Tuesday, September 21, 2010


In our never-ending search for leads on promising waters, we came across another blogger who happens to live on the same island as me. He spilled the beans about a magical place teaming with bonefish that are surprisingly willing. He even had pictures of some landed fish, which was all we needed to get our adrenaline pumping.

The 'yaks.

We used Google Earth to pinpoint its location. Stars aligned and it happened to be on an adjacent island separated by a mere two miles of open water. Better yet, there appeared to be a tiny island ringed by a reef , and hopefully a healthy flat, between us and our destination. We loaded our kayaks onto the truck and headed to a point of land that took us nearest to the promised land.


Stopping at the first tiny spit of land, we spread out and canvassed the flat. Adam headed west, Mark and I headed east. Mark and I stood on opposite sides of the entrance to the flat as water poured on with the rising tide. Fifty meters separated us as we saw two permit cruise up onto the feeding ground.
They wanted nothing to do with us, and after a few more hours of fruitless scanning, we waded back to the kayaks as a squall rumbled over us and dumped sideways rains onto the flat.

Well before the squall. Permit in there somewhere.

Just before the squall. Permit still in there somewhere.

When the rain passed, we paddled to the main destination. Adam and I headed east directly onto the middle of the flat while Mark walked north along the mangrove shoreline. We had done very little flats fishing since arriving on the island and we had zero confirmed bonefish sightings.

That all changed about three minutes after posting up. I spotted the unmistakable greenish fish cruising my way and pointed it out to Adam.

“That’s a bonefish. 11 o’clock.”

“That big thing?”


“That’s a huge fish.”

And it was. Bones here average between 4-8 lbs with double-digit fish seen often. These are not the 12” fish seen hoisted from the Bahamas or the Keys on a regular basis. That fish my sister caught back in January was the smallest bonefish I’ve seen here in more than a year, and it was still a nice fish.

Twenty minutes later, I had a pod of close to 100 fish swim a tight circle around me and ignore my fly. That really pissed me off. A group of 9 to 11 fish was spotted moving away from me and towards Adam’s position. I tried to signal to him but it was no use. A few minutes after that, a whoop was heard from 100 meters away as Adam tied into the first bonefish of the trip.

At long last...

The three of us converged on his position as he regained his fly line. He breathlessly told us of how he placed the Merkin in the path of a cruising phalanx of fish. The lead fish broke formation and sipped his fly.

The scoop.

First Bonefish.



Personally, it was a relief to see one of these guys tie into a bone, finally. I am just as pumped when they catch fish as I am when I catch something.

The fish was released after a brief photo session and we began working for the next one.

This unassuming bay ended up lighting the fuse of Buck Fever in my brother Mark that would culminate in an explosion of emotion, regret and humility a few days later on still another island. That story is for an upcoming day. This story is about how we all got there.

The Invisible Man.

Mark wears his emotions on his sleeve. When a big fish is in the picture, he cannot be bothered and he won’t take direction. That’s probably a good thing because he is 12 times the fisherman I am and my advice would just screw things up.

Adam and I began to notice the symptoms in Mark from hundreds of yards away. His casting took an uncharacteristically aggressive undertone and his wading became slightly careless. Adam said it best.

“I recognize that cast. That’s full-blown Buck Fever.”

I waded over to help my brother spot some fish. I just ended up getting a front row seat to frustration. We hunted a pod of 4 bones that kept leaving and returning to the flat via a small channel between some rocks. Mark casted to them, they spooked, he changed flies. They returned, he casted, they left again. They returned as he changed flies again and they came too close, they spooked on the shadow of his rod casting. We waited, they came back, Mark casted, they spooked, he threw his rod into the water.

The bones reappear a third time...

Screw it.

Twenty minutes later, Mark hunkered down as a group of a dozen fish came right at him. Ten feet away and Mark, down on one knee on the flat, rises up and switches knees for a better cast. The fish take off. The day is done.

Get down for the approach.

Reposition and...it's over.

Buck Fever simmering in his head, we paddle home with the setting Sun. Unbeknownst to us, Mark’s sickness, brought on by missing so many bonefish, would fester, manifesting itself in a complete and utter disaster a short three days later.


Unknown said...

You are going to tell us of Mark's breakdown, right? I must know...

Matt said...

the story of the worst first fish ever is on it's way.

kerdosy said...

You know your brother well. I can picture his every move and emotion from your post. Nice job!