Fly Fishing for “Bones” Different than Trout
If you are a fly fish enthusiast and love fishing for trout in the moving water in the beautiful rivers and steams in the Crested Butte Colorado area, I bet you will like fly-fishing for bonefish as well (or already do).
If you have already established a love for “bones” then you know what I mean when I say, pound for pound these fish rock! When you hook into a bonefish it is not unusual for the fish to run hard and fast, and take our all your fly line. In fact that is not the exception – but the rule.
Unlike trout that you typically cannot see but know where they probably are, with bonefish you are hunting the fish in the shallow flats, typically from a boat with a guide poling through the water and don’t cast until you see them. Bonefish are nicknamed “the grey ghost”, and I will be the first to admit it is not easy to see the fish. Every part of the bottom and the shadows looks like a bonefish or a school of bonefish. Bonefish eat small crabs and shrimp in the grassy flats. If the sky is overcast it is nearly impossible to see through the water to see the fish. If there is much wind the small waves also give cover to the bonefish. If you see one, or a school or think you do, they can easily vanish in an instant.
It is rare that I can spot a singular bonefish or even a school of bonefish before the guide does. But when the guide sees the fish and turns the boat (the guide turns the boat so he doesn’t get hooked by fisherman like me) he will yell out something like: “forty feet, ten o’clock – throw NOW!” you may or may not see the fish. Better if you do because placing the “fly” (actually either a shrimp or crab imitation) three feet in front of the bonefish is very important. Land the fly behind the fish and they won’t see it, if you land it on the fish you will spook the whole school, if you are short, you need to pick your line up a re-cast. False casts are bad, picking up 50 feet of line and re-casting it, especially into the wind with deadly accuracy is very hard – even harder when the guide is yelling “they are moving… now at two o’clock 60 feet cast NOW!!”
When your cast is spot on, and you can see the bonefish, and you start stripping the fly toward you, you will see the bonefish turn and charge the fly. Unlike fresh water trout you DO NOT raise your rod tip to set the hook – instead you do a “strip set”, meaning when you see the bonefish hit and feel the slightest of tugs as the fish inhales your fly you strip the line hard and fast with one continuous tug to set the hook. Then you will see the fish run! In the shallow water the fish has to run because they cannot dive and they don’t jump, so they run and they run very fast! If the bonefish runs horizontal to the boat the coolest thing happens – the line at the surface will trail five to ten feet behind the fish, but it will create a rooster tail and a zzzzzzzZZZZZ sound as it rips through the water.
I would call myself an advanced beginner – I know what to look for, I can usually see the fish the guide is yelling about, and understand what to do… I just cannot always execute. There may be forty-five minutes of silent hunting interrupted by a clamor of yelling and instructions in thick island dialect that is hard to understand. Everything must come together at that instant, the fly line that was so gingerly coiled on the boat deck somehow gets under one foot, or blown onto a cleat, or tangled in some way, causing you to take your eye off the water and down to the line… thus loosing track of where that bonefish was literally one second ago. There, there he is, good he is downwind, your back cast is clear, your rod is loaded and your release, the fly hits the water softly, you strip, strip, strip, the bonefish turns, charges, you set and zzzZZZZZZ the line rips through the water, the fish runs, the line on the deck vanishes, and as you raise the rod your fly line disappears off the large spool on your saltwater reel… the line is racing off your reel, the fish is now 100 yards away and you wonder if he will tire before you have no backing left on your reel. Finally you turn the fish, and now wonder if you can keep pace if he charges toward you, the pressure is lessening, but your forearm is suddenly very tired, you are eagerly awaiting a glimpse of your bonefish once again. Once you have worked him to the boat, the fight has mostly left the fish, usually there are one or two more fierce runs when he sees the boat, but you have tired him. You marvel at the dark back of the fish from above. When the grey ghost is landed and the silver of the fish catches the sun it is bright, actually reflective. You now hold your catch – the first feeling is always the strength of the fish. It is a solid strong fish. It is also very slippery. But the photo is a great memento for you and your brief moment of victory. You return the bonefish to the water, and watch as he quickly blends into the surroundings and the grey ghost vanishes once again.
I feel fortunate to be in Bimini on a family vacation and SCUBA diving with my wife and our youngest daughter. We have had some great dives so far including a rare dive with ten Caribbean reef sharks – the guide was literally “chumming” for the sharks and once enough sharks showed-up he said, okay you can get in the water now… my wife said – “Chris you go first!”
As a break in the diving action, I got the opportunity to go bonefishing today with “Eagle Eyes Fred”. Fred is a native of Bimini and said he has been fishing for 65 years here. He has guided for some very famous people and said he has been featured on nearly every TV channel from ABC to ESPN… I would recommend Fred to anyone looking for an expert bonefishing guide who is also very patient. Fred knew where to look for the bonefish, saw them with his eagle eyes, and put me on the bonefish – all I had to do was follow his instructions, and do my part. I caught some very nice big bonefish with Fred. Of course I missed twice as many as I caught – and the bonefish in Bimini are extra big. All big. Five to ten pounds big. Fred said I caught all small ones, but the ones I missed were very big. Maybe a fish story, but I believe Eagle Eyes Fred, and when I am back in Bimini I look forward to fishing with him again.
Eagle Eyes Fred – firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: (242) 473-0580
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