"Put a cast at twelve o'clock, about twenty-five feet," instructs Joseph Pinder,
our Bahamian guide. The bow point is always twelve o'clock, so at least I know
where the cast should go. But I don't see the fish. I'm wearing my photo-gray
glasses, with flip down Polarized clip-ons. They are supposed to work. I can't find
Leaning back against the casting
support, I deliver the cast. "On
target," says Joseph, "Strip, strip,
wait. He's following it. Strip again.
He's got it!"
Day two is much better. We
purchased some amber clip-ons. What
a difference. We can see the fish. We
can spot fish. We catch fish. Fish after
fish. What a rush!
Our guide has also figured out that we can cast. If a guest at Deep Water Cay
Bonefish Club can't cast, the guide takes up the slack. The first cast I made, 25 feet,
was about average for lots of guests. Sure, there are people who cast just fine. Most
however, are not able to make a long, accurate cast with any kind of a presentation.
The guides job is to get bonefish to the boat. The guide directs the caster, and if
necessary, poles the boat into position and waits for the fish he has spotted two
blocks off in the distance to come in. You don't usually catch big fish this way, but
you do catch fish.
Bonefish congregate by size groups. Pods or schools of three pound and under
fish may consist of a hundred fish. As the fish get larger, four to six pounds, the
number in a school may only be eight or ten. Really
big ones travel as singles, doubles, or quartets. I
didn't make that up, that's how the guides described
By day three, Joseph is directing our casts to
fifty feet or more. Accuracy is extremely important.
The fly can't hit the fish on the head. Bonefish eat
crustaceans. They have evolved to a point where
they actually inhale water and then direct the exhale at the spot they want - blowing
sand away. Exposing their prey this way gives the fisherman the perfect opportunity
to place a fly where the fish is working. The fish thinks your fly is something he has
The take is soft. Mr. Bonefish just sucks the fly up. The action starts when the
fly reaches the rear of his mouth and he begins to crunch it up. Getting the fish on
the reel, taking up the slack line left from striping in your fly, is easy; Mr. Bonefish
does it for you. Bonefish commonly make an initial run of about a hundred yards.
There is not time to catch a breath. On the count of three, the fish takes off again,
usually in the same direction and runs out another hundred yards. Wow! Large or
small, bonefish are incredibly strong. Five or six runs of this kind are normal.
Comparatively, a twenty pound salmon will make one or two runs, and you can
begin playing it in. Not a chance with even a five-pound bonefish. Plan on a battle.
Your reel is certainly more than a place to store line here. We were well
equipped. No rod or reel failure. Feathering the rim of the reel did save my bacon
more than once, 'tho. It's a method of applying a little extra drag. You simply put the
reel against the palm of your non-rod hand. Too much pressure will break a fish off.
Gentle pressure will slow the exit of the line from your reel. Personally, I get more
than a little nervous when the reel spool has about a half inch of metal showing.
Especially when the fish is not slowing down.
Slowing down in this case is a relative phrase. A bonefish travels at fifty-five feet
a second. Absolute bull strength. A silver rocket! Bob Aid at Kaufmann's in Seattle
warned us, "Be careful, bonefishing is addictive." Probably the understatement of
the century. Thanks Bob. A little late.
Toward the end of our adventure, Joseph our guide, decided we should go
head-hunting. We had caught lots of bones. So many that some of the other guests
were feeling a bit insecure. Castwell and I finally
quit keeping a total of what we caught, (that
happened when we were at seven casts, seven fish
boated.) Instead, we spoke of what we lost. Castwell
lost a very large bonefish to a shark. It came out of
the mangroves and pieces of fish were everywhere.
None of us spotted the shark.
Sharks seem to be trainable. They follow the
boats. One of the other guests got into a large
school of bonefish, which was being followed by
about seventy sharks. The sharks didn't seem to be a threat to people. They are
five feet or less in length. We saw black tip, brown
and hammerhead sharks. The black tip were the
most aggressive. Joseph actually beat one off as it
made a run on a fish I was landing. Spooky. Then
again, perhaps some latent vision of Jaws was
involved in my mind.
Equipment choices were exactly right, although
we did take more rods than we needed. The four
back-up rods were never removed from their cases.
As it turns out, the fishing shop at Deep Water did have rods available. We fished
both six and eight weight rods. The six-weight was great. The change to a larger rod
was only made when the wind got to thirty-five miles an hour.
A new Cortland Pop 2 cassette reel, (retailing for about sixty bucks,) was tested
on this trip. Two bonefish under five pounds were landed on that reel. The only
problem encountered was in the excitement of it all, I really did not pay any
attention to winding the line on the reel evenly. Toward the end, there was no place
on the reel for incoming line. I carefully hand-stripped the line into the boat. Yes, I
got the fish.
We were asked to make sure the reel got wet, and not rinse or clean it for the
whole trip. Done. Results? The reel had absolutely no sign of any salt-water
problem. Was this the perfect reel for bonefish? Probably not, but it sure would do a
dandy job for normal trout or bass fishing. That's a recommendation. An entry level
fisher could hardly do better, especially in this reel's price range.
We did take flies with us, mostly Gotcha variations. Yes, they caught fish. The
big producers were a Mini Pink Puff, and pink Gotchas. The only fly we lost was the
one attached to the bonefish eaten by the shark. He also got half the leader.
Was that first trip what we expected? Yes. Any disappointments? None. Would
we do it again? We are doing it again. If you want to give bonefishing a try,
look for information here next week on the Fly Angler's OnLine Bonefish Party
(casting class included). ~ The LadyFisher
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