The Bahamas is a great place to fly fish for bonefish as well as several other species! There is a lot of variety and opportunities that can accommodate the most adventurous fly fisher! Last week, I was fortunate enough to travel to Great Inagua in the Bahamas. Our group of 6 stayed at Outback Lodge. Dave Eaton was our leader and joining him were 3 biologists/parks guys; Rob, Mike and John as well as Dr. Bill Young and myself! Because of flight schedules from Canada, we arrived the day before our Bahamas Air flight to Matthew Town! Bahamas Air has new turbo prop planes that comfortably get you anywhere in the Bahamas. You have to pay attention to the flight schedules that head to the out islands! You also have to remember you are on island time. Your flight is often late and you need to factor that into your travel schedule! Everything on Great Inagua is expensive because of the cost to get things there! Gas is twice as much or more than we pay in Canada.
Food comes by boat or is caught! Sometimes food can be scarce! I am always amazed at what Islanders do to make do! Great Inagua is not a prosperous island at all. There is a great deal of damage from Hurricane Matthew. Life is relaxed and Islanders are easy going!
The big employer on Great Inagua is Morton Salt! They are an enormous operation that shapes the environment on a lot of Inagua! More about that later!
Once our group arrived in Matthew Town, I came to the realization that my bag of gear and fishing clothes did not make it on the flight. I did have my fly rods, reels but no flies, and my kit was in my bag nowhere to be seen. I was not very happy about my luggage not making it. Another one of the guys suffered a similar fate. Fortunately, our bags did get there the next day. I had to fly fish with what I had! My hiking shoes on my feet and the clothes I had in my pack would have to get me by. Fortunately Dave had a small fly shop in his travel bag so I had plenty of flies to get by until my bag arrived! Henry Hugh, owner of Outback Lodge, was there to greet us and take us in two beat up vehicles out to the Lodge.
There were lots of willing bonefish in the creek system that was a 30 minute paddle to from Outback Lodge. You can paddle up the creek or start hiking from the bay at the mouth of the extensive creek.
I was personally excited to come to Great Inagua because of the opportunity to catch tarpon! I have always wanted to catch one on a fly! The tarpon area is Lake Rosa! The lake is a massive shallow lake that has fluctuating water levels because of the water that is pumped into the lake as part of the Morton Salt business! Several of the pumps were damaged during Hurricane Matthew! The lake was low and the lake was churned up pretty good by the wind! My dream to tangle with a tarpon was pretty much a pipe dream! We spent two days trying and yes we saw a few tarpon in the distance but there was a very small chance of success!
Well the flats fishing was slow! Not a lot of bonefish! The signature flats on Inagua is close to the Lodge. It has several beautiful beats! Unfortunately for us, the bones were few, hard to find and spooky! I suspect that the bones have also become quite wary with the number of Do It Yourself fly fishers that hit this beautiful flat!
The creek system we kayaked to from camp had the most consistent bonefishing! You did have to get some walking in to find the fish in the back areas but for the most part the bones were quite cooperative once we located them! We did have to pay the price of slogging through mud to get to where we found bonefish.
There are not a lot of flats on Inagua. We had hoped for tarpon but that was a bust! So our gang was covering a lot of the the same ground more than once! That made the few fish even tougher to catch! I personally resorted to a 15 foot, 10 pound leader with size 6 gotchas with a pink head. I also went without beads, plastic beads or very light bead chain for the weight on the fly. That was to get the fly in the game without spooking the bonefish!
One neat opportunity at Great Inagua is the chance to catch box fish, trigger fish, barracuda and lady fish. We did catch all four species during the week !
The day does not start very fast at Inagua but I guess that is island life! We usually fished until near dark and then bumped our way back to the Lodge in two rather beat up vehicles that had seen better days! Several of us enjoyed watching the sunrise, we even fished right out in front of the Lodge one morning while waiting for breakfast!
There were several days that the sand flies were vicious and we all had red welts to prove it!
Dr Bill caught an enormous barracuda on one flat on the final day! That was awesome!
You encounter some neat creatures on the island too! Flamingos, burrowing owls, parrots, wild donkeys, dogs and boars can be seen on any given day!
Morton Salt is a big business that covers a lot of the island! They have reshaped a lot of the land! A lot of it has been made to have salt water pumped in, evaporated and finally scooped up to be shipped to a lot of destinations including Canada! The land does not have much growing in these areas! The salt areas are desolate and scrubby! Not much can survive there! My thoughts are quite mixed about the impact that Morton Salt has on the environment! Morton Salt is quite a contraction to me! They stress a clean environment, protect the flamingos but their business totally devastates the land!
I have learned a long time ago that there are lots of things you cannot control! Weather is one! The whims of Morton Salt Company, wind and Hurricane Matthew dashed my chance to catch a tarpon! That was was extremely disappointing! It also caused the ocean flats to get refished on a daily basis. The unusually low numbers of bonefish made it tough going! Could have Hurricane Matthew caused the bonefish population to be down, maybe! The size of the bonefish were just ok! I hoped to see the odd larger fish!
I did meet several great fly fishers! Dave Eaton did a good job organizing the trip! Henry Hugh, owner of Outback Lodge runs a good operation! He is busily trying to get everything back to normal after Hurricane Matthew! There was no internet available, one deck was destroyed and the shingles are almost all back where they need to be!
I would recommend just 4 fly fishers in the area if there are no tarpon opportunities! I would think that any booking agent be forthcoming with that type of information!
I learned a lot on this trip! I enjoyed the gang's company and the lodge. The trip certainly had some disappointments but there was lots of positives too!