.  Located at the confluence of two huge rivers, the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes, Manaus is the nominal head of the Brazilian Amazon.  P3290123

Hopping a Cessna Caravan and flying north out of Manaus, the transition from city of 2 million to untracked jungle is rather abrupt.IMG_0248After about a 2-hour flight into one of the world’s last great wilderness regions, the first view of the Rio Agua Boa quickens the pulse.P3290099 Unlike typical Brazilian “black-water” rivers where blind-casting with big lures is the norm, here the fishing is 100% fly fishing, and sight-fishing opportunities abound for the legendary “Tucunare Asu,” known to the outside world as trophy peacock bass.

P3040079The lodge is very comfortable, located right on the river, and surprisingly devoid of mosquitoes.  The acidity of the river doesn’t support larval growth, and therefore, Malaria, while endemic to the region as a whole is not found here.  That isn’t to say that there are no insects here.  This is the jungle after all.  A little caution (and some DEET) around dawn and dusk helps prevent discomfort from the no-see-ums, as an unlucky angler, who chose to wear shorts on the first evening in camp, learned the hard way.Piums But no-see-ums aside, you never knew what creepy-crawly would emerge into the light at any given time.  Here are some of the cool bugs that showed up:


IMG_9040Then of course there are the birds.  This place is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise.  Even a rank amateur like me racked up nearly 50 new species for my life list. Toucans, macaws, storks, and some super weird stuff too.  Like this one, the hoatzin, which eats only leaves, has a predigestive fermentation chamber in it’s gut (like a cow) and thus smells like cow manure.  And they’re known to be social.DSC_1160Here are some more shots of just a few of the awesome birds:IMG_9438IMG_9474P1030427jacamar kingfisher macaws muscovy duck redbellied blackbird silverbeak tanager

And of course the jungle is replete with incredible critters of all stripes. . . and spots!

Wild 078TapirIMG_9823 IMG_0209matamataIMG_9513

ottersBut of course, what most draws anglers to the Agua Boa, when all is said and done, is the incredible fishing.  The Amazon Basin as a whole hosts more unique fish species than the Atlantic Ocean.  With 4 species of peacock bass, several species of piranha, dozens of species of catfish, plus arawana, giant arapaima, oscars, dogfish, traiera, stingrays of all sizes and colors. . . an angler’s mind is truly boggled by the diversity of fish.  One literally can’t so much as glance in the river without seeing fish of some sort.  IMGP0047

And one thing that truly sets this fishery apart, is the quality of the guide staff.  Hired from local villages, these guys are totally in their element on the water.  And yet, they are truly world-class professional fly fishing guides, skilled and versed in the game of big-game angling. Here is a sampling of the incredible fish and the guides and anglers who love them:

P1030447P3270023IMG_9228IMG_9223IMG_5549IMG_9025IMG_8944IMG_8998 - Version 2DSCN0511IMG_8960IMG_0333DSCN0496IMG_8770 P3030073P3030043SAM_0671P3160022P1020023

IMG_9420 - Version 2IMG_9219P1030375TrairaIMG_6763As you can see, the Agua Boa is a real “Walk on the Wild Side” for any angler looking for something beyond trout.

The lodge staff, the facilities, the fishing, and the Amazon Rainforest itself combine to make this one of the best fly fishing trips out there. IMG_9214IMG_9159 - Version 2IMG_9321I can’t wait to go back!

Special Thanks to Taff Price and Carlos Azevedo for use of photos and for spiritual guidance.