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Bonefish

Bar Nunn angler Marvin Nolte holds a bonefish he caught in 2009 in the Bahamas.

Andros Island is the largest of the Bahamas with an area of 2,300 square miles. It is about 140 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The state of Delaware is 2,491 square miles and has a population of a bit more than 900,000. The population of Andros is 8,000 and change.

With so few inhabitants, there is not a single big box store or mall on the island. No fast food restaurants or tourist traps mar the landscape. The average high temperature in January — the month I fish there — is 77 degrees.

Visitors from the United States visit Andros for one reason: To fish.

I fish with my guide, Dion. He can spot more fish than I can and we can motor around if needed. Our quarry is bonefish.

Bonefish are not especially big. The world record on a fly rod is 15 pounds, 6 ounces. The sport comes in sight fishing in shallow, beautiful water. And the fish are fast.

Very fast.

Catching my first bonefish in 2004 went like this.

“Bone! 10 o’clock, 30 feet. Heading left,” Dion said.

I cast.

“Pick it up, go right five feet.”

I picked it up and moved five feet.

“That’s left,” Dion said.

Dion told me to strip – to pull the line an arm’s length, moving the fly to get the fish’s attention. He told me strip again, to persuade the fish his prey was getting away.

“Long strip,” Dion instructed when the fish ate my fly.

I had just a heartbeat to glance at my line, making sure it wasn’t wrapped around the reel. The fish moved.

Finally, I understood why I was armed with nine feet of an eight-weight graphite fly rod, $800 worth of machined aluminum and 250 yards of backing to subdue three-pound fish. I was hooked.

The bonefish in the photo (caught in 2009) weighed 11 pounds, 12 ounces. Call it 12 pounds – any fisherman would. A bonefish over 10 pounds is exceptional. I was exceptionally happy.

The temperature was 80 degrees when we left Fort Lauderdale for Denver. There was black ice and a ground blizzard between Cheyenne and Wheatland. Welcome home.

 

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