Fighting the Good Fight
Meet Capt. Prescott Smith, consummate fishhawk and protector of the realm.
By Alex Suescun

Capt. Prescott Smith poles the flats of the Joulter Cays, looking for permit.

The Bahamas has long ranked among the world’s top fly-fishing destinations. Familiar surnames like Saunders, Folley, Leadon, Rolle, Pinder, Neymour, Knowles, Mackey, Glinton, Brennan, and Smith are entrenched in the rich history of sportfishing in the islands nation, where remarkable guides who could practically sense the presence of gamefish before they came into view have passed on their love of the sea and their astonishing fish-finding skills to their children.

The allure of the big (by Bahamian standards) cities and the economic opportunities in Nassau and Freeport have increasingly interrupted that passing of the torch, but the tradition certainly remains alive and well in one family in Andros. Three sons carry on the legacy of their famous flats-fishing guide father, Charlie Smith, creator of the Crazy Charlie (arguably the most popular and influential bonefish fly pattern ever). He was the first Bahamian to open a fishing lodge in the islands—Charlie’s Haven—in 1968, even before the Bahamas became a sovereign nation.

Legendary Bahamas guide, Charlie Smith, keeps an eye out for bonefish.   Photo by John Frazier

A Father’s Legacy

A gifted and versatile fishing guide with a gregarious personality, Charlie quickly gained a reputation for leading anglers to sensational catches. Word of his talents spread quickly, and soon numerous celebrities and sports stars, like baseball hall-of-famer Ted Williams and golf legend Jack Nicklaus, and even world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and two United States presidents traveled to Andros, clamoring for Charlie’s services.

Prescott Smith is one of Charlie’s three sons who took up the mantle, and as one would imagine, he was introduced to fishing and the fishing-lodge lifestyle early on. He recalls catching bonefish and juvenile permit with a hand line from the beach as a toddler. By the age of 10, he was helping out with various chores at another lodge run by his father, where he was constantly surrounded by anglers and introduced to fly fishing. With that kind of immersion in the sport, it’s natural to assume Prescott would want to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he had other ideas.

Safety comes first with Prescott, so he quickly heads away from a storm.   Photo by Andrew McNeece

Big Dreams Take Flight

After high school, Prescott joined the Bahamian Defense Force (equivalent of the US Coast Guard) to make enough money to pursue his dream of becoming a commercial jet pilot. The stint in the military provided the opportunity to visit all corners of his native country—an archipelago that encompasses more than 3,000 islands, cays and islets—and experience first hand the beauty and riches of its waters and coastal habitats.

Soon after, despite having already enrolled in flight school, Prescott decided to make guiding a career after all, and started thinking about building and running a fly-fishing lodge of his own. Not just as a business opportunity, but also as a means to introduce anglers from around the globe to the wealth of marine resources in the Bahamas and raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding them from the constant threats posed by developers and various special interests. Still in his early 20s, he understood that people usually fight to protect what they know and love.

Quite the astute fishhawk, eloquent and passionate yet soft spoken, and an outstanding fly caster with a knack for helping his anglers fix deficiencies in their casting mechanics, Prescott quickly distinguished himself as one of the top flats fishing guides in Andros. And in 1998, combining his resourcefulness and a surprising business acumen, he opened Stafford Creek Lodge, which has since expanded and become one of the finest fishing operations in the Bahamas.

Big bonefish abound at Andros, and Prescott Smith knows where they live.   Photo by Sharon Lance

Fish and Protect

Along with his success came more responsibility, as Prescott juggled guiding and managing his lodge while also acting as a tireless advocate and staunch defender of his nation’s inshore fisheries and marine habitat, which happens to include the most extensive network of flats and reefs in the western hemisphere.

At 55, he continues to fight the good fight. Prescott is the sitting president of the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA), the organization he helped form to provide a voice for fishing guides and lodge owners and operators who run fly-fishing-related businesses in the Bahamas. And he is also heavily involved in a training and mentorship program for young Bahamians who hope to make a living as flats fishing guides.

