Taking my Saltwater Virginity

I get it now.

Throughout my life, I have been told an undisputed truth from more-experienced fly fisherman than myself: That nothing compares to pursuing fish in the salt. It took me 24 years to step onto my first ocean flat, and now I’m left wondering what took me so long.

This past fall, Sterling and I were researching where our winter trip should take us this year. We wanted to do a DIY saltwater trip; preferably a place where we could settle in for a few weeks and spend our time exploring with 8 weights, hammocks, and boxes full of shrimp and crab flies. After weeks of research and communicating with our more-experienced friends and colleagues, we decided on a place known as Long Island in the Bahamas.

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The Bahamas consists of over 700 islands

The Bahamas consists of over 700 islands

Long Island is, well, long. 80 miles to be exact; however, it is only a few miles wide. With the Caribbean to the west and the Atlantic to the east, you are truly flanked by two significant yet totally unique global bodies of water. Only about 5,000 humans inhabit this piece of land, with a majority of the population in the northern half of the island compared to the wild and largely undeveloped south. Electricity was introduced to Long Island only 20 years ago, and there is one paved road here: The Queens Highway, which runs north to south from top to bottom. Along the way, rough dirt roads carved out of dense forests of Love Vine, Silver Palm Tree, and Madera stretch east and west, beckoning the curious angler or adventurous soul to come have a look at where they may lead.

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Locked & Loaded

Locked & Loaded

Long Island offers the flats angler a variety of fish to catch, and the likelihood of certain species changes with the seasons. We were there in February, and bonefish, barracuda, snapper, jacks, ladyfish, and sharks were viable targets. As you approach late spring, permit and tarpon have been known to swim around as well. Overall, the island lends itself best to the fisherman targeting bones.

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Ocean flats and creek systems that can be accessed on foot scatter the coastline from top to bottom on both sides of the island. The characteristics of the fishing areas vary widely, from sandy flats as far as the eye can see to small, intimate lagoons where a pair of bonefish may be feasting voraciously before the tide goes out and their outlet to the sea becomes a land barrier. This contrast of water is so enticing—no flat is the same and each must be approached with a plan in mind and your eyes and flies always at the ready.

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What blew me away about this place is the beauty and serenity that surrounds you at all times. The beaches are mesmerizing, the marine life is plentiful, and as a friend we met on the island so perfectly put it, “turn down any road on Long Island and I guarantee something cool will be going on.”

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The traveller expands their horizons externally while unknowingly growing internally as well. So far in my life I have made an effort to look at the world through the eye of a fly rod, and interestingly enough, it isn’t the fish that have stuck with me. It’s the realization that in the midst of a world that so often feels consumed with hate and violence, places like Long Island exist. Places where everyone you pass waves and you can step out onto a beach or flat and feel alone in the best way possible. So, just as I said two years ago after my first international fly fishing foray to New Zealand: I’m so screwed. I keep making it harder and harder to return to my beloved Oregon and settle back into reality. To be honest though, I’ve realized that my goal in life is to keep screwing myself over.

Stay tuned for part II: Belize,
Andy Archer

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