When I first started bonefishing in the Bahamas there were very few lodges, let alone, high end lodges. On this upscale side, there was Walker Cay... and Deep Water Cay, but few others. These lodges catered to anglers that wanted a more amenities and the familiar feeling one get from an American fingerprint.
But, in the 80's and 90's, the majority of the bonefishing lodges were Bahamian owned and Bahamian managed. Andros Island Bonefish Club and Rickmon Bonefish Lodge on Abaco come to mind. Sure there were a few rough edges, but the overall feel was authentic and never contrived. Often a family managed the operation and if one came back time after time, one got to know the staff including cooks, guides and owners quite well.
As the popularity of bonefishing in the Bahamas grew, more and more “sophisticated” lodges popped up. Amenities increased as did the efficiency of the operations... better boats, better food and more well-trained guides were some of the pluses. Higher prices and more rods sharing the same water were the definite minuses.
I have to admit I have, at times, missed the old days. Things had gotten a bit too polished for me at some destinations and I felt some of the “feel” of the islands had begun to disappear. Now don’t get me wrong, many of the new lodges offer great experiences and I really like going to them, but I definitely have felt some nostalgia for these “old school’ spots.
This is one of the resaons I think so many anglers enjoy fishing with Sidney Thomas and his crew at Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge... LABL is real. The guides are teriffic, the fishing is unpressured and the amenities and food are sufficient for many hardcore anglers.
Enter Hurricane Dorian...
Six of us had planned to visit Sidney and his wife Ketta in early November at Little Abaco Bonefish Lodge, but Hurricane Dorian emphatically ruined those plans. So, as we organized relief efforts for Little Abaco (see GoFundMe), we also planned to stick with our plans to go fishing. We felt the best thing for the Bahamas’ economy was to support their tourist business. We didn’t want to shy away from the Bahamas at this disastrous point in their history. By God, we were going fishing and we would spend our fishing dollars in the Bahamas.
When looking for an alternate venue, we focused our attention on the Crooked/Acklins area. Our group has very successfully fished this area many times over the years. The lodge we previously used was booked solid, so I turned to a more remote area that I hadn't fished since we were last on the Sea Hunter in 2014. I thought this area would give us access to both the Snug Harbour area and the virtually untouched area south of Spring Point. I booked a small lodge for us and told my crew to be prepared for some rough edges and a few hiccups. This trip was going to be “old school” and I made no promises as to amenities, food or service. I knew if the guides could get us to the fishing grounds we would have good fishing... the rest was an unknown.
We arrived Acklins under clear skies and were met by a very friendly crew. They grabbed our bags and we were off. Twenty minutes later we pulled in and drove the van almost out onto the beach. We walked a few yards opening the doors to spacious rooms that were immaculately clean. With crisp new bedding, high efficiency air conditioning and a mini fridge it made the views out the windows seem even that much more incredible. The ocean was only feet away... it sat invitingly just past a few coconut palms that lined a dazzling white sand beach.
We were told that as soon as we unpacked, lunch would be ready then we could go fishing on our own for a few hours. We made our way to a lovely screened-in veranda where we were served a fish soup that was as good as any fish soup I’ve had anywhere ever. This was a harbinger of things to come. I can only say our food was consistently wonderful and sensationally Bahamian!
Man, I was rusty... the first group of bones I saw came out of the mangroves and totally caught me off guard. I slung a pathetic cast at the small pod slapping my fly on the water. I could hear them snickerimg as they casually finned away. I took a deep breath and waded off towards a patch of white sand near a white steeple that rose up out of the vegetation that lined the shore in the small settlement of Snug Harbour. I could hear music and as I got closer, the volume increased along with the intensity of the message. Eventually, I was virtually in church.
As I searched for fish, I received various encouraging messages from the choir. I blew another opportunity, but I was told not to worry, my salvation would come... and it did. Soon, I landed a hefty bone just as a woman’s beautiful voice began singing a lovely gospel song. The verses wafted over the flat. The lovely gospels kept coming and as I kicked up molten gold with each soft step in the late afternoon light, it was a beautiful experience. I caught a few fish, blew many more, but definitely enjoyed being in my church and so close to theirs.
Next: PART TWO