Behind a salty exterior is a guide with an incomparable passion for bonefish.
Like many of us, Clint Kemp’s introduction to fly fishing was nothing glamorous. Born and raised on the Bahamian island of Nassau, Clint spent a good part of his childhood in the states where he became intrigued catching panfish and bass on tiny popping bugs. In his early twenties, Clint made the choice to return to the islands — it was a decision that would forever change his view on fishing and life in general. Kemp is now the manager and part owner of one of the most unique escapes in the Bahamian chain — Abaco’s Blackfly Lodge.
In many ways, chatting with Clint is much like speaking to a philosopher wise beyond his years. Though he would never admit it, Clint has a deep, profound and always-humble outlook on all things — especially fly fishing for bonefish. Torpedo shaped with cage-like bone structures and oversized forked tails, bonefish are built for speed and in Clint’s mind, they have confirmed one suspicion in his soul that in fact, he knows very little, a perspective he is truly grateful for. “Fly fishing for bonefish is life giving. I know that may sound abstract but as an example, compare it to offshore fishing. When you fish the ocean for dolphin, tuna, sails and marlin, on your best day, you come back to the dock and feel like you’ve gone through a lot. Fish are big and the water is rough. It takes a lot of work and in turn, it takes a lot out of you. Don’t get me wrong, I love fishing offshore too but it comes with a completely different reward. I remember most every bonefish I’ve ever caught. You can walk the flats all day long, never catch a fish, never even see a fish and somehow feel as though life has been given back to you. The more I fly fish for bones, the more I believe it’s not at all about catching fish. Sure, it’s a great reward, but for me, it’s about engaging in the process as a whole. I’ve come to accept that bonefish are God’s gift to us and permit are the devil.” says Clint.
Upon his return to Nassau, Clint put in time working a traditional 9 to 5 but eventually came to the conclusion, the flats was where he belonged and thus, his career as a guide began. While most don’t typically think of Nassau as a bonefish hot spot, Clint proved otherwise time and time again. With each passing guide day, Clint became more and more passionate about his new career path. “To watch a skilled angler hook up to their first bonefish is one of the greatest joys in my life. To see the expression of all that they have read come to life in the blinding speed and power of that first run is truly special. The reactions range from unabated profanities to prayers of thanksgiving.” says Clint.
Completely content with life, an opportunity disguised as an invite to take part in a fly fishing assessment for a new project called Schooner Bay on Abaco would eventually turn the page to the next exciting chapter of Clint’s life. “It’s funny. At the time, I commissioned Vaughn Cochran for a painting of Charlie Smith. About the time the painting was completed was right around the time I received the assessment invite. To celebrate the piece, I invited Vaughn to come along. We both knew the trip would include tons of fishing, drinking rum and smoking cigars. The whole idea behind Schooner Bay was to establish a sustainable community based on historical architecture but the developers really didn’t understand what the fly fishing asset they were sitting on actually was.” says Clint. It’s amazing what great ideas can come about over rum and cigars. After fishing each day, Clint and Vaughn casually spoke about opening a lodge in the area and in short order, the two were on their way. With a background in lodge management, Vaughn brought the Blackfly brand and Clint brought what little money he had to the table. Even though Schooner Bay wouldn’t be ready for a couple years, Vaughn and Clint wanted to get started, so they rented a house to serve as a temporary Blackfly Lodge.
In the earliest days of Blackfly, Clint was still fulfilling guide days on Nassau. One of his clients was a Canadian who loved the Bahamas. After a few days of fishing, recently retired Dave Byler asked Clint if he knew of any investment opportunities. “I said, funny you should ask, I was just at Schooner Bay, you might like what they have going on there. We came up here and fished for a day and that was all it took. He purchased a house and called me a few months later asking if I had any interest in an equity partner.” says Clint. Clint, Vaughn and Dave formed a great partnership and while Schooner Bay was being developed, Blackfly Lodge was slowly but surely developing a dedicated clientele. “Between Vaughn’s friends and connections in the fly fishing world and my existing clientele, it was a really great combination.” says Clint. The combo was so great, when the house at Schooner Bay which is now Blackfly was ready, the lodge was already booked solid.
In only a few short years, Blackfly Lodge has become one of the most sought after bonefish destinations in the world. It goes without saying, the quality of fishing in their backyard is nothing short of outstanding. But what’s more interesting is that all the notoriety of Blackfly has come in a completely organic fashion. The goal of Blackfly was never to achieve worldwide recognition — the goal is, always has been and always will be, to provide a space for passionate bonefish anglers to gather and experience the way the Bahamas use to be. Spend one day on the bow of Clint’s skiff and you’ll witness an incomparable passion for bonefishing. When on the platform, catching fish is secondary to Clint — his primary motivation is for his clients to see and more importantly, understand what bonefishing truly is through his eyes.
See more action from Blackfly Lodge here.