This last forced march had Mac and Wally wondering if they had joined the army. Only in this case, they were unarmed.
Wally and Mac have spent a lot of time angling together. Their styles are different, Wally’s refined, deliberate, precise and sometimes stubborn. Mac’s more brutish, unrelenting and pragmatic. They find a way to effectively fish together – Wally throwing tiny dries while Mac dredges with frightening streamer concoctions. Mac up to his eyeballs in flowing water executing angry double hauls while Wally effortlessly speys to far runs. Wally nymphs a Hare’s Ear while Mac nymphs a 4-inch chunk of rabbit fur.
On their first forced march, Mac and Wally found themselves on West Andros Island, Bahamas. They’d spent three enjoyable days fishing the tips of the island – different marine environments in each, and all held copious numbers of bonefish. They worked to large schools and pulled fish from the edges, while trying to avoid the marauding sharks who wanted to eat the bonefish from the end of their 8-weights. They drifted over “blue holes” which felt like they were perched above a bottomless abyss, and at any moment The Kraken would emerge and engulf them. From wading on the flats to drifting waters that flowed completely through the island, the two thought themselves ready for anything. So when the opportunity was offered to hike to the mid-point of the island to fish secluded and less-fished bones, the two agreed to embark on the Andros Death March.
Mac, deaf to the advice that you need to wear socks under wading shoes for the 6-mile walk, was nearly crippled when they reached the halfway point. Roughly 20 blisters covered his feet and every step rubbed the salt-laden blisters into deeper holes. By the time the hike was over, Mac couldn’t wear shoes for two weeks. Wally fared better in terms of podiatry, but suffered from heat stroke and dehydration from multiple nights of lager consumption. The two made a pretty sorry sight upon their return, both dragging and barely upright.
So there was a sense of flashback when they found themselves on another march trying to keep pace with a guide who may soon contend for a speed-walking title. To make matters more interesting, the guide was the only man armed, and the area was crawling with bears and infested with head-high grass. They lost him on the way out, seemingly low-holed for hours, before catching up at the turnaround point. It mattered little, as there were many willing biters in this blue-ribbon stream, and the three men were all there to fish.
When the guide announced that it was time to leave, Mac and Wally had little idea that he meant at a marathoner’s pace. Neither angler carried a GPS and the Southwest river, like many in that region, had a highly-braided section that the trio was well into. A combination of fear and adrenaline from the beariness of the situation drove the otherwise slow-moving anglers to a fevered pace. Every so often, the two would catch a glimpse of the guide rounding a far corner, and exchange a look of exasperated acceptance. Finally, they reached the boat, and enjoyed a splendid lower river float – Wally throwing #14 Royal Wulffs while Mac dredged with a #4, dumbbell-eyed, red and black egg sucking leech. Mac yarded in one two-foot rainbow after the next while Wally finally connected with a large fish only to have it go airborne and snap off on the 4-pound tippet. In the end, both men were satisfied with their day on the water, each having accomplished their goals and both wary of any more forced marches.