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Bonefish Camp

Here's the spot if you are looking for that salty piece of land. Fly lists, trip reports and tidbits of good travel information can be found here in Bonefish Camp.

Come, Mister tally man, tally me Bananas

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It has been long held that boats and bananas are not a very good combination when it comes to luck. Anglers have especially picked up on this superstition and many skippers prohibit even sunscreen named for this tropical fruit aboard their vessels. Legend has it that banana boats plying the waters of the Caribbean and other waters around the world would be plagued by many maladies caused by the presence of bananas in the ship’s hold. Venomous creatures having stowed away amongst the fruit  wandered the decks once the ship was at sea causing crew and passengers to swear off these seemingly harmless snacks.

I’ve been blessed to lead a mostly banana free life. Having declared myself allergic to this silly looking creation at a young age, and in doing so I have avoided any of the bad luck issues caused by bananas. A banana allergy is not as popular or trendy as the gluten variety, it nevertheless serves me well.

While in Mexico chasing Tarpon last year it was brought to my attention that someone had been hiding bananas in the gear bag of a fellow angler, and the culprit was relentless in his efforts to unhinge his target. A formal inquiry was avoided as the trip came to a close without the identity of the protagonist being revealed, yet the scars remained on the psyche of the banana victim.

Fast forward one year and I had gathered another crew to head off on an adventure to South Andros Island, Bahamas. Three members of this group had been with me in Mexico, one being the hapless victim while another being under suspicion of being the Mad Banana Tagger.

Now it should be told that Erv is not your average victim. A retired lawyer, angler, semi-pro Mexican wrestler and part-time animal impersonator, he can hold his own in a battle of wits. He is comfortable in his own skin and firm in his beliefs that luck has little to do with the path we walk on this earth. Yet even he is not one to tempt fate by sailing off with a banana.

To avoid scandal and the chance that Erv would once again fall afoul of the insidious banana bandit I had him teamed with me to share a boat in an effort to keep an eye on him. It did help that the supply boat was long overdue and there were no bananas on the island.

The trip started well as Erv and I managed some good results on the flats even under poor conditions. The Bonefish were plentiful and the weather, although miserably wet, did not dampen our spirits. We enjoyed our time on the water without any concerns of bananas or bad luck. Two days into the trip the weather turned beautiful and sunshine blessed us as the winds dropped to a gentle breeze. Life was good.

Back at the lodge Erv had struck up a friendship with the kitchen staff and treated them to an original poem after the evening meal. The gals seem truly touched by his efforts and young Jasmine asked if he would honor them by wearing a Bahamian good luck charm if they brought it to him in the morning. He promised to do so and went off to bed in anticipation of what the morning would bring.

As daylight filtered across the flat in front of the lodge we gathered for our morning meal before heading off to fish. Erv sat with his breakfast of pancakes and eggs untouched, awaiting the charm that would bring him untold success on the water. What would it be?

Like an angel appearing from nowhere, Jasmine stood next to Erv at the table with his new good luck charm. Erv turned to see what she held. In a instant his face lost it’s expression of wonder replacing it with one of shear terror. In her arms she cradled a full size Chiquita Banana suit. One size fits all. Dutifully, Erv put it on.

With Bonefish guide Burnt Ferguson on the poling platform, the giant banana took his place on the bow as the boat pointed into the sun. Only seconds passed before Burnt called out a school of fish at the 1 o’clock position. A single cast and the Banana Man was fast into a screaming hot Bonefish. I bailed out of the boat with my camera to record this historic moment and watched as Erv and Burnt brought the fish to hand then released it. Erv popped back on the bow and soon found himself attached to another fish. I continued to photograph the action, then slid back into the boat to congratulate him on his busting of the banana curse.

It was my turn on the bow now as Erv sat and relived the Bonefish battles pondering the silliness of his Bananaphobia. He could hardly wait to tell Jasmine and Kathy of his accomplishment with their banana talisman. Burnt commented as he pushed the boat that CNN would love this story or maybe the BBC. Erv wondered out loud where the girls could have possibly found a banana suit on an island in the Bahamas. The guide and giant banana started singing Harry Belafonte’s "Day O," calling for the tally man to tally their bananas.

