Spending time with the Smith brothers was awe-inspiring. Coming from a self-admitted bonefish junkie, knowing that there are guides doing more than talking and actually taking proactive action about a potential problem is refreshing. Traveling through the north end of Andros and meeting these brothers wouldn’t be complete without visiting their father, Charlie Smith. “Crazy Charlie” is the namesake of what is arguably the most well-known bonefish fly in existence. So popular was this pattern that, to this day, many people refer to flies tied in this style simply as a Charlie. In terms of patterns, Charlies cover a wide spectrum, but as a person, Charlie is anything but broad — one-of-a-kind would be more appropriate. Charlie had made the Bang Bang Club on Pot Key his home, and the decor and construction of the closed lodge matches his personality — charming and weathered. He smiles when he speaks about his children and also gives a logical and possible reason as to why Crazy was added in front of his name. “I’m the father of 16 sons. And, I make sure that everyone staying around me can use a fly. Oh, man, I’m so proud of my boys. That’s how come I’m so poor; I spent all my money on them. Yeah, man, I’m proud of them, very proud of them.”
Prescott, Benry and Andy all had a lot to say about their father and how he influenced them. As they explained, they’d often interrupt their own thought with an impersonation of their father, which showed how grateful they all are for what he instilled in them.
“He was really ahead of his time and was a great influence on me,” Prescott said. “But, to be honest, I was angry with him for some time. My father was spending all this money on all these boats for upcoming guides instead of investing it into my college education. However, I eventually realized that what my father did was one of the best models of conservation I had seen. I realized that, if you want people to protect the resource, you have to empower them.”
“My father was just fascinated by bonefishing,” Benry told us. “He showed me that you can make a good income and enjoy what you are doing to earn it. You could see that he’d be a little miserable when there weren’t any guests around, but when they arrived, he’d start dancing around, make himself a drink, and you could see, Daddy’s right at home.”
“My father is unbelievable. He’s not afraid to do and say things,” Andy said. “When he came to the bight, the industry was already started; he joined into it and started Charlie’s Haven in the ’70s. After the Bang Bang Club failed, in many ways Charlie’s Haven kept the bonefishing industry alive in the North Bight along with other bonefish guides such as Ivan Neymour, Rudy Bell, William Brennan — the list goes on.”
Acknowledgment of Charlie’s contributions didn’t come only from his sons. Charlie Neymour, son of the legendary Ivan Neymour and owner of Big Charlie’s, expressed gratitude to the man he was named after. “Thank God for Charlie Smith and his knowledge. As a guide, he was one of the greatest of all time. His attitude is superior. Overall as a person, he’s magnificent. If he knew he hurt you in some way, he’d take that little boat of his into the channel and sit there all night. Honest to God. Smitty was always like that; he was there for everybody. Everybody was glad and proud of what he did for the industry.”
All the Smiths give a strong impression that none of them got into the business for the money but rather because their father, among others, inspired them at a young age to love and respect a fish that’s invaluable to their country’s past, present and future. The Bahamian bonefishing legacy must continue, but it’s up to the next generation.
While sipping one last Kalik at Charlie Neymour’s bar the night before departure, Neymour remarked, “Nobody on this land can pay you like the fishing industry. I don’t care what you do, nobody can pay you like the fishing industry, and I’m not talking about money. Kids today need to understand, if they put forth the effort, they can be a great and respected guide, and in a short time, they can really be somebody in life. Anybody can become a good guide but you’ve got to want to do it, you’ve got to want to fish. You can’t just say, well, I want to just grab the money. No, man — that’s the last part of it.”
Helpful Contacts - Andros Island, Bahamas
1. Stafford Creek Lodge
2. Eva’s Bonefish Lodge
3. Big Charlie’s
4. Broad Shad Cay
Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures