GFF video/DVD review

Bonefishing the Flats

Instructor, narrator, producer etc.: Craig Mathews
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Craig Mathews
Bonefishing the Flats with Craig Mathews
Yellowstone Media Group, 2004
60 minutes

GFF rating: 5 out of 7

The underwater sequences by Ralph Cutter are amazing

Reviewed by Martin Joergensen

Even though I do have a few remarks regarding this DVD, it is certainly one of the better ones I have watched lately, and definitely the best how-to DVD I have seen on bonefishing.

If you want a hands-down, practical introduction to bonefishing, this is the one to watch. If you have fished for bonefish before, and want to recap some skills and learn some new ones, you are also well on the way here.

Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies fame is a Yellowstone based fly tyer, guide, author and moviemaker, probably best known for his videos and DVD's on the Yellowstone area. In my optics Craig Mathews is first and foremost the man behind the Bonefish Bitters, a fly that I love, but other people will probably know him better for his numerous Montana-centred pattern- and fishing-productions.

This DVD is shot quite far from Montana. Taking place exclusively on the Belizian Turneffe atol, it is in one way limited in its view of bonefishing, but on the other hand manages to cover basically all aspects of this type of fishing. Turneffe seems to have it all, and no type of bonefishing is missing from this coverage.

After a short intro to Belize, Turneffe and the lodge, the DVD takes you on a practically oriented journey through everything from gear and flies to skills and methods. Personally I would probably have switched around some of the chapters on the DVD, which takes a few sections to pick up pace and become really interesting to a person, who like myself longs to go bonefishing again, but luckily you can skip and jump with the DVD media, and go directly to the section, which interests you most.

The DVD covers the bonefish habitats, and the different types of flats are explained: coral, sand, grass, mud flats. You are taught how to spot fish, how to cast and present a fly, how to strike and more aspects of the game. Everything is illustrated with great imagery of tailing bonefish, anglers and guides, hookups, fights and landings.

There is some really great footage of fish under the water. This is a section, which is particularly interesting, since it is rare to see. I have snorkelled with Bonefish in Belize, and there is a lot to learn by just watching these fish underwater. In the pictures on this DVD you actually see bonefish search for food and some of the combined over- and underwater scenes with anglers in the background and a school of fish in the foreground are amazing and fascinating.

But there is a reason why this DVD does not reach the Global Class. Even though the content is great, I miss some people talking in the pictures. Craig Mathews himself is narrating throughout the whole DVD, but I miss hearing the voices of the people fishing and the guides, who we see again and again in the video. Some of them are even introduced by name, amongst those Ralph and Lisa Cutter, and hearing their reactions, advice and opinions first hand would have been great.
One reason why this is not the case, might be the noise from the wind. Anybody who has fished for bonefish will now that once the sun comes up, the wind will often start blowing, and in much of the footage here, there is a quite annoying noise from the wind in the microphone. This is both distracting and might have made using the original sound useless.

Speaking of sound I'm not really fond of the music either. I know royalty costs will force most film-makers to use either royalty free stock music or music composed for the purpose, but for some reason the music selected for fishing videos often seems to end up quite bland and boring. Personal taste will differ here, but I'm not impressed.

I can also be bothered by the fact that clapboard and the photographer's shadow can be seen in the picture on a couple of occasions. Same thing can be said about sequences with hand held camera. Steady video-shots are the hallmark of professionalism in my eyes, and this DVD has just a bit to many "Dogma-shots". Small things yes, but such little errors should be avoided on a professional production like this.

But all that said I would still recommend this video warmly. It is easily the best all-round instructional video I have seen on the subject, and will teach you a lot of things in preparation for your next bonefishing trip.

As a bonus you even get some fly tying instructions. Amongst the patterns shown, you will find the original Bonefish Bitters. This just adds to the practical value of the DVD.

The DVD is well structured and produced with a good section menu

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