I’m not the only one who packed light for Deneki’s FIBFest

Deneki Outdoors Andros SouthI’ll admit I possess the originality of a Xerox, but I truly thought the concept of traveling thousands of miles to go bonefishing with just a carry-on bag was a first. Little did I know that Andros South customers were already doing it.

Paul Milne, proprietor of The Oaks Waterfront Inn & Events in Royal Oak, MD is one of those people that gets a little unexpected free time now and then. When his establishment isn’t hosting a spectacular wedding, he goes fishing. And Andros Island is one of his favorite destinations. It’s not a bad problem to have – in fact, the only bother for Mr. Milne has been finding a place that doesn’t mind him popping in for just a few days.

While I was at FIBFest, the entire staff went on an all night bender, and somewhere in the middle of it decided to assemble the boat assignments for the following day. And while none of the previous statement is even remotely true, it’s the only reasonable explanation I could expect readers to accept for the Deneki Outdoors peeps pairing me with a bonafide paying client, and one that only had three days to enjoy himself. Needless to say, Mr. Milne and I had a grand time.

How did Paul wind up there in the first place? Well, as he told me in between basking in the rays and hooking a few bonefish…

I had a few days off, and made a few calls. Nobody seemed all that interested in taking on an angler for less than a week. Then I found Andros South, via an internet search. They were quick to respond back, seemed happy to accommodate me, and made it clear there wouldn’t be a surcharge for the stub visit either.

Little did he know I was already hell bent on proving a point – that you don’t need a ton of gear or preparation to go fishing at the lodge. I just got beat to the punch, and now have to find yet another schtick – sandbagging AND minimalism are now both toast.

MG signing off (since those Deneki patrons took the last beer too, as they should)

The bone in bonefish

It’s been said that bonefish get their name because they are very boney, and that’s supposedly the reason people don’t eat them. The reality is something quite different…

bonefish

Photo courtesy of Cameron Miller

Bonefish have a clear exoskeleton covering their head. It’s Mother Nature’s way of protecting their eyes from wayward anglers (and allowing them clear vision when digging around the bottom for shrimp and crabs). They are disregarded as table fare because they are worth a heck of a lot more swimming the flats than sitting on some human’s dinner plate.

This educational message brought to you by the fine folks at Andros South, where it isn’t just about fishing the finest flats with the finest guides and then returning to a cooler full of the finest Bahamian beer. Although that’s the excuse they’re pitching.

MG signing off (to fail miserably in my never-ending quest to poke a bonefish in the eye)

Paging Dr. Bonefish

bonefishWhen I was offered a trip to Andros South, the first thing I thought about was outrageous bonefishing. After that blissful concept settled in, I pondered a post-day Kalik, a tasty meal, and a comfy bed. Performing surgery on fish, in the name of science, never crossed my mind.

Then I spent the day with Bjorn Stromness, a.k.a. Doctor Bonefish. Doctor Bonefish is one of the world’s foremost experts on the wily creature that bears his name. And with data gathering projects to be completed during FIBFest, Doctor Bonefish needed an assistant – yours truly was lucky enough to be chosen.

Our task…clip small chunks of flesh from the rear of the fishes’ dorsal fin, cram it in a little storage vial, and record length measurements and the approximate location of the catch. These samples and the associated data are then turned over to the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust – I suppose they will handle the genetic sequencing and subsequent cloning of the piglets we hauled in over the course of the day.

bonefish

Fishing for science. Kind of like fishing for beer, only not.

MG signing off (to find an electron microscope that will fit in my wading pack)

The blue pill, the red pill, or the diet pill

Choose your vestThree days into this grand event called FIBFest, I stroll down to the dock. There I’m met with a slight, as Trevor Covich, Assistant Manager at Andros South, hands me the blue vest.

Some folks believe the color blue represents safety, while red represents danger. Others feel that blue would be hard to see when you’re overboard, while red stands out like a sore thumb when in the water. Unfortunately, when it comes to the mandatory floatation vests Andros South clients wear on the boat, blue means extra large while red fits the medium to small we all wish to be.

Dinner at Andros SouthI’d like to call the incident a simple misunderstanding, but the fact of the matter is that for the first three days out, I was, without question, immediately handed a red vest.

I hold no ill will towards Mr. Covich though – everyone has seen my dinner plate. Bottom line – the food at Andros South isn’t as good as the bonefishing, but it runs a really, really close second.

MG signing off (to find a Jenny Craig program in the Bahamas)

After the cast

There is no doubt that being able to make the cast is THE most important component of your bonefishing repertoire. Running extremely close behind are…

– Listening to the guide’s instructions regarding target location
– Getting a bead on the fish before you start your cast
– Compensating for wind, particularly when it’s at your back
– Being prepared to adjust casting direction on command
– Lifting your line gently off the water during recasts
– Keeping a close eye on the fly after it lands
– Clearing slack line before you start stripping
– Keeping a close eye on the fish as you strip
– Setting the hook with a long strip right after the fish dips its head to eat
– Not lifting the rod tip until after hook set
– Clearing line on the first run
– Keeping an eye on the shark that’s keeping an eye on the bonefish you just hooked

And that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an exhaustive list, particularly when it comes to what I don’t do right after I actually make the cast. I’m still tallying up lost flies as a result.

