Fishing for Bonefish

by Fly Fisherman

The bonefish and permit, in particular, call for an enormous amount of care and quiet in approach. No brown trout was ever spookier than a bonefish in six or eight inches of water.
The bonefish is one of the few gamefish which have survived unchanged since prehistoric times and he seems to have retained his primeval wildness along with the body features that link him with the past. His large eyes have clear, plasticlike coverings which evidently allow him to see in many directions, even, I suspect, backwards. And when he’s scared, he’s gone with a single thrust of his forked tail, badge of a fast swimmer.
His Latin name is Albula vulpes, which means “white fox,” and believe me, that’s an understatement. When you go for him in shallow water you’ll find that he’s foxier than any renard ever thought of being. You get so keyed up when you creep up on him that you don’t see, hear or think of anything but that waving tail fin. You want him more than anything. And to get him takes a combination of iron nerves, careful stalk, delicate, accurate casting, enticing retrieve, fast rod and line manipulation, quick strike at the right time, and sensitive perception of the fish’s runs, darts and struggles to escape.

When a bonefish hits and starts off, he goes so fast that almost anything can happen. The line stripped in as the retrieve was made to tempt him to take that fly, is gone in a hurry. It catches on the reel, or the rod butt, or the buttons of the angler’s clothing. It jams under his feet, catches on parts of the boat, or goes around the fisherman’s neck. Any one of those accidents inevitably results in the leader snapping.
Or, instead of taking off for deep water, which is his usual procedure, the perverse bonefish may get a notion that he can hide among die mangroves. So lie heads for shore and thoroughly tangles the line in a thousand tough mangrove shoots. The chance of landing a bonefish that has got into the mangrove roots is one in a million, but that’s what makes bonefishing fun. You never know what will happen next, and the only thing you’re sure about is that you have just a ghost of a chance of getting your fish.
And then a beginner steps up and takes a bonefish on the first 20-loot cast he makes.
“It’s easy,” he says. “They’re over-rated.”
But try this beginner out for size a year later, after he’s had all manner of bonefish things happen to him, and the story will be different.

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