Usain Bolt of the bonefish world

Usain Bolt of the bonefish world

Tracy&James | Sunday, 20 November 2022

It’s 5pm Saturday here as I write this, beer in hand watching the light fade over the bay that our apartment looks over (unfortunately to watch the sunset we need to be on the other side of the island). It will be pitch black by 6pm, the light fades very rapidly on this side almost as if someone has switched the lights off. Tracy and I are just relaxing having got in from a pretty epic day’s bonefishing.

Today we fished a particular shoreline for the first time this trip.  The reason we haven’t previously visited in the month that we’ve been here fishing was down to the flare up of gout that hit me on the first day we arrived.  The shoreline in question is difficult to access, a 30 – 40 minute march through mangrove shrubs, muddy pools, sharp crinkle rock and slippery mud.  It is hard going even if we’re feeling 100%, however with a painful foot every step would feel like torture.  As such, today was the first day that the tide was right and that I felt up to making the march – still dosed up with as many painkillers as I feel is ok to take mind you.

It’s a slightly strange walk to the fishing as it appears you’re just travelling further and further inland until you finally glimpse the open sea and the watery mangrove channel opens slightly and the patterns in the sand indicate that the water flows in and out with the tide.  A few hundred metres later the channel gives way to an inlet, which greeted us with the sight of tailing bonefish, good sized fish too.

My first fish of the day was a real stunner that ran a lot of backing.  With the fish being so far away from me it could easily have had me in deep trouble by kiting left or right into the mangroves, but I’m grateful that it chose to play nice and fight pretty much down the middle (apart from a few loops around me when I had the fly line back on the reel).  Tracy then picked up two very nice fish of her own, again both running a lot of backing.

We then waded up the rocky coastline, taking it in turns for shots at fish.  We had to be careful not to turn an ankle, or worse, whilst working our way along this area.  Anyone who has seen me wade, especially on rocks, will know I have the grace and poise of a new-born giraffe – add in my newly acquired limp and I think we did well to avoid Tracy having to carry me back.  We both had successful shots at fish, again good ones.  What was vital to fish this area was flies with robust weed guards.  What surprises me is how few commercially tied flies incorporate weed guards – I’d say just about every flat or area we’ve been to on this trip has required something extra over and above a tying that fishes hook point upwards.  My bonefish flies incorporate two loops of line (I have a spool of 15lb flouro that I use) that are tied in along the shaft of the hook and then bent over to the eye where they are tied in.  Now I know for certain that this arrangement leads to the odd lost fish due to the hook falling out, however it provides a fly that can be fished over the roughest bottom and it results in so many extra hook-ups that, on balance, it’s clearly beneficial.

My last fish of the day was something special.  We’ve all experienced fish that fight above their weight – the real athletes amongst the couch potatoes (we’ve all probably experienced the opposite also – the fish that should have fought harder).  Anyway, I think I caught the Usain Bolt of the bonefish world.  Amongst a group of three bones coming across a narrow, but clear, sandy strip in the rocks, this fish reacted to my fly first.  Once the loose line was cleared and the backing knot rattled up through the rings, the fish was up to full speed.  My first section of backing (gel spun) is slightly faded due to bleaching in the strong sunlight, which it is regularly exposed to. Once this line is all out of the rod tip, and the backing is the colour that it was when it was new, I know I’ve got a good fish on my hands as this line is not routinely used.  Once this also disappeared I started seeing dye come off the line and deposit on the stripper ring I know I’m using backing that’s never been off the reel before.  This run astonished me and I’ve caught a lot of bonefish over the years.  Right as the fish slowed I had a mild panic as my reel seemed to be grabbing the line – perhaps a loop has fallen over (unlikely because I’m very careful about level winding) or the line had compressed and stuck somehow.  Anyway, I had to manually strip a few metres of line and luckily at that point the fish stopped. When I get back I plan on stripping all my backing off to see if I can find an issue.  When a fish has run that much backing on a rough flat the odds are very much in its favour – it’s highly likely that it will cut the leader on the edge of a rock or just break it due to the pressure applied by all the fly line being in the water.  However, for once things went my way and after recovering all the backing, which seemed to take an age, I landed the fish.  I knew it wasn’t going to be an elusive 10lb-er as I saw it take the fly, but I couldn’t help but be super impressed with how far and how fast it ran.

Hopefully we’ll have some more fish of a similar ilk in the next week.  Whatever you’re fishing for I hope you hook a good one.