Three of us fanned out throughout an idyllic leeward bonefish flat located on the southern finish of Lengthy Island, one of many many “household islands” of the Bahamas. For every of us, it had been a while since we’d stalked and solid to wily bones, and it felt good to shake the rust off.
Reality be instructed, we have been all simply glad to be again “on the market.” It had been not less than 3 years since any of us had walked a flat. We’d all handed our pre-trip checks; every of us had been poked twice with needles, and we’d crossed the nation sporting face coverings to reach at Useless Man’s Cay and decide up the trusty previous Honda SUV we’d rented for the week. I received behind the wheel of the drab, grey automobile to steady reminders that “You drive on the left aspect of the street right here,” and I felt like an adolescent who’d simply been given the keys to the household sedan for the primary time.
Earlier than we even received to the lodge, we stopped on the “airport bar,” a candy little dive, to preview the Kaliks we’d be consuming all week, and took all of it in. Right here we have been on a distant tropical island surrounded by bonefish flats and we had per week to take pleasure in it. Beer bottles clinked collectively, smiles broadened and optimism abounded. Every week. Heat climate. Sunshine. Bonefish.
“We’ll have one other beer,” I mentioned to the smiling gal behind the bar who appeared simply as glad to see us as we clearly have been to see her.
I had the nice fortune to be strolling our first flat with Nevin “Pinky” Knowles, the proprietor of the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge. Pinky’s probably not a information — the lodge’s complete intent is to easily present help to do-it-yourselfers like us — however provided that it had been a number of years since I’d solid to bones, it was good to have a reassuring voice in my ear.
The primary morning began slowly. We noticed a number of fish, however they all the time appeared to be “going away,” or, when one in all us would elevate a rod to make a solid, they’d scatter like roaches when the lights flip on. Ultimately, a respectable shot got here — a small faculty of sizable fish have been headed at me, and Pinky noticed them first. I made a rapid backcast and let unfastened a good solid — the dimensions 6 Pink Puff plopped into the water a very good 10 ft forward of the cruising fish and instantly of their path.
“Wait,” Pinky mentioned. “Wait.”
The fish stored coming, in no hurry, however all the time quicker than you suppose. They received nearer, and Pinky touched my shoulder.
“Strip,” he mentioned. I gave the fly line a tug, and the lead fish charged the fly.
“Strip,” Pinky mentioned once more. One other tug. After which it was on. A fast strip-set, a sluggish elevate of the rod, and I used to be related to 5 kilos of Bahamian treasure. And for a trout angler from the Rockies, there actually is nothing like hooking a bonefish.
Instantly, the massive bone tore off onto the flat, pulling line with it. I attempted to let it take the road it needed — I had extra fly line out than I wanted — so I used to be steering the spare line by the primary stripping information with a view to get the fish on the reel. Then, what was left of the outgoing line flipped and wrapped across the combating butt of the 8-weight. I desperately moved to clear the road, however I knew I used to be too late. I felt the road go slack, and I knew that the 12-pound chief had snapped.
It was the primary in a sequence of refresher classes that every of us needed to relearn over the course of the following week. We earned the fish we introduced at hand and we put within the time to catch each. By the top of the week, every of us was reliving our successes and counting our missed alternatives. And we knew that if our execution had been higher, we might have been doing fairly a bit extra celebrating.
Should you’re contemplating a flats journey within the close to future (and vaccinated People — who can show it — are actually welcome to the Bahamas with no well being visa) and you’ll want to bone up (pun supposed) in your spot-and-stalk fishing, think about this your probability to “go to highschool” on our errors.
Hold your palms aside when clearing line
This may have little doubt helped me land that first bonefish of the journey. After the strip-set and the hook up, I ought to have cleared the road properly away from the rod butt with my left hand whereas I labored to maintain the rod at a shock-absorbing angle with my proper hand. Any line flips would have been innocent if I had simply cleared the road. The excellent news? It’s a lesson I’ve realized earlier than, and I didn’t want the reminder once more for the remainder of the week.
Verify your knots
I believe every of us misplaced not less than one fish over the course of the week because of knots we tied with our consideration extra tuned into the flats we have been about to fish than on the knots themselves. When a break-off happens, and also you see just a little curly-cue on the finish of your line the place your fly was, you recognize that the break-off occurred because of knot failure. And that’s on you.
