Hunting for the elusive bonefish
Editor’s note: This is the final column of a four-part series detailing a recent fishing trip to the Bahamas. The last column in this series, on Thursday, focused on locating a fishing guide for a day of bonefishing. Upon scouting around and finally setting up an outing, the author and his guide, Monty, hit the water in the morning hours to locate the bonefish they were seeking. While they soon spotted a small group of bonefish in shallow water, none had been landed to this point.
Up to this time, the weather had been pretty good, with the sun showing most of the time. Unfortunately, the cloud cover continued to build and the sunlight became less and less.
This is very bad when you are bonefishing. You are depending on seeing the fish and when the clouds roll over, the distance that you can see into the water, even with a light wind of say 5 to 10 knots, makes it nearly impossible to see anything for more than 10 to 15 feet. In contrast, when the sun would peek out you could see a great distance of 80 to 100 feet.
Because of the conditions, we spooked a number of fish because the boat just got too close to them. One was a beautiful fish that Monty estimated was about 12 pounds that I saw just before the boat was going to reach him over a patch of turtle grass. I would have loved to have tried to catch him!
We proceeded across the flat and saw another fish move off. When we got to a small sand bar that Monty indicated might be worth a blind cast or two, I laid several casts along the bar as directed. Nothing. But then the sun peeked out and Monty called out, “A fish at 1 o’clock.” Directions are measured off of a clock with 12 being the bow of the boat.
I spun my head around and saw the fish immediately and presented a cast about 70 feet and just in front of him. I let the fly sink and when I thought it was on the bottom I stripped it once, twice and kept it coming. The fish did not turn, but kept moving to my right. Monty saw a second fish ahead of the first, so I cast ahead of both fish.
This time, just as the cast hit the water, the sun disappeared and the wind picked up. I could not see a thing. I waited until I was sure the fly was on the bottom and made a long strip, then a second, and just when I was going to make my third strip the sun peeked out again.
To my surprise, the fish had turned on my fly and was following. I was so excited that I was already anticipating that first blazing run that I would get to feel.
Unfortunately, the fish turned off after two more strips and left me totally deflated.
“What did I do wrong?” I asked Monty. “Should I have stopped the fly?”
Monty indicated that I had done nothing wrong and that was just the nature of the fish.
We spotted a good size lemon shark on the flat and Monty suggested that we move to another flat because with him around, the bonefish would be very spooky. I did not need anything tougher, so I agreed.
We moved to another flat just off of Adelaide Beach. No sooner had Monty begun poling when I spotted two bonefish against the shoreline. He also spotted them and moved me into position for a cast. I made a good cast and let it sit, but neither fish moved. I twitched it at Monty’s suggestion. Nothing again. I stripped the fly back in, but got no reaction. I cast again ” another good cast, but no reaction. The fish began moving and I got a third and final cast ahead of them. Still no take. I was feeling snakebit.
We saw three more fish, but they were ones that we had spooked because now the cloud cover had become a permanent layer sealing the sun out from sight for the rest of the day. Just my luck!
We had seen 11 fish and I had made six casts to bonefish without spooking them, but had no takers. As we motored back to Monty’s place, while I was disappointed that I had not caught any fish, I felt that I had learned quite a bit about bonefish in general. Perhaps the next time I have the opportunity I will be more successful.
Ironically, after I got back home in Truckee, I e-mailed Monty and once again thanked him for the experience. I also asked him to please let me know how the dozen or so flies that I left for him worked.
He e-mailed me the very next day and really got my attention. It seems that he had gone out the next day. The conditions turned out to be sunny with about a 5- to 10-knot wind, just as when we were out. He rolled up on the first flat and saw 20 to 30 bonefish. I have heard the term, “You should have been here yesterday,” but in this particular case I should have been there tomorrow! The next day he went out with four anglers, too many, and they saw lots of bonefish, but they were very tough because of the number of people on the flats.
He had not tried my flies yet but said that he would try them soon. The bonefish on New Providence Island certainly were tougher than I thought that they would be to catch. If I get a second opportunity, I will have the knowledge and confidence that, if given the opportunity, I should be able to get one to bite.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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