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Rod Hamilton

April 23, 2015

Turks & Caicos, My First Bonefishing Trip

Thanks to subscriber Paul Grandly for his report on his recent trip to the Turks & Caicos.  I am still waiting to hear if there has been any progress made on the proposed legislation to allow catch and release fishing in the National Parks and Preserves.

 

“Inspired by Rod Hamilton’s book “DIY Bonefishing,” my wife and I planned a family Spring Break on TCI as my upcoming 50th birthday present. I spoke with my friends who have done tropical trips and the great staff at Fish Tales and Iron Bow Fly Shops in Calgary, bought the basic gear and tied a couple of boxes of flies. It seems that many of the guest blog articles have been written by experienced bonefishers, so I thought I’d share some of my newbie experiences, in case they might be useful to other newcomers.

We arrived at our resort, near Grace Bay on Providentiales (“Provo”) on Saturday afternoon and I headed out in our rental car to catch the low tide at Bristol Bay with the family. As expected, I didn’t manage to spot any fish and looked forward to some tips from my guide the next day.

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I headed out from Leeward Marina with Darin Bain at 7:20 the next morning, excited and ready to learn everything I could from a pro. Darin put me onto fish right right away and called them out with the clock system and distances. I did my best to cast where he told me to, even though I initially couldn’t see the fish. I wasn’t getting my casts out quickly or accurately enough (sometimes confusing 9 and 3 o’clock in my excitement and finding it hard to keep track of directions in a drifting boat). We relocated to a bay on Pine Cay and before I could strip off any line or step up onto the bow of the boat I clearly saw a big bonefish less than 30 feet in front of the boat. Needless to say, it wasn’t there long enough for me to have a shot at it, but I had seen it. We proceeded into the bay and Darin called some fish at 9 o’clock. I made a good cast and followed Darin’s instructions to strip. I saw two good fish fleeing the scene, but Darin kept telling me to strip. I felt the take, didn’t “trout set,” and was into my first bonefish at 8:10. It was the runt of the group at only two or three pounds, but it was a perfect starter for me. My wife came out on that trip and took some of the fantastic photos you see here, including some great iPhone panoramas

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We saw a lot more fish that morning, including a couple of schools. I ended up hooking six and boating two, the second a feisty five-pounder which took me well out into the backing several times. I guess I was having some difficulty getting the strip set right, because two came unstuck and I managed to break two off on 10lb flouro. I had seen many of the fish Darin pointed out but not without him spotting them first. He gave me some helpful casting pointers and told me he’d e-mail me if he had any openings later in the week.

The short version of the story is that I did a bit of DIY fishing each day (Discovery Bay, Long Beach, Stubbs Cove, Flamingo Lake, Cooper Jack, Bristol Bay again and Juba channel), but really didn’t get a shot at any bones. We rented stand-up/sit down paddleboards from Howard at Last Chance on North Caicos to explore Bottle Creek for a few hours with my family. During the trip I did see barracudas, boxfish, baitfish, needlefish, turtles, a nurse shark, a stingray and a couple of spooked bonefish, but I clearly haven’t mastered the art of stalking and spotting bonefish. I tried my best to wade with stealth – which isn’t always easy in soft-bottomed flats – but I guess either my spook range currently exceeds my visual range, or I wasn’t in the right spots at the right times. Maybe I should have covered more territory in prospecting mode, or stopped more to wait for fish to come to me. I guess I was “paying my dues” and accruing experience, which will hopefully pay off in future adventures.

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Darin e-mailed me to say that Thursday afternoon was available, so I splurged on a second half-day trip (guides are expensive in TCI). We saw loads of bones (I even saw a couple that Darin didn’t call to my attention) but for some reason the fish were particularly restless and skittish that afternoon, making it really hard to get a fly in front of them. Ultimately I did about as well as I did on the first trip, boating two nice fish and losing two more (one came unstuck and one managed to get into the mangroves, in spite of my best efforts to steer him away).

Here are some more observations:

  • You drive on the left in TCI, usually in right-hand-drive cars, which takes a bit of getting used to
  • Although it’s a British Colony, the currency is USD, which sucks right now for Canadians with the low price of oil and poor exchange rate
  • My family and I felt safe on the islands, with the exception of the time I took a wrong turn and drove down a dead-end street in Kingstown and had groups of men walking into the street and jeering at me.
  • There are quite a lot of stray/feral dogs on some parts of Provo, which can be a bit of a concern, although I never encountered any that seemed aggressive. Apparently the poor beasts suffer terribly from malnutrition, fleas, flies and ticks. In case you are interested, there is a charity on Provo called “Potcake Place” (www.potcakeplace.com) that exists to rescue feral puppies and put them up for adoption. If you are there with your family, the non-anglers might enjoy taking a puppy for a walk, helping to socialize these little guys or even agreeing to be a courier to transport a puppy back to North America for adoption.
  • There is some good family snorkelling at Turtle Cove
  • The Provo Conch Farm tour was great (they also raise Cobia, Nassau Grouper, Pompano and Mutton Snapper), although seeing the odd-looking soft-bodied mollusc that lives inside that beautiful shell may put you off eating conch, which would be a shame, because it’s delicious! It tastes like abalone (if you’ve ever had it) or calamari.
  • We had opted for a resort package that just included breakfasts. I am not sure if it would actually have been cheaper to go with an all-inclusive deal, but our choice helped us to get out and experience the island more. We ate at various casual places like Danny Buoy’s, Jimmy’s Dive Bar, Shark Bite and a few fancier establishments like Le Bouchon Village, Vix and The Caicos Café. Service was often slow (better get used to “Island Time!”), but the food was good. Dinner menus can get pricey for those on a budget, but lunch menus are often more affordable, and one can always self-cater at the grocery store to stretch the dollars better.
  • Don’t miss the Thursday night Beach Fish Fry at Gansevoorts for some great food and Caribbean fun
  • You may need insect repellent and after-bite cream for the sand flies and mosquitos that come out during the cooler hours
  • I am very glad I invested in a sturdy pair of lace-up flats boots, because some of the beaches and flats are full of broken conch shell pieces, which are quite spikey, while other flats are really soft (what we Canadians might call “Loon Shit”) and can swallow Tevas or loose neoprene booties.

Thanks for a great report Paul

2 thoughts on “Turks & Caicos, My First Bonefishing Trip

  • Greg
    on April 24, 2015

    Thanks for the report Paul. That is awesome you got on some fish!

    Greg

  • Kevin Becker
    on March 2, 2017

    Great Report ! ……………. Your observation of spooking the fish before you can see them is what I have experienced as well….. I spend 3 months of every year on Grand Bahama Island and my most successful strategy has been to stake out on a flat and wait for the fish to come to me…….. I catch a lot this way (and feel my average size is much Bigger as well) and can often spot fish a lot farther away, when not concentrated on wading…… If I do start seeing fish about 100 feet away, I locate to that spot and wait…. I have learned that Bonefish travel a lot in the same paths on certain flats and when I revisit them, I am there to ‘greet’ them. I often stand in one spot for 4 hours, 2 hours before Low Tide and 2 hours after…… I wait them out, but I am usually fishing over extremely spooky fish.

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