Loosely defined, a legacy is a tradition that’s been handed down from generation to generation. To fully understand the foundation of any legacy, we must examine the past in order to know more about those who played a hand in why, and how, the legacy came to be. Only then can we gain a true appreciation for the ones who follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.
Island to island, the list of names that could be credited with shaping Bahamian bonefishing could likely fill this entire page. In terms of Andros, names such as Rolle, Brennan, Leadon, Neymour and Smith immediately come to mind. While a bloodline doesn’t physically exist between these names, the surviving members of these families are bonded by a brotherhood of bonefishing, and each name has as much to do with the tradition as the fish itself.
Currently, the Bahamian bonefishing torch burns brightly, and those who hold it are ready and willing to pass it on; however, a legitimate concern has risen about whether or not they will find an extended hand to accept it.
To get to the bottom of the issue, we called upon Ian Davis, owner of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures. During a 12-year stint running a successful fly shop in Breckenridge, Colorado, Davis learned the inner workings of the fly-fishing industry from a grass roots level and eventually hosted trips to Andros. Through these trips, Davis was able to develop relationships with guides such as Charlie Neymour and Prescott, Benry and Andy Smith, and soon his Bahamian business acquaintances became close friends that he continues to visit, send clients to and fish with today. Over the years, Davis became familiar with the legendary island, and it has since become one of his favorite destinations on the planet. When he joined Jim Klug, founder of Yellow Dog, it was a natural move for him to become the company’s Bahamian ambassador. Davis’ intimate knowledge of the island and close relationship with the Smith family (among others) made him the perfect land-based guide for five days of fishing and FFSW interviews with the Smith brothers and their father.
For our first stop, Davis selected Stafford Creek Lodge, owned and operated by Prescott, an intimidating yet very welcoming member of the Smith family. Over breakfast, Prescott expressed a love not only for the bonefish, permit and tarpon that inhabit the lodge’s surrounding waters but also for the vitality of the resource in which they swim.
Many guides credit their reason for getting into the line of work to their love for fishing — but not Prescott. Prescott humbly attributes his choice of profession to conservation. That’s not to say he doesn’t truly enjoy guiding or fishing. When he speaks about the bucket mouth of a tarpon opening on a fly, the wiliness of permit or how the giant bonefish of Andros “didn’t get that big by being no fool,” one can easily determine that there’s nothing he’d rather do in life.
“I’ve always loved fishing. From the time I was a toddler, I had my hand line with a bucket of crabs and would go on the beach and catch a little bonefish or a small permit. Back then, fly-fishing was pretty foreign to me, but from time to time, I would notice someone sneak in my father’s lodge through the back door with a fly rod. I remember thinking they were pretty strange characters waving that thing back and forth. I guess around age 10 or 11, I started waving that fly rod back and forth myself. After high school I joined the military, and ... during that time my brother Andy started talking to me about spreading fly-fishing around the Bahamas as a way to educate the locals on how important the sport is to the Bahamas.” Agreeing with his brother’s words, Prescott saw running a fly-fishing lodge as not only a business opportunity but also a way of contributing to the resource and raising awareness about the significance of protecting it.
As the first bonefish of the day came boat-side only minutes after shutting down on our first flat, Prescott politely said, “Before you grab him, wet your hands, please. The water is cold so he is going to be just fine. Now, show off your first Andros bonefish.”
As he poled, in between a few missed shots and a couple more fish, our conversation steered from the issue of conservation to the future of guiding in the Bahamas. The root of the problem, Prescott said, is summed up in three words: education, education, education. “Kids today know that bonefish exist, but in my opinion, they don’t realize how important they really are — and that’s our fault. We haven’t done a good job of educating them across the board, and that goes for all of the Bahamas.”
Prescott’s counter to the issue can be seen through various youth camps that he runs through Stafford Creek. When he speaks about the reaction of the kids, his face completely lights up and a grin stretches widely across his face. “When I see these kids’ confidence level increase and as I see them realize what’s in their backyard and what’s been in their backyard their whole lives, I want to stop guiding and only run these clinics. Once we get them on the water, it’s hard to get them off.” Camps such as these certainly help the situation, but Prescott is adamant that something on a much grander scale needs to happen fast.