After years of hearing stories, I finally arrived at this turquoise-gin wasteland home to the eighth fastest fish in the ocean, and, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m at the Bahamian Airport with all the gear I need, ready to play.
Did I bring too much? Did I under-pack? You’d think after reading endless forums, websites, and articles that’d I’d have everything I need to succeed—the only question now is, “Where do I start?”
I’d come from the Mountains of Wyoming to a place that was wholly unfamiliar to me, but with plenty of high hopes for catching the bonefish of a lifetime. But, ultimately being more at home catching cutthroats and browns, I was at the mercy of my Bahamian guides, who I was eager to meet.
Coming to an island like this one with no expectations creates a lot of excitement. But, knowing that Hurricane Dorian had decimated the island in 2019 I was expecting to see a community recovering from destruction, and was hopeful to see the reconstruction and hear the locals’ opinion on the state of things.
Sydney, our lodge host at Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge, said that COVID had crushed their business more than any hurricane-force winds could have: “You can rebuild from a hurricane with others coming in to help; COVID just drowns you because there’s no money coming in from anywhere to keep these family-owned lodges alive,” Sydney told me.
Anglers keep these lodges alive along with ecotourism on the island, both bent on seeing the gray ghost in its natural habitat.
We feed money into tourism and, in turn, that money aids conservation.
Admittedly, I was there for the bonefish, but it felt good to be approaching my pursuit while knowing that trips like this one are part of this island community’s recovery process.
And, I was ready to do my part, angling-wise. I came fully equipped with a slew of rods, reels, flies, and camera gear. My go-to on this trip was an eight-weight Midnight Special from Moonshine Rods, which paired perfectly with the new 7/9 ROVE Reel from Abel, spooled with an eight-weight Airflo Ridge 2.0 Flats Tactical Taper.
If I blew my chance at a bonefish, it wouldn’t be for a lack of gear.
I’d fished saltwater before, so I vaguely knew what to expect from the “beginner” fish in the fabled Caribbean Grand Slam—spooky, fast, and ready for one hell of a fight. They lived up to their reputation.
These fish were just as fun as I expected them to be, putting in a long run into my backing on the initial hookup, easing up for a quick reel to the boat before taking off again at full speed.
Getting bonefish like these to the boat was something I’d looked forward to for a long time, and seeing them up close, with their iridescent scales glistening and changing color in the Caribbean sun is something I’ll never forget.
Having a reel with a strong, smooth drag made all the difference on those initial runs, and the ROVE Reel performed flawlessly, with no slip-ups, and made landing fish after fish a breeze.
From mutton and mangrove snapper to the fastest fish on the flats, I found that my eight-weight handled fish phenomenally, but having a ten-weight on the boat would be a good idea if you’re targeting some of the larger species.
Ultimately, this trip was an eye-opener for me, from both an angling perspective and a human perspective.
There were still houses using candles for light, nearly three years after Dorian hit. Regardless, the spirits of the locals were not dampened, and they’re continuing the effort to restore the island of Abaco to its original, glorious state.
My time with Sydney, his wife Keeta, our guides Greg and Dominik, and the rest of my group was filled with laughs both on and off the water.
I’ll have those memories, formed on the Caribbean waters with a cold Kalik in hand, for years to come.
Article and photos from Dan Towsley. You can follow along with Dan on Instagram at @dtowsley.