To keep a low profile we knelt down in the soft white sand, a good bone was slowly making it’s way up the tide looking for food. It was a good fish. I could feel my heart beating, my mouth was dry, perspiration had run off my brow causing a stinging sensation in my eyes. The fish stuffed its snout into the soft white sand to grab some item of food, the water turned milky white. The fish moved on in its quest for food, in seconds it was some twenty feet away.
I roll-cast a size 8 Crazy Charlie; it dropped with a slight pop some five feet ahead of the fish. Hearing the gentle plop it moved forward. I gave a tiny strip and the fish pounced. Setting the hook, I struggled to my feet, sticking the rod high. The reel revolved in a blur; line disappeared at a fast rate of knots as the fish moved off fast through the shallow water. The line cut through the water and as it did so it left an emerald green scar. Life couldn’t get better.
Reaching the age of 65 I realised I had so much more to do with perhaps little time left. Every two or three months I hear about another friend who has gone from this world. It’s a true saying, "You can’t take it with you" or "Shrouds have no pockets". It was time to go off fishing, in my case to catch many of the exotic species on a fly rod as I could. Fish such as tarpon, permit, bonefish, mutton snapper, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, redfish, dorado, snook and many more. It’s time to trade in my investments, such as two thousand angling books, paintings, cane rods, centre pin reels then go off fishing. This year I have several trips sorted out; Bonefishing at Moxey Town in Andros Island in the Bahamas, Striped bass fishing in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Muskies in upstate New York, sailfish, tuna, jack crevales, sharks, kingfish and wahoo in the Arabian and Persian Gulf, and hopefully there would be tarpon in the Gulf of Mexico - plus a trip to North Carolina to chase the blue fish, false albacore and stripers during the fall season.
On my latest trip to Moxey’s bonefish lodge in Moxey Town in South Andros, I left Manchester on an American Airlines flight to Nassau via Chicago and Miami. Arriving in Nassau around 9 pm, I collected my small case containing a few cloths, hefted my rucksack containing cameras and reels on my back then made my way to customs. All I received was, "A good evening sir, have a pleasant stay".
Making my way to the taxis I asked the first driver to take me to a hotel for the night explaining I wanted the cheapest room available. Let’s be honest, why pay a hundred dollars when you can get one for fifty? After all, I was only going to put my head on a bed for a few hours. Within fifteen minutes I had checked in, perhaps twenty minutes later I was asleep. At six thirty I was waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport. Seven O’clock I was greeted by a very friendly check-in girl on the Bahamasair check in desk.
"Good morning my dear, can I have a return ticket to Mangrove Cay please". "That will be 110 dollars sir" I passed over the plastic card. The flight was due at eight thirty, but remember I was on Bahamas time. I left at ten thirty five arriving in Mangrove Cay about ten minutes later. At eleven O’clock I was at Moxeys bonefish lodge. After being shown my room I was left to do as I pleased. After a shower I dressed in shorts, shirt and wading boots then covered myself with sun protection. I assembled an eight weight outfit, collected a box of flies then headed off to the beach. From my room it was sixteen steps and one hundred and twenty paces to the beach where I could catch bonefish.
A light onshore breeze ruffled the surface of the bay, a few feet away I watched a turkey buzzard or vulture fly by. Under some palm trees that offered shade, a couple of old guys and two younger ones were sitting on a bit of timber that rested on a couple of oil drums. One of them asked "After the bonefish man?" I said "Yes". I stopped then and walked across to them. They made room on the makeshift seat. I sat down among this group of friendly guys, two of them, Ezra and Oscar Greene, were bonefish guides at Moxey’s. Bonefishing, diving and the attractions of Moxey Town were discussed including the coming General election. An hour later, on the advice of Ezra, I was off along the beach to Small cove in search of bonefish.
Stopping on the way I cast a fly to a snapper which quickly grabbed hold, this was followed by a blue runner then a small barracuda which after one jump threw the hook. What a fun way to enjoy yourself in the sun, I thought to myself.
