30 Yarder

30 Yarder

Tracy&James | Sunday, 22 November 2020

When we’re flats fishing Tracy and I tend to make up names for things that makes perfect sense to us but, to someone overhearing us, might sound odd. Quite often we change the name of flats to something more meaningful to us rather than the ‘official’ moniker. This isn’t done for any sort of subterfuge reasons, it’s just because I’m not great at remembering names and, as such, if we come up with a more logical name then we both know instantly where we are discussing. For example, ‘Muddy Bay’ – it’s pretty obvious why we call this particular flat this, as fighting through calf-deep soft silt is pretty memorable (and strength sapping – but often worth it). There’s also ‘Church Flat’ named after the church roof that is our navigation aid to find it – this one requires a couple of miles walk through a fairly featureless terrain and looking back at the distinctive red tiles helps keep us on the right track to hit the exact entry point that we want.

 Pretty much every flat we visit on our DiY trips ends up with a new, more logical (in our opinion) name.  You should see ‘Aquarium Bridge’ that can be quite spectacular at times.

This renaming of stuff doesn’t just apply to places, we sometimes use it for fish, and this brings me on to the subject of this FP – the ‘30 yarder’.  A 30 yarder is a bonefish (or a couple of fish) and tends to be larger than the average fish.  We call it a 30 yarder because this fish will maintain a constant distance between the angler and it.  It might not actually be 30 yards, it could be more, it could be less, but the distinctive factor is that once you’re within its ‘range’ you won’t get any closer.  I.e. if you move closer, however carefully, the fish will move the same distance away.  Such fish aren’t spooked as such, in fact they’ll often stop and feed, but they do seem to exhibit a heightened sense of alert that makes them very difficult to catch.  I remember firing cast after cast at one such fish, all of which fell woefully short, the fish eventually sidled off into some mangroves never having seen my fly.

It was the thought of improving my chances of catching 30 yarders that got me into competition casting.  Someone asked recently on the board about how people transitioned into competitive casting – for me this was very fortuitous as the BFCC held a casting event very close to my home at a fishery that I used to visit quite often.  Seeing the performance of the top casters on the day I instantly began to think about my previous encounters with 30 yarders and how such casting skills could bias the outcome in my favour when our paths next crossed.  As such, tournament casting for me was very much focussed on improving my saltwater fishing.

In those days I practised a lot and within a year I started winning an event or two.  As such, I was confident that my skill level had gone up, and 30 yards even straight into a typical tropical flats wind was not going to be a problem.  I was almost looking forward to my next encounter with a 30 yarder.

That encounter came on Abaco, on ‘Grassy Horseshoe Flat’ – or that’s what we call it.  Here I spotted three large bonefish, all above 5lb, at a distance of about 70 yards.  I began my stalk and got to within 40 yards and then it started – the 1 yard gained, 1 yard lost behaviour.  These were 30 yarders!  This continued for some time, I estimate that I pushed them several hundred metres towards the bottom of the flat, with the sight of the occasional flapping tail keeping me absolutely convinced that I would catch one of them.  Grassy Horseshoe Flat shallows dramatically at the bottom end and I knew that the bonefish would have to stop moving directly away and make the choice between turning left or right, this would be my chance.  As it was they went right, which although meaning the cast would be straight into the wind, was better than the left option where the wind would be blowing into my casting shoulder.

After all the practice I’d been doing for the BFCC competitions my cast was perfect, in fact if I could have walked over and dropped my fly I’d have put it exactly where it landed.  Now I’d love to end this by saying the bonefish charged the fly with the fastest fish nailing it, but this didn’t happen.  They spooked!  They spooked in the way typical of big bonefish, with a loud whuuump of the water and a boil that looked like a house brick had dropped in from a great height.  However I made the shot and put the fly where I wanted it, and that felt good.

Have a great week, James.