Bahamas Road Trip

A day sometimes comes along that’s a little different from the rest where the romantic side of the brain just takes hold and demands you to just drop whatever is going on at the time and head south.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s probably how you got to Boca Grande in the first place.
But have you ever given any thought about those of us who are fortunate enough to live here? Just where would you think we might go when the time comes to, “just get away”?
That was the mind set when Air Bubba Team leader Brian Kelly called me up a few weeks ago and said lets go fishing.
Now at first I assumed he was talking about getting out and chasing the snook that are starting to get going in the backcountry or getting his boys Mike and Patrick out for a day on the water. But Brian had another plan in mind this time.”Let’s get away and go catch a bonefish” he said. I sat up at my desk and was all ears at the sound of that.
This is the time of year where I’m in the middle of my tournament bass fishing season. When I’m home, I’m working in the shop or guiding and dealing with the winter cold fronts. Then about every two weeks I’m on the road traveling to some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers around the country, but still fighting cold, nasty weather at each stop.
The rivers and bayous of southern Louisiana are an interesting place in February. But that’s another story.
At the mention of the word “Bonefish” my mind immediately produced a vision of a warm crystal clear water flat, sand in my toes, steel drums, and a lazy rotating paddle fan in an open thatch roofed outdoor bar… I was up for this deal.
Trying to sound cool and not too anxious, I asked where he wanted to go. The reply was pretty simple. “I don’t know, check it out and get back to me”.
With that, I went to work. I knew that Air Bubba’s new home base was now the convenient Coral Creek Airport just off the island. That put just about the whole Bahamas within the planes fuel window.
This project was almost like Christmas!
I had to do a quick check on the quality of a couple of airports that could handle a jet, and find one that would give us access to some fairly remote areas where the fishing is usually better.
Now in the Bahamas, “quality” is a relative thing. Past experiences told me to be a little cautious. In case you don’t know, they have a way about things over there. After several calls to a few different places, we decided to check out The Andros Island Bonefish Club for this trip.
The on board crew was to be Brian, his dad, Hugh, Ron Miller visiting from Jackson Hole, myself, my brother, Bob Melvin, and my brother-in-law, Frank Davis.
Air Bubba departure time was set for 7 am Tuesday from Coral Creek and the return was set for 6 pm Wednesday. Just two short days for this trip. Flight time to Andros Town Airport was 48 minutes to touchdown. That included a flyover to make sure there were no kids, bicycles or stray dogs on the runway.
We got off to an interesting start with the “limo” service that greeted us at the airport. Our transportation was a well worn and rusty 1989 Dodge Van. AC was an open window.
As we traveled just a little too fast for my comfort level down a narrow, bumpy road from the Airport on a suspension that the NASCAR guys would describe as loose going in and loose coming out, our driver told us his given name, which I have forgotten, and that he was related to everybody, but that nobody would know who you were talking about unless you called him Milo.
He was pretty entertaining on our short drive. Especially when he stopped off the road to hold court in a community of about six houses and one rickety old gas pump to get 3 gallons of gas for the 20 mile trip. We got a kick out of that move.
All the local kids standing around getting ready for school squealed out his name and waved as he pumped the gas. He was a popular guy, and it was obviously his Island.
When we arrived at the Club we quickly stowed our luggage in comfortable rooms and began readying our tackle. All that is except Brian. His first move was to go out and check on the guides gathered at the dock. He has become quite good at being first to select the best guide on these trips.
Just as we took off from the docks the wind picked up considerably from the south east. Just like here, when the weatherman says the wind will blow 15 to 20, you should just add that together and expect it to blow 35. Since we were on the east side of Andros, that made it tough to find a flat to sight fish with a fly rod. Most of the better flats for this wind direction were way south of our location and after getting a late morning start, that meant a long, rough ride in a light 16 foot skiff for a relatively short amount of fishing time. We elected to stay close by on day one.
In hindsight it was a wise decision, and not necessarily because the fishing was better close by.
If you go to Andros and find yourself booked with a guide named “Rambo”, it will be an adventure to take a long or short ride anywhere. Especially if its rough. Frank and I were fishing together and we had a great time just riding around with him. His fishing instincts were a little questionable, but the boat ride was like a ride at Disney. Rambo only knew one speed….wide open and he always had the motor trimmed out. The little 90 HP Yamaha was wound out tighter than a chain saw all day. He had a friendly deep, bellowing laugh that reminded me of the guy in the beer commercial. We got soaking wet about every third wave going anywhere. It got to the point where Frank and I would just look at each other and bust out laughing each time we moved from spot to spot.
We didn’t catch anything and still had fun. Each of us lost a couple of nice Bones on fly both days, but the wind made it really tough to see them, much less catch them on a fly.
The rest of Team Bubba did O.K., catching many small bones with spinning rods and shrimp, but the wind was just a little overwhelming on this trip for the fishing part to be great for the bigger ones.
This go ‘round Bob earned the title of Mr. Big with a 8 lb bonefish that fell for a tan gotcha fly while he was wading in hip deep water. As we listened to him recount how this ‘Bone suddenly appeared at his feet and ate the fly as he dangled it from the end of his fly rod, like using a cane pole for bluegill, we were all unanimous that we could stop looking, he had found the dumbest bonefish on the planet.
All in all, despite unfavorable fishing conditions, we had a great time. The hospitality at the Andros Island Bonefish Club was casual and unpressured, just like you’d expect in the Bahamas. Our evening meal of freshly caught Mahi, conch chowder and peas & rice was relaxed and just right for the family atmosphere we were all enjoying.
Next time you see a sliver of time that you can say, “the heck with it all, I want to just get away for a day or two” get a few friends together and stop in and see me for directions to Rambo`s water world.

-Capt. Sandy Melvin

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