I scanned the water ahead and prepared to cast at a fish moving to the left from the mangroves. Speaking to no one in particular, but loud enough for all to hear I smiled and said, “Best 35 bucks I’ve ever spent.”




Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Work all night on a drink of rum
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Stack banana till de morning come
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Daylight come and me wan' go home

A beautiful bunch o' ripe banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Hide the deadly black tarantula
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day...
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day O from David Gilchrist - 4G Productions on Vimeo.

Mars Bay-South Andros Island-Hosted Trip

Joel La Follette - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I try to break up the year by planning a Bonefishing trip in the spring, just before things get cranking on the Deschutes with the Salmonfly hatch. This year I'm revisiting South Andros Island in the Bahamas. My last trip to South Andros was fantastic, but the boat ride to the southern tip of the island was a bit brutal when the wind blew. I broke a rib when the boat driver launched us off a big wave. That's why I've settled on Mars Bay Lodge right at the end of the road. No open water runs and just minutes from the flats. In fact, there's a flat right in front of the lodge if you don't get enough fishing during the day. 

I'm taking seven anglers on this adventure. Maybe you'd care to join me. Here's more information on the trip...


Mars Bay Lodge
Mars Bay is situated on the southeastern tip of Andros and affords anglers a short and easy skiff ride to pristine flats teeming with unpressured bonefish. The lodge itself is located on a flat large enough for a dozen fishermen. Mars Bay is the end of the road. To go any further south you will have to hop in a boat. That puts you ten miles closer to the best fishing grounds on the south end of Andros than the nearest lodge. What does that mean to you? No less than a ten mile shorter run over rough open water and an extra hour fishing each day. By the end of the week you've fished an entire extra day.

Location
Mars Bay Lodge is located on the southeast side of South Andros Island in the Bahamas. The time in the Bahamas is the same as Eastern Standard Time. Google Earth coordinates: 23°51'54.78"N, 77°30'52.48"W.
Accommodations and Meals
There is absolutely nothing pretentious about Mars Bay. The lodge is not a high-end fancy resort. The napkins are paper. They will not crack the pepper for you, you'll not find a mint on your pillow, and you will not be greeted at the dock with a hot steaming towel to wipe your brow. You can grab your own beer and mix your own drink the way you like it. Mars Bay is a fly fishing lodge for sportsmen. Think of it as the difference between a stuffy dinner party and a casual gathering with good friends. The lodge has a laid back vibe to but don't let that fool you. Everything goes off on time and as scheduled. One review said the lodge runs like a Swiss watch.

Bill Howard is your host and attends to the details. He is an American owner/operator and has been managing the lodge since it opened in 2002. He catches the fish and lobster for dinner. He maintains all the boats and equipment. He makes all the repairs around the lodge. He orders the supplies, fuels the boat, and carries the coolers. He is hands on and has the reputation as being the hardest working lodge manager in the Bahamas. None of it would be possible without having an excellent staff of cooks, maids, and guides doing their jobs.
Fishing Program
Mars Bay fishes primarily for bonefish with occasional tarpon and permit. Other species encountered include barracuda, jacks and several types of snapper. Ideally located to access the Southern Cays and flats of Andros, the lodge enjoys easy access some of the least pressured flats on the island.


Hosted Trip Itinerary: May 2nd – 9th, 2015
Saturday / May 2nd:
Sunday – Friday:
Arrive Congo Town, Bahamas:
Once you arrive in Congo Town, you will be met by a representative of the lodge who will transfer you (60 minutes) to the lodge by taxi.
Get settled in and prepare gear for the following days of fishing. Six full days of guided fishing on the waters of South Andros Island
Typical Daily Schedule:
5:00AM: Coffee is on
6:30AM: Wake up (if not awake already) 7:00AM: Breakfast is served
7:30AM: Load up and head out to the boats 7:45AM: Fishing
5:00PM: Return to the lodge
6:00PM: Hors d’oeuvres are served 
7:00PM: Dinner
Depart Mars Bay Lodge to return home.
Saturday / May 9th:
7 night / 6 day package
Angler Rate: $3,950.00 per person based on double occupancy
Included: Accommodations and meals at the lodge, beer & alcohol, transfers between Congo Town airport and the lodge, all ground transportation on South Andros, wireless Internet, guided fishing.
Not Included: Airfare to/from Congo Town (South Andros Airport), staff and guide gratuities.
Confirming your space:
A 50% deposit is required to confirm the trip and the final 50% is due 60 days prior to the trip start date. The trip is limited to 8 anglers and will be booked on a first come first serve basis. To confirm your space please contact:
Dylan Rose – Fly Water Travel  800-552-2729
Joel La Follette – Royal Treatment  503-850-4397
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns at any time!

