December 14th, 1998
Don Cianca
Looking for Bonz

by Don Cianca (aka Uncle Don)

It's wintertime here in the Montana Rockies and as much as I would like to be fishing, my time is spent reading brochures, magazine articles and coffee table books. The subject matter has been Bonefish and the warm environment in which they live. I have already had a taste of what its is like to have a rocket powered Bonefish on the end of my line and it is an experience I'll not soon forget. As each day finds the thermometer reading dropping lower and lower, thoughts of Bonefish, fishing in shorts in warm water occur almost every hour.

My wife and I managed two tips to the Yucatan and although I had tried to catch Bonefish in the Florida Keys, I had yet to actually hook one. Therefore, my first trip was specifically aimed at catching Bones. It would also be a learning experience, but then again, what fishing trip isn't a learning experience?

To be prepared, I read books on flyfishing for Bonefish, watched videos, and talked to experienced friends, all to be sure I would not look like the novice I was. So I was assigned a guide who was about twenty-five years old and had a fair command of the English language. At least he was far better at speaking English than I was at trying to speak Spanish.

We started our first day by traveling through several peaceful mangrove rimmed bays. I thought how easy it would be for me to get lost here, since unlike using a mountain top for reference when elk hunting back home, the horizon among the mangroves all looked the same . . . to me. Obviously, it was not a problem for our guide.

The hum of the engine began to slow as we came into a very large bay and finally there was unbelievable silence. The outboard was lifted out of the water and the guide took his position on top the poling platform. I was motioned to take my place on the bow. I unreeled several yards of line at my feet on the deck, held my seven-weight rod at the ready, and my crazy Charlie was gripped in my fingertips.

I was confident now. I did all the things I had read about and as the guide searched the water for crusing Bonefish, I awaited the command "Ten O'clock or Nine O'clock" once the fish were spotted. It was very quiet. There was the sound of the pole sliding through the hands of the guide as he poled the boat through the water.

Birds made unfamiliar sounds as they flew from mangrove to mangrove. I looked back at my wife, Mary Ann who had come along just for the ride, and was pleased to see the smile on her face. She had said nothing, but was just enjoying the sights and sounds.

Suddenly the guide yelled out "Twenty Feet South!" Twenty feet south? How the hell am I supposed to know which way is south I thought. Again he yelled, this time with some frustration in his voice, Twenty Feet South!" I had no idea where to cast; I was not prepared for compass directions.

Then I saw the Bones. Actually I saw the bottom they churned up as they headed toward Cuba like a flight of rockets. The guides next words were: "They gone."

It wasn't until the next pod of Bonefish was spotted that I realized the guide was trying to tell me the firsh were twenty feet OUT, not "south." This time he said; "Bonefish, 10 O'clock, twenty feets out." I saw them and cast as he instructed. With my fly now in the water the guide told me to wait then "Streep! Streep!"

So I stripped in line until there was a sudden stop! Then all hell broke loose. The coiled line that was on the deck flew through my left hand as the Bone screamed some forty years in the blink of and eye. My rod was bent, backing was all I could see through the guides on my rod and I had a real Bonefish on at last.

After a couple of runs I finally had the fish next to the boat! I was prepared to see a fish of at least five or six pounds. Instead, it couldn't have been more than two pounds. It didn't matter what it's size was. I had finally caught a Bonefish and it was as exciting as I had expected. Like a narcotic, I was now hooked on Bonefish.

We returned to the same lodge the next year. Ascencion Bay now appeared very welcoming, no doubt because I was more familiar with it and knew what to expect. I was assigned the same guide, and was happy to see that he appeared pleased to have been assigned to me. Before that week-long trip ended, I spent an entire day fishing alone with him. I boated 22 Bonefish that day and felt we had certainly developed a good line of communication between us.

The Bahamas have since attracted me. The guides speak the same language as us, and there are more opportunities for larger Bonefish there. If the Yucatan Bones of three and four pounds can 'rip' line the way they do, what would it be like to tie into some five and seven pounders?

Now where did I put that brochure about Bonefishing in the Bahamas?
~ Don Cianca

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