Fish hawks in paradise

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photo: Eric Kiel

The guide Dencil Moxey runs the boat to a new floor.

On our first morning of fishing, we left the mother ship Once at 8:30 leisurely and run north for half an hour to a small coastline. It is a morning of perfect sparkling fish: no clouds; the sun high enough behind us for a good observation; enough breeze, also behind our backs, to stir the water. John Green, our guide, turns the engine off the floor and pushes it against an outgoing tide.

photo: Eric Kiel

Meredith McCord points to a bone fish.

And there, thirty feet from the coast and no more than six feet from the bow, there is a prickly fish that lies perfectly still in the water and in front of the boat. As if waiting for us! As if he had a small sign that said: "Catch me!"

Green gives Meredith his rod, and she stands up and does exactly that, with a perfect backward movement on the wrist of a cast that drops the fly one foot in front of the bonefish's nose.

"Your turn," he tells me when the fish is released.

"No, thanks," I say. I open my first Kalik of the day, I stretch in the console seat and add, sincerely, "I am happy to see you fish."

Meredith smiles. "That," she says, climbing the bow, "is just what my father used to say. "

i love fishing with fish hawks: people who never have a pleasant day in the water, who fish as if their next meal depends on it, with intensity, skill and brio, a combination that in my experience tends to make the fish want to open their mouths .

photo: Eric Kiel

Fly rods ready.

And in particular I love fishing with fish falcons, whose oblique approach to sport paints it to me, when I am in their company, in fresh and revitalizing colors. Then, when I had the opportunity last February to fish with two of those women on a mothership in the Bahamas, I crashed it like a trout in caddis and invited my friend Richard French to join us.

One of these women was my daughter, Greta Gaines, my favorite fishing partner since I was old enough to hold a rod: at age six, a spinning rod for sea bass in Alabama, and then a fly rod when I was eight for brook trout and Small mouths in New Hampshire. Since then, she and I have been inclined to dozens of species in dozens of places, and Greta brings fishing the same raptor qualities that it gives to everything else it does. A "hawk of life", I could call my daughter and not be wrong: the first Snowboard world champion and co-founder of the first snowboarding camp for women; host for three years of a series of adventure trips on the Oxygen channel; competitor in the first Pro Bass Bass Tour for ESPN; a successful singer-songwriter from Nashville; founder and CEO of two beauty products companies; a mother and a wife; and once holder of the women's world record of fly rod for striped bass in a two-pound test tippet.

photo: Eric Kiel

Greta Gaines in search of the backbone.

The second woman was Meredith McCord, who also pounced on her eclectic life like a hawk and had a world fishing record or two.

At 10:00 am. I'm very into my second Kalik, and McCord has caught eight thorns and two more have been taken from him. As Green climbs up the coast, McCord stands at the bow, firing accurate right and reverse shots, hooking almost every fish he throws, and all the time talking to me on his shoulder in response to a question I asked him. two hours before

The question was this: "So how did you get into world record fishing?"

His father—Rick McCord, a successful commercial real estate developer from Houston – began fishing forty-two years ago when he was three years old, sitting on his mother's lap with a stick in a low Texas pond he owned, and later on Canada on Lake of the Woods, where they had a summer cabin. His whole family fished and hunted, and for McCord and his younger brother and sister, there was no greater pleasure while growing up than following his father with a rod or a gun.

photo: Eric Kiel

Working on a mangrove coast.

After seeing A river runs through it When I was in college at Vanderbilt, he started fly fishing and spent the summer after graduating waiting tables in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and learning how to do it right. After an adventure with commercial real estate, which was forced to wear pantyhose, she moved back to Houston, started a ceramics studio from scratch to paint her own house and turned it into a cash cow business with five points of sale called Mad Potter.

When he was not working or doing missions with orphans in Russia and Africa, he was fishing with his father: in Belize, Canada, Alaska, Venezuela, Christmas Island and the Seychelles. In 2012, in Venice, Louisiana, he set his first women's world record with a 32½-pound red fish caught in a 16-pound tippet. His father was excited for the record. He encouraged her to go for others, and on her next trip to the Seychelles, she forced him with two more.

In 2013, Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company hired her to organize trips and explore places and fishing shelters. He spent much of that year in the water, and when she and her father returned to the Seychelles in 2014, their number of world records had increased to more than thirty.

On that trip, McCord and his father caught seventeen giant spree between them. It was his best trip, and it was Rick's last. Shortly after they returned home, he was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. He told Meredith that from that moment on, she would have to catch him, that he wanted her to keep looking for records and to think about him being with her to witness everyone. She told him that he would live to see her set a hundred, and he almost did. When he died, in October 2015, she was seventy-eight. The following year, he reached his father's hundredth day: a black bass, from the Texas pond that his father had built and stored, and in which he had taught him to fish.

photo: Eric Kiel

The eleven mothership anchored.

