It’s a rare treat in life to share great enthusiasm with your kid for many years, especially when you’ve inherited that interest, fishing in our case, from your own parent. So, re-creating a memorable fishing escapade from way back in your youth with your own spawn is an extraordinary kind of parenting and fishing fun.
My son, Daniel, and I snuck off to the Bahamas island of Abaco for a few days of bonefishing in mid-March. We nailed it.
I had last been to Abaco in December of 1994, just three months after Daniel was born. My father took me, and we stayed at a lodge run by a famous Bahamian matron, entrepreneur, and bigger-than-life character named Nettie Symonette. I recall the fishing being terrible. That didn’t much matter because the trip was cut short by a vicious storm. It was a near hurricane, now remembered as the “Christmas Nor’easter” that flooded the East Coast on the days before Christmas.
The storm left my father and I holed up in an abandoned motel in Marsh Harbor with no electricity or food, but with two full bottles of Dewar’s White Label. The storm also left my wife home alone with a terrible flu, a sick three-old and the infant angler, Daniel. You can file this episode under “Stupid Husband Tricks.”
This year the fishing was terrific. I came in on a Friday afternoon, but Dan didn’t get to the lodge until around 9:30am on Saturday morning. We didn’t start poling until 10:30am or so, and Dan had his first bonefish in about ten minutes. We went on to catch 16 bones by 4:00pm by my count, 15 by Dan’s accurate count. Our guide was Ishy, who had guided for Nettie in a different era. His incantation was, “Fishy, fishy, come to Ishy.” And they did. Fishing with calm, skilled Ishy was one of the most serene bonefishing days I’ve experienced.
Serenity was maxed out at our lodge, the Delphi Club. Built by an Irishman ten years ago in the style of a colonial plantation mansion, the Delphi Club almost feels more like a salmon club than a flats lodge. It is handsome and luxurious, with great food, views and ambience. It was a far cry from the Marsh Harbor fleabag inn my father and I squatted in years ago. Indeed, it is the most elegant saltwater lodge I’ve been to, fit for any non-fishing partner.
Day two brought another nine or ten bones. That was a good haul, considering the cloudy and windier conditions. I think we were fishing well, with our favorite Sage 8-weights and Tibor reels doing most of the dirty work. Most of our fish were nabbed using the lodge’s custom fly, the Delphi Daddy.
After fishing the flats on the second day, we came in and the lodge manager, Max Woolnough, a terrific and convincing guy, took us on a hike down the coast to try for a triggerfish, which neither Dan nor I had ever caught. I was a moron to attempt this - the walk was treacherous on my flats-weary, cartilage-free knees, but it was fun, and Dan had a couple decent shots.
Day three was more of the same: tough but fair conditions, ten bones or so. We got blown out by a big storm on the fourth day, though we did manage to get out for 90 minutes or so in the morning and luck into one dumb bonefish.
There was one other bit of life poetry to the trip. Among the guests at the lodge was a dapper, fit man of my father’s generation from Boston. We discovered, remarkably, to my mind, that he was a business associate and fishing pal of my father’s in the 1960s and 70s. Indeed, Myles was with my father on a trip to Panama in 1963 when my dad caught this 329 lb. black marlin.
Unfortunately for Dad, his pal Myles beat him by 300 lbs.
I don’t think Dan and I caught anything over five pounds on our trip to Abaco, but it was another one for the record books, nonetheless.