Three situations really scare me when fishing far from home: thunderstorms, running aground and reading “dinner attire.”
The first two are self-evident. The third is open for interpretation and, in my case, misinterpretation. I felt extra pressure to crack the dress code because I was the only female outdoor writer on a whirlwind bonefish tour hosted by Karen Wring and Earl Miller of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation in Florida. The ministry’s goal was to showcase a few newer lodges considered to be a little more couples-friendly.
On the night we were to dine at Tiamo, a high-end boutique hotel on South Andros, I was really afraid to blow my girl cover and have people find out that, in actuality, I was just a crusty old charter boat captain. Truthfully, I felt more comfortable with the thunderstorm that chased us off the water that day than I did struggling with the yet-unknown dress code for the evening. The afternoon storm was especially sparky, but our guide, Mark Bastian, timed our escape perfectly, maximizing the fishing while delivering us relatively dry to the wraparound porch at Swains Cay Lodge. As the lightning cracked and other boats appeared through sheets of rain, my fishing partner, Paul Rouse, and I finished off a plate of conch fritters and recapped our morning.
We had just experienced a classic day of South Andros bonefishing. It had started well before dawn in Nassau, where we’d met Marvin, our private pilot for the week. After a rainy flight to South Andros with a brief “oops, wrong airport” touch-and-go, local ministry officials had picked us up and taken us to Swains Cay Lodge. While we stuffed ourselves on a typical Bahamian breakfast of fish stew and Johnny cakes, Cynthia, the lodge owner, had described the lodge’s amenities. Rouse and I had packed our boat lunches, assembled our tackle and then waded out to meet Bastian, who was already awaiting us in his skiff. It was a quick run to the first flat and the tide was perfect.
In slightly breezy conditions, Bastian strategically positioned us along creek mouths as the water dropped. Like clockwork, bones of all sizes showed easily on the clean bottom and pounced on tan No. 6 Crazy Charlies. With an 8-weight in my hand and an outstanding guide behind me, it was almost hard not to catch fish. I knew that Rouse would forever regret not casting to an Andros bonefish, so I pleaded with him to try. He reluctantly took over my rod, but this was his first-ever flats experience and he did not yet feel bone-worthy.
After a few practice casts to get comfortable with the new gear, Rouse was ready to go. Bastian was able to spot fish from a great distance and position the boat with optimal angles to the approaching fish all the while coaching Rouse on casting. Within 15 minutes Rouse was hooked up and cracking his knuckles on the whizzing handle of the reel. With video rolling, I hooted like a proud baseball mom whose kid had just put one over the fence. Proving to be a quick learner, Rouse soon hit another home run and eventually began a little trash talking, and of course Bastian and I had to chime in too. What I admired most about our guide was that he was a lot of fun to fish with and had that classic Bahamian sense of humor but still managed to remain a great ambassador for Andros. Both Rouse and I were full of questions, and Bastian intelligently answered them all until the sky turned black. Throughout the day, I asked several questions about Tiamo — the high-end lodge I had been hearing about for so long. Most of his answers included the word fancy. When I finally arrived, completed my Internet check-in and arrived in my room, his description was confirmed.