I got as far as the Blue Hole when I was joined by Ezra. "Hello man" he said. In his hand he had a fly rod, we walked side by side chatting as old friends. On reaching Small cove we quickly spotted a small school of resident bonefish. I watched Ezra slowly wade out on the flat for some yards, he then made a long cast dropping a Gotcha some three feet in front of a bone. In the blink of an eye he hooked the fish. I got great pleasure from watching him play the fish close to hand where Ezra bent down and slipped out the barbless hook. Then the fish quickly moved, joining the other fish in the school. It was certainly a great exhibition of angling. I told him so. We ended up the short session with two fish each. It was time for a beer and some dinner. Ezra was certainly an excellent fly fisher.
Over dinner that night I discussed bonefishing tactics with a group of American anglers who were staying at Moxeys bonefishing lodge. Dinner finished. I went off to join the local guys in a nearby bar. It had been a good day.
Day two I was fishing with Joel Moxey, dressed in shorts, shirt and wading boots with a liberal covering of sun protection. I went down for breakfast with Joel. He said " We are going up Moxey’s Creek today, a boat trip of several miles. We will be wading some very big flats hunting big bones in very shallow water".
Breakfast over, I grabbed my kit while Joel grabbed the ice chest; it was just a short walk to the skiff with its fifty horse power motor. After getting everything in place Joel turned the ignition key, the motor purred into life. Slowly the throttle was opened. As we reached the deeper water Joel pushed the throttle forward, the bows lifted and we skimmed across the lightly rippled surface of the ocean.. Fifteen minutes later Joel was bringing the skiff into Moxey creek. To the left was Little Moxey to the right Big Moxey - we turned right.
Joel cut the motor, the only sound was the water lapping the side of the skiff. Joel said "Martin make yourself ready on the bows, I’m going to pole us alongside those mangroves". My tackle was a Sage eight weight rod, Tibor reel, Cortland Ghost Tip Lazerline with a ten foot tapered leader. I pulled fifty foot of line off the reel then coiled it carefully on the decking making sure the first of the line was at the top of the coils. On Joel's advice I had tied on a red eyed Clouser. For the next hour or so we moved slowly along the mangroves seeing the odd bonefish, barracuda and shark.
Arriving off a shallow sandy point I spotted an Osprey sitting on a mangrove branch. Joel said "We will leave the skiff on the point and wade" I nodded in agreement then lowered my body over the side, feeling the warm water against my legs, it felt wonderful. For as far as the eye could see there was nothing to be seen of the twenty first century, nothing had changed in the past five hundred years except the mangroves had grown a lot more.
Joel pointed and whispered "Martin good bone at twelve O’clock, sixty feet". I roll-cast a size 8 Crazy Charlie and it dropped with a slight pop some five feet ahead of the fish. Hearing the gentle plop it moved forward. I gave a tiny strip and the fish pounced. The reel revolved in a blur, line disappeared in a fast rate of knots the fish moved off fast through the shallow water - Life couldn’t get better.
The fish had probably taken some eighty or ninety yards of line in its first rush, then kited to my left. I managed to get some line back on the reel. The rod tip was pulled down savagely, the reel screamed in protest as line was taken, once more the emerald green scar appeared around the line as it sliced through the water- something I haven't noticed before in all my many bonefishing trips. For some minutes it was give and take but slowly I was gaining line. We waded through the water towards the fish, gaining even more line. Soon I was able to get a good look at my first bonefish of the day. It was a nice fish perhaps a five ppounder.
I lifted the fish a few inches above the water. Joel shot a quick picture and I slipped the barbless hook from the fish, then watched it swim away strongly. That would be the only fish I would touch by hand, any other fish would be unhooked in the water - unless I had a ten pounder, then I would want a picture. Why keep taking pictures of fish after fish. I have dozens of bonefish pictures at home.
After catching a few more bones we moved off to another big flat near Mangrove Cay Island, a journey of some twenty minutes, time to have a sandwich and drink. A mile offshore Joel cut the motor and poled us towards the shoreline. I spotted the odd good size bone in the distance but there was no chance of catching those fish. After anchoring the boat in some shallow water we slid over the side into the warm water where the bottom was so different from Big Moxey creek. Here the bottom was very firm sand with patches of turtle grass making fish spotting quite difficult, to make matter worse a big cloud obscured the sun.
Joel said "At low tide you can walk out from the shoreline to Mangrove Cay island, but if you leave it too long on the flooding tide you have to spend a few hours on the island. The island was well known in the old days as a stopping off point for the mail boats".
Grabbing my rod I followed Joel. We had gone some hundred yards or more when Joel whispered "Bone at nine O’clock. Point your rod Martin, a bit more left" I spotted the fish, it was some eighty feet away. We stood still, barely breathing, my mouth was dry. I strained my eyes to keep in contact with the moving fish. It moved closer.
At around sixty feet Joel said "Shoot for it Martin". I made a roll cast, two false casts then shot the line, hearing it hiss through the guides. The size 2 Gotcha landed some six feet to the left of the fish. Not a good cast I thought. As I went to lift off for another cast, Joel said "Leave it Martin - the fish heard the plop of the fly landing. It’s moving towards the fly now, give a short strip, it will see the puff of sand. Strip strip strip!"
I could see the fish tracking the fly then it grabbed hold savagely.. I set the hook, stuffed the rod high and the fish moved off fast across the flats towards the deep water. The fight was on. Seven or eight minutes later I bent down and slipped the hook free, then watched the fish move off strongly.
It was now Joel's turn to catch a bone. We slowly moved across the flat, shuffling our feet as we did so, this spooks any sting rays. After about sixty yards I said to Joel "Tailing bone fifty feet two O’clock". Joel spotted the fish immediately. He made a roll cast and one false cast, dropping the size 4 red eyed Clouser minnow in white and chartreuse four feet ahead of the fish, which quickly dived for this morsel of food. In the blink of an eye Joel’s rod tip was being pulled down towards the water - a good fish moved off fast.
I switched my Nikon onto ‘sports action’ then proceeded to shoot film. The light conditions were perfect for 100 ASA film. Joel would gain some line, the fish would take it back, but the bones runs were becoming shorter. Joel was winning the fight. I then spotted a small lemon shark some sixty feet down-tide and warned Joel. I moved between fish and shark. Joel cramped down hard, quickly gaining line. In another minute Joel had the fish to hand and I moved in close to shoot a couple of quick pictures. We released the fish close to some mangroves where the shark couldn’t grab hold.
We continued on in search of more bonefish, catching several on the flooding tide until it was too deep to wade. We then moved off to another flat where we caught some jacks and a couple of bones. Joel Moxey had proved what a good guide he was.
Breakfast on my third day was bacon, eggs with lots of tea, and toast. Today I was fishing with Ezra on some flats about a fifty minute boat trip away. On this bonefishing trip we would go up Miller Creek, the home of very big tarpon, barracuda, sawfish, bones and permit. At eight O’clock I met up with Ezra at the skiff where he was loading the ice chest.
"Good morning Ezra, another great day in paradise". Answering he said "Yes, its perfect weather for hunting bones"
Sitting on the stern of the skiff I swung my legs into the boat then made myself comfortable in one of the padded seats. Ezra pushed us out over the shallow water until we had enough depth to start the motor, he climbed aboard, turned the key in the ignition and the motor came to life. Soon we were skimming across the glass-like surface of the ocean, the bows high as we left a creamy white trail at our stern.
We passed small palm tree lined islands with beautiful sandy bays, occasionally an Osprey would appear overhead. On and on we motored, twisting this way and that to miss coral reefs, which, if hit, would rip the bottom from the skiff. I marvelled at the wilderness. It was great to be alive, it doesn’t get better than this. I heard the engine noise change as Ezra throttled back. Up front I could see a big flat as slowly we came to a stop.
"Are your ready for those bones Martin" Ezra asked. I turned, smiled and whispered "Yes!"
