Cherokee Sound, Abaco, Bahamas

Emails like this make writing a book worth the effort.

Thanks to subscriber Bill Watson for submitting a great report from Cherokee Sound, Abaco.  It certainly made me feel like I was there, tangling with some of the bones around Cherokee and Casuarina.

For those of you who have not been to the flats around the Long Dock of Cherokee, the fish can be a “bit fussy”.  Lots of fish but they have learned a thing or two about fly fishing.  One night, after the sun had gone down, my fishing “gang” and I were sitting on the beach at Casuarina looking out into the bay,when we saw a school of bones reading Dick Brown’s book “Bonefish Fly Patterns.”  There may have been some tequila involved, but we would all swear to what we saw.  Suffice it to say, they have seen a fly or two in their lifetime.

Here is what Bill had to say about the trip:

“My wife and I just returned from a very enjoyable week (July 27) in Cherokee Sound. I chose it for a ‘beach week’ with a promise of some DIY fishing and my very first DIY Bone. Mission was accomplished! This email is meant as a Thank You for your book!

On the long dock of the bay

I booked VRBO listing #304337 “Captain’s View” which is the very nearest house to the long dock. Great location as you know and a great 2 BR rental for 1 or 2 couples. Not big but clean and well appointed. Kayaks and bikes included plus a well maintained boat moored outside for rental. The most important thing is my non-fishing wife considered the week a ’10’ given the house, the town and the location.

PhDs on the CS town flat

We discovered the joys of the Bahamas and Bonefishing a few years ago. I built and fly a small plane (an RV10) out of Durham, North Carolina. The Bahamas is a wonderful place to fly your own plane and we’ve used it for trips to Deneki on Andros, Cat, Long and a few other stops. One favorite is Staniel Cay where ‘Bonefish Bridge’ is adjacent to the airport. A large school of Bones moves up and down the creek each tide to get to a tidal basin – like shooting fish in a barrel if you sneak up on them, which of course makes it no fun at all. Anyway, the Bahamas maintains a large number of public airports for private aircraft use. We’ve used the plane to visit Bottle Creek in Middle Caicos and Anegada but the TCIs and BVIs aren’t quite as accommodating as the Bahamas for the private pilot. But I digress…

So I’m basically a freshwater trout guy who has discovered Bones and dabbled in FL Tarpon. I’ve done 5 or 6 guided days but DIY fishing has been a goal for all the reasons you know. I felt that I had reached the stage where I could find, stalk and catch one but Cherokee Sound turned out to be a bit more challenging than expected.

Hoping that a July trip, like your October experience, would find the fish forgetful about ‘ol Charlie but that was not the case. There was only one other fisherman in town but the fish retained their PhDs.

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I first walked out on the long dock and began to spook and spot singles and eventually small schools. I tried some casts but it was clear that was not going to work. The fish were spooked by my casting movements, lines on the water and particularly any stripped fly. Hmmm.

Each night I would go back and re-read parts of your book. Each day I would come out with a strategy for the tides, the flies and the approach. And then I would go back and do more research. It was amazing how much more useful information could be gleaned from the book after some experience. Fortunately I had packed some Scotch as well…

I learned that I could sit on the dock and avoid spooking the fish with the casting. I went to a clear headed tropical line and a proper leader. I was amazed by how far away the fish could detect the slightest movement of a fly on the bottom – 20+ feet on the white sand flat.

Took the boat out and worked around the flat at the west end of town. Discovered that the entire creek mouth was wadeable at low tide and that schools were all over the place. Finally figured out how they generally moved with the tides and found a good beat to fish on the incoming tide.

On day 4 I ran into the other fisherman and we both went out in the boat to hit the west town flat. My strategy was to find some feeding fish and present them with a small crab fly by predicting their path and laying the fly out there to sit on the bottom until they moved towards it. Then giving it just the slightest tug. Up to that point, every fish I had cast to reacted to a stripped fly by running away. But the rubber legged crab on the bottom worked. The slightest movement would get a positive reaction and I finally got my first true DIY Bone! And I even had a witness which never hurts.

Previously I had found Bone fishing a challenge but relatively easy if you could find unpressured fish and make a decent cast. But then discovered that sometimes they were happy and sometimes they weren’t. And once you get out of the boat, the challenges are doubled. But the fishing at Cherokee Sound got more technical than I expected. I felt like I was trying to fool pressured trout sipping #22 ants under overhanging trees. My respect for the mighty Bone has been raised. Actually my appetite has just been whetted for more.

Thanks again for the book. I left my copy with my new found friend, bought a Kindle copy to replace it but will be ordering another hardcover copy when I finish this note. A very enjoyable read, particularly between tides. It was almost like you were up on the tower behind me.”