We spent the day with Josie Sands, the elder statesman of the Andros South guiding crew. He specializes in big prowlers, usually found alone or in pairs, and often from long distances. It is not uncommon for this guy to call a spot at 80 feet or more, expecting an attempt. He isn’t shy about letting you know what you’ve done wrong either. I can’t say I got rattled, but I can say I didn’t meet my own expectations, let alone his.

Putting it all together, consistently, is now the focus. There are a lot more of these…

bonefish

…to be had (photo courtesy of The Chum).

MG signing off (having requested another day with Josie, because I know he’ll make me a better fisherman)

Go west young man, go west

Flies are named after it, but dreams are made of it – we’re talking the West Side of South Andros Island. Consider yourself lucky if you get over there – it’s accessible only on the right tide with the perfect wind conditions, but the cash out is big. You won’t see another boat all day, a fact that equates to fish that get precisely zero pressure. You figured bonefish were hungry critters, but these West Side jokers take the cake.

The weather was pristine – light winds and generally blue bird skies. We prowled for singles/doubles for the first couple of hours, then ran out to some large schools around Isle of Nowhere (which can be found virtually anywhere near Andros). Kyle “Let’s Cook ‘Em And Eat ‘Em” Perkins managed the first bonefish of his life, a point made ever more extraordinary by the fact that he’s never caught a fish out of salt water before. Or even tried.

20110327-072246.jpg

Now all we need to do is teach him how to handle those fish out of water.

MG signing off (to hit the shutter button a millisecond too late, again)

Checked out

Deneki Outdoors FIBFest 2011There’s better than thirty-six hours until departure, and the high temp today won’t hit 60. Yet I feel compelled to spend the day in sandals.

A wise man once told me the second visit is always better, because you know what to expect. And if what you’re waiting for is bonafide fly-fishing mayhem (i.e. absolutely off-the-wall bonefishing), one might tend to get a little anxious.

In other words, I’m already checked out.

MG signing off (as it feels like FIBFest has already begun, or at least I wish it had)

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: The FIBFest bar is now officially closed

I look forward to some bonefishing during Deneki Outdoors FIBFest 2011. But I cannot deny anticipation of alcohol-induced rowdiness down at the Slack Tide after a hard day’s work either. Sadly, swinging from oceanside tiki bar rafters with a bottle of Captain Morgan in my free hand just ain’t gonna happen now.

See, our host, one Andrew Bennett, has officially succumbed to the influence of the corporation. Instantly gone are his perpetual smile, the laid back atmosphere he’s created at his lodges, and the singular focus on fishing-as-fun. It’s all business from this point forward, as Mr. Bennett has joined the board of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.

While I expect to catch even more bonefish now – fish pay very close attention to industry press releases – from here on out I will address my old friend as Mr. Bennett. And I suggest you do the same (after you congratulate him, of course).

MG signing off (to find some space in my bag for a pipe and a tweed smoking jacket)

The 2011 Deneki Outdoors FIBFest Theme Song

Last year it was Congo Town, resembling Lipps Inc.’s Funky Town in every way except lyrics and licensing. I felt obligated to pull the remix.

For 2011, we go with an LL Cool J classic, hereinafter entitled “We’re Going Back to Andros”…

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. hmm, I do think so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. I do think so

Going back to Andros, stylin, profilin
Growlin, and smilin, while in the sun
The line is taught, on the black graphite
And it’s fly, cause it’s sittin on West Side’s
Loomis push pole, plushed out, gold-leaf rod wells
and three flats waiting
VRRRROOM engine’s blowin, the deck, is shining
Passing all the skiffs on the way
Movement of the wind, reel’s gonna spin
Choose the MP3 and push play

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros – yea y’all, I think so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros..

We’re going back to Andros, shakin ‘em, bakin ‘em
Takin ‘em to spots they never before hung
Find the place, at sunrise it’s a trip
Where the Kalik’s cold, and the hands still strip
The iPod skip, but these bones kept dancin
Prancin, grindin, grinnin, romancin
I asked one to the bow, so we could have some play
I wanna do this, Bennett, and I’ll even pay

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros – yea man I gotta think so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros..

We’re going back to Andros, rising, surprising
Advising realizing, she’s sizing me up
Her gaper – small; tail – tall
She said, she liked, the ocean
She showed me a dorsal, like she wanted a morsel
and started the feeding motion
Now I thought that was fast, but this girl was faster
She’s lookin for a real good time
I said, “Close your eyes, I got a surprise,”
and dropped a Gotcha sixty feet on a dime

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. yeehaw, I know so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. I know so

I think it’ll work, but I’m trying my best to be cooperative here. If I had my druthers (i.e. nobody to answer to), it would have definitely gone this way instead…
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