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BusMan’s Holiday

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Bonefishing in the Bahamas, guide and angler on a flats boat ready to fish

So they say that a busman’s holiday is time away from work when you do something similar to your usual work instead of having a rest from it. Bonefishing in Bahamas might qualify as a busman’s holiday for a fishing guide.

Nevertheless, a trip to Mars Bay on the Bahamian island of Andros is how I chose to spend my 2024 winter vacation. And, I have no regrets!

Bahamian Flats boats heading out into a rising sun

Our days began when we hopped on board the Bahamian Dolphin skiffs at 7:30am. It was a 45 minute trip down to the southern tip of Andros island where the actual fishing began.

I was so impressed by the performance of these simplified and tiller driven 16′ skiffs. Not only were they able to float in very shallow (skinny) water, but they handled this 45 minute run across open waters remarkably comfortably. I became a saltwater fly fisher as result as my work for a Florida-style flats boat company. I had heard about these homemade Dolphin skiffs, but this was my first experience aboard them. Boat building for the American consumer is a complicated task as they require every bell & whistle available. These locally built skiffs were bare-boned and their simplicity was one of their greatest assets.

Of course, then there was the fishing…

I love bonefishing. Next to striper fishing is far and away my favorite type of fish to pursue. There are opportunities to cast at schools of bonefish, not unlike how we often fish for stripers, however it is the sight-fishing which is far and away my favorite way to stalk bonefish.

The clear Bahamian waters, coupled with the shallow draft of the skiffs, allowed us to gently cruise a flat and/or a mangrove in pursuit of small schools and/or single bonefish. For me, it is the most satisfying act of fishing to see a fish, make a good cast, and place the fly in front of the fish where you then strip, twitch, pause, or do whatever it takes to get the fish to eat.

Wind, wind, wind….

Or practice, practice, practice…

If you ever have a chance to go fishing, especially during the “off-season”, take some time to warm up your cast. All of the magazine and online articles say it. Make sure your equipment is ready for windy conditions and that you take some time to revive your fly casting muscle memory.

My first day on the water was slightly embarrassing, not only was my casting quite rusty, I had not heeded the lodge’s specific instructions to over-line my fly rods. Over-lining is when you put a 9# line on an 8# rod… Fortunately, I did have a 9# line that I could use with my 8# rod, but it rendered my 9# rod useless. There were a couple of days when that 9# rod would have been a nice tool for the moderately gusty wind.

Here’s some more pictures from the trip:

One of the most interesting aspects about bonefishing is that the flies that I had packed from a trip long ago (15 years ago) were considered outdated. The flies we used are still named “gotcha” or “crazy charlie” but they had a lot more glitz than the older flies.

Of note also were the large number of sharks. Lemon sharks and Black Tipped sharks were the most common. We did encounter a hammerhead shark and another boat witnessed a tiger shark feasting on at turtle. They call the turtles “oreo cookies” for sharks. Twenty years ago the Bahamas became a shark sanctuary and it became illegal to to kill them. According to one of our guides, there are not only a lot more sharks around but there are a lot fewer bonefish.

Busman’s holiday

Finally, it was on or about day 3 of fishing when I realized that guiding and fishing are two different things. As a fisher, I can stand on the bow of the boat and take in the sights and see what I want. As a guide, all of my senses are tuned in. I am thinking not only of where I am, but also about where I am going next. And of course, how are things going for my guests.

So, maybe it was a busman’s holiday, but mostly it was a great vacation!!!!!