Caribbean Unleashed Bonefish Adventure


I was fortunate to spend the last 10 days with 5 other local anglers in an undisclosed foreign country in the Caribbean that none of us had been to in the past. The trip got off to an Ominous start with our flight making an emergency landing in Houston, TX due to flap and slat failure. As we were coming in to touchdown the plane suddenly accelerated and aborted the landing. We circled for a while (i'm not sure if we dumped fuel or not), then the captain informed us that they would be making an emergency landing, and would use the "soft flaps" to land, in the ended we touched down safely with no harm done other then a smaller window to make our connecting flight.

Once we arrived at our destination country's capitol city, we grabbed a hotel and rested up for a short time. A 3:30 AM wake up call and we were loaded up on a bus for a 6 hour ride to meet our mothership at it's home port. In addition to the 6 of us, there was a group of 20 or so Russian divers who apparently had got more sleep then us the previous night. The spent the majority of the trip passing around bottles of something, and yelling at each other.

Bleary eyed and beat down from 2 days of traveling, we finally boarded our 75' "luxury" yacht that was to be our home for the next 7 days. With renewed energy we spent the 5 hour run to the fishing grounds rigging up rods, reels, and trying to find the fly that would get it done. Our objective was bonefish, tarpon, and possibly permit.

We arrived just before sunset at the archipelago that we were going to be fishing around we headed out in our 16' dolphin flats boats for a quick evening session, 2 anglers per guide, and 3 rods per angler. The evening started off great as everyone had shots at chunky bonefish. Several were landed, then we returned to the mothership for our first sit-down dinner.

The next 7 days were fairly similar in that we would start the morning looking for tailing bonefish. The bonefishing was the best I've ever experienced in terms of numbers and average size of fish. While we didn't get any double digit bones, nearly all the fish were in the 4-6 pound range, with a couple 7, 8, and 9 pounders mixed in. These fish were less spooky, and less picky then any others I've encountered. You could tie on just about any shrimpy/crabby looking fly and it would get results.

After getting the day started with a few bonefish, we would move on to chasing permit with the rising tide. I've had a couple shots at permit in the past, I've even hooked, fought, and nearly landed one in the Bahamas, before feeding it to a 12' lemon shark. So I had a general idea of what to expect (not many shots, and picky fish). To my delight, the area we were at provided us with several shots a day at permit. Unlike the bonefish, these fish were VERY picky. I personally made several perfect presentations that were ignored, this behavior earned these fish the "stuck up jacks" monicker. I did manage to hook and land 2 permit over the course of the week. One if which contributed to my first grand slam, a permit, bonefish, and tarpon, all in the same day.

As I mentioned above, if you were lucky and skilled enough to land a permit along with your morning bonefish the hunt for tarpon would commence. This involved searching big channels that reminded me of our PNW rivers both in size and water flow. If no one was home in the channels, we'd move on to the mangroves, tarpon from 10-30 lbs would often be lurking in some of the most unlikely spots. It took some creative casting to hook one, let alone land one. Anyone who has fished for tarpon knows how hard it is to keep a fish from spitting the hook. On my first day of fishing I was a tarpon-spit-hook away from my first grand slam. Luckily I was able to seal the deal the next day.

I want to take a second to talk about my grand slam day, as it was a memorable one for me. I started the day paired up with Richard along with our guide Bimba. We headed out to look for bonefish, all Bimba talked about was permit on the run to the first flat. Richard and I quickly landed one fish each, taking turns on the bow of the boat. With a bone under our belts, Bimba asked jokingly if we were ready to go find some permit. We said sure, and off we went. With the wind kicking up we spent the next couple hours searching deep grassy flats for nervous water or big black permit tails. We saw no signs of fish, and I was feeling ready to go back to the non-stop bonefish action. Bimba took us to one final lagoon that was protected from the wind, so it was glassy calm. As he began poling the boat, we saw nervous water a couple hundred feet away. We made our way over, and to my delight I saw the clear sign of a permit, an enormous black tail flopping around out of the water. I made a couple casts close to the fish, but it either didn't notice my fly, or didn't like what I was throwing. We followed the fish around, trying to entice it again, but with no luck. I gave up the bow to Richard, feeling discouraged and confused.

