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A return to civility and bonefish

Grand Bahamas starting to recover from Hurricane Dorian

Recently it was my pleasure to return to East End Lodge in the Grand Bahamas. This was my fourth trip there, and it was great.

Two things made it great. The first is the return of civility by the traveler. I credit this to the easing of the mask mandate. The past couple of years have shown that those that travel, especially by airplane, have had all they could take of wearing masks.

While my study would not meet any scientific guideline, I noticed a difference in attitudes. It started with the professional behind the ticket counter having a smile you could see. It’s hard not to smile and say, “Have a nice day” when the agent has beat you to a smile. As I went through security, it was the same, smiles you could see. It was true in the coffee shops and sitting areas.

People were understandable when they spoke to you. Onboard the aircraft, the same. The flight attendants smiled and helped you get your carry-ons stored. Passengers walking past your seat would joke and laugh. While traveling can still be a challenge, this trip was the first in a long time, that was much easier to handle.

The second thing is, of course, the bonefish. As I wrote in a column last year, the physical damage Hurricane Dorian did to the island, followed with what COVID had done to the economy, Grand Bahama had been dealt a very bad hand. While the fly fishing had been good, the number of those fly fishing was down. This year, new hands have been dealt, and a winning hand is in the making. The flights into and out of Grand Bahama are full. And the lodges and hotels have waiting lists.

The hurricane’s devastation to the mangroves is taking a very small step to improving. Through the efforts of many organizations and local residents, replacement mangroves are being planted. Also, some very young and small new growth is sprouting on its own. I hope it will be fully grown for my great-grandchildren to see. In addition to the mangroves, there is some new construction to lodges, homes and other businesses being done. It’s looking good.

For me, and the group I was with, the best was the bonefishing. There were lots of fish, and many of them would take your line into the backing. To find bonefish takes a good guide, and my partner and I had a great one. Here again was a return to guide professionalism similar to before Dorian and COVID. Our guide, Willis, was soft-spoken, gave positive instruction to bad casts, (which was more often than I hoped for), was complimentary to a good cast, and was always excited when one of us would land a fish.

We also discovered he would laugh at our jokes and smiled when we would kid him about a poorly tied knot, or removing a hook before he could come down from the poling platform. Of course, it helped that Willis liked cigars, so John and I could bribe him with a good cigar at the end of the day. I also want to say the lodge staff was great. Again, with no masks, smiles and laughter were the norm.

As I mentioned earlier, this was not a scientific study, just some casual observations. So, like a true casual scientist, I’m planning more trips to verify my initial findings. The only challenge is using different airlines and heading out to new locations. It’s a tough challenge, but I’m up to it.

Reach Don Oliver at durango.fishing@gmail.com.