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Return From Mystery Island X


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Ronan's report

Wednesday 10th June, 2009

Hi everyone. I'm back after a long sabbatical from FP duties and a great trip to Mystery Island X in the Bahamas. Thanks again to my fill in FP crew - Mimi, Darcey, and Brian.

I've been back stateside for about a week now, but my brain is still on the island, wading the flats for bones and tarpon or contemplating the relative merits of Kalik Gold and Sky Juice. It was a great trip, with all the usual challenges and more than a few triumphs and discoveries. I've got too many great memories in my head all competing for FP time. No time for all that, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at the POD for a bit of a salt-fly sampler.

One thing that really struck me about the flats fishing we did was how dynamic the environment is and how many diverse fishing opportunities we found in close proximity to one another. Figuring out the tides is important in all saltwater fishing, but on the flats it seems doubly important because the water depth is changing by a more profound degree than in other environments. In 50 foot deep water (at low tide), a typical Bahamian 2-3 foot tidal swing changes the overall depth by less than 10%. But on the flats, the whole place may be dry or only an inch or 2 deep at low tide and then a couple of feet deep at high tide. By my math a change in depth from 2 inches to 2 feet is about a 1100% change in water depth. Plus, the incoming tide typically brings cooler water onto the flats. On sheltered, interior flats it heats up through the high tide and can become too warm for bonefish, but acceptable to other flats visitors.

All that variability can result in many different fishing opportunities in a small area, over the course of a tide cycle. Around the low tide, when the flats are dry but the cuts leading through them are deep, you might find species like snapper, jacks, and palometa cruising and waiting for a chance to get back on the flats. Maybe if it is a really warm outgoing tide you might find some barracuda or ladyfish looking for an easy meal. If you're really lucky, a school of bones might cruise past waiting for the incoming tide to flood the flat with cooler water again. As the tide rises the bones move onto the flats and you can chase them until the tide recedes. On some flats, the bones might be the first to show, tailing and feeding in ankle to knee deep water until the high tide hits and the water temps get too warm for them. When they disappear though, the tarpon might just be getting onto the flat. The water is deep enough for them now and they don't mind the warmer water.

To take advantage of these great opportunities, you need to be prepared with different flies and be able to quickly change riggings when the chance presents itself. Bonefish flies on long leaders and 10 or 12 pound tippet. A few tarpon flies, pre-rigged and loop knotted to fluorocarbon shock attached to a section of 16 or 20 pound class mono with a Slim Beauty. If you see the silver king, just cut the bonefish leader back to 20 pond and add the tarpon rig. One cut and one knot. You can land a good tarpon on an 8wt and you can jump one on any rod! Ladyfish require a shock tippet too, with their abrasive mouths, but they aren't really into tarpon flies. A synthetic Clouser or Surf Candy is what you need. For 'cudas, you had better have some wire leader and know the special riggings. Same goes for sharks. Who knows if either of those guys will take a fly that you throw at them, but sometimes they do. It pays to be prepared and knowledgeable. Most of the time you end up feeling like a sucker for having a bunch of kit that you never take out of your pack, but the salt is all about reacting quickly when a brief opportunity presents itself.

Once you hit it right, and catch that lightning in a bottle, then it's all about remembering how to get back to the same place the following day, 50 minutes later.

Fish On,

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