Picking up my eight weight rod I moved up in the bows, as Ezra climbed up on his platform. This was set about five feet above the stern. The water was flat calm, about a foot deep with a very soft bottom. It was that soft you would immediately sink to your waist. There wouldn’t be any walking on the flats today. With no wind to ruffle the surface or to keep the horse flies away, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, long lightweight pants and a hat with a big peak, side and back flap to keep the sun off my ears and the back of my neck. The clothes would also stop the flies from eating me to bits. They were out in big numbers today, but because I had taken sensible precautions they wouldn’t bother me.
Ezra poled us slowly along the edge of the flat, I squinted into the water seeking one of those grey ghostly silver bullets. Ten minutes later Ezra said "Bone at nine o’clock, fifty feet". I spotted the fish immediately, made a roll cast, one false cast then shot the line. A size 6 Gotcha landed three feet to the right and six feet in front of the fish. It was a good cast, the fish only heard a slight sound, such as a shrimp would make as it moved through the water. The fish had picked up the sound, it was going around in circles looking for the food item. I gave a tiny half an inch strip, which kicked up a puff of milky grey silt. I watched the fish turn towards the fly. I gave another strip and the fish pounced like a cat on a mouse. I set the hook - my first fish of the day was hooked!
It moved fast as always across the shallow water, the reel giving line. As the line cut through the water it had that emerald green scar. On and on went the fish until a hundred yards of line had gone, it turned then and came back towards me fast. I wound like mad trying to keep in touch - I quickly got a lot of line back on the reel. Tibor reels might cost around £450-00 but they are worth every penny spent. Slowly I was winning the battle and soon the fish was mine. I bent over the side of the skiff and released fish number one.
Once more Ezra poled us along the flat. After some five minutes Ezra said "Bone at twenty feet, three o'clock. I made a quick cast dropping the Gotcha within two feet of the fish. It moved across and inhaled the fly, fish number two was on. The fight resembled the first fish and soon this one was released. This fish hadn’t been bothered by the boat or the fly dropping close by, it was a very aggressive fish.
Fifteen minutes later we heard a splash then I spotted a big pool of milky grey water - a good bone was hunting inside the coloured water. Ezra whispered "Martin I want you to shoot for the spot" I looked at the distant mark, then looked at Ezra, thinking, this man reckons I can shoot eighty feet of fly line! I would give it my best shot. Turning to Ezra I said "Should I change to a Crazy Charlie. Yes man" answered Ezra tying on a size 2 Crazy Charlie. I pulled more line off the reel then made a roll cast and three false casts and shot the fly to the target. I watched with satisfaction as the fly landed in the middle of the coloured water. "Well done man" said Ezra. I let it sit then thirty seconds later I gave a two inch strip.
I felt something hit the fly and tightened with a strip strike - but missed the fish. I let the fly sit again in the clear water. The fish moved from the foggy water into the clear water. I could now see the fish, it was certainly a good one, it was six feet from the fly. I gave a quick strip of some three inches. The fish immediately spotted the fly, turned savagely and grabbed the Crazy Charlie. I set the hook, no mistake this time as a very powerful fish shot off across the flats. "Well done Martin" shouted Ezra. "That was good casting".
I watched the line disappearing fast from the reel. First the fly line then a hundred yards of green backing, followed by some of the red backing line before the fish stopped. I gained a few yards before the fish went off in another direction - I could feel the power. "Take it easy man, that's a good fish" said Ezra. For some ten minutes it was give and take by angler and fish, slowly I was wearing the fish down. Gradually I was getting it closer to the boat. The runs from the fish were now becoming shorter and soon the fish was close enough for me to lean over the side of the skiff bend down then slide the Crazy Charlie from the fishes mouth. It weighed six pound plus, the best of the trip so far. I held the fish in the water for a couple of minutes until I felt it kick free, watching with satisfaction as it made its way over the shallow water flat to find a better feeding spot.
We fished on, catching five more bones - it was certainly great fishing in this tropical paradise.
