Oh the wind is lashing lustily….
November 24th: Winnie the Poo would be in his element; we’ve had a lot of blustery days this November. The calm and sunny weather that dominated most of October and pleased the early-season guests has given way to altogether more unsettled conditions. Although temperatures are still in the mid-to-high 70s farenheit (mid-20s Celsius) and the sun still shines most of the time, the wind has played havoc with limited-ability casters and has restricted access to large swathes of our usual fishing waters, either because they’re too stirred up or because the boat passage is too rough for comfort.
But fishing guests have been undeterred and bonefish catches have held up remarkably well. Anglers who can “double-haul”, and therefore punch out line into a brisk breeze, have a distinct advantage – if, that is, they can still spot the fish through the dappled surface of the water. Nevertheless everyone is still catching plenty of fish, because this is the time of year when large shoals of bones transit the outer edges of the Marls, heading eventually for their spawning waters. The “push” or bulge in the water that these schools make is usually obvious, even in windy conditions. So even if you cannot spot and select an individual fish in the group, you can still put your fly in broadly the right place. The chances are high of hooking at least one, and double hook-ups for both anglers in the boat are far from uncommon.
I will forego most (but not all) of the usual litany of individual achievements in deference to a recent American guest, who asked “Why are you Europeans so damned obsessed with numbers? Surely all that matters is that people enjoy themselves and experience lots of action? Quantifying exactly who gets what and writing it all down seems unnecessarily picky”. He may have a bit of a point and it is probable that our preoccupation with logging every fish caught is a consequence of our practice in Ireland, where the number of fish caught and logged directly determines the value of private fishing waters. No need for that in Abaco.
But the counter argument is that it’s helpful for us – and thus for guests – to know what has happened on particular days, in particular weather and in particular places in the past. It is also a helpful indicator, when viewed over several years, of trends in fish numbers, fish size and so on. Nothing definitive and, as the stockbrokers point out, past performance is no guarantee of future success. But why not do it? We have nothing to hide and, if nothing else, the records show that bonefish can be taken in good numbers in every week of the year. Readers of our big red book can see what flies have worked, what permit have been seen, what guides were involved and just how hard the wind blew. Nothing more than a bit of background colour perhaps, but surely interesting? I think we will persevere with our bean-counting….
So here are a few numbers and a few individual claims to fame. Bone-fishing neophytes Patricia Blake and Bruce Hanshaw from Colorado (the latter completely new to fly-casting) had 23 bones in a day, including no less than five of 6lbs or more despite winds of up to 20mph. Two other newcomers to bone-fishing – Will Ramsey and Nick Foden-Pattinson from England – had 17 in a day. Margaret Downes from Ireland had three days in a row of ten or more fish. Fellow-countrymen Trish & Alex Findlater shared a catch of 18 bones to 5lbs. All these seem worthy of note.
There were also first-ever bones, or first on fly, for a lengthy list of guests – Cheryl Stone, Tucker Stone, Gillian Spokes, James Flower, Caroline Broughan, Sarah McCall, Vince Zubowicz, Martine Ramsey, Louise Foden-Pattinson, Mark Walton and former White House chief-of-staff Bill Daley. Not forgetting brother John Mantle, triumphant with his three bonefish after what seems like years of losing fish to an over-eager strike.
The Club is now packed to the rafters with guests for Thanksgiving week. Whether from Canada, Ireland or the US, all will give thanks for something come Thursday – and hopefully it will involve fish caught. The guests may have an average age of over 70, but all are seasoned bonefishers and they will make up for any stiffness of movement with well over two centuries of collective experience. PM