by blake verdoorn
I’m a pessimistic fisherman. Is that normal? Do most anglers tie on their day’s fly and think “I probably won’t see anything today, but at least it’ll be fun.” Regardless, most days out on the water begin with a thought similar to that. We were told relentlessly that parts of North Caicos of the Turks & Caicos islands were home to the biggest and baddest bonefish. That’s enough to get any pessimist listening. And after minimal luck on the Bahama’s Eleuthera Island last year, the team was ready to try again.
Bottle Creek is a large flat located is the eastern half of North Caicos. Protected by the surrounding islands, the quiet and stable ecosystem is home to a variety of sea-life. The shallow water, cooled by the incoming tides of the ocean makes for a perfect habitat for the bonefish. Furthermore, difficult terrain and large travel distances means perpetual pressure from the casual angler remains low. Only the serious fly fisherman would be willing to embark on the journey. After long travel days followed by a day of rest, the group was eager to hit the water.
Unfamiliar with our surroundings, we quickly learned the necessity for kayaks. A day had gone by and we had not even seen signs of fish. Fishing off the shorelines and creek banks limited us to a tiny area of the expansive network of waterways. Bottle Creek was simply too large to manage on foot and a day had quickly passed without seeing a fish. Getting our hands on kayaks the next morning quickly renewed our energy. With access to the creeks interior, we began seeing fish immediately. I had just finished my peanut-butter and jelly sandwich when a loud “Fish On!” echoed across the water. Jake had hooked into the trip’s first bonefish. With the rod tip bending furiously, he began working the fish closer and closer. As I ran over to photograph, I was instantly taken back by its size. Bonefish from year’s past paled in comparisons to what was on the hook. As the days came and went, this remained a consistent theme. These fish were fighters, taking advantage of even the slightest mistake or misstep. The rumors we had heard were quickly backed by the evidence.
We had made a deal not to open our Oak & Eden Rye & Rumba until our first catch. With a successful day winding down, we made our way back to our evening hang out spot. I eagerly poured out a glass for everyone, sat back and watched as the sun set behind the creek. We shared stories from the day and dreamt about the days to come. I sat back quiet, observing the laughs and smiles on everyone’s faces. These moments are a needed reminder for us to slow down, take in the surroundings and enjoy the community we have created. At the end of the night I was a little disappointed to see our bottle so quickly emptied. Lesson learned: next time, bring more whiskey.
Our final day on the water was graced with absolute stillness. While the sun rose, the water sat motionless as the silhouettes of feeding herons broke up the ocean’s flat horizon. The day went on fish-less, but we had survived the week with incredible fish under our belt. We came to see if the rumors of Bottle Creek were true and left with a palpable excitement for next year’s return. I’ll tie my flies in confidence knowing I will be in the presence of the biggest bonefish in the world.