Not long after, we saw another push of nervous water heading towards us. This time it was a school of several permit, not just one. Richard made a few casts, the last one being slightly too long and he lined the fish. The spooked and jetted out away from us. Richard offered me the bow as we made it our policy to switch off if you had a good shot at fish and missed it. I stepped back up and watched the school settle back down a couple hundred yards away. I saw tails pop up, and flashes of their bodies underwater as they began to root around. Bimba asked me to throw on a darker and less heavy fly then I had on since the fish were in shallower water. I ended up putting on a rabbit-strip gotcha I had tied up a couple years ago. As we approached the school I made a good cast to a fish right along the edge of the group. My adrenaline was pumping, and I could feel my legs shaking a little. I gave a slight twitch, and I saw the fish blast forward and inhale my fly.

I gave a quick strip set, felt my line come tight, and then watched all my slack line go flying out my rod. My drag hissed as the fish bolted. I spent the next 30 minutes fighting to regain line. I'd get the fish out of the backing on to the fly line only to give up another run and be back where I started. Eventually I got the fish close enough to the boat where our guide was able to tail it. With a sigh of relief we took a couple pics and released the permit back to the flats. When the guide took the hook out of the fishes mouth, the tip of the hook broke off. I think I was pretty close to loosing that fish.

We headed back to the mothership for a quick lunch, I was met with some handshakes and pats on the back for having landed a stuck-up-jack. After wolfing down a few bites, Bimba came over and let me know he was ready to go, it was tarpon time, time to get that grand slam done. Unfortunately for Richard this meant no fishing for him until the slam was complete, fortunately for me, Richard was 100% on board, and seemed to want to get it done as bad as I did.

This was not the time of year to be fishing for tarpon, they were scarce on this trip, I think we had fewer shots at tarpon then we did permit. We spent the next 5 hours searching channels and mangroves for laid up tarpon. At one point we spooked a 30lb 'poon that none of us saw until we were right on top of it. My back was beginning to ache from standing all day, and my hopes at a slam were starting to fade. I offered up the bow several times to Richard, and even suggested we go find some bonefish again. Both Bimba and Richard wanted to keep on the quest for the slam, so that's what we did. Eventually we pushed through some mangroves into this tiny pool that couldn't be more then 15 feet in diameter, with mangroves jutting out both above and below water, this was no good place to catch a fish. Bimba pointed to a small pocket were 3 tarpon were laid up, smaller fish, the largest being around 12-15lbs. He told me to put on a 3' leader of straight 80 pound flouro to the fly.

If I hooked one, I had to keep it on a short leash. I tried a cast, and of course I put my back-cast right into some branches behind the boat. After getting my fly back the fish had moved deeper into the roots and were not reachable. We sat for a couple minutes, hoping they would slide back out. When nothing happened, Bimba fired up the boat engine, put it in neutral and revved the motor. Within a few seconds the fish slid back into casting range, the larger one turned and faced the boat and started slowly coming towards us. I made a quick roll cast that landed right in his path. In a surreal moment the tarpon slowly approached my fly, suddenly it opened it's mouth, and sucked in what looked like 10 gallons of water, including my black and purple toad. I waited a half second, then hammered the fish, 1, 2, 3 hard trip sets and the water erupted around us. I basically pointed my rod at the fish, and gripped the line against the cork of the rod. It felt like I was playing tug-of-war with a large dog. I kept the fish out of the roots for a few minutes, steering it as best I could away from any dangers, keep in mind I only had a tiny pool of water to work with. The fish took a flying leap in the air and landed IN the mangroves.

I couldn't believe what happened, there was my fish, 3 feet out of the water tangled up in a mangrove branch. I wasn't sure what to do at this point, but that didn't matter. The next thing I head was a loud splash, Bimba had just jumped into the 6 feet of water and was swim/walking to my fish. As he grabbed the fish and removed it from the branch he let out the loudest yell of "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!" - the grand slam was completed, with a nice 12pound tarpon.

I followed up his "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!" with a few choice words of my own, I then jumped in the water to share a quick glory shot with Bimba before releasing the fish back to the salty sea.

All smiles, we returned to the mothership where I was greeted with a Mojito and congratulations. While I never came on this trip looking for a grand slam, I was pretty excited to have got it. I've never really been one for any sort of records, or IGFA tracking. Maybe that's why it came together for me.

The next day I was fortunate to be the wingman for Dylan Stanley as he completed his grand slam. Our day was very similar, a couple bonefish in the morning, shots at permit in the afternoon with Dylan finally landing a 22pound beast. Then hours in the afternoon and evening looking for tarpon, this time it was me who sat and took pics. Dylan finally landed a nice tarpon right as the sun was setting. He had a few choice words as well.

As the trip came to an end, we made the long trip home, all smiles and all thankful for a fantastic week.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Mr. A, freaking awesome report, glad you had a safe and productive trip. Great motivation for those fighting off the winter blues around here. Nice looking location and fish you have shared with us!