When Pam & I were looking for a new adventure in 2017, it was hard to top the trips we had earlier in the year. Stops included photography in the Netherlands & Belgium, kayaking in Greece & Croatia, and exploring the Dolomites in Italy. Each country had such amazing charm, people, and experiences. So what would we do next? Let’s try something closer to the equator.
Throwing a dart at a map, we found a section of the Caribbean that we had not explored to date — the Grenadines. And, since we were excited to visit the whole chain of islands, charting a catamaran from Tradewinds seem like our best choice. Of course, I did my research — Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Images, and Grenadines blogs — to find out where to go and what to do. And, what alway’s on my bucket list? You got it…fly fishing!
I took a deep dive into Google Earth and saw that the water around the islands in the Grenadines is shallow and should be home to Bonefish. Then using Google Search, I found that while there are Bonefish, unfortunately, there are many protected waters where even catch-and-release fly fishing is not allowed. So, how do fill up my bucket list in these great looking waters and catch a Bonefish? One more Google search and I found Grenadines Fishing.
Reaching out to Grenadines-Fishing.com, I was quick to hear back from Sebastian. He was very helpful explaining that he could put me in some great water not only for Bonefish but also Permit and Tarpon. So, with those few words, he had me. A $100 PayPal deposit and a date set, Sebastian would meet me at the dock in Union Island, Grenadines at 8 am.
With the help of our Tradewinds captain and mate, we spent the night on our catamaran in Clifton Harbor. Then after a great breakfast, we took a dingy to the pier and waiting for us was a tanned gentleman in his 30ies looking like he was our guide. With a nod and a smile, Sebastian greeted us and said: “are you ready to catch some Bonefish?” Hell yes, we said!
“Today, we are a little challenged as my boat is in the shop. Yesterday, we were trolling in deep water and caught two 100+ tuna and my boat needs a little work. But we are going to hunt Bonefish on the flats and get around in my car. Sound good?” At that moment, we knew we had our guide.
Sebastian is French. He, his wife and child are living on the Union Island with fishing as their source of income. He fishes most days with clients from all around the world. Whether hunting for Bonefish or Permit or trolling for big game fish, he does it all.
We hopped into his open-air jeep and climbed up out of Clifton and drove down to a beautiful bay where you could see all the way to Grenada. The blue-green water with turtle grass seemed to shimmer as the sun peaked in and out and the wind created tiny waves. And that’s when we realize that the water was only 3 to 4 feet deep — perfect for Bonefish.
Sebastian is a pro. He knows all the good fly fishing water around Union Island and considers the Bonefish in these shallow waters his. He cares about their health and told us that he does not want to stress the fish — a caught Bonefish won’t eat for a week after even an easy catch and release.
I came prepared with a 10-weight rod and reel and Sebastian smiled when we told him we had 10-pound leader. “No, no my friend. These fish are big — 7 to 15 pounds and they fight hard… we need to use 20-pound test.” Trusting the pro, we build the new leader, added a small shrimp fly and we were off. We walked side by side and got 50 feet off the beach and Sebastian said…”so show me how far you can cast.” As veteran fly fisher for over 30 years living in Idaho, I thought I was pretty good. But, when he said “you have to be able to cast 50 yards and land it softly”, I knew this was going to be an adventure even though I knew how to double pull cast. With a couple of false casts, I got it out 30 yards with a splash. With a bright smile, he says “ok, let me give you a couple of tips”. He started with having my pull off the reel 40 yards of line. “Just let it float in the water by your feet. This will give you a better opportunity to get the line our farther and have it land softer. Then, when you cast, rotate your shoulder out and extend your arm —accelerating when you rotate it forward.” Amazingly, that worked. And using the wind coming from behind, I was now casting 50+ yards.
Now came the hunting. It felt like we were big-game hunting — stalking our prey. “We’re looking for shadows, shadows that are 3 or 4 feet long and movement in the grass”, Sebastian relayed to me. Ok, this was really going to be tough. Looking for something you could not see — a shadow — moving along the bottom in and out around the turtle grass. Why were they not on the sandy bottom I cried?
Stalking our prey, we walked slowly for about a half hour, not stirring the bottom sand and grass — covering over 300 yards. The sun was peaking in and out and when the sun was covered by the clouds, we stopped and waited, knowing that we could not see the Bonefish if the sun did not create their shadow. Finally, he saw movement. “See that? The shadow moving? Over there?” No, I really don’t see it. “Over there, 30 yards out. Cast now” he said.
I could not really see the fish but he told me there was a school, about 10, feeding on shrimp and crab in the shallows. I cast once, a good cast but he said…”not there, cast where I am pointing.” I reloaded and cast out 30 yards — just left of where he was pointing to compensate for the 10-mile per hour wind. It landed softly and Sebastian said…”now strip in slowly…a little faster…now stop… strip, strip and set the hook”! Following his directions like I was a Jedi understudy, I hooked the Bonefish…a big one.
The fight was on. Since I had caught a Bonefish once before, I knew he would take off and take off he did. Before I knew it, 75 yards of my line was out. I had a great reel with plenty of lines so it did not reach my backing but if he did not turn soon, he could take it all. Like Brad Pitt in the A River Runs Through It, I started to chase the Bonefish down. Then, all of a sudden he stopped and jumped out of the water — tailing like a Rainbow Trout. With a tight line, I got his attention and he changed direction and started coming toward me at what felt like 20 miles per hour — Note: they are the 7th fastest fish in the world traveling up to 40 miles per hour. Using my fly fishing experience, I started stripping the line. He was coming toward me so fast I could not reel fast enough so stripping was the only way to keep the line tight. The fight was on…taking off again, I was able to get him back on the reel just before he took off again. Using the 10-weight rod to its fullest, I fought him for around 3 minutes — reeling in and letting him take the line out. As I tired him out, there was this one distinct moment where I was committed to land him — I was not going to loose this fight. Raising the rod…tipping it sideways…reeling in…letting him take more line out, I fought him with all the experience I had. Sebastian was at my side the whole time, talking me through the fight. I heard his voice change, when shouting he said…”keep him away from the buoy”. I raised my rod, angled it to the right and turn the fish away from his perfect vehicle for escape. With another two minutes of fighting, I slowly walked Mr. Bonefish to the beach. I had done it…landed a 10-pound Bonefish!
This fight was a highlight of my trip to the Grenadines. Sure, swimming with the turtles, drinking rum on Johnny Depp’s island from Pirates of the Caribbean, snorkeling with a million sardines and sailing the blue seas were all great but the Bonefish fight was truly something that will stay in my mind’s eye forever.
So if you get a chance to go to the Grenadines and have a passion for any kind of fishing, make sure you go to Union Island and seek out the local expert, Sebastian at Grenadines Fishing.
R. J. Gadd