Bury your fly
Bonefish are cautious critters by nature, and it’s a good suggestion to get rid of all of the challenges you could management. I’m fairly aware of the colour of my apparel in order to restrict any dramatic silhouettes. I additionally attempt to get low when a fish is on a path to intercept my fly to scale back any shadows I is perhaps casting. However, as Capt. Markk Cartwright jogged my memory, bonefish have nice senses of scent.
“Earlier than you make your first solid, bury your fly within the mud,” he mentioned. That removes or reduces the odors related to the fly’s development. Give it some thought. Thread, tinsel, plastic and feathers … all of them have their very own odors. And, in fact, head cement and UV resins have scents, too.
As Markk famous, it may make the distinction between a hookup and a refusal.
Let all of it hang around
Properly, not all of it. It being your fly line. However plenty of it.
Don’t stroll the flats with most of your line nonetheless on the spool of your reel. Should you do, you’ll end up feverishly stripping off line when photographs at fish come alongside. That interprets into wasted time and missed photographs. As a substitute, strip off a very good chunk of line and let it drift alongside you within the water as you stroll the flat. Sometimes, round 50 ft is sweet, however don’t hesitate to strip off a bit extra. Even when the shot you finally hook up on is shorter, you’ll be able to let the fish clear the road by making use of only a bit of sunshine strain (bear in mind to maintain these palms separated) and put itself on the reel because it runs.
Level your tip
Imaginary bonefish seem with regularity on the flats. Typically, it appears as if the checklist of bonefish impersonators—contemporary feeding marks within the sand, turtle grass, rocks, solar glint, cloud shadows, and so forth—on the flats is limitless. Should you spy one thing within the water that you just suppose may be a bonefish, however you’re undecided, level your rod tip at it. Including the tip of your rod to your field of regard will let you decide if the factor you’re seeing is shifting or stationary. If it doesn’t transfer, it’s not a bonefish.
Nonetheless undecided? Solid.
When doubtful, solid. The humorous factor about bonefish is you could’t catch those you don’t solid to. There’s no hurt in casting to a patch of turtle grass, or a stripe of darkish sand, or a cloud shadow. In truth, if it’s been some time because you’ve had an actual shot at a fish, a observe solid will do you a bit of fine. When your eyes show right, and that turtle grass or stripe of sand snatches up your fly and begins tearing throughout the flat, you’ll be glad you tossed out that just-in-case solid.
I moved just lately, and one of many casualties of the cross-town relocation seems to have been my trusty flats booties. I acquired an affordable pair from a neighborhood retailer, and it took about an hour for me to appreciate that they have been simply too heavy and outsized. It’s one factor to stroll by ankle-deep muck in cosy, lightweight booties and one other to really feel as if you’re lifting a brick out of the mud with each step. Fortunately, my buddy Chad had a spare pair, and I used to be in a position to put on them for a day. Sadly, I rubbed three sizable blisters on the tops of my toes, which made sporting even better-fitting booties untenable. The final three days of the journey, I waded barefoot on the flats. Whereas I can’t in good conscience say that’s the fitting name for everyone — rogue sticks, shells and rocks, in addition to hidden sting rays, might be problematic — it labored for me. My subsequent flats journey, although, will discover me in a pair of completely fitted flats booties, and I’ll spend the additional cash to guarantee that occurs.
Hold your expectations in examine
One have a look at the climate for the week forward of us, and all three of us have been over the moon with nice expectations. Highs within the low 80s, lows within the 70s. Sunny. The wind was bothersome one afternoon. We had it made.
We had days the place we discovered aggressive bonefish desirous to pounce on any providing. There have been additionally days when the bonefish didn’t get the memo, and every of us caught only a fish or two. It served as a reminder that there are much more components to contemplate than simply the day by day highs and lows (wind course, tide timing, moon phases, and so forth). Don’t get discouraged when the fishing slows down. Work tougher to take away the obstacles you’ll be able to management and determine the puzzle.
It was good to be on the market once more, chasing bones on a few of the prettiest flats I’ve ever seen. We celebrated our victories and with each mistake or missed alternative, we made some extent of taking within the lesson. Bonefishing — or any flats fishing, for that matter — is a fly-fishing self-discipline the place loads of little components have to return collectively simply so with a view to achieve success. Nothing compares the screaming run of an enormous bonefish fooled by a fly — it’s one of many sport’s final experiences.