The Excitment of Bonefishing

by Fly Fisherman

For me, the most exciting part of bonefishing with a fly is stalking the fish. It’s a combination of hunting and fishing. Bonefish come onto the shallow water flats to feed on shrimp, crabs and small minnows. They flit across the shallow flats like ghosts, every sense alert, knowing that in such thin water they’re vulnerable to attack from birds as well as sharks and barracuda. So when an angler eases up on a bonefish that is tailing, mudding or swimming in water less than two feet deep, everything must be right. One mistake will send him charging for the sanctuary of deep water.

The fish usually feed into the tide, sniffing out their prey and sucking crabs and worms from holes in the sand. It was their habit of nuzzling into and under grasses, sandy mounds and coral that once made people think that bonefish were bottom feeders and wouldn’t take a lure. But bonefish feed on sight, too, and when they flush their prey they go after it as it speeds away. They chase minnows, shrimps and crabs relentlessly. And it is this trick of chasing fleeing food that makes the bonefish the great fly rod fish he is.

When bonefish aren’t feeding, it’s even more nerve wracking to fish for them. Sometimes schools of 5o or more may be seen sweeping across a flat, pushing the water before them in a wave. When they’re doing that, the angler may as well put his rod down and relax, because a nervous, spooky bonefish isn’t going to take a lure. And the harder he is fished, the more spooky he’s going to get. Even fishing one stretch of water too hard and too often will either put the bones off completely or make them so jumpy they won’t take. I’ve stood in one place on a Key- Largo flat, facing seaward, right in the path of bonefish swimming in to feed, and have taken one after another. Yet when that same flat has been fished heavily for several days, the bonefish disappeared and didn’t come back until that area had been -rested- for a few days.

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