By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Take your eyes off the shoreline for a moment and you might miss it, the narrow creek slanting into the limestone ledge - a slender blue ribbon bounded by a riot of ragged coral and twisted mangroves. I had passed this creek numerous times on the trip to the southern tip of South Andros Island, always speculating on the wonders the creek might conceal. I never knew if it were navigable, but a combination of high winds and rising water would reveal a magical world far richer and more diverse than I had ever imagined.
Torrie Blevans almost passed the creek before spinning the flats boat into the thin and treacherous opening, weaving between enormous submerged boulders. Several more high speed turns, and we were in another world, bounded on all sides by mangrove islands and a web of crystal clear creeks and white sand flats.
I was fishing with Ramsey Smith, the assistant tennis coach at Duke University and an accomplished fly angler. This was a reunion of sorts, since we had met the year before and experienced some amazing bonefishing at Andros South Lodge. This trip had been challenging, beginning with a stalled high pressure system that generated partly cloudy skies and high winds. As the week progressed, the remnants of Tropical Depression Olga delivered more wind and clouds, but we had still managed some impressive catches. Today would be a highlight of the trip.
Smith was first up, and it wasn’t long before he was casting to a group of three bones that approached the boat along the edges of the creek. The lead fish attacked the fly as soon as Smith moved it, and he made a quick strip strike and held the rod high as the bone made a blazing run through the sparse mangrove fringe. Smith hopped out of the boat and worked the fish back to the channel, where it was off on several more long runs. After landing the bonefish, we were back in the boat and moving down a long channel towards a distant saltwater lake. I had just stripped and stretched 60 feet of fly line when Blevans spotted two large bones moving out of the mangroves and into the channel. I made a cast about 3 feet in front of the advancing bones, and it took only two strips before the lead fish had inhaled my fly. I set the hook and then gave two more quick jabs only to have the leader part. When I reeled in, I realized that I had experienced a knot failure, AKA angler error. Blevans reminded me of the importance of retying all knots and leaders at the beginning of each day.
We anchored the boat at the end of the channel just before it emptied into a large lake and donned our wading boots to explore further inland. Smith waded the edges of the large lake while Blevans took me to a completely landlocked saltwater lake. In order to reach this wild body of water, we had to cross a ragged ancient coral reef, walking carefully on razor sharp spines. The topography was harsh but eerily beautiful, with scattered shell strewn mud flats and twisted mangrove driftwood The lake didn’t look productive to me but it wasn’t long before we were into small groups of bonefish that darted about as scudding clouds put them in a near panic. The next lake we fished was much more productive and I landed several bonefish before we rejoined Smith who was locked in battle with a six pound bone. He had caught and released five big bones and after taking pictures, we waded to shore.
The day was warm and beautiful, and after a great morning of fighting bonefish we were happy to recline against a mangrove shoot on the sandy beach and be mesmerized by our surroundings. The secret creek had fulfilled its promise, delivering a magical experience that surpassed our expectations!
The Andros South Lodge is one of my favorite destinations. Situated near the southern tip of Andros Island, it provides angler top notch accommodations, guides, and access to the wonders of one of the earth’s great wild places. For information on booking a trip check out their web site at www.androssouth.com.