Abaco Lodge, Bahamas- January 23-26, 2019- Winter Bonefish Getaway!
FROM THE VAULT:
This trip was before the catastrophic hurricane Dorian in August 2019. It is sad to reflect on how devastating this storm was for the island and its people. We hope and support a full recovery to the Abacos but it may be years before we can get back there and enjoy its natural resources and support its local people.
ABACO LODGE, ABACO ISLAND, BAHAMAS
JANUARY 23-26, 2019
A WINTER BONEFISH GETAWAY
Josh and I had been discussing a duo host trip for a couple years so it was fitting we gave Abaco Lodge a try since Josh had a memorable experience in November 2017. We hit up a dozen or so of our best trout clients who truthfully are all friends at this point to join us and within a month or so we had our spots filled and were quite excited about an awesome winter bonefish getaway.
Luckily, we also had a spot for Josh's dad, Mike to join us and take in the salt life for a few days late in January, who could resist that? We had pleasant travel to Miami and built in an extra day just in case winter weather delayed us somewhere like Dallas or Chicago.
With our extra day what do you naturally do? Yes, go fishing! Josh and I rented a car and headed down to Key Largo to meet up with Randy Stallings, a great guide who came recommended to us from a friend. He was stoked to have us but explained and we already knew because driving in Miami it should not be 47 degrees, that a recent front had seriously stalled the fishing but he was, as all guides tend to be, optimistic we could find a few nice snook and redfish. Long story short we did find a few but they were not moving much, certainly not interested in a fly. We were skunked!
We got that out of the way we thought and were excited to head over to the Bahamas after an evening hitting some restaurants and bars in South Beach with Chef Mike, no worries!
We smoothly moved through the Miami airport for our connection to Marsh Harbor. A quick flight, we began to see the Marls below us in about 45 minutes and the true vastness of the area was clear. I had concerns about the weather forecasts but there is nothing you can do except make the best of whatever mother nature throws at you and try to instill that mentality into your group.
Our group was a lot fun! Most of these guys and gals did not know each other besides their friends or partner they came with but we all do share a mutual fondness to Jackson Hole; we either live there or have a second home there.
|Lindi was there to greet us as we arrived from the airport|
Upon arrival at any Nervous Waters managed lodge you are greeted with a welcoming smile and a tasty beverage to get you well on your way to relaxing.
|Gear set up with a cocktail is the best feeling|
|Outdoor lounging comforts at Abaco Lodge|
The anticipation as you begin to settle in is awesome! You have an amazing group of friends, combine that with a stunning lodge and staff and lastly, a great fishery at your doorstep, it is truly livin Grand!
Our first day I team up with a great old client and now dear friend Steve Bohl from the Minneapolis area. We had fished many days in freshwater together but this was our first trip to a salt venue. Steve and I both are pretty decent casters but we found ourselves matched with a ferocious wind and our guide was having a tough go at finding leeward areas with fish. We managed a couple good stalks to get our eyes dialed but the wind had other plans. It became so bad (30-40mph) with the oncoming front we headed in nearly 3 hours early as the flats became stirred up and small craft use was treacherous. The bar was busy early that day!
|Steve Bohl with our first Abaco bonefish|
|The crew enjoying a delicious meal|
|Skip Hildebrand and I hunting hard for any windy day bones!|
|Mike Gallivan with a fun sight fished bone.|
That evening of day two the weather was about to really change and perhaps for the best, yet very wet! Overnight rain settled in and the wind diminished down to about 10-15mph, from where we were that was a big improvement and welcomed. Being late January it was quite chilly with a wet 70 degrees as our expected high. As the winds calmed we began to find good numbers of nice bonefish coming out of the Marls, tailing! Day three I was teamed up with Mike Gallivan. I had fished with Mike only a couple times around Jackson Hole with Josh over the years. Mike is not a hard core angler but was enjoying the new experiences around every corner and to be honest was keeping up just fine for a novice fly caster. It is always a joy to be with someone when they have those new experiences with a fly rod.
Our guide Paul found us a pile of nice bonefish tailing in a backcountry lagoon. The weather was very grey and the sight fishing was difficult but the fish began to come out from hiding in the mangroves and for about 3 hours we hooked and landed a couple dozen bonefish, terrific fun!
|Chef Mike crushing it!|
|Scott Smith with a tailing victim.|
|The Marls of west Abaco after the winds calm down.|
Day three was beginning to erase all our struggles from Day 1 & 2 and by dinner time we all agreed it was a special place and regardless of the weather and fishing the lodge experience and the people made it wonderful.
|Heavy appetizers before dinner!|
|Christian, Josh and Lindi celebrating a good day with great people.|
|Small but Charlie is stoked!|
On our last day the rain returned with a steady presences. I was out with Chuck Campbell and Josh was with Skip Hildebrand. These two have fished with us out of Wyoming and Idaho for many years and it was great to be on the salt flats of the Bahamas with them. These guys are competitive and are good anglers from Chicago and Michigan originally but now residing in Naples. They always tell the best stories from their youth and its humbling and enduring to hear old men speak so fondly of their early years fly fishing. You can easily tell it has been an impactful and enriching endeavor in their lives.
Since we set out that morning somewhat together we planned a lunch rendezvous. Chuck and I had a so so morning with Travis or Flats Phantom (by the way one hell of a guide, one of my all-time favorites, crazy good attitude) and to be clear it was not the guides fault. We fumbled a couple good shots at nice bones but that's how it rolls. As a rain shower moved out we could see our boys the next lagoon over so lunch followed soon and it was fun to hear these two share their similar struggles... tough light, missed sets, bad cast, etc.
We had about 3 hours to go after lunch so Travis took Charlie and I to an area that held the mother load of bones. I'm telling you I've never seen so many fish in an area about the size of a 3 acre lagoon, thousands or more! By now the weather had calmed to a haunting stillness and our every move seemed to spook the fish, we thought if it's not one thing, it's another. We managed a few and licked our wounds on the ride in while sharing a couple beers, life was good.
Meanwhile, Skip had worn himself out with similar fish, spooky and tough to get a fly in front of, therefore Josh had the last half hour of the last day. Nothing for nearly 25 minutes. Their guide Paul indicated he was going to pole out of the channel and then fire up the motor to head back to the lodge. With only 50 feet to go both Josh and Paul spot a nice wake coming down the open flat where they were about to motor up. The wake was sizable so Josh instinctively grabs his 10wt for a shark to harass. As they got in range he noticed it was two fish and suddenly he realized that was no shark but two bonefish and the front bone was a beast. He frantically throws the 10 wt at Skip to reel up and grabs his 8wt. He had one shot as the fish were coming head on and the cast was perfect. What happened next was one of the best stories to hear from both Josh, Skip and the guide. Josh hooks up and the fish goes ape shit into the mangroves. What should have ended in a fish tale turns out to be an incredible battle with Josh finally landing a bonefish of a lifetime, best guesses around 11-12 pounds!
|Josh and Skip with a monster on the last cast!|
I hated that the weather beat us up but the overall experience at Abaco was very special. Having that one of a kind lodge experience helps smooth out any tough fishing scenarios and we certainly had a few.
Thank you so much to the lodge staff and guides for making our trip outstanding!