Few bonefishers bring anything impressive in on the first try. Fishing for bone takes patience, skill and all the right strategies. Fortunately, the five tips that follow will greatly increase your chances of success as you hit the flