Tracy&James | Thursday, 23 May 2019
When preparing for a saltwater flats fishing trip I tend to have a quick glance into my fly boxes and then tie up patterns that I think I’ll need. These patterns don’t necessarily reflect what’s been lost on the previous adventure as the flies I tie tend to evolve year by year. As such, I can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to replacing flies that are specific to species. However, this year I decided to make a note of every fly that Tracy and I lost. I’ve just been through these notes – each one brings a memory flooding back, even if it was of ultimate disappointment.
In total we lost 27 flies, which bearing in mind we fished every day for over a month, doesn’t seem too bad. Certainly if I dropped a box with this many flies in it I would be a bit grumpy (Tracy once did this on a scramble through some undergrowth to get to a flat), but the loss doesn’t seem so bad when it’s flies I’ve tied myself – somehow the ‘value’ of my time in producing them doesn’t come into my considerations! 27 flies is way less than my normal ‘top-up’ fly tying amount, so perhaps I don’t need to tie my normal 100+ prior to a trip, although doing so gives me something to do after Christmas.
The largest single cause of losses was being broken by bonefish, perhaps not surprising when it’s our main target species. Now I really hate losing flies in this way, however the notes imply there wasn’t a great deal of ‘user error’ to beat ourselves up about. Almost all of these breakages were from the tippet breaking due to touching something during the fight. A few were due to mangrove roots and a few more due to an accumulation of weed ultimately popping the tippet as the bonefish kited after a long run. There was one distinct error on my part in this group – I couldn’t resist casting at a nice-sized bone in a very tight spot, i.e. mangrove mini-islands in every direction, there was no way I was going to land that fish.
The next biggest group was ‘broken by cuda’. This invariably was small cudas rushing in (often unseen) to nip off the fly, usually when repositioning. There were a couple of instances of mis-identification when they were cast at deliberately whilst they were doing a very convincing impression of a bonefish. One of these was mine – I spotted three fish casually moving up a deep channel on a flat and made the perfect cast to them. As soon as the first fish accelerated I knew I’d made a mistake but it was too late, it took it on the drop.
If I add in flies destroyed by cuda, i.e. large streamers or clousers cast at them on purpose, then barracuda are responsible for the biggest overall group of losses. I’ve come to the conclusion that barracuda are more likely to damage the fly/wire than sharks. I think this is because of the way they take their prey – smashing it with the intention of splitting it in half. Sharks are almost always hooked in the scissors after a relatively gentle take; as such they spend the fight chewing on the metal of the hook rather than the wire.
The next biggest group is ‘unravelled’. Now this could be an indication of my poor fly tying, however each fly in this group accounted for many bonefish and I can’t think of a reason why my flies would be any worse than anyone else’s. Obviously bonefish eat bottom dwelling crustaceans, shrimp, fish and all sorts of shellfish (sounds like the recipe for a rather nice risotto), so their mouth parts are tough and capable of grinding up such prey items. A bit of soft fur and rubber legs doesn’t stand much chance in the long run. I should point out that two of these flies were worm patterns tied by Flavio – great fish catchers in very skinny water, but also very delicate because of the rubber body (1 fish each).
Next up is destroyed by shark – a pretty obvious one. Actually some of the damage in this case was almost certainly inflicted by cudas, however if the last fish caught before retirement was a shark then it was recorded in the ‘shark’ column. Tracy’s biggest fish of the trip left the fly relatively unscathed, just an eye ripped off one side. This could be replaced or it might be that Tracy keeps the fly as a memento.
The final group was ‘broken by other’. All but one of these were jacks that took a bonefish fly on a light tippet. Jacks have rows of small teeth which can abrade through light fluorocarbon if they’ve taken the fly inside their mouths – and when they’re in packs they tend to swallow first and ask questions later.
Geeky I agree, but at least I know for certain what I’ll be tying up next time. OK, by Christmas I’ll have forgotten all this and I’ll just tie a random selection that suits my mood whilst I’m at my tying desk.
All the best, James.