Three Firsts

Three Firsts

Tracy&James | Thursday, 5 April 2018

I’ve notched up three ‘firsts’ for me on the flats of Long Island this week:

1) I’ve landed a new species for me on a fly rod – a remora. I’ve ‘caught’ remora before but only attached to other bigger fish, this one, however, was fairly hooked in the mouth. Whilst wading a soft flat I noticed a small mud, thinking this may have been made by a lone feeding bonefish I cast my gotcha into it. Two short strips later I felt some resistance that clearly wasn’t from a bonefish and then a saw a long dark shape struggling on the end of the line. To say the fight was unimpressive is perhaps giving the fish too much credit, it came to hand in a matter of seconds despite it being the biggest remora I’ve seen at about 20 inches long. Its soft squidgy body, pretty much lacking in firm muscle, betrays a lazy, free-loading lifestyle, I hope the stingray from which I removed it is grateful.

2) I had a bonefish jump!  Not the flappy semi-jump that you sometimes get once they’re subdued and held on the leader at the end of the fight, but a proper jump 20 yards out.  When I say ‘proper’ jump I mean it cleared the water, but for style and technique it would definitely score close to zero on any scorecard (I think it landed on its back).  I can imagine the other bonefish telling it – “right, you’ve not only embarrassed yourself but the whole of this shoal.  Don’t ever do that again – we’re runners not jumpers!”  And that’s why bonefish don’t (generally) jump – peer group shaming.

And lastly 3) I was pulled in by a fish.  This has never happened to me before, but I took a full face plant into the sea whilst holding on to my #10 outfit which I’d just hooked a moderate sized lemon shark with.  Tracy had just landed a bonefish when the shark came into our proximity, I quickly changed my rods over, stowing the #7 across my back, but not having time to tie it in place with the straps of my bumbag as I usually do.  I stripped the line from the #10 and made a cast to the perfect spot to intercept the cruising shark.  A few gentle strips got its attention and then came the acceleration and take.  What I failed to notice is that during the strips, with it being an exceptionally windy day, the retrieved line was getting intimate with the bumbag straps that I’d left dangling.  Anyone who has ever seen a flats lemon shark take a fly will know the ferocity of their run when they first sense all is not well – the ripple of power starts at the tip of their noses and pulsates though to the end of the tail.  At this point the free line usually clears in a matter of seconds and you’re on to the reel for a long run.  Obviously in this case the line didn’t clear as it was attached to the bumbag so I got the full force that the shark could manage and over I went (I had good strong knots due to all the testing I’d been doing).  Miraculously whilst being dragged through the water like a water skier before they ‘get up’, I managed to undo the tangle, regain some composure and land the fish.  Once she’d stopped laughing, Tracy managed to take some photos of the fight and the fish – you can see the offending straps in them and the fact that I’m soaked.

Unfortunately Tracy’s one fly is no longer with us.  Tracy caught quite a few bonefish with it and I have to admit there was absolutely now signs of it unravelling at all.  It met its end in a bonefish also, long runs and hidden underwater snags are always an issue.

You’ll also see in one of the photos that I had cause to deploy the ‘emergency get me off the flat’ device that we carry with us sometimes – otherwise known as a blow-up, toddlers padding pool.  The flat in question was separated from where we were fishing by a channel, this could be crossed by wading to chest deep on the way out but required a swim on the way back.  Oddly the tide was dropping as this channel was getting deeper, indicating that this is how the water exits this particular flat – so a lesson learned, just because the tides going out doesn’t automatically mean the water is getting shallower everywhere.

Anyway, here are some pictures.

All the best, James.


playing shark



tracy ham