The Progression

Shaylin_snookAfter leaving the island I could not wait to get back. The dreams of hunting, casting and catching fish on the flats can be addictive. So the decision was made to go back down in 2008. Sean and I were teamed up with a different guide named David (pronounced da-veed) that November. Expectations can cause strange actions or reactions in men, and because we were not hunting fish in the same way that we had before, it felt a little uncomfortable. We asked David what the plan was and he let us know that we would be ignoring the big groups of little bonefish… he wanted us to experience the much bigger bonefish that the bay had to offer. The bigger bonefish are loners. They are often found either as singles or in very small groups.

The weather was different this time. The wind was blowing in from the North and was bringing cold water into the bay. The weather was not ideal but David knew exactly what to do. He took us back into the protected lagoon system of Santa Rosa. The first day we spent looking for big bonefish, and big bonefish we found. After motoring through channels and lagoons, David parked the boat next to a small opening in the mangroves, which led to a connecting lagoon. The tide was going out… David said that the fish would be traveling towards us and we waited for the fish to come. Sure enough, like clockwork, the fish started showing up. We got some casts in and hooked up with some great fish. When the tide was done moving the fish quit coming so we left our spot to hunt more bonefish.

I was discovering that teamwork on the boat and line management, were of the utmost importance. Although I had several big fish on my line that first day, I found myself stepping on the line, getting it caught around myself or otherwise doing something wrong resulting in my fish breaking off. It was a little humbling and frustrating, but after the third or fourth mess up I finally got it down.

The next day we went even deeper into the lagoon system in search of tarpon and snook. Since I had not landed a tarpon or a snook the previous year, I was excited to have another go at it. Tarpon have very hard mouths and the hook needs to be set differently than with any other fish that I had experienced up to that point. When the fish takes the fly, it turns and takes off running, jumping, tail dancing and head shaking so the hook must be set and set well. Once the fish is on the hook (a very, very, sharp hook), you must pull the line hard and fast 2-3 times. Once we figured this out, we were able to hook up and land some tarpon. Snook hang out in the same area as tarpon and open their gaping mouths to inhale the massive flies presented to them. Either fish can be a ton of fun to get on the end of the line.

We had so much fun fishing deep into the lagoon system, that after motoring away from the island the following morning, we asked David if we would be going deep into the lagoon system again. David put a smile on his face and produced a machete he had brought from the island. We pushed deeper into the lagoon system that day and used the machete to open up a pathway into previously unreachable lagoons. David said these lagoons had not been fished in the 12 years he had been guiding in Ascension Bay. The extra work paid off and we had some great fish on the line and even better smiles on our faces.

The trip ended with a day of chasing permit again. With the northern winds just beginning to subside, the permit were still not very active and we were again, left with the thoughts of hooking up to a permit, some day…

Shaylin Peck