The ghost and I - Global FlyFisher

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The ghost and I


A very personal view of bonefishing from a rookie in the game

By Martin Joergensen

I know that I caught my first bonefish ever in Belize. I caught a few more since then in Mexico, and I intend to catch quite a few more before I put my rods on the shelf for the last time.

  
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Bonefish - One day with less than perfect conditions - very muddy water - we ran in to a flock of decently sized fish. They were very willing to take, and I managed to land three within short time.
Bonefish
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Bonefish... another one - Another bonefish from the muddy water in one of the lagoons.
Bonefish... another one
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Bonefish... yet another one - Under conditions like these you never get tired of catching bonefish. Fish this size kept trailing along the edge of the mangrove in the background - easy to see and quick to strike if the fly was presented properly.
Bonefish... yet another one
W
 
As you might gather from this, I am by no measure a seasoned bonefish angler. My bonefish trips can be counted on one hand—easily—and my experience is nowhere near what you will meet by people who take on these fascinating fish regularly.

But I still feel that I have something to say about these elusive silver shadows, and that my experience holds some knowledge, which may be useful to others, who has taken or want to take on bonefishing.

Lefty and I like it
My good friend Richard Ross recently asked me what type of fishing was my favourite fishing. For a short while I was tempted to crown my home water pursuit for sea trout as my favourite, and if I had to think hard about it, my final answer would probably be just that.

But in the moment I said "bonefishing" with very little hesitation.
"That's what Lefty says too", was Richard's laconic answer.

Well, there's no shame in agreeing with Lefty Kreh, and I really do find that my exposure to bonefishing, how scarce it might have been, has left me with a lasting impression of some of the most fun and exiting fishing one can experience.

Like home, and then again
I like it for many reasons:

  • It is exciting. Scouting for fish and always casting to seen fish is exhilarating
  • The rush is out of this world. These guys take a fly and run!
  • It doesn't harm the cause that it most often takes place in beautiful, tropical places
  • Casting to bonefish is a close-to-perfect combo of precision and power
  • Once you get the general idea, it's not that difficult after all
  • It can be done alone, on foot and with no guide or boat
  • It actually resembles my home water fishing for sea trout a bit... just a bit

There are probably a dozen more good reasons for liking bonefishing, but I need no more.

On the lookout
When you first start looking for bonefish you will probably find yourself quite challenged in spotting them. I had a VERY hard time getting the feeling for what to look for. Both the guide and my companion angler would say "There, there!" and point over the water to a spot, which was absolutely no different from all the other water and sand around it. I would feel dumb and frustrated, and sometimes just cast in the general direction, to absolutely no avail. In the event of a bonefish actually located in that particular direction, I would most likely spook it.

It was not before I ventured off on my own that I actually started to grasp the idea and started seeing fish, and was able to cast properly to them. It was also at that time that I realized that it wasn't that difficult at all.
Having the pressure and expectations of the guide and other anglers on the team was no help for me. I needed to build confidence and show myself that I could actually do it, before I started catching fish consistently and was able to see fish well in advance of casting to them.

Others have tried it too
Other people have been there and done that. Meeting the adventure of bonefishing will almost certainly give you taste for more.
Long time mate Paul Slaney had his turn on the Bahamas. Read his entertaining accounts of the trip in Trust Me Mon! and the story of GFF partner Steve Schweitzer taking on the Hawaiian bones is told in O'io Boy'o!
The fact that the mediocrity of my casting led to many failures anyhow, well that's a whole other story...

Distance and direction
Finding and seeing bonefish—or any fish for that matter—is a question of logic, training and a bit of luck. It's a question of looking for the fish in the right places and for the right signs.

The first lesson is learning what to look for and learning to see the difference between fishy things and less fishy things—like branches and weed. You are looking for shadows and movement, not the fish or fishy shapes.

The second lesson is scale. I once had a very hard time seeing hundreds of fish creating many square metres of nervous water, because I was looking at the wrong scale. What I looked for was small. What I finally saw was BIG! Big as a living room floor...

The third lesson is distance. At times I have realized that I have been looking for things pointed out to me, which I thought were twice (or half) as far away as they really were. Distance and direction are the crucial factors (of course), and being able to zoom in on that one right spot "10 o'clock, 20 metres out" is a good skill to acquire.

Take your own pace
One thing, which I learned was to try to relax and set the pace myself. Guides will be eager to please and other anglers may be impatient or just anxious and excited on your behalf.
Flies will be changed, desperate casts will be repeated, and fish will be spooked.
Just let that be, and try to get into your own grind. That led me to my modest success with da' bones, and it might do the same thing for you.

 

Maybe this will help: Fishing bonefish from a boat can be very efficient. Even though I personally find it less entertaining and thrilling than wading, the elevated stance will give you some great advantages when scouting for fish.

Bonefishing theme
Theme intro
The ghost and I
Flies for bonefish
10 ways to improve
Biology of bones
Life is good
Books and DVD's
More bonefishing on GFF
Hawaii: O'io Boy'o!
Mexico: Bumpy Mexico
Bahamas: Trust me Mon!
Articles with Bonefish as a keyword

Destination links
Bahamas
Mexico
Venezuela
Belize

User comments
From: TM McGovern · terrencemcgovern·at·comcast.net  Link
Submitted January 5th 2010

Anyone have experience fishing in Roatan, Honduras? Will be there in March at Mango Creek Lodge, hoping to have success with Bonefish, maybe some tarpon and Permit.
Thanks,


From: rodney_newborough·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted September 25th 2006

Hi,

I am a complete novice at bonefishing, but have researched the subject.
Going to Aruba soon where I saw a bone caught in the flats a few years ago and now excited to give it a go myself.

Will be wading on my own and taking onboard your comments.

Rod



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