THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SALT
Emerging into a wall of humidity, your skin breathes deeply, the air smells salty and green. Metal stairs wiggle as you descend from an island hopper, your last flight of the day. Maybe you just slept on the airport floor, or began your trip on a red-eye. None of that matters now. Now the ocean breaks tan and turquoise and aquamarine and indigo beyond the edge of palm trees and mangroves. Scruffy dogs trot through ground-up coral dust and an occasional crab scuttles into the bushes. Bridges span tidal creeks and tidal creeks span the island in uncountable miles of sloughs, flats and reefs. The daily breath of tides, currents and drop-offs, and all the fish held there-in.
Other travelers with their rod cases board the shuttle. You have learned it is easy to get lost in the vastness of the flats, and even the strangest of strangers are best met as weeklong friends. Everyone will speak of fish caught or fish lost. Not a single day will pass without leaving its mark. Of solitude. Of beauty. Of fish bitten in half by sharks. Of line ripping out from reel that burns skin, or sun that burns, or wind that will burn in an entirely different way. The ocean, hungry and fathomless. The island, your only tie to land.
That first night you wander back to your room with sand between your toes and whiskey between your teeth. Three hours of fish stories and anticipation spin your head in circles, the gift of a few new crab patterns jingle in your pocket. Maybe you sleep. Maybe you dream of heavily snowed-in rivers, ice forming on fly-line, slow, sluggish trout rising from the depths of winter. But in the morning you step up onto the casting platform. The sun warms you through your bones. Clears your mind. Your fingers are quick and nimble. You lick your lips. Your lips taste like salt, and last night’s dreams dissipate when you see the first wisp of bonefish tail. It disappears then pops up again. Then disappears.
Standing on the casting platform, or wading alongside your guide, you work as hard to spot fish for him as he works hard to spot fish for you. Creeping through the flats like a giant heron, you become a beak ready to uncoil, ready to strip-strike on a bonefish that will try to steal your line. By the end of the day you know how deep you’ve waded by the marks of salt on your clothing, but not how far you’ve gone.
By the third day your body is salt. The air is salt. Evaporated, crystalline, stinging as your body loses and accumulates, accumulates and loses. The first bonefish wraps around a mangrove root and breaks off. The second straightens out a hook. Schools of baitfish scatter from the bow of the boat. Sharks fin slowly against the current, tracking four hundred yards of scents. The third bonefish is on a blind cast at puffs of mud. After you release it you step off the platform and your friend steps up for their turn.
Time lolls like a panting tongue. Sky embraces sea. The cooler is full of ice. The ice is full of Kalik lager, ginger ale and water. Today’s sandwiches. Some hours pass in a flurry of takes, picking off bonefish after bonefish. Others pass quietly. Then suddenly, 50 feet off starboard, a barracuda.
Guide digs push pole into sand. Skiff comes to a stop. Rods are quickly exchanged; line begins to unfold as the fly—a cross between a mangled frog and baby duck—flies through the air. The cross-wind is horrible, threatens to kick the popper back into the boat, lodging through shirt and skin. Line flops on the deck like a mutton snapper, but does not tangle, does not get trapped under a heel. Sometimes there is human error, but this time with a friend managing line and guide holding skiff steady, you are errorless. On the second strip, the water explodes in a million directions. The barracuda shatters the surface and cartwheels across the sky. You could spend a lifetime here and feel this place, uncontained, uncontainable. But you know you would eventually lose everything to salt. Every scrap of clothing and rusting piece of metal.
Day after day you fall deeper into this world. Every night at the outdoor bar the stories grow. You scan farther and farther out beyond the boat for shimmering water or the shadows of fish. Throw casts that fall short, fall wide, fall on top of. Bonefish scatter or move closer to take a better look. Sometimes set too soon; sometimes too late. Too far a cast, too slack a tide, too bright the blinding sun. But you have always been a lover of the long-shot, under-dog, inexplicable. And sometimes you drive the hook home and hold on as your drag begins to fly.
When the motor comes to life on the skiff and the boat begins a level plane back across the flats and tidal creeks, there is not a single part of you that wants to go back to the launch. In this wide-open world where the fish you cast to are the fish you intersect, you always want one more chance, one more fish. You did not grow up near salt water, but learned to migrate, and this migration has brought you out to flats that fall off into the sea.
Boots sit sand-packed, wrapped in a plastic bag, still damp with seawater. You stick your best fly in the outdoor wooden bar beam. Leave a sticker on the refrigerator that represents where you come from or where you are going. You are leaving something of yourself behind, and these gestures seem to speak towards that part of you still out there on the flats, pushing water with each step, and with each step drawing closer to salt.
WORDS BY: CAMERON K. SCOTT
Prince Emmanuel is a self-described “island boy.” He grew up on South Andros Island in the Bahamas, and though he’s spent some time “off-island,” he’s back and ready to make his life there. Working as a bonefish guide on the island is one of the surest paths to stability there—but the gig doesn’t come easy. You may very well find yourself on Prince’s skiff in a few years, casting at bonefish that he’s spotting for you. But in the meantime, he’s got his work cut out for him.
Bonefish to Tarpon, presentation to power, recommendations from our reps and ambassadors on the perfect saltwater season setups.
The ideal bonefish combination should be able to effectively handle conditions that can vary from completely calm to extremely windy and this set-up does that to perfection. It will effortlessly deliver a silent presentation that won’t disturb even the spookiest bonefish in quiet shallows, yet it is equally as efficient when it comes to driving a tight loop into a strong head-wind with precision. The high-capacity reel’s silky-smooth drag never misses a beat and protects the lightest tippets even when a double-digit monster heads toward the horizon on a signature blistering run. When it comes to stalking bonefish, this is the quintessential outfit.
Catching a permit on fly requires patience, perseverance, and the right fly rod and fly line. To be successful you must be accurate with the fly presentation in all types of conditions. The 9 weight SALT HD rod with RIO FlatsPro Fly Line gives you the confidence to be successful and meet the demands of permit on fly.
Bar none, Tarpon are the most rigorously demanding shallow water gamefish of an angler’s tackle, and the SALT HD stands up to the test. The responsiveness of KonneticHD Technology provides my anglers with the ability to present flies delicately at short distances to laid up Tarpon in off-colored water, while still maintaining the ability to reach out far to strings of swimming fish. The low stretch properties of DirectCore incorporated in the Flats Pro makes the insurmountable feat of penetrating a Tarpons mouth more feasible and ensures in increasing more quality hook ups, amounting to less fish jumping off. The dynamic duo pairing of the SALT HD with the Flats Pro aids in leveling the playing field for all anglers in pursuit of these mythical dinosaurs that lurk beneath the surface.
- SALT HD 1190-4
- SPECTRUM MAX 11/12
- RIO DirectCore Flats Pro WF11F low-viz color Gray/Sand/Kelp
Achieving precision is not always easy or quick. At Sage, our handcrafting process includes an attention to detail in the cut-and-fit stage that far exceeds the industry standard. We taper fit each of our rods, one section at a time, starting at the tip. Our rodsmiths hand-cut and hand-fit each individual section. Then they check and refine the connections for wobble or tightness as well as fit and flex before the rod makes the grade.
The result is pure harmony—a smooth, end-to-end connection from a handcrafting process that results in a lighter rod with precise alignment. It’s complicated, but even a thickness-of-a-hair variance can drastically alter the action of a rod. Yet we believe every millimeter and every cast matters, which is why we take the extra time to make it right. It's our trademark.