Andros Island Bonefish Legends

Both the quality of the fishing and family offering it are legendary!

On The Fly Saltwater

Article and featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs

The shuttle ride from the Fresh Creek Airport down to the Andros Island Bonefish Club on North Andros Island provided an introduction to the adventure that lay ahead. Seated beside the driver, Doy Leadon described points of interest as we passed them along the road. One of the senior members of the family, he was a fount of knowledge on the island and the Leadon clan. And, like everyone we encountered, he exemplified the friendly, welcoming nature of the native Bahamians.

The fishing lodge we were headed to was founded by the late Capt. Rupert Leadon, a legendary fishing guide and hostel operator. His family carries on his legacy today. The On The Fly South crew was scheduled to experience a few days of the bonefish action the late captain had introduced to the fly-casting fraternity.

A 1988 photo of “fly-fishing royalty” in the dining hall at Andros Island Bonefish Club. Standing left to right; Billy Pate, George Hummel, Mark Sosin and A.J. McClain. Kneeling: Lefty Kreh and Capt. Rupert Leadon.

Arriving and settling into our waterfront accommodations on Cargill Creek, we sat on the porch, getting our gear ready for the morrow’s action. The blazing colors of the setting sun only served to enhance our anticipation.

The author getting ready for the first day of fishing. Photo by Polly Dean.

After a hardy breakfast in the morning, club manager and daughter of Rupert Leadon, Juliet Newbold introduced us to her husband Danny, who would be our guide. Capt. Danny Newbold is a native of North Andros who grew up in a farm family on the lands of the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute. During those years he gained his love of angling while fishing from the rocks at Behring Point with his uncle Erroll Braynen.

Eventually he discovered fly fishing and that has led to a more than 30-year career in guiding.

After loading into his 16-foot Dolphin flats boat (with a much-appreciated leaning bar), Capt. Danny began offering some tips for the day, as we idled out the mouth of Cargill Creek and headed south.

He suggested using as least a 14-pound tippet, since the bones are not particularly leader shy. He also noting that October to January were the best months for the bonefish action here.

He explained that we would start in the North Bight between North Andros Island and Big Wood Cay to the south. Our destination was an area local guides call the “Dressing Room.” His first tip on the fishing regarded presenting the fly to the bones once you spot them.

Capt. Danny Newbold on the poling platform, as Polly Dean hoists one of her bonefish. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Describing the retrieve, the captain  said, “Strip, strip, long strip. When a fish follows, make a real long strip.”  As the day progressed, that long, steady final strip proved to be essential. If you made short fast strips, the bonefish would simply turn away.

Capt. Danny also offered that he preferred fishing the incoming tide, since the bonefish feed a bit better on that phase. He added that they will feed on the outgoing tide as well. However, they usually are moving faster on the ebbing flow, because they don’t want to get caught near shore on that falling tide. At those times, you have to make quick casts right in front of them. On the incoming flow, the bones are more likely to be milling about looking for a meal and offering more time to place a cast near them.

Taking to the casting deck when we arrived on the flat,  the captain spotted some fish and directed me to look to 10 o’clock. While I’ve fished for bones a number of times and know what to look for, the ability of guides to spot these fish still amazes me. Not seeing anything, I followed Capt. Danny’s instructions and launched a 40-foot cast, then stripped when he directed me.

Sure enough, the line when tight,  I gave it a strip-set and the reel begin screeching as a bonefish streaked across the white sand flat. Then, just as suddenly, my line went slack. Retrieving the line, I discovered that the Gotcha fly that I was using had broken at the bend of the hook! Writing that off to bad luck, I yielded the casting deck to Associate Editor Polly Dean, and retired to tie on another fly.

The first of several of my ‘broken hook” Gotchas! Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

The Gotcha proved to be the right choice, as Polly and I boated several bones on that first day.

On Day two we opted for a bit of do-it-yourself wade fishing near the lodge. Borrowing a pair of kayaks, we paddled a couple of hundred yards to the flat at the north side of the mouth of Cargill Creek (later we discovered, we could actually wade to the flat).

The flat offered a mix of seagrass and white sand patches. Following another tip Capt. Newbold had offered, we switched to smaller flies that he said work better when wading. We found pods and single fish moving out of the creek channel, coming up on the flat as they headed for the mangroves that were flooding on the rising tide.

Polly Dean with a DIY bonefish on the Andros flats. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Polly brought a couple of bones to hand. Meanwhile, I spotted a bone coming out of the channel and watched it crossing a white sand patch. Dropping my fly a good 10 feet in front of the fish, the bone tracked straight to it. The scene was the classic memory-making hook up. As the fish took off, I again felt the disappointment of slack line. Another of my Gotchas had broken at the hook bend!

In fact, the same thing happened twice more on day three, while again fishing with Capt. Newbold. I apparently had gotten hold of some very poor quality hooks. Ever helpful, Polly offered some advice, “Don’t believe I’d tie on another one of those.”

On day four we got a chance to pick the brain of Capt. Gliaster Wallace, the dean of North Andros Island bonefish guides. He agreed with Capt. Newbold in pointing to November and December as prime times for bonefish on North Andros.

He provided a tip that also supported Capt. Newbold’s method of stripping a fly. We assumed that when forage species meet a predator, the natural reaction is to run for its life as fast as possible. Thus, if a fish approaches the fly, we strip it away quickly.  Capt. Wallace noted that idea is only half right. When a bonefish nears a shrimp or crab, those critters will dart away for just a short distance, then sink to the bottom looking for a hole to get into. “That’s what you need to imitate,” he explained. That fit in with Capt. Danny’s long steady strip.

A bonefish I actually managed to get to the boat. Photo by Polly Dean

Despite my gear problems, our group (including myself) caught bones each day from boats and while wading.  Bottom line was our stay at Andros Island Bonefish Club was just more “boring days in an angling paradise!”

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