On the final evening of our trip, we enjoyed a feast prepared by expert saltwater fly fisher, FFF-certified casting instructor and Veteran Anglers of New York (VANY) volunteer, David Blinken. We called it “Bahamian Thanksgiving” with native conch salad, sautéed grouper, brown rice with chicken from the Abaco Big Bird poultry farm and spiny lobster or “crawfish” tails. We were packed and ready for an “0 dark-thirty” run back to Marsh Harbour Airport for our return to New York City after a week of fly fishing for bonefish on Abaco Island.
Robert “Nicko” Gill, the youngest of our four veterans who, like Andrew Roberts, a West Point graduate, served in Iraq, Exer Quinonez, and Manuel “Manny” Vasquez, a Green Beret during the Vietnam War, thanked the three VANY volunteers, David, Phil Shook, outdoor writer and FFF-certified fly casting instructor and myself. Nicko spoke about one of our two guided days on the trip when he was perched upon the bow of a skiff as Kendall, our Bahamian guide, quietly poled the boat and, in hushed tones, said, “OK, we are going to meet a single bonefish. He is at 11 o’clock about 120 feet. Get ready.”
[All Photographs © Richard Franklin]
“Do you see him? 80 feet coming straight at us, start casting… drop the fly! Start stripping, strip, strip… Do not worry, we will find another one but that was a big fish.”
Nicko struggled to execute; all the practice casting in NY City’s Central Park was forgotten, a nervous anxiety evoking some difficult experiences from the past pervaded him.
“I just can’t do it.”
“Oh yes you can and you will; stop standing on your fly line and get ready for the next fish.”
It did not come easily but Nicko hooked a tailing bonefish which screamed line off his reel and, brought to hand, reaffirmed all the progress he had made since a doctor at the Brooklyn VA suggested he contact the Veteran Anglers of New York, the local chapter of
Having fly fished and photographed many species of game fish in far-flung locations, Richard Franklin primarily divides his angling seasons between the Bahamas, Catskills, Long Island flats and rips and his beloved Idaho and Montana. Along with his wife, Tamar, he is a founding member and active volunteer of the Veteran Anglers of New York chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.
Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the United States. We share today's post in honor of the brave men and women who sacrificed everything defending their country. We’re glad the soldiers on this trip made it home safely and were able to participate. We wish them, the volunteers at PHWFF-VANY and all of you many happy years of fly fishing.