Orvis Guide to Adventure
The Best Destinations in the Bahamas for Tarpon and Permit Fly Fishing
While the Bahamas are commonly known for bonefish, the fact is the opportunities for fly fishing the other two members of the Grand Slam trio—tarpon and permit— do exist. While not as prolific as the bones, there are places in the Bahamas where you can find excellent opportunities for these two fish species. Interestingly enough, some of these opportunities can provide you with shots at some remarkably large fish.
Fly Fishing Grand Bahama Island
Grand Bahama Island has an remarkable permit fishery. Fish in excess of 20 plus pounds are normal and 30- and 40-pound fish are not uncommon, and at certain times of the year, large tarpon show up. Juvenile tarpon in the 30-to 60-pound class can be found in abundance at the right time. While bonefish are still the primary target, those looking for other fly fishing opportunities both on the flats and offshore will find what they’re looking for here.
There are two operations on Grand Bahama that can put you on tarpon and permit with regularity. Founded by legendary guide Gil Drake and Field and Stream editor A. J. McClane, Deep Water Cay is located on the northeast end of the island with easy access through Freeport. H2O Bonefishing is an outfitter that works out of a larger resort located in Port Lucaya and operating as an outfitter with all its guides as employees rather than contractors, H2O has the ability and the boats to explore waters all around Grand Bahama.
The Abaco Islands
The Abaco Islands are the northernmost chain in the Bahamas, wrapping themselves around the east end of Grand Bahama Island. Located on the “backside” of the island are the Marls, widely considered some of the best bonefish flats in the world, but there are tarpon and permit there. The best part of this is Abaco Lodge which is located in that pristine area, away from the towns and sitting directly on the Marls. While you are not going to break any world records on tarpon, they are there as are many permit which guests at the lodge catch every year.
Chasing Permit and Tarpon in Andros, Bahamas
Andros Island is not actually an island in the Bahamas, but a large archipelago. North Andros, Mangrove Cay and South Andros islands are collectively known as Andros Island, with little more than tidal creeks separating them from each other. Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamas, the least inhabited, and the fifth largest in the West Indies at roughly 2300 square miles. The island is 104 miles long and 40 miles wide at its widest point. The third largest barrier reef in the world stretches for over 140 miles along the eastern edge of Andros Island. Andros Island is often referred to as the “bonefishing capital of the world”.
All of the small towns reside on a thin strip of habitable land on the east coast, and the rest is a remarkable ecosystem of cays, creeks, and flats that extend westward toward the US. It is on this “west side” that tarpon and permit can be found, but this also takes the right conditions and the desire to get there due to the distance. Still fishing this west side even if you just find bonefish is considered one of the great experiences a flats angler can have as you will be targeting fish that rarely see another angler. The sheer magnitude of the place and the opportunities it presents are staggering.
There are two lodges that can make this happen for you, Eva’s Bonefish Lodge on North Andors and Tiamo Resort on South Andros. Both of these lodges have guides experienced in fishing the west side as well as the easily accessible flats on the eastern side.
Planning Your Bahamas Fly Fishing Trip
Planning a trip to the fishing trip to the Bahamas should be built around bonefishing as you will find no better in the world, but if you want to target tarpon and permit it can add a great deal to the experience. You just have to do a little planning and communicate with the lodge where you are planning to stay. There are certain seasons where your’re chances to chase the slam will be greatly enhanced and your lodge can help you determine the best time and opportunities in their area for fly fishing all three species.
Bringing the right equipment for fly fishing tarpon and permit is important. While an 8-weight fly rod is standard fare for bonefish, always make sure you have a 10-weight rigged and ready to go. Not only is it good for permit and the tarpon you will find in the Bahamas, it is the perfect rod for barracuda which might be the most fun you’ll ever have with a fly rod. These flats predators are explosive when they take and can be found on almost any flat you find bonefish. The Bahamas may be bonefish central, but with proper planning and a little luck you can expand your horizons to include tarpon and permit, maybe claim the tropical Grand Slam, and have a fishing trip that you will remember for the rest of your life.
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