Since then, McCord says she has been setting records for him. As of our trip, it has 158 of them and 12 slopes, about 50 of them in rotating rigs, the rest in cane.

"How many is enough?" I ask. We are having lunch now, after a morning or so of twenty fish bones for McCord who could have served as a master class in floor fishing, moored ship by ship with photographer Eric Kiel and his guide.

She says: "The holder of the highest female record in the world has about two hundred, and is practically retired. So more than two hundred, sure. After that, I don't know. It's a game and it's fun. As long as I have fun, I will keep playing ".

The way things have been breaking up recently, that could be quite a while. In large part due to the reputation that her records have earned her, the woman is having much more fun than a little. She leaves in five days to fish in Dubai and then to house a group of fishermen in the Seychelles. Only last year he fished in Belize, Canada, Argentina, Iceland, Bahamas, Russia, Mongolia and Bolivia, eight of the twenty countries in which he has had problems during the past seven years. She was named the best fisherwoman of the year by the International Sports Fishing Association of the Year in 2015 and 2016; won the prestigious Ladies Tarpon Fly Tour tournament in Islamorada, Florida, in 2017; and starred with Tom Brokaw, Huey Lewis, Yvon Chouinard and others on the television show Buccaneers and Bones. Its records come from eight countries, and it has them in more than forty species of fish, from Atlantic salmon to catfish, from dorado to carp. To do that you have to fish a lot, and she does it about 200 days a year, only 15 percent or less of those for the records, the rest for her own pure joy. To fish so much you have to flatten love it – register or not register.

photo: Eric Kiel

Guide John Green manages the polling platform while McCord backs off.

After lunch, Kiel asks McCord to get out of the boat and walk so he can photograph his casting. While doing so, a barracuda of about twenty pounds is inactive within ten feet of it and stops, pleading, it would seem, like the first prickly fish in the morning, to catch it. She runs to the boat for her cane rod and runs back, the fish is waiting for her. She kicks out. The cuda cuts the red and white popper, misses it, cuts it again, and carries the fly at a distance from a rod of McCord's bare legs. Turn right, run forty feet in a blink of an eye, jump two feet out of the water, your whole body is a silver paroxysm of milkshakes … and spit the hook.

McCord turns to look at us, beaming, with his hands open at his sides, palms up, demanding: "Is it fun or than?

The eleven which is owned by the luxury travel company Eleven Experience, is based from October to May on the southwest coast of Andros Island, miles from the nearest road or city, in the middle of a 1.3 million national park acres. In addition to two shelters about sixty kilometers to the north, it is the only accommodation on the west side of Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, which means that it has the large number of flats that fish there practically for itself. And that fishing – for the prickly fish, many of them large, shad and season permit, barracuda, lamb snapper and sharks – is as good as it seems. Within the approximately thirty-five miles that make up the ElevenIn the fishery, from the middle cove of Andros to the north to the water cays at its southern end, there are thousands of isolated floors, as well as a network of canals, streams and lagoons that house fish, so huge and complex that Toma would be Decades explore them all.

photo: Eric Kiel

Captain Tom McLaughlin with a mere.

Being in the water in the middle of all this piscatoria wealth tends to induce a relaxed approach to exploit it, and one of the advantages that Eleven What you have about land-based shelters is that you are free to set your own schedule: go fishing whenever you want and return to your liking; Eat a box lunch in the water or return to the boat for one of the chef's innovative meals. While you're out, you're fishing from 16-foot Beavertail avant-garde skiffs, with a team of guides as skilled as anyone in the Bahamas. And what comes back at the end of the day is as high quality as fishing: a seventy-four-foot Hatteras with three air-conditioned cabins (for up to six fishermen), a spacious and comfortable main hall with satellite TV and a Well-stocked library, and a top deck for cocktails, dinners and spectacular sunsets.

photo: Eric Kiel

McCord on a paddle board.

There are countless moving parts in an operation as remote and elaborate as the Eleven. The ship's captain, Tom McLaughlin, a thirty-seven-year-old former shadish guide and commercial fisherman from Boca Grande, Florida, keeps them all tangled up without problems, making the extremely difficult seem easy to the point of indifference. You should wear a cap with the words "Competent Captain" printed. Working with McLaughlin on the ship are the talented young chef Ethan Greer and a lush, pint-sized fellow named Ryan Martin, known as Martini, one of whose pleasant talents is emerging, like a genius, with exactly what you want exactly when you want that.

