You come on the scene three days into it, and walk into the Slack Tide at Andros South and immediately someone drops a line at your expense. Ball busting travels. Then you wake up in the morning and you’re on the flats, stepping quietly, and trying to figure out how the hell the guide walking next to you is looking at the same water but seeing entirely different things.
Your line is floating behind you and you’re creeping forward hoping you get it done. The guide stops and points and you don’t see anything but you lay down the line and strip, and you feel the tension as the line starts clearing but it catches on the reel handle and that’s it. Mistakes are not abided.
People compare bonefish to false albacore but they are similar only in their backing runs. Chasing albies is hyperactive and a little bit demolition derby. Bonefishing seems to work best when you slow down your heartrate and make the moment small. Easier said than done.
You start seeing the fish and you race. Thinking about what is 50 feet and are you making too many false casts and the next thing you know you’ve left it short and the fish keep swimming. You pick up your line and shoot it and you overthrow and watch the water explode with spooked fish.
You keep walking, wondering if you’re ever going to get this right when your guide stops and points and you finally see what he sees and he asks, Can you make the cast? I can try, you whisper and before you can overthink it your line has landed and you watch a fish make a move to your fly. You raise the tip and the line comes tight and starts ripping out of your hand and the reel reverses. Then everything else that happened before doesn’t matter. Except for the comedy at your expense. You’ll have to think of a way to repay that sumbitch back at the lodge.
Norman noticed the dark clouds forming behind and started the long wade back to get the skiff. He said to keep moving forward until he returned to pick us up. Gracie spotted a ray gliding ahead, fanning its wings and kicking up marl. “There could be bones trailing behind that,” he said.
Gracie had taped his fingertips because of the line cuts accrued in the days prior but unfazed he talked across the flats about data encryption but then suddenly stopped, and the only sound echoing across the water came from his reel. That ray swam right by him and he made the cast, picking up the lead fish of four about two feet behind the barbed tail.
Watching other people stalk bonefish is just as interesting….
The tide is barely over our ankles on the flats and Smithhammer is rolling through a set of off-color guide jokes. After walking a distance over several football fields, Ellie notices separate sets of tails working in opposite directions. He points Smithhammer, who doesn’t need the same help, off to the fish on the right.
Ellie walks and walks, then stands patiently, then points at the disturbed water about a hundred feet forward. The sound of a reversing reel interrupts him and he turns his head back to witness Smithhammer holding his rod over his head to keep the tension on one of those other tailers. “He’s done it,” Ellie says, and then turns to move closer for a shot at our rooting fish.
I’m in the dining room trying to hold down some cereal in a digestive system unsettled by last night’s beverages, and from losing straight up cash to Gracie at the card table. I’ve played Texas Hold Em five times in my life and never sober, so it always needs to be re-explained. Never won, go figure.
The van is just outside and it’s time to leave. I get a window seat on the Western Air flight to Nassau. The prop plane pulls off the runway in Congo Town and that’s it, mang, time’s up.
I didn’t count my fish but I can replay every take in my head and, jesus, it’s about time I took a day off to go striper fishing.