Our first few forays into bonefishing were on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Here we came across some of the spookiest fish we've ever encountered, even to this day. Eleuthera is a very popular island for bonefishers and, as such, the fish there are highly pressurised. I distinctly remember one flat that always held bonefish but I absolutely could not get within 30 yards of them during the daytime and any cast that landed the fly within 20 ft of a fish would be met with an instant spook. I guess eventually learning to deceive these tricky fish put us on a good grounding for our future travels though. One thing that could work was a garishly coloured fly, perhaps because they weren't used to seeing them. I discovered this on a particularly exasperating day where I'd experienced spook after spook to what I thought were perfect presentations. Having been through all the usual flies to see if I could change the outcome I ended up tying on a very bright fly and just leaving it perfectly still in front of an approaching fish. This would, on occasion, result in an eat but even if it didn't, the static fly wouldn't spook the fish so I'd perhaps get another go if it swam past. As a result of this our fly boxes tended to be refilled with colourful patterns during my off-season fly tying spurges (I've always had a tendency to tie more flies than we've lost over the course of a trip, thus the collection tends to grow year on year). It's now probably over 15 years since we last fished on Eleuthera, however these colourful flies are still a feature of our boxes.
I also remember our first trip to a destination that wasn't Eleuthera, but still the Bahamas, when we went to Andros. Here, neither of us could believe that bonefish would actually respond positively to the plop of a fly going in and actively chase it down when the stripping started. Again, quite garish flies were preferred, certainly by the guides, and in big sizes too – typically a size 2 hook. Having now fished in many different destinations we've come to realise that this behaviour is more the typical one for bonefish and the Eleuthera fish are a special case. (In contrast to the Eleuthera fish, Christmas Island, on our first trip there when the scheduled flight wasn't running, had the 'easiest' fish. You could literally hit the bones on the head and they would do an excited loop around and then take the fly. Tracy and I racked up a cricket score of fish on that trip, in fact we gave up counting pretty early on).
My fly tying for our upcoming trip so far has concentrated on two classic bonefish patterns, the Crazy Charlie and the Gotcha. Both have variations, such as I may include shrimp eyes or some rubber legs of some description, but they're all basically the same theme. One thing they all have in common though is weed guards. From experience of the flats where we're going to be fishing, the hook point up design of the standard Charlie or Gotcha isn't enough to prevent snagging. There's nothing worse than stalking into a great position, making a perfect cast that gets the attention of the fish and then having things lock solid on the bottom with the first strip. That said, on many occasions I've actually had bonefish dig the fly out of a snag for me, but I'd prefer not to rely on that routinely. Weed guards are always a compromise between being snag free and hooking ability but I think my current solution of two back to front loops of 15lb nylon is not a bad one.
As far as big predator flies goes, I've decided to take the easy option and buy them this year. Due to lack of practice I'm not great at tying 6 – 8 inch streamers and I waste a lot of material before I start churning out what I think are acceptable patterns. I will be customising these slightly though. One of the main prey for predators are mullet and anyone who has seen these dart past you on the flats will know that there are two very obvious features that can be observed – the eye and a dark tail. The eye is incorporated into the commercial tying – I will be adding a dark mark at the extremity of the flies with a black permanent marker though.
Next Sunday is the last BFCC meeting of the year where the champion caster will be decided, currently Bart is in pole position. We may even have some exciting news where the 'virtual' trophy is miraculously replaced by something very real!
Have a great week, James.