This starry winter's night the two of us were sitting in the bar of the Third Turtle Inn. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, one of the few remaining fragments of the British West Indies, a necklace of cays and islands and just over 7,000 people hung south of the Bahamas and 100 miles north of Haiti. This was our fourth night there, the air soft, warm, tranquil, our mood quietly euphoric.
"Tomorrow, then," said Art, "we head out there again with the fly rods."
"The fly rods only," I concurred.
"They are going to climb all over those flies," said Art. He had made that remark several times that evening.
"But we take it steadily," I said, repeating another of the evening's themes. "One man casts, lands his fish. Then the other takes over in the bow."
"Better still," said Art, "you take the boat and maroon me. Leave me on a sandspit and I'll ambush 'em as they come by. Later we can switch."
We stood up, yawning. "No more tonight, Frank," I said virtuously to the advancing barman. "We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."
You may recall that some years back there was a cult among surfers—a search for the Perfect Wave. I never heard the outcome of that. But here in the Turks and Caicos, after a mere four days of searching, Art and I had our hands on just as glittering a Grail. We believed we had located the Ultimate Bonefish Flat.
Plenty of people had had the chance of discovering it before us, from Ponce de Leon on. (He arrived in the islands in 1512, but some think Columbus got there ahead of him.) The Lucayan Indians might have fished there before the Spaniards shipped them out to work the mines of Hispaniola. The early colonists from Bermuda, followed by Loyalists from Georgia and the Carolinas who fled to the islands after the Revolutionary War, were more interested in salt production than bonefish. The present-day islanders, mainly descendants of slaves, go after bonefish all right, but our treasured flat was far from any of their settlements.
So the discovery had been left for Art and me, representatives of the latest wave of invaders the islands had seen—cosseted, airborne pleasure-seekers from the West, though we did not consider ourselves tourists but serious researchers. Months before, poring over marine charts, we had felt the kind of triumph that industrial geologists must feel when, from theoretical evidence alone, they pinpoint a vast oil deposit below the ocean bed.