Written by: Brian McGeehan, Montana Angler Fly Fishing
We recently returned from a successful hosted “couples” trip to Bair’s Lodge on South Andros Island in the Bahamas. This was our second trip in the last four years, and Bair’s is one of my favorite saltwater destinations in the Caribbean. South Andros Island is home to some of the most highly regarded bonefish flats on the planet and features some of the most varied waters on the entire Andros system.
The flats on South Andros are vast and diverse, and they offer a true marine wilderness experience. Bair’s has a unique location, between Deep and Little Creeks. The “creeks” are actually vast networks of channels and lagoons in the interior of the island. Both Deep and Little Creeks offer hundreds of square miles of fishable flats within the creek networks, and they also offer a corridor to the remote West side of Andros, which is a labyrinth of small islands, mangrove systems, and flats. We were also within striking distance of the southern end of the island, which is an expansive region of hard-sand flats with hundreds of small islands or cays (pronounced keys). The diversity of fishing grounds ensures that the flats are lightly pressured. Anglers can fish from a skiff, poling deeper flats, or wade to stalk bones in skinny water. The interior waters within the creeks and West side also ensure plenty of locations to find the lee side of the wind when prevailing winds change.
Although anglers occasionally permit and tarpon, South Andros is a bonefishery first and foremost, and it is one of the premier locations in the world for chances at large bonefish over 10 pounds. In addition to bonefish, large barracuda cruise the flats and mangroves and will willingly take a well presented fly. Bonefish season begins in October and extends into early June. The southern location of South Andros produces stable fishing for most of the year, and November has a reputation for producing large fish.
I generally fish 9-foot 8- and 9-weight rods on South Andros, due to the large flies and wind. The majority of the time, we fish size 4 and even size 2 flies, although I still bring some 6s and even 8s for skinny water or days when the wind lies down. It is important to carry both-chain-eye and lead-eye patterns. South Andros fish love tan and orange, along with rubber legs. My favorite patterns include Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp, Mantis Shrimp, Gotchas, Rubber-Leg Gotchas, Bunny Clousers, and West side Shrimp. You don’t need a huge variety of patterns, as long as you cover your bases in sizes and weights. These bonefish are big and not terribly leader shy, although they are spooky in skinny water. I prefer 12 foot-leaders when the wind is moderate and 9-footers when it’s blowing hard. For tippet, I never go lower than 12-pound and often fish 16-pound, especially near mangroves. For a ‘cuda rod, I string a 10-weight with a 20-pound leader and a wire tippet.
Brian McGeehan is owner and outfitter of Montana Angler Fly Fishing, an Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Expedition in Bozeman, Montana.