Thanks for a great report Bill, look forward to seeing you on the flats.

Flyfishing for bonefish is my passion. Over the last twenty years I've waded flats throughout the world and honestly can't wait to see the next one. Of the 3-4 months I spend in the tropics each year I divide my fishing time between lodges, independent guides and self-guided.
  1. Eric Partin Reply

    I just wanted to say that a great place to fish for bones, especially if you have your own plane, is the Jimento’s. You can fly into Duncan Town on Ragged Island. It has an airport but no government office so you’ll have to check in somewhere else. But only 100 people live in the whole chain. We saw lots of bones there with not much pressure. We stopped there for 3 days when we were bringing a boat back from the DR to the keys. And luckily this boat had a flats boat for its tender. I want to get back there again but it is so hard to get to. But that is why there is not much pressure.

    • Bill in Durham Reply

      Whoa! That sounds like some frontier fishing… just the kind of place I’d like to drop into. Looks like there was a lodge there but no signs of it now. Good place for a side trip from Long Island…

  2. Felton Rolle Reply

    Great report from a true ‘DIYer’!!

  3. Alan Kuhre Reply

    Really enjoyed your well written report on Cherokee Sound. Brought back memories of a week I spent there in 2014. I have to say you are very fortunate to have such a great traveling partner. She must be a true “keeper!” Mine had quite a time adjusting to our Abaco Vacation when the winds kicked in which made taking a ferry from Marsh Harbour to sight see impractical. This along with our low season thing created some real challenges. She did a reality check and let me hit the flats and warmed up to the locals and a good book or two.

    She did give those bones a try a few times, but got a bit miffed at those waving tails which refused to eat. I apologize for making such a long winded explanation as to why I think Cherokee Sound might not get a “10” from some of the spouses out there.

    • Bill in Durham Reply

      We often go on some very lively trips together but on this trip we went in with eyes wide open. We were both seeking some quiet and solitude. Even retirees need a vacation from vacation.

      It was the first time we left FL with everything we’d need to be ‘self sufficient’ for meals and beverages. The locals were uniformly welcoming and friendly. Morning coffee on the porch gave us a chance to say good morning to the 4 or 5 people who took their mornings on the Long Dock. And a night time stroll out over the water was like walking out into the Milky Way, actually it was the Milky Way!

      My mate was very interested in some serious beachcombing to feed her mosaic work. I was very interested in some serious fishing without the scheduling and ‘forced march’ that tend to be part of a guided day. Turned out that low tide was ideal for long walks on the exposed sand bars right outside our door. It was also the ideal time to fish stalk the flats to catch incoming Bones. At times we were able to keep each other in sight as we chased our individual obsessions. Other times we went out together to collect shells or fish… and when we did I invariably got some fishing in which shell collecting and she some beach combing while I fished.

      Upon meeting the only other fisherman in sight, we had each other over for cocktails and snacks. Then we went fishing and swimming together. Funny how fast we warm to one another in an otherwise isolated place.

      I’m almost embarrassed to say that we took full advantage of good internet speeds and cable TV to track the political circus at home and otherwise act like we were at home when desired.

      The best part was being able to walk the flats for an hour or two whenever desired. Then being able to go back home to re-read the book, pore over Google Earth, and plan another short walkabout. It’s the most relaxed and rewarding fishing I’ve done in some time.

      Though one could observe that a 1 fish week isn’t for everyone.

  4. Steve Reply

    Great report Bill, hope I get to try Cherokee Sound someday!

  5. matthew wright Reply

    Excellent report – you really describe the go-back-each-night-and-think process brilliantly. I felt as thrilled as you when you finally got that hook-up. I fish a lot in TCI and you’re not the first to complain about the service private pilots get there but hope to see you on Bottle Creek again sometime…

    • Bill in Durham Reply

      Hope to see you out there as well!

      I very much want to return sometime but it’s a long flight without some other excuse to go that far beyond the Bahamas. I had a successful guided day but a frustrating DIY day or two.

  6. Lisa Doricchi Reply

    Great story. I have never caught a bonefish at Cherokee and have tried on several occasions! Way to go.

    • Bill in Durham Reply

      Thank You! Keep trying and you’ll get one… or you will just have to keep going back until you do.

      Now that I’ve caught one, I want to go back and catch a larger one, and more, and a Permit, etc.

  7. Long Beard Reply

    I rented Bone Ami (house rental) on Cherokee Sound several years ago and caught bones directly in front of the back deck. Fun place to wade and fish and many additional trips for the non-fishers.

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