Bonefishing in the Bahamas - Travel Feature
The Old Men and the Sea
an acute eye could not have detected what was the sky
and what was the sea. The elements melted their colors
into each other, erasing the thin line of separation that
usually tells us where our world ends and the unknown
one begins. The planet had come to a quiet fusion with
the universe. I could not sense the slightest shiver of
a breeze. It was as unreal and awesome as one of the best
paintings by Salvador Dalí.
seemed that the speedy, flat motor craft skating full
steam ahead was going to pop out of the frame and rocket
its passengers into space. The sun was lazily pushing
itself past the eastern tip of the Grand Bahama Island.
Under the guidance of Fred Rolle and in the company of
Doug Wilson a seasoned photographer and fisherman I
was heading off on an exceptional fishing expedition,
the kind only known to a happy few aficionados such as
presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Fred, who
is not much younger than his two old men passengers, was
leading our first steps in the practice of bonefishing — an
off-the-beaten-path sporting activity practiced only in
rare locations. The flat waters of Grand Bahama's eastern
tip is an ideal location.
zigzagged in these shallow waters to ride into the deeper
channels, following his knowledge of the sea as well as
his instincts. The craft slowed down as Fred shut off
the engine. There was no motion and total silence. We
thought, probably in unison, that at this precise instant
the world was perfect. Then the deep and soft voice of
Fred was heard saying: "Lots of fish, man; lots of
had not seen anything. "I knew they would be there,"
added a modest but triumphant Fred as he pointed. Staring
wide-eyed, we caught a glimpse of a few ripples on the
surface. The suspicious bonefish (known to scientists
as Albula vulpes) were feeding in less than three
feet of water with their tail fins scratching the surface,
hence the ripples that betrayed them. We knew where they
were, but they were too far for us to cast our lines and
the water was too shallow for the propeller. Silence became
the essence of the hunt. Fred pushed on a long perch to
bring the small craft to a reasonable distance. A bonefish
does not like to be disturbed when feeding. It won't respond
to any invitation that's too insistent but won't bother
to address a too-distant solicitation, either . The most
appetizing shrimp will not lure this naturally skeptical
fish if it is not offered at the right time and place.
That's the beauty of the sport.
guide Fred Rolle
cast and cast again. The school of bonefish did not pay
the slightest attention to our efforts. "That's all
right," nodded Fred, whose sight was able to penetrate
under the ocean. He had noticed how superbly indifferent
the darn things were, but had more than one trick in his
fishing bag. Slowly we revolved around the not-so-hungry
school and Fred reasoned that if they didn't have a big
appetite, maybe they had a small one. He attached a smaller
shrimp to the hook. Doug was beginning to be a tad demoralized.
"Your turn to cast," he decided, passing the
rod on to me. After a few more casts, the miracle happened.
A sharp bite was followed by the sensation of a whale
pulling that minuscule thread in all directions. Excitement
reached a peak and the "crew" jumped up, ready
to partake in the long-awaited victory.
the rod up," instructed Fred with a touch of jubilation
in his voice. "Don't resist. Let him pull out as
much line as he wants and pull him back when he is tired."
So I did just that, trusting Fred's experience. After
a good ten minutes of combat, the fish was wriggling around
the boat. That was the end of the game. The rule is that
the fish must then be set free to return to its life,
with our apologies.
and André Gayot
was resurrected. He seized the rod and cast again. In
a matter of minutes, he got his, too. The situation was
even. The old men were happy. "Mission accomplished,"
Fred probably thought.
thin wake slightly tore the tranquil surface. "Ah,
ah," grumbled Fred, "here he comes." Obviously,
he was expecting the visit. The intruder was a shark heading
slowly toward the waning school of bonefish. It was breakfast
time underwater. We felt it was probably appropriate for
the humans to retire, to not interfere any longer and
let the life of the sea return to its usual pace. As we
returned to the landing, musing and taking the time to
admire again the infinite emerald and turquoise hues of
the incredible landscape, a sense of peace and beauty
filled the heart of us two old men. We looked at each
other and knew it was one of the best outdoor experiences
we ever had. It was a bit of sport, a bit of emotion,
a bit of suspense and a lot of gorgeous nature.
Phil and Mel's Bonefishing Guide Services
Philip and Mel Thomas
McClean's Town, Grand Bahama Island
photos by Doug Wilson, of Doug
Wilson Digital & Analog Photography