Bair's Lodge: A Bahamian treatFrom the May 5, 2010 Issue
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
From left, Captain Bryon Chamberlin and guide Leslie Johnson
with a bonefish in the waters off South Andros Island in the Bahamas.
Moments after Leslie Johnson pushed the skiff from the marl bank on the west side of South Andros Island, Captain Bryon Chamberlin was on the front casting platform stripping line from his 8-weight fly reel. Before he finished, Johnson sighted two large bonefish approaching up-tide. After an initial moment of surprise, Chamberlin started a false cast that landed a Peterson's Shrimp fly just feet ahead of the feeding fish. With a bit of coaching from Johnson, Chamberlin started stripping the fly just as it got into the fish's cone of vision. Instantly one of the fish made a course correction and started tracking, nose on the fly. This fish didn't get big rushing to judgment, and this was no exception. Chamberlin worked the fly, keeping it just ahead of the bonefish and matching the pace of the fish. Even though he was doing a great job, I didn't hold out much hope as the fish was fast approaching the boat. Instinct kept the bonefish moving toward the fly until it was only 3 feet from the boat. Then, when we thought the game was over, the fish leisurely opened its mouth and ate the fly. Chamberlin waited a split second and set the hook with a strip strike, sending the fish into overdrive. There is nothing quite like the first run of a bonefish, especially a big one. Bryon fought the fish through several long runs, applying just enough pressure to get the fish in shallow water where I photographed the last of the fight and several shots with Johnson. At over 8 pounds, this was an nice bonefish anywhere in the world.
Fishing, like life in general, often benefits from serendipity. It's good to have a plan, but even more important, to remain flexible. We originally planned a trip to fish deep in the mangroves for bonefish, but had to re-schedule when Bair's Lodge had space for us. As it turned out, we arrived on a neap tide (first quarter of the moon.) Neap tides occur twice a month in the first and third quarters of the moon. In the three days we fished, the water never got high enough for the bones to enter most of the mangrove areas. Instead it concentrated them along some of the vast mangrove forests that bordered the more open water. The result was a lot of shots at big bones without trekking to the distant channels and lakes in the interior of the island. We had three days of excellent weather and tons of shots most days.
Chamberlin, an accomplished fly angler, accompanied me in my attempt to catch and photograph one of the big bonefish that swim the waters of South Andros Island. We thought we had accomplished the job on the first day when we landed a 7 1/2-pound bonefish, along with seventeen others of various sizes. The next day was a bit challenging, but the third day proved to be the charm. A day filled with multiple shots capped with an 8-pound plus bonefish in a beautiful setting.
Another pleasant surprise was the lodge itself. I had fished the island a number of times, passing Bair's and wondering what it was like. The reality exceeded my expectations. The lodge is run by an Argentinean Company, Nervous Waters, which has added conveniences you will not find at many Bahamian destinations. The rooms are spacious and feature comfortable beds and comforters. There's a large screen TV in a spacious living room adjacent to the dining room and a covered porch with rattan furniture and comfortable cushions. The food is exceptional, prepared by a staff that trained for a year with an Argentinean chef.
The managers, Ray and Ann Shewnack, add that individual touch that makes every guest feel special. A certain kind of tea, a preferred brand of beer or any other request seems to miraculously appear.
On the last day, we had a late flight and I waded the flats right off the lodge, catching two bonefish in just over an hour. The night before I even slept outside on the rattan couch. The Bahamas have always been a favorite destination for me and now I have a new favorite lodge. Get information and book a trip to Bair's at www.bairslodge.com or call 917-338-6043.