Preventing a proposed mining project that could severely impact Andros’ fertile but fragile nurseries for a number of important species, including prized gamefish, is Prescott’s latest battle. He is tackling the challenge with the same aplomb with which he poles his Hell’s Bay Marathon skiff across the flats, calling out incoming bonefish, permit and tarpon for fly anglers taking their turns on the bow.  

Stafford Creek Lodge, truly one of the top fishing operations in the Bahamas.

Prescott’s Lodge

Over 104 miles long and 40 miles wide, Andros is easily the largest land mass in the Bahamas, yet it remains mostly undeveloped while its population hovers around a mere 9,000. Prescott built his picturesque Stafford Creek Lodge on the shores of a coastal creek by the same name, on the imaginary line of demarcation between central and north Andros, nestled in a tranquil bend that offers great views and remains fairly sheltered while still benefiting from the cool, ocean breezes.

The air-conditioned accommodations are spacious, well-appointed, and feature full baths ensuite, furniture made of local woods, and porches overlooking the water. The main building has a large dining room, a bar, and an adjacent living area with comfortable seating and satellite TV to keep up with the latest news or catch the big game. The covered veranda and a couple of gazebos surrounded by tropical landscaping are perfect for hanging out and mingling with fellow guests while enjoying your favorite libations, appetizers and the view. And you can also stand on the dock and watch the tarpon and snapper feed after dark.

The proficient staff prides itself on world-class, personal attention, the bar is well stocked, and the food is excellent. Prescott’s sister, Stacy Smith, is a classically-trained and quite creative chef who delights guests with a variety of international dishes and her refined versions of Bahamian specialties. For starters, the conch balls, her take on conch fritters (aka cracked conch) are absolutely scrumptious.

Prescott’s playground includes vast, prolific shallows, like the flats surrounding the Joulter Cays.   Photo by Andrew McNeece

Angling Wonderland

Prescott and his team of hand-picked guides have intimate knowledge of several vast and prolific stretches of Andros’ water, where fly anglers can tangle with bonefish, permit, tarpon, barracuda and other inshore game. Good fishing, along with the desired protection during periods of strong winds, can often be found in Stafford Creek itself, as well as in neighboring oceanside shallows. To the north lie the expansive and fertile flats of the fabled Joulter Cays, where you will marvel at the scenery and the bonefish, permit, and the supporting cast patrolling the pristine, skinny waters. And just around Andros’ northwest tip unfold miles and miles of undeveloped coastline on the renowned west side of the island, where numerous freshwater creeks emptying onto the vast, light-bottomed shallows of the Great Bahama Bank produce the most reliable tarpon fishing in the region, while also serving up the forage coveted by the many bonefish and permit that inhabit the area.

Andros is the best tarpon destination in the Bahamas, as many Stafford Creek guests are discovering.   Photo by Sharon Lance

Top-Notch Destination

If you’re looking for a place where you can check a few coveted saltwater species off your bucket list in a gorgeous, peaceful setting away from the crowds, you won’t find a better choice than Stafford Creek Lodge. And It’s open for business year-round to take full advantage of the superb permit and tarpon fishing during the summer months, when many lodges in the Bahamas close for the season.

Alex Suescun

Alex grew up chasing bonefish, redfish, snook, tarpon, permit and other saltwater species in South Florida’s fabled waters and then broadened his pursuit of gamefish to the Caribbean, and Central and South America. His career in sportfishing began in 1991 as Assistant Editor of Saltwater Fly Fishing magazine, working with the likes of Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Stu Apte, Chico Fernandez, Nick Curcione and Ed Jaworowski. He later hosted and produced his own TV fishing show, Tarpon Bay Tales, for 11 seasons. And after an 8-year stint as Executive Editor of Salt Water Sportsman, Alex joined the team at Fly Fishing International.