Bonefish Travel Tips

Joel La Follette - Friday, July 04, 2014

1. When traveling, always wear clothes you can fish in. You never know when the rest of you gear will show up.

2. Always carry your rods, reels with lines, leaders and tippets, wading boots, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, medicine, camera, rain jacket and an extra change of clothes on the airplane. You should try to carry on anything that you can’t live without that is allowed by the airlines.

3. Since some flies and tools cannot be carried on the plane they must be checked. If checking two pieces of luggage put a box of flies in each or have a companion check one in theirs.

4. Carry along some favorite snack foods like beef jerky, trail mix, dried fruit or granola bars. Stash more in your checked bags. When leaving the country make sure the packages are unopened. Customs is funny about that sort of thing.

5. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to stay healthy when traveling. If bottled water is not available, bring along a backpacking type filter and use it! Water bottles with built in filters work too.

6. A small portable cooler is a great place to keep your snacks, drinks, camera, extra flies and sunscreen while out on the water. Make sure your camera is in a zip lock bag in case the cooler gets wet. Take plenty of zip locks!

7. Your cash, passport and wallet should be locked up at the lodge or, if that is not an option, on your person. I keep mine in a zip lock bag in my hip pack. Carry plenty of $5.00 and $10.00 for tipping your guides. Also plan on leaving shirts, tackle and other goodies for your guides after trip is over. A new pair of sunglasses make a great gift at the beginning of the week and might help your guide spot that big fish!

8 . Handi-wipes. The best things to carry for cleaning the sunscreen, sweat, and salt off your face. Great for cleaning up before lunch on the flats or on an airplane. Can also be used for…. well, you’ll figure it out. Get the soft packs and carry them in all of your bags. I use three or four packages on a weeklong trip.

9. Make up a small “fix anything kit” to make repairs to glasses, rods, reels, lines, etc. (see my list posted elsewhere on the web site)

10. Chill. Remember you’re on island time and things don’t always go as planned. A good attitude will make even the largest set-back seem like part of the adventure. Don’t be an “Ugly American”, respect the people, their country and culture. Ask questions, share stories, have fun. Leave a little bit of yourself and take home a little of the adventure in your heart. 

                                           

Bahamas Bonefish Fly List

Joel La Follette - Monday, August 10, 2009

With many islands to fish in the Bahamas, you will need to have a very good basic selection. Take plenty of the standards in fairly large sizes, 2-6, but don’t forget the skinny water stuff. Places like Long Island have lots of skinny water flats that require light flies. You will even find places that require flies with weed guards. The more the island gets fished, the spookier the fish will be. Heavy flies can send Mr. Bone off the flat in a hurry. Bead chain eyes will be fine for most flats. Some of the larger patterns like the Bahama Special have heavy lead eyes to help them sink the bulky materials. Big fish eat big flies!

As Bahamas Bones tend to be bigger than the fish you’ll find in Mexico or Belize, take strong tippet or you’re going to need more flies. Here are a few special flies to add to your collection…

Kwan                                                            size 4           Tan

Fur Shrimp                                                   size 4

Swimming Shrimp                                         size 6

Super Swimming Shrimp                                sizes 4, 6     

Slider                                                           size 4

Exuma Mini Puff                                            size 4           Tan or Pink

Marabou Shrimp                                            sizes 2, 6      Tan, Pink, or White

Ragin’ Cravin                                                 sizes 4, 6     

Bahama Special                                             size 4           Tan or Olive Tan

Squimp                                                        size 6

Golden Mantis Shrimp                                    size 4

Bonefish Scampi                                            size 6

Beck’s Sili Legs                                              size 4-6        Pearl

Crazy Charlie                                                size 4-6        Pearl, Tan, or Pink