What happens this afternoon is a tray of spicy margaritas presented to McCord and me at the moment when we got off the boat to the tail of the mother ship, followed by a tray of snacks from Greer. An hour later, we are on the upper deck with Greta, Richard French and Kiel, with daisies cooled in their hands, watching the sun expire operatively on Great Bahama Bank and hearing about the thirty bonefish that Greta hooked while fishing with the French in Water Cays.

photo: Eric Kiel

Selection of flies.

After a good dinner of sauteed snapper, Greta sings some songs with the ship's guitar, and we planned the rest of our sybarite stay at the Eleven. One of the defining characteristics of such a stay is the remarkable variety
There are many ways to deal with the wand in your hand. There is fishing from the skiffs everywhere, and in the Water Keys and Curley Cut there is an unlimited target.
fishing with sand At night, if you can still do it, There is rolling shad fishing at Miller Creek, and snappers and cats at the stern of the boat. There is reef fishing on the high seas, and there is bone fishing in shallow and landlocked lagoons from stand-up paddle boards. Being dedicated fish hawks, Greta and McCord want to try everything, and in the next two days they try hard, with French and I doing everything possible to keep us up to date.

SUBWAYCthe cord ties its rods along with pink ribbons. Greta
He wrote a song that she sings seductively to bonefish when they aren't cooperating. McCord assigns voices to several fish: a Spanish accent for cats, for black drum the voice of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. And she moves a little in the bow to illustrate how the excited tarpon responds to the hatching of the palolo worm in the Florida Keys.

photo: Eric Kiel

A lionfish

On this second morning, the three of us are fishing with the guide Dencil Moxey in Little Miller's Creek, and judging by the smile he looks all day, Moxey is so delighted with the escape of the femininity of the fish falcon in the boat like me . Today there is more wind and less sun. Fishing is slower than yesterday but constant, and, in turn, women hook up practically all the fish they see, while they sing together, the five collide and talk non-stop between shots on Ayurvedic therapy, skin products, Me Too movement …

"My dad loves this," says Greta, precisely, when I laughed at one of his exchanges. "It gives you a break from all the fisherman's talks, like," So how's your wallet, Bob? "And" Could you believe LeBron last night? "

photo: Eric Kiel

Gaines in the bow.

At 4:30, after a full day on the boat, the three with the Frenchman, Tom McLaughlin and Kiel sail ten minutes from the ship, and walk another five minutes through a sun-hardened loam dotted with buds of Mangrove a system of small lagoons and streams, without shoreline on three sides with a narrow opening to the ocean seven miles away. There, the women and McLaughlin fish from paddle boards in water four to ten inches deep for the thousands of spiny fish two to four pounds that inhabit that system (and many others like this one). McCord and McLaughlin do not return to the ship until after dark. Fifteen minutes later, McCord is on the upper deck mixing a batch of Fruity Fosters.

The next morning, while French fish with bones, McLaughlin shoots the twenty-six-foot Regulator tied to the ship, and he and Martini take the rest of us eight miles off the coast to a coral reef that is nine feet from Water. After anchoring the boat, McLaughlin and Martini throw a chum of tangled live anchovies that same day. Within minutes, behind the stern appear snappers, grouper, horse mackerel, needlefish and a large barracuda of lamb and mangrove, and Greta and McCord catch them in streamers and poppers: Greta screams, as her grandfather used to do, in each connection .

The weather is perfect. Reggae plays at high volume on the regulator's sound system. We break Kaliks, sunbathe and fish, and then dive over coral heads among clouds of snappers, cats and needlefish. McLaughlin throws a large grouper from Nassau and Martini a lionfish for dinner. While Greta sings to herself and throws in jacks and snappers from the stern, McCord, stepping on the water with her mask on her forehead, watches Martini deposit her lionfish in the living well, then asks for a spear. Ten minutes later, he holds his own lionfish at the end of the spear and yells at Martini: "Mine is bigger!"

photo: Eric Kiel

The dusk is installed.

That night Greer sashimi with the lionfish and cook the steamed grouper, serving it with crushed cashews and hoisin sauce, along with Brussels sprouts kimchi, tempura fried pickles and four different sushis made of grouper, shrimp, lionfish and green apples with white truffle Petroleum.

After dinner, Greta sings some songs. Half way Through his murderous version of "Angel of Montgomery," I look at McCord and see tears running down his cheeks, which makes no effort to hide or clean. Later I ask him why he was crying.

"I was watching Greta while singing," she says. "Seeing how proud you are of your daughter."

About the Bahamas
This article was written before Hurricane Dorian devastated northern Bahamas in early September. Andros Island, where the function is established, was not greatly affected by Dorian and is open to visitors. The economy of the Bahamas depends on tourism, and the country's tourism ministry "urges consumers to know that the best they can do for the country, now more than ever, is simple: visit the Bahamas." Get more information about visitsand find out how recovery efforts can help in Grand Bahama and the Abacos.


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