Friday, April 27, 2012

Guest Post: Caribbean Bones

So I have recently had the privilege of emailing and commenting back and forth with Amber Payliss aka @thebugparade (on Instagram), a graphic designer I met on Instagram. It all started when Amber posted a picture of a 'Cuda fly she had just tied for an upcoming trip to the Caribbean for some 'Cudas and Bones. Well in emailing her back and forth, I asked if she would document her trip and write a guest post up for us. Well Amber followed through and not only documented her amazing trip through writing but also some breathtaking photography that would make Lefty blush. Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to Amber Payliss, the unofficial slayer of Bones and 'Cudas...

Caribbean Bones

Our journey to the Bahamas began with 3 flights to get to our destination. With traveling so far and saving our pennies since September the year before, I definitely had high hopes for this trip. On our third and final flight there I had reminded myself of advice we received from friends who had done this before, 'DIY flats fishing is no easy task, so many things are a factor into whether or not you get a chance to cast at a fish, let alone see them.' They also warned me to make sure we had ample supply of Band-Aids, After-Bite and Antihistamines. I honestly didn't know what to expect with this type of fishing. I've only been seriously fly fishing for just over two years and I had only fished for trout in Western Canada. Salt water fishing would be a first for both me and Brendan.

As we landed in the Bahamas, excitement set in as we made our way to our condo. The condo was only a 5 minute walk from the flats, so with a Kalik in hand we headed down to check out the beach. We quickly noticed that the water seemed a lot rougher then what you would expect for the Caribbean Sea. The first day was spent walking the length of our beach to the point on the other side, a beautiful and very long walk. The tide was still very high and the water still very choppy. We saw quiet a few 'bonefish' shaped rocks and logs, but no actual bonefish. Brendan hooked a large 5 ft shark on his spin rod. Watching the shark hammer that fly/buzzbomb combination was incredibly exciting and he ran for quite a while before breaking off. I could not believe how many sharks we were seeing out there, so many of them cruising the shallow water. 

The second day was much the same, choppy high water. We were beginning to worry that this was going to be the pattern for the remainder of our trip. After another long walk to the point, Brendan and his brother caught a nice sized snapper which we took back to the condo for lunch. As we walked back Brendan's sister in law spotted a bonefish cruising through the edge of the water, finally my first bonefish sighting. A million things raced through my mind as I fumbled with my rod. I was trying to unhook the crazy charlie from the bottom of my 9wt and in doing so I ended up hooking myself in the thumb, clearly I was not prepared and overly anxious. As I worked to get the fly out of my throbbing thumb, the bonefish swam off into the deep and we lost sight of him. Great job, Amber.

With that first bonefish sighting it did give us hope. Yet with the wind constantly blowing strong from the west and high tides coupled with some overcast skies we were not seeing much of anything. Next thing we know its Day 5. We were half way through our trip and had only seen a few bonefish between the four of us. We spent 12 hour days on the beach pacing back and forth searching for a tail or a cloud of sand in the water, fighting through swollen feet and sand fly bites. I now know why Band-Aids and After-Bite can be such an asset on trips like this. Finally, later that day, the winds started to change direction. Now blowing NE the water had calmed down to the glassy state you would expect from the Caribbean. It looked like the weather was changing for the better. Brendan's brother had caught a bonefish in the late afternoon, things really were looking up! That evening Brendan and I saw our first sets of tailing bonefish, one of the coolest sights I have experienced so far in my fishing career. No fish were caught on this night but for the first time on the trip we felt as though we might really have a chance.

Up early for sunrise Brendan and I headed back down to our beach and searched for more tailing bones. The water was calm and glassy. We looked down the beach and sure enough we saw something. A single bonefish, his tail was thrashing around in the water as he fed on the abundance of tiny shrimp in the sand. Brendan put out a perfect cast and let the fly fall to the bottom. As the fish moved closer, Brendan gave the fly a strip and without hesitation the fish took it. Next thing we know his reel is instantly into its backing and then... devastation ensues. His line was hooked around his reel and the fish was off.

