Part 2: D.I.Y. Bahamas Bonefishing trip, the fishing and what to bring
This is part 2 of 2 of the D.I.Y. Bone fishing to to Long Island Key Bahamas.
Pinky, the guide that runs the Long Island Bone fish lodge tells me that 75% of all the flats on Long Island is wade able. Though he also offer the normal guided trips, he tells me this fact allows him to offer a D.I.Y. at a lesser price and makes his lodge a little different than most others.
The daily routine is:
- 6am coffee and breakfast to order
- 7-8 am consider the conditions and discuss options of what type of fishing was best that day
- 12 Noon Lunch break
- 4-6pm depending how things were going head back to the lodge
- 7pm – beer, appetizer and drinks at the club house
- 8pm Dinner of Conch, Lobster or Nassau grouper
The D.I.Y. concept is more of an assisted fishing rather than 100% on your own. This is great since the guides takes you places in their skiff drops you off in areas with the best conditions. Local knowledge like wind directions, water clarity, and tidal flows are considered when dropping you off on a flat.
Once dropped off they give an overview of the area and where the fish are likely to be found. They then give you directions of either when to come back or when they will pick you up to move to another location.
The Fishing Options
Wading on hard bottom on white sand flats of shallow bays nearby the lodge is one option that is offered each morning. Here the guide takes you out on their skiff and within 2 to 5 miles you are fishing white sand flats for bonefish.
Wading on salt flats is an option where they load everyone up and head south for about 30minutes. You will heading towards and abandon salt manufacturing plant that was owned by Diamond Crystal during the 70’s. Here you will pass abandon buildings and structured used to produce salt.
You will travel through canal systems and shallow flats that once was used to produce table salt. The canals and flats are now filled with bait fish, small sharks, crabs, tarpon, jacks, snappers and bonefish.
Wading via kayak as transport: this is an option in area of the Salt flats specifically in area that is too deep or the bottom is too soft.
Wading fishing the crystal clear water on the beaches: This option is the by far the most scenic of the all the options. You are on white sand beaches walking in gin clear water sight fishing bone fish, snappers and cudas.
Aaron from the bonefish institute and the guides did not need shoes at many of the spots. However there were places that were sharp and rocky enough it was treacherous with out them.
On the white sand flats even tried with no shoes on but once you get to the rocky area the rocks can be sharp indeed. I mean to the point where it can cut through the weak point of the shoes. Unless you are one tough SOB a good pair of wading shoes is a must have if you want fish comfortably here.
I brought along two pair of shoes. The Body glove 3 toe shoes and the Simms Zipit bootie. I gave the 3 Toe a try the first day and they did the job on the packed sand flats. When it got the rocky area these guys just did not have enough protection especially around the ankle area.
I used the Simms Zipit the rest of the trip which did great but even these I felt there was not enough protection. The next trip over for wading fishing I will be bring my Simms Flats boots. These have plenty of protection all the way around plus the added support for the ankle. I never thought I would need it there but there were plenty of flats with uneven rock bottom that the ankle support would have made it much easier to death with.
Another thing to consider since you will wading is neoprene wading socks. This will keep the debris out and keep blistering to a minimum. A couple of more experienced guys had these and I was a bit jealous after the 3rd or 4th day.
I would wear whatever is comfortable. Since you will not be making any big runs in a boat wide brim hat will be the best protection for wade fishing. Since it was so windy and overcast for the first few days, I stayed with my normal visor which worked just fine. Most of the guys wore baseball hats.
Do not make the mistake of making head wear an option. Under normal good weather the sun will make it hot for you real quick! This can lead to sunburn and even heat exhaustion.
Compliment this with face mask like a buff and you have the perfect combination to use there. Not only protection from the sun but bugs and such as well.
Since it was so windy bugs was not an issue with us but they are definitely something to think about.
Here is a POV video of me hooking a bone fish tailing in ankle deep water.
Another must have item is a good pair of polarize sunglasses. Most polarize sunglasses will work but try to bring the amber or copper colored polarize sunglasses. This allows for better contrast so you can spot the fish better. Bone fish is hard enough to spot even in the gin clear water of the Bahamas. If you do not have a polarize sunglasses you mine as well stay home for this type of fishing.
I used the Costa Del Mar 580 copper. I brought 2 pairs with me. This was a good thing too. While trekking through some bushes in the salt flats I lost one. Since the walk was almost 5 miles I had no idea where it could have fallen off my neck.
I wear the Zane frame. If you got a big head and a flat nose like me this is a good frame to try.
A good light weight rain gear is probably a good idea. This thing came in handy more than once. Bring something small enough you can compress and pack into your back pack or chest pack. Make sure it’s breathable.
It gets pretty uncomfortable when it’s raining so you have to wear your jacket but it’s so darn hot you are sweating on the inside.
I had a Columbia omni tech which worked out nicely.
Pants and under wear:
When I first started traveling I use to bring the kitchen sink! If I was going to go for 5 days I would bring five days worth of clothes and then some just for back ups.
Through experience, research and observing other seasoned travels I have learned to bring the bare minimal. Bring high quality clothes yes but bring as little as you can.
When I say high quality I don’t mean designer wear. I mean technical gear that is specifically made to wear often, in tough conditions, wash and rewashed plus dry very quickly for next day’s use.
