Andros, Bahamas and Mangrove Cay

What can I say about this trip? My friend Matt asked me to fill an empty spot for a fly fishing trip to the Bahamas (Mangrove Cay, Andros to be exact). I fish a lot, but I have NEVER fly-fished and it wasn't like I was going to decline an invitation to learn how on a beautiful Caribbean island.

After three flights finally we arrived at Swain's Cay Lodge. It's everything you'd expect from a fishing lodge on a remote island... except a lot nicer. This was no bare-bones fisherman's camp — the accommodations were fantastic and included an amazingly friendly, attentive, and courteous staff, clean air-conditioned rooms, delicious fresh seafood, a full bar, and a beach fit for a much higher-priced luxury resort. It sounds too good to be true but you just can't argue with the pictures. The views and weather here are what people dream about and long for during the rough winter months and I was extremely lucky to have taken part (Thanks Matt!).

We wade-fished the first day, and then went out with our talented guide Ephraim for the next three days. He can identify any ocean life from hundreds of feet away, which direction it's headed, and how hungry it is — all while driving a boat through a thunderstorm. He also gave me some pointed and effective lessons on how to cast a fly rod (for those who have never done it, it's harder than it looks). Along the way we caught bonefish and some large Barracuda (biggest fish I've ever caught!), but we also experienced so much other life in the ocean which I had never seen in person before. Stingrays, dolphins, turtles, needlefish, snapper, lemon sharks, and nurse sharks all appeared within feet of the boat by our second day, in addition to the standard assortment of conch, lobster, crabs, and a plethora of smaller fish species.

The trip was quite a memorable experience for this Chicagoan. Aside from the great fishing and beautiful scenery, I have to say the thing that brought the biggest smile to my face was the friendliness and community of the Bahamian people. I won't try to explain it (because I have already tried and failed) — it is something that must be experienced. Some people may attribute it to "carefree island life" or assume that the only people we came in contact with were "hospitality-oriented" to begin with, but that is simply not the case. The people here care about everyone and and expect to be cared about in return. Somehow it works. I caught more smiles and friendly hellos in four days there than I do in 6 months in the city, and I will certainly miss it.

Thank you to Cheryl (Bastian) and your entire staff for making this such an enjoyable and memorable trip. It will not be soon forgotten!

(Hint: Square thumbnails are clickable for full size)