Crazy Charlie

Charlie Smith is a man of many names. His son Steve calls him “The Big Father.” Prescott, “Daddy” and to his other children and select family friends, he is simply “Dad.” In addition, he is referred to as “The Godfather of the Flats,” “Bonefish Charlie,” or just “Crazy Charlie,” after the fly fishing fly he designed of the same name.

Charlie was born in Abaco, Bahamas in 1936. He began fishing at age 6, using a hand line. After a stint in the US Navy on Andros, Charlie got a job at the Andros Light House Club where he fished, cooked and played music.

Charlie built the first bonefishing lodge on Andros Island in 1968, paving the way for the sport and making a name for himself and his family in the Bahamas. Today, at 76, he lives on Pot Cay, where the famed Bang Bang Club is located.

 He became a professional fishing guide when he started Charlie’s Haven, a lodge on the water’s edge in Behring Point, Andros. It wasn’t until years later that he found his true haven in the Bang Bang Club, a fishing lodge he started on Pot Cay.

The lodge is well known throughout the bonefishing world, and everyone from Corporate “bigwigs” to Prime Ministers seeked out the Bang Bang when they wanted a weekend full of fish. At the club, customers would enjoy a secluded trip, as the lodge was the only thing on Pot Cay, the 80-acre island located in the middle of the North bight of Andros.

Walking into the club, there is a wall of photographs of Charlie and his clients. On the walls are also photographs of his children and grandchildren, all of whom he taught to fish. Beneath a photo of Charlie and one of his sons, two bonefish have been stenciled on top of each other. Black outlines surround chips of green glass, creating a mosaic within the lines of the fish. The top outline is perfectly horizontal, a 180 degree representation of the prized fish. The bottom fish is just slightly off, a ten-degree difference noticeable only by the curve of the tail

This one we kept, says Charlie of the top stencil, indicating that they didn’t release the fish. The crooked fish was a result of the catch and release aspect of the sport, he continued, laughing as he described his run from the dock into the house, tracing the fish while it thrashed about.

When discussing his life, professionally or personally, Charlie is certainly not modest. Proud of what he’s accomplished he is 76 and “still guiding strong,” that “If you go in the boat with me, you’re gonna catch fish,” and that he was the first Bahamian to build a fishing lodge and the only one to build “the world’s greatest fly.” He says that he’s certain that he breaks every bonefish record without guess.

Charlie’s legacy will continue long after he’s gone. On Andros alone, three of his children have developed their own bonefishing lodges, with other Smith children working behind the scenes. “The only way to live is to love,” he says. “Just keep loving and then die loving.”

Originally, the Crazy Charlie fly was created for a guide trip where he was taking out two prime ministers. He had no crab to use as bait, so he tied flies the night before, and a legend was born. Today, the fly is marketed and sold around the world.

Until then “The Legend Charlie Smith” lives on!


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