Around twelve noon Ezra said "Let’s go and find a nice spot for lunch Martin" as he climbed down from his poling platform. The ignition key was turned, the motor purred then, as the throttle was opened up, the motor roared and the bows lifted and we skimmed across the smooth gin clear water heading for Miller Creek.
Fifteen minutes later Ezra cut the motor and poled us to the edge of a flat. "Martin twelve o’clock fifteen feet big sawfish!". I gasped. It must have been ten foot long with an awesome set of saws in front of it’s head. It was asleep in two feet of water. Boy was I glad I wasn’t wading with these fearsome creatures. Suddenly the water erupted, a huge silver scaled body rose from the water. A tarpon of perhaps one hundred pounds. What sort of fishery was this, I thought! I peered into the dark deep water on the edge of the flat. A big, no, a huge barracuda drifted by. Why didn't I have my ten weight rod? My eyes were once again drawn to the deep water channel as the water erupted - this time two big tarpon rolling on the surface, the sun glinting on their huge silver scales. Close in to the mangroves a big hawksbill turtle surfaced then lay motionless in the sunshine, no doubt sunbathing.
During this fascinating lunch break I was amazed at the amount of aquatic life and fish. Jacks, various snappers, grunts, schoolmasters, more big barracuda and another huge sawfish drifted from the deep water up on the flat to seek food. Just looking at these big fish sends a shiver down one’s spine. They were awesome but fascinating. A couple of big rays drifted by the boat. I could hear lots of splashing coming from the mangroves as fish hunted crabs, shrimps and other items of food. Ezra drew my attention to a big manta ray - what magnificent creatures these are.
Lunch over, Ezra started the motor. We slowly cruised further up Miller Creek until we reached a big flat on the right, switching off the motor Ezra climbed up on his poling platform and we commenced the hunt for bones. In quick succession I hooked and landed three bones - all were taken within twenty feet of the boat in some eighteen inches of water. The bones were hungry and savagely grabbed any item of food.
Ezra poled me into a backwater pool. I spotted a tailing bonefish at forty feet. I dropped a Crazy Charlie three feet in front of the feeding fish. As it moved forward, I gave a strip of about three inches; the fish pounced, I set the hook - it was another hook up. Sadly after the first run, the fish shed the hook. We moved on. Five minutes later I hooked another bone this also shed the hook. Strange, I thought, losing two fish in succession. I checked the hook, it seemed sharp enough but I decided to change. During the afternoon session I hooked into several more good bones, all landed without trouble.
Around five pm Ezra said "It’s time to leave Martin". I wound in all my line, clipped off the fly, stowed the rod away and sat down in my padded seat. It had been a great day, one of my best ever on the flats. I didn’t spook a single fish, hooked up to every fish I cast for and lost just two fish. Now that's what I call good fishing.
This was without doubt my best ever trip chasing bonefish. Moxey’s bonefishing lodge was excellent. Good food, nice room and very friendly and helpful staff. Most important of all, it’s close enough to a bonefish flat where you can fish before breakfast and after dinner. The people of Moxey Town are nice and friendly; it’s very safe and you’re only a few hundred yards from the airport.
Moxey’s Bonefishing Lodge: Moxey Town, Mangrove Cay, Andros Island, The Bahamas. Tel/fax 242/369-0023 E-mail email@example.com Website http:www.bahamas.net.bs/clients.moxeys.
I suggest you take an eight weight rod with floating line, a ten weight rod and floating line for the big barracuda, permit and medium size tarpon. Why not pack a spinning rod? Masterline International have a nice telescopic rod which I have found to be ideal for bones, snappers, jacks and medium size barracuda. I always take some wire crimps and crimping pliers and a few swivels. Don’t forget the sun protection lotion and lip balm. I drink bottled water but use tap water for cleaning teeth and for making tea.
For further information E-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
Why not listen to At The Waters Edge on BBC Radio Lancashire Thursdays at 7-30pm Saturday mornings at six on frequencies 95.5 103.9 or 104.5 FM or on the Internet. email@example.com