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Back to school – bonefishing in the Bahamas

Remote Crooked Island, in the Bahamas is the perfect place to learn all about fly-fishing for bonefish


On foot in one of the hundreds of back-country creeks in Crooked Island.
On foot in one of the hundreds of back-country creeks in Crooked Island.

Dave Grove and I have conducted bonefishing parties as ‘hosts' individually for decades, and when we meet we often tell each other that we see the same faults, mistakes and misconceptions made almost every time we take a group. However, it’s difficult (sometimes impossible!) to teach or impose many (any!) of our thoughts on a group - and why would we? Most anglers simply go out there to have a good time either fishing, relaxing, or in the bar - and they invariably have agreat time. The trouble is, some people come with a few snatches of fishing information taken off the internet (usually totally incompatible with the conditions), and whilst clients enjoy their trips immensely, one often gets the impression that some would have liked to have caught more fish! 
So Dave and I thought that a ‘bonefishing school’ might be a good idea. It would give us a platform to get across exactly how to set up, where to cast, how to cast, retrieves, what to fish, where to fish, what to look for, how to relate to the guide, how to see fish on the flats, the signs to look for, fly choice, dealing with sharks/stingrays, what the fish eat, set-ups for different species, fishing from a skiff, wading, bonefish terrain,  etc. In all, we hope to set it up to give sufficient information so clients can go away and approach their bonefishing – and other tropical saltwater fish – with complete confidence for their next trip, hopefully possessing sufficient skills to even attempt DIY bonefishing successfully themselves in the future.
On my first trip to the Bahamas - over 20 years ago now – I had the first Saturday to myself, so tried some DIY bonefishing, armed with some sparse knowledge I’d gleaned from a book. When I look back on that particular day, and what I tried to do, I now realise how little I knew! I’ve been learning ever since.
These bonefishing schools are based on the same principles as The FF&FT Salmon Schools - ie full-on tuition, learning and demonstration amidst proper fishing conditions. To do this as a group, we will alternate the fishing days so each client gets a few hours tuition/ practise, then switches over into a real fishing situation. By doing this we can maximise the time clients are out there to learn and hone their skills, and then put them into practice.
The guides at Crooked Island are all great guys, who know their waters well (I’ve been going out there since – I believe! – 1997/8). They have excellent boats, understand fly fishers well, and are good communicators. Crooked itself is a great island - just 400 folk, all extremely friendly - and we stay in the village, so one gets to know all the locals as the days pass.
If you look, you’ll find information on Crooked Island is hard to find. I’m not surprised. If you go there then other folk who stay there regularly quiz you, asking how you knew about the island. I only discovered it through my mate, who is Bahamian.
You’ll be staying at Casuarina Pine Lodges, Landrail Point. The six beachside lodges are 100 feet away from the beach, facing out over the ocean. They have air-conditioning and satellite TV. The kitchen has a stove, fridge, toaster, coffee maker and dishes. The bathroom is equipped with a bath and shower.
The restaurant is just around the corner, past the boat harbour (where you can sometimes find some big jacks and barracuda). We'll all gather at the restaurant at meal times.
Google Landrail Point and you’ll see where the village is situated. There is very deep water (thousands of feet) just off Landrail, and in the past we’ve caught tuna within sight of the harbour. However, once aboard the bonefish skiffs, we motor south-east - at top speed - for six miles, then cut through the beautiful French Wells which allows access to a massive shallow area extending from the south of Crooked to Acklins Island in the east and south, and bounded by Long Cay, to the west. There are inviting cuts, creeks, flats, mangroves, beaches, channels, reefs, marls, white sands and turtle grass flats all over here… providing you know how to fish them.
The island was hit by a hurricane in October a couple of years ago and it is still in the process of recovering. By alternating pairs between the guides’ days along with guidance from myself and Dave – and through the sponsorship of Bahamas Tourist Board – we can put this trip together for a lower cost than normal. It doesn’t consist of a full week’s full-time fishing off the skiff with a guide - if we did that, then the price per person would be far, far higher. Doing it this way, we can provide the tuition, guidance and then provide plenty of fishing opportunity, too at a much lower price.
By the way, there’s a lot of bonefish off Crooked, and some of them are BIG! Most Crooked bones will rip 80-100 yards of line off you on the first run and average around 4 pounds with plenty of 5–8 pounders. Personally, I can’t wait to get back there.

Information

To find out more about the Bonefishing Schools go to: www.gofishingworldwide.co.uk
or tel: +44 (0) 208 7421556 and speak to Maggi or Sam.
Or call in at the Gofishing Worldwide stand at The Game Fair at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, this weekend (July 28, 29 & 30)

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