Gotcha                                                         size 2-6

Gold Gotcha                                                  size 2-6 (my favorite Bahamas fly)

Permit can be found on some islands during certain times of the year. Always carry a few crab patterns and have a rod at the ready. Del’s Merkin or Raghead crab in sizes 4-1/0 will work as well as any. Tarpon, Jacks, Snapper and Cuda are also fair game. Although Tarpon are not found everywhere in the Bahamas, they can show up and it never hurts to have a few Deceivers or Sea Habits in your box. Those will work for the Jacks too. Snapper will take bonefish flies, Clouser Minnows being a good choice. Cuda will eat the baitfish patterns or a Needlefish fly. Remember the wire tippet.

Bonefish Basics Fly List

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, August 05, 2009

There are as many bonefish fly patterns used today as there are anglers using them. With that many options it’s hard to choose what you need for your trip unless you’ve been there before or know someone that has. If this is your first time bonefishing or twentieth, here’s a list of the flies that should be in your box no matter where you’re heading. Start with this selection and add specialty patterns as needed. Remember you need to have a good selection of sizes and sink rates. This is what I call…

BONEFISH BASICS

Mini-Puff                                                       size 4, 6       Old standby, still works

Tan Puff                                                       sizes 6, 8      My personal favorite

Marabou Shrimp                                            sizes 2, 6      Tan

Crazy Charlie                                                 sizes 6, 8      Pearl, pink, tan, root-beer

George Bush                                                 size 6, 8       Stupid name, CIS without Dazl Eyes 

Clouser Minnow                                             size 2-6        Tan/White, Gray/White

Clouser Minnow w/bead chain eyes                  size 4-6        Same colors, add a weed guard  

Gotcha                                                         sizes 2, 4, 6  Lead and bead chain eyes

Gold Gotcha                                                  sizes 2, 4, 6  My killer Abaco fly

Christmas Island Special                                 sizes 4, 6, 8  Orange, Pearlescent, Pink

These are the basics. You could travel anywhere and catch fish with these patterns. You’ll want a good selection of sizes and sink rates. Make sure you have plenty for your fishing partner too! Now take a look at suggestions for specific destinations.

Bonefish Tackle List

Joel La Follette - Sunday, February 18, 2007

There are two rules to remember when packing for any adventure. Keep it simple and only take what you REALLY NEED. Of course knowing what you’ll need on any trip is in some cases a “best guess” but with experience you’ll find you can get by with much less stuff. Here’s a few things you shouldn’t forget when heading to the Bonefish flats...

Rods and Reels  (carry them on with you)

Flies    (check out my fly selections for suggestions elsewhere)

Leaders and tippet   (I use 0x and 1 x fluorocarbon) 

Nippers, pliers, knot tyer and a knife

Waterproof gear bag and Flats pack w/water bottle

Sunglasses w/cleaning kit

Camera

Flash light

Fix-Anything Kit   (see Fix-Anything Kit post)

First-Aid Kit

Sunscreen and lip balm

Handy wipes

Hat and sun gloves

Flats boots and wet wading socks

Zip-off wading pants  (two pairs)

Long Sleeve fishing shirts  (two or three)

Fast drying underwear   (two or three pairs)

Travel clothes

Passport   (carry a few photo copies in your bags)

Cash    (most places won’t take cards or checks)

A good book or two

Flip-flops and a good attitude

Back to Abaco Island Bahamas

Joel La Follette - Monday, May 09, 2005

So I saddled up my seahorse, with a fly rod in my hand. I was not looking for salvation, just a salty piece of land....

Sandy Point, Abaco was that salty piece of land this past week for my group of angling adventurers. We landed at the end of the road and Rickmon Lodge on Saturday and felt the worries of the world disappear as we readied our gear for the week ahead. We all came from the northwest but hailed from many walks of life. Builders and businessmen, chefs and plumbers, retired welders and unemployed trout bums, we came to the flats to chase after bonefish and adventure. Both were found. No one went home without at least one quest fulfilled, some a quest not even imagined.

