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Subscriber Jed Lyons and his two sons recently fished Grand Bahama Island in The Bahamas and he filed this overview of the fishing opportunities there, along with his views of the specific lodge he visited, North Riding Point Club. He writes:
“Grand Bahama Island is a long, thin swathe of flat, sandy land that resembles another island paradise, Nantucket, off the New England shore. Both have mile after mile of scrub pine trees and a flat landscape surrounded by gorgeous beaches. The island runs about 90 miles east to west with the northern shoreline surrounded by serpentine, magnificent flats. The southern shore more closely resembles the straight line sandy beaches lining the Florida coast.
“Grand Bahama is considered by many to be one of the more desirable places to go for large bonefish. There are quite a few different fishing operations here. On the western tip of the island is Old Bahama Bay, a historic port that was going to be transformed by a multi-million dollar land development project spearheaded by North Carolina-based Ginn Companies. A hotel, marina and new housing development, two golf courses and a massive hotel and resort are on hold right now with construction held up by the poor economy. The upscale development will eventually be served by an airstrip, a helicopter pad and an on-site customs office. One of the two operating restaurants is Bonefish Folley’s (pronounced “Foley”s), which is named for a famous bonefish guide who, along with his two sons, offers guiding in the area. The flats fished by the Folley’s are on the northwestern tip of the island.
“Another choice is Deep Water Cay Club on the eastern end of the island. The oldest bonefishing club on the island, it occupies a small island of its own and is accessible only by ferry from Grand Bahama. Deep Water Cay has a skeet shooting range among other amenities. Anglers depart for the fishing grounds from the lodge itself. Another option is H²0 Bonefishing in Freeport, formerly called Pelican Bay Bonefishing. Another Freeport operator is Grand Bahama Bonefishing. Freeport, with a population of 25,000, is the largest town on the island.
“The other operator on the island, which is the one we chose, is North Riding Point Club (NRPC). It was founded by the late Daryl Ruttenberg and 20 other American and British bonefish fanatics in 1995. The members own the club, but the public is welcome to stay there and fish just as the members do. Currently, 75 percent of the anglers who visit NRPC are non-members. Curiously, the club is located on the southern shore, on six acres of beachfront. The “North” in the club’s name refers to the location of the flats which the club fishes.
“The club offers small, comfortable cabins that can accommodate up to ten guests. Meals are served at breakfast and dinner with box lunches provided for anglers on the flats. The club is run by an engaging couple, Tim and Mercedes, who previously ran sailboat charters in the Caribbean and New England.
“Guests who stay at the club and those who, like us, choose to stay at the nearby Raddison Our Lucaya Resort, meet at the main lodge at 7:30 a.m. where the guides are waiting in Ford Explorers with long, shallow-bottomed bonefish boats in tow. The drive from the club to the flats on the northern side of the island takes about 30 to 40 minutes. After unloading the boat at a public landing, guide and guests zoom off into the seemingly endless flats that border the shoreline. Rarely more than four feet in depth and gin-clear, the flats are as wild and untouched as they must have been when Columbus discovered the Bahamas on his way to the New World. During trips in 2006 and 2009, we saw no boats, no people and no signs of civilization whatsoever – just mile after mile of azure-colored water and low-lying mangrove swamps.
“Anglers typically take turns standing ready at the bow while the guide stands on a raised platform roughly six feet above water level where he can see the fast-moving bonefish. Like bird hunting, the fish are stalked, with the guide poling the boat silently across the flats. When a fish is spotted, the guide directs the angler to cast his fly in a direction equivalent to the numbers on the face of a clock: “11 o’clock at 30 feet” and so on. We used a 9-weight rod and a crab-like fly called a “Bully” tied by one of the veteran guides, Bully Bevins, a large, husky no-nonsense man of few words.
“NRPC has six experienced guides who grew up in the area and know the flats inside and out. The head guide is Stanley Clinton, a serious pro. His brother, LeRoy Clinton, is the fun-loving one in the family. Two more brothers are also guides here: Steve and Livingston Tate. The Tates are younger but every bit as knowledgeable as the older guides. Lemuel Mitchell is another younger guide who is related to the Tates.
“We fished three days on both trips at a cost of $500 a day per boat, plus a $100 per day tip for the guides. That cost includes the pick up and drop off at the hotel and a delicious box lunch and beverages. The guides are happy to stay out until dark if anglers wish. Our guides on both trips, first Lemuel and then Steve Tate, were first-rate, focused and hard-working. We covered miles of flats each day, including some of the most beautiful water we’d ever seen. Although casting was difficult due to the 15- to 30-mile-an-hour winds we encountered, we had periods of sun and caught a few fish. We saw one fish our guide thought would go more than ten pounds but we missed it.
“NRPC offers the closest bone- fishing you’ll find if you live in the eastern United States. It’s also, in my view, one of the best lodges in the Atlantic. The best time to go is Spring and early Fall.
(Postscript: Rates at NRPC depend on the season. Low-season rates from October to the end of February and also the month of July are: $1,970 for three nights lodging, 2½ days of fishing; and $4,200 for seven nights lodging, 6½ days fishing. From March 1 to June 30 those rates rise to $2,500 and $5,340 respectively.)