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Still on the subject of bonefishing, but on the other end of the spectrum of opportunities, continuing subscribers will remember our report in the May 2012 issue about Long Island Bonefishing Lodge (www.longislandbonefishinglodge.com) on the Bahamian island of Long Island, which is devoting itself to providing fishermen what it calls “assisted do-it-yourself” bonefishing. The low-cost service consists of very nice accommodation in cottage-like rooms near Deadman’s Cay, three excellent meals a day, airport pickup, and boat transportation each day to and from carefully selected flats. No, anglers are not just dumped on the flats: they are instructed on the right flies to use and the best way to fish each flat. On disembarking, each client is given a walkie-talkie so he can check in with the transporter/guide who remains in the area all day. If success is not forthcoming, clients can ask to be moved to another flat. Alternately, they can be directed to another part of the same flat. Sometimes, the advice is simply to wait for the tide to shift. The cost for a full week of this kind of service (seven nights’ lodging, six days of fishing) is $1,600, double occupancy in a boat and room.

Last May, when editor Don Causey reported on this new service, he didn’t have much to go on. Back then, owner Nevin Knowles was still feeling his way forward. He didn’t have enough guides on hand to accommodate all the writers he had invited to his lodge for a checkout visit, so he had to bring in some folks who didn’t know what they were doing to host some of his guests. It would be an understatement to say the assisted part of his assisted DIY service left something to be desired then. Worst of all, the wind fairly howled for almost the entire week. Almost no one caught any fish.

What a difference a year makes! Don Causey was on Long Island last month on a laid-back family trip mostly unrelated to fishing, though he did spend a day at Long Island Bonefishing Lodge. He had this to say about the experience: “Any doubts I had about the viability of Nevin Knowles’s assisted DIY bonefishing service last year are a thing of the past after my recent experience. Knowles has definitely ironed out the kinks of his operation. The breakfast I was served, the appearance of the lodge, and, most important, the service another client and I were provided by guide Mark Cartwright were all thumbs-up. Mark had a sure feel for his role as transporter and interpreter of the two opportunities he presented us. The first walk he suggested for us didn’t pan out, and when he saw that, he called us on the walkie-talkies he had handed us both as we left the boat. We didn’t have to call him. Back at the boat, we made a quick run to another flat a mile or so away. As we left the boat, he pointed out which way we should wade and what was likely to happen as the tide began to come in. He was right on the money in his prediction. As the tide began to come in, wave after wave of bonefish – singles and doubles followed by small schools – began to work along the far shore where we had positioned ourselves. The two of us caught close to a dozen fish.

“If a dozen fish sounds like a small number, then you have never tried on-your-own bonefishing. It is hard. Very hard. Even good bonefishermen are often skunked. The first problem is figuring out where the fish are. Mark helped tremendously in that regard. The second problem is seeing fish. When you are wading, your angle of vision makes it harder to see into the water. And that’s on top of the problem of spotting your own fish instead of relying on a guide. Indeed, the pleasure of own-your-bonefishing lies not in catching a lot of fish; it’s rooted in the deep pleasure of figuring things out on your own. I can tell you firsthand the two of us were beaming smugly at the end of our day. It was high-five time.

“So, how is Knowles doing business- wise with his assisted-DIY lodge? In a follow-up call, he said his business is up 400 percent or more from the level he had achieved as a traditional bonefish lodge. He is not about to go back to that business model anytime soon. That raises the question of the future of this kind of fishing elsewhere in the Bahamas and even elsewhere in the Caribbean. The south end of Long Island, with its defunct salt processing plant, is particularly suited to Knowles’s operation. There are scores of old salt-drying flats separated by a canal system that was used to manipulate water levels on the flats. On any given day, Mark and backup guide Nevin Knowles himself have a wealth of places to drop anglers. There are not a lot of places that are as uniquely appropriate for a do-it-yourself bonefishing operation as southern Long Island. Still, there is a real chance this kind of fishing is going to grow in popularity in coming years. If you agree, disagree, or just have an observation about onyour- own fishing, let me know. Write [email protected].”

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