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Fly Fishing From a Mother Ship
By Captain Al Lorenzetti 

Andros Island in the Bahamas is probably one of the best bonefishing spots in the world. The biggest bones are found on its famous West Side, which is completely uninhabited, and at least a 40-mile run from the nearest fishing camp. The distance to this remote fishing ground presents a major problem. How to get there quickly and safely and therefore have the time to search for the monster bonefish of a lifetime? For those having the necessary resources and determination, the answer is to charter a mothership and set up a floating camp on the fishing grounds.

I recently had the opportunity to be part of such a trip. My good fishing buddy Len Lapsys of Sun Valley, Idaho chartered the 85-foot Burger yacht PAPILLON for a week of fishing on the famous West Side of Andros Island. He had the boat provisioned and arranged for it to be waiting at anchor off the northwest point of Andros near Williamís Island. Four anglers, Len and I and two of his friends Barbara Liebroder and Warren Wegglund of Salt Lake City made up the fishing crew. We flew to Nassau and then chartered a flight to Andros Town. We took a taxi to the Andros Island Bonefish Club at Behring Point on the east side of the island at the tip of the North Bight. The North Bight is a shallow but navigable pass that crosses the island to the West Side. We set out from the camp with three flats boats and guides, Rupert Leadon, owner host and head guide for the camp and professional guides Barry Neymour and Danny Newbold. 

We ran directly across to the West Side and then fished our way north to meet the PAPILLON. We stopped at all the hot spots along the way, Loggerhead Creek, Cabbage Cove, Wide Open, Barbaraís Cove and others and were into good fish all day. Barbara boated an 80-pound tarpon and Len lost an estimated 12-pound bone near the boat. 

When we approached Williamís Island we spotted PAPILLON sitting majestically in its lee. It was a welcome sight at the end of an exciting day. Scott the Captain and Mate/Chef Ross welcomed us aboard. We checked out the PAPILLON up close and personal and she was all that we had hoped for. 

In addition to the great fishing, our stay aboard the PAPILLON was really one of the highlights of that week. The PAPILLON was exquisite in its appointments and very comfortable. Scott and Ross were warm and gracious and helpful in every way. The accommodations and food were outstanding. We dined in luxury every evening with candlelight and gourmet meals. A full breakfast was prepared daily and lunches were always ready to take on board the flats boats. Everything about our Mothership, the PAPILLON, and her crew was top shelf. It was an experience to remember. 

At first light the guides would prepare the flats boats which were kept tethered off the PAPILLONíS stern. We departed each morning after breakfast and headed out for another exciting day of fishing and exploring and it was really a combination of both. We were looking for fish but we were also learning about this little known part of Andros. We spent a lot of time checking out the myriad of coves and creeks and bays.

We had come well prepared for the trip. I had printed and laminated small charts using the Maptech master chart of Andros and their CD software. I had my Lowrance Global Map 100 handheld GPS for navigating and marking good fishing spots. We used Humminbird handheld VHF radios for communication between the boats. We all had loads of top quality tackle and terminal gear. I had an PENN #8 Gold Medal 4 piece travel fly rod with 2.5 Penn fly reel for days with light winds and a G. LOOMIS #9 "Nautikos" 3 piece rod with GL 8-9-10 reel for the windy days. In addition I had a heavyweight #13-15 G. LOOMIS "Nautikos" 3 piece rod with Penn AR4 fly reel in the event that a big tarpon would cross my path. The reels were spooled with Rio Products lines and leaders. Lenny brought loads of "Gotcha" flies in various sizes and all were sharpened to a needle point and barbless for maximum penetration and easy release. I had also decided to bring a Globalstar satellite phone in case an emergency might occur in such a remote place. 

The first two days of fishing from our mothership were fabulous. We caught loads of bonefish with many over six pounds. We didnít even cast to smaller fish which were just everywhere. I jumped two tarpon, one over a hundred pounds and another of about eighty pounds. I had them on for quite a while and their jumps were spectacular but they spit the hook before I could get them to the boat, which is to be expected with tarpon. I also landed a 24-pound barracuda. I used the new super thin and tough titanium leader material made by Terminator and it really performed well. I also learned that a barracuda wants a really fast moving fly! I had to two-hand strip as fast as I could to get him to eat. When it did eat it was scary. A flash of silver and a mouth full of teeth inhaling the fly in a microsecond followed by long runs and jumps. It was a really impressive battle.

On the morning of the third day a front came in and the winds howled and it got ugly. We sat it out and enjoyed the comfort of the PAPILLON that day. I was happy that she was such a sound boat. We relaxed, played dominoes and had a good time in spite of the weather. On the fourth day the wind was still blowing a gale but Rupert, Barbara and I decided we would try to fish in the lee of the island. We headed out on the largest of the flats boats while the others decided to wait till the next day for things to settle down. It was a mistake on our part to have gone. We had run for about 15 miles and then heard a sickening noise as the power-head let go. We were out of handheld VHF range and had no way to tell those aboard the PAPILLON of our predicament. My concern for safety had prompted me to rent the satellite phone and that day it more than paid for itself. Rupert used it to call the camp and had them send two boats to our rescue. One boat would tow the broken boat back to camp and we would take the other back to the PAPILLON to continue our fishing adventure. It took them four hours to reach us but it was a great feeling to see them appear over the horizon. The alternative would have been an unexpected camping adventure on the island with no real supplies as the PAPILLON crew would not have known of our situation until we did not return late that afternoon. We had discussed the location we were going to fish before we left that morning so I knew we would eventually be found but who knows what could have happened during a rescue attempt on a dark and windy night. Bringing the satellite phone was the best thing I did in preparing for the trip and I will not go again to such a remote area without one.

We fished for three more days under fairly windy conditions but still caught loads of bonefish. I am sure we fished in places where no one has fished before and I feel special in knowing that. Rupert said we had the honor of naming new fishing holes since we were the first to explore them. Sneaky Creek and Two Pines were our choices and they are loaded with fish.

On the last day we said our good-byes to the crew and set out for the return trip to the Andros Island Bonefish Club. We fished our way back along the West Side and on that day I had my only shot at a true "giant" of a bonefish. My guide Danny spotted what he first thought to be a small shark in the distance but when the fish was a hundred feet from the boat he excitedly said "big bone get ready." I cast pretty well putting the fly about 10 feet in front of the approaching fish. I made a few short strips, and he spotted my offering moving rapidly to the fly. The fish was huge, a minimum of 11 pounds, and I was very excited. Everything was perfect, and I really thought he was going to inhale the fly. Instead he looked at it and passed it by, moving off to deeper water. I waterhauled the line and made a quick follow-up cast getting it in front of him again, but he wanted no part of it and took off in a flash. The old adage is true, "the big ones are big because they are not stupid" and this big fish is still roaming the waters of Andros.

It was a most memorable trip and one that very few could duplicate. If you have the means then I most definitely recommend the Mothership approach to fishing Androsí West Side or other great fly fishing area.

Good Luck and Good Fishing!
Captain Al Lorenzetti - 2001

 

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