Weather is always the great unknown when heading to the tropics and this week was no different. If you didn't like it you just had to wait a few minutes and things changed. We had wind and calm, sun and cloud, fantastic thunderstorms and perfect tropical days. The storms for the most part provided entertainment in the evening into the night. The lightning would light up the night sky showing the silhouette of Gorda Cay or Cast-a-way Cay with Micky's cruise ship at anchor. The show would last most of the night and one night moved closer to our home a way from home and provided an up-close view of the power of nature.

Mornings dawned peacefully with a breeze coming from a different direction most days. This provided the opportunity to fish different flats, looking for protection from the breeze. Personally I never fished the same place twice during the week and still never saw all the places to fish. Sandy Point offers a vast of territory to chase Bonefish. Guess I'll just have to return.

The fishing itself ran from fair to great with plenty of big Bonefish to play with. Many fish in the 5-7 pound range found our flies and many more eluded them. Anglers traveling to the flats for the first time were in awe of these powerful silver bullets and many converts to the Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) of the Bonefish were made. All received official Brotherhood names with certificates (suitable for framing mon!) on the last night of our stay with one in particular being a very appropriate name. Darrell "One Cast" Webb earned his name by hooking and landing the first Permit he ever saw in his life on the first cast!  The battle lasted 50 minutes and when the dust had settled a 30 pound Permit posed for photos before being released to look for another lucky angler. Ya wanted to hate him but he's such a nice guy!

We fished with different guides each day, a rotation based on a first day drawing. Each guide was scored by the anglers with points awarded each day on the bases of ten different criteria. On the last day the scores were added and entries into a drawing were made based on the score. The prize for the week was a new Winston fly rod donated by the R.L. Winston Company and  a Bauer MZ 4 fly reel donated by the kind folks at Bauer Reels. Rods and reels are not easy to come by for most of these young men and the guides all worked hard for a chance to win this prize. In the end the outfit went to "Foots" a very deserving young man and one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to fish with. He's probably out on the flats right now chasing Bonefish with his new rod! All the guides were a real pleasure and I look forward to fishing with them again very soon.

The only bad part about any trip is that it does come to an end. We have to return to our everyday lives and the duties we have made for ourselves. It's comforting to think that while we make our way through our normal everyday lives there's a bit of adventurer that we keep in our heart knowing that there's always a Bonefish (or Permit) out there with our name on it and a salty piece of land.

Rickmon Lodge Abaco

Joel La Follette - Monday, May 10, 2004

“Reel in Dale, we’ll go somewhere else” Ricardo said as he bounded off the poling platform. Dad started to retrieve his fly line and step off the bow of Ricardo’s flats skiff. “Permit!”  Ricardo’s words had barely left his mouth; my permit rod was pulled from the rack and I had 30 feet of line laying on the deck. “Where?” I asked. “Nine o’clock”. 

My fly line was air-born with one false cast and I shot the little yarn crab fly towards the fish. The fly landed and the fish didn’t spook. Well, that’s a first. I thought to myself. The fish moved to the fly then turned away. That was more like the Permit I’ve met, very picky. I fired another cast. Again the fished looked over the fly but didn’t pick it up. Cast again, same result. The fish was moving closer, he would soon see the boat. Last shot. The fish moved to the fly. I stripped a little line then stopped. The fish tipped up and suck up the fly. “You got’em mon!” Ricardo shouted. And I did. My first Permit hooked and landed. Not a big fish, but I’ll take him.

 This all happened in a matter of ten minutes on the forth day of a wonderful stay at Rickmon Bonefish Lodge at Sandy Point on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Ricardo Burrows is the head guide and owner of this little piece of paradise on the SE tip of Abaco. His lodge is very comfortable and the staff most welcoming. I had the opportunity to fish with Ricardo two days during our stay and you seldom meet anyone who loves what he does as much as this guy. His smile is contagious and his laugh will make you forget the wind, clouds and bad casts.

 Although the weather was not perfect, we did have a little wind most of the week. Everyone had a great time. Raingear came out only briefly one day. Fishing was fair. Bonefish were one day easy and close lipped the next. Most likely due to the changes in wind direction and cooler water that moved in with it. Everyone caught fish and saw many hundreds more. I was impressed with the number and size of the fish I saw and caught. Although no double digit fish where landed we all saw some. It will be easy to return to Rickmon, we all have a few fish, we’d like another shot at. 


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