No matter how long I’m staying I only bring 3 outfits with me now. 3 pants(+pair of board shorts), 3 underwear, 3 shirts.(along with a couple casual wear items) The high tech material the travel wear are made of these days allow me to jump into the show with them on at the end of the day. I rinse it all up with soupy water and hang dry. By the next day they are completely dry and ready to go. This makes dealing with your clothe a lot easy to deal with.
The Rail Riders were the same way but the Rail Riders had tones of pockets. I used these for the airport travel as well. The multiple pockets allow me to carry my phone, wallet, passport and such. The zipper pockets on some of them made me felt very secure that I was not going to lose important items during my travels. These shorts were made to travel and fish with and I put them to the test all week.
The underwear I brought along were Under Amour and Exofficio microfibers. Not only are they comfortable, they dry super quick and was ready to use the next day.
These are not cheap items and are more expensive than the cheapest brands out there. I use to buy the $19.95 fishing pants but they would only last 1 year before they start to split up and falling apart. This is the last thing I need when I travel so I do my best to bring the most durable most efficient clothing.
My shirts consist of a short sleeve micro fiber for walking around the lodge plus a cotton T to sleep with. I brought along two long sleeves to fish with. Just make sure they are quick dry material with good sun protection ratings. Shirts with pockets are also good since you can never have enough pockets when you are wade fishing.
Suggested Fishing Gear
You can get away without a wading pack and use your pockets but you will probably end up regretting not having one.
One person had the waist pack and the rest either had a back pack or a back pack chest pack combo. This allows you to be self sustaining bringing extra fishing gear, rain jacket, drinks and snacks.
I used the William Joseph Confluence. This unit allow me to have all my rain gear and cameras in the back secure with zippers. In the front the confluence uses magnets for easy access and anti rust.
Most of the bonefish in Bahamas are smaller compared to the average size bonefish in Florida waters. Many guys had 6 wt with them to be a little more sporty and or stealthy on those calm days.
If you could only bring one I would suggest brining an 8 wt fly rod. It is perfect for 90% of your fishing there. It’s not too heavy and can still deal with windy days.
I brought along my BVK 8wt as well as my 9th NRX. Thankfully I did it was blowing 25 to 30mph for 4 days and the 9wt definitely came in handy. Not that the fish were large, but to deal with wind, it definitely became helpful turning the fly over against the wind.
When one of the guys noticed my bling NRX rod he told me, “man you got an awesome combo there”. I looked at his combo and it was the top of the line from a really famous company. I replied back, “Really? I figured it would be that new one, so and so company just came out with.. “. He said, “yeah but I think the NRX is better..”
So the moral of the story is…. If you’re into high end fly gear the NRX & NV combo is envied by some to notch guys out there. This is coming for guys that can have almost any rod & reel they wanted.
A waterproof fly reel is a must have while doing this trip in my opinion. Since you are wading 90% of the time dunking your reel in saltwater is inevitable. The last thing you need is your reel failing on you while on a trip and wading.
There are many waterproof reels out there. I brought along a Nautilus FWX. This super feather weight reel is waterproof but not as bullet proof as their NV series. I also brought along the NV series reel. This sucker is bullet proof and I’ve dunk the crap out of this thing on more than one occasions.
If you check out a couple of photo my Nautilus NV was wet from rain, submerged in mud, sand and saltwater. At one time I had such a bad tip wrap in 25 mph winds I say screw it and just dropped the entire combo while I fix the issue.
An unsolicited compliment I got there from a few of the big name writers there told me the Nautilus NV is probably one of the best if not the best Saltwater reel out there.
Being the low man on totem pole when comes to world travel out there made me felt good about my gear choices that day.
You want a floating weight forward fly line in these conditions. Any tropical type line will do. The worst thing you can do is bring fly line made for fresh water conditions. It will drive you crazy. The heat will make the line limber, sticky and you will spend most of your time untangling the mess rather than fishing.
I like the SA Mastery Bonefish taper but any tropical line you are comfortable with will work just fine. Just make sure it is made for warm weather.
Another video shot on the Niko AW100 of bonefish in so skinny of water, it got grounded when he came unbotton.
Whether you tie your own, get them from friends or by them both trips to the Bahamas for me, the fish seems to like the gotcha flies. Get them in variety of colors and weight. I’m not saying this is the only pattern that works. We were catching them on all kinds of flies. Most of them imitated a crab if that gives you can clue.
You will mostly fish waters knee high or shallower so make sure you bring un weighted flies as well. We were catching tailing fish in ankle deep water the last two days. They were tailing on rocky flats that I would never thought to fish if I was back home in Florida.
Baby Nassau grouper caught in the wrecks
The winds made for some spectacular shore breaks
I brought along with me all kinds of gear. I packed GoPro, a Nikon D7000, Sony Nex5 , Nikon AW100, and other video gear. Since I wanted to really fish this trip instead of just taking photos however my gear I carried with me was very limited.
While wading my camera choice was the waterproof Nikon AW100 and the Sony NEX-5 in a zip lock bag. Wade fishing leaves very little opportunity for camera work especially if you want to fish as well. I find myself using the AW100 80% of the time. As you can see I did manage to get some good photos with it.
Wanting to give other fisherman space I find myself along quite often. Even though there were way more fish caught than the ones you see, there was very little grip and grin opportunity since most time we were hundreds of yards away from one another.
That being said the scenery was fantastic so the wide angle lens was used 90% of the time. A polarize filter is also a must to bring out the blues in the skies, lower the reflection in the water and increased the saturation.
Hope you find this How to DIY bone fishing trip to the Bahamas helpful. I know I could have used a no BS guide like this this first time I visited there to fish.