Feeling defeated but not willing to give up, we headed out to explore some more of the island. We saw a boat launch a couple days before so we decided to stop and try our luck there. Clearly this place was a fish haven because the locals would often gut their catches from the day right there and throw the remains back into the launch. Tons of little fish and crab were gorging on the leftovers. As we peered into the deep of the boat launch we saw a huge barracuda, cursing the edges. Brendan quickly casts his fly to the end of the launch and as he brought it towards middle, the 'cuda ate it without hesitation. After a great fight Brendan landed him with the help of his older brother, who has caught the toothy guys before. Being that this was the first time I had seen a barracuda I was fascinated by his huge sharp teeth, a fierce predator. Once the 'cuda was released into the launch we decided to hike around and noticed a good section of flats with some mangroves. Tons of little crabs scattered as we slowly walked the shore, searching for bonefish. After a few minutes of walking, there they were. We could see them clearly, a school of them navigating their way through the mangroves. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Brendan's brother caught one instantly on a white puff. After the fish was released, he gave me one of his white puffs and I quickly tied it on. Before I knew it both Brendan and I were hooked into bones, a double header. A bonefish double header!  I got caught up in some coral and my fish was off but Brendan still had his on and I was anxious to get a picture. After a strong fight, Brendan had landed his first bonefish. He was ecstatic. He caught his on a white crazy charlie. I had tied a number of those before the trip so figured I would try one out too. I saw the school moving back through and put out a quick cast, about 15ft in front of the fast moving school. As they got closer I gave the fly a light strip and all of a sudden my reel is screaming. What a sound, this was the first time I would experience the feeling of a fish taking me into my backing. The happiness quickly deflated when I just couldn't navigate the fish through the maze of mangroves, I lost my second bonefish. Damn! The school had moved on and we decided to head back to the house for a beer.

While we were taking a breather at the house Brendan could tell how badly I wanted to go back. I needed another shot. So after about a 30 minute rest we headed back. I decided to first try my luck in the same boat launch from earlier, I had set up the Chartreuse and Orange streamer I tied on a wire leader and cast it into the deep. With a few fast strips I had a fish on. A little barracuda but did he ever give me a fight. Once I had him landed and set free I thought to myself, "Ok... so one of the two species I was after on this trip isn't so bad...I am content with that." We made the hike over to those flats and within a few minutes we saw the school of bonefish. This time I moved down the flats to where there was more room for the fish to run. Brendan yelled that they were headed my way and as I saw them swimming towards me I anticipated their direction and made my cast, hoping that this was the one. The fish started moving in the direction of my fly and my heart was racing. A couple strips of my white crazy charlie and I watched a fish break off from the school and chase it in. He took it. I let him run, free from the mangrove maze and finally I felt a serious sense of accomplishment. After long days of sunburns, sore feet and strained eyes it’s paid off. I landed the fish and Brendan snapped pics as I revived and released this beautiful silver creature. This would definitely be one of my favourite fishing experiences I have encountered so far. As soon as the fish safely swam off I literally jumped with joy. Mission accomplished.

A couple days later and we both ended up catching and landing another bonefish each. We hooked a few more and lost them but with 2 bone fish and a barracuda landed for each of us, we were beside ourselves. DIY fishing in the flats was incredibly tough, but all the blood, sweat and time spent roaming the flats made catching those fish that much more rewarding. I can't wait for the next trip.

A huge TLTFF thanks goes out to Amber for an amazing trip report! We love living vicariously through others for reports and trips like this. Its amazing some of the stuff our readers see! If any of you would like to submit a report to us for feature, please do! Email us at

You can check out Amber's Instagram for some more AMAZING shots, as said before, her screen name is @thebugparade. Check it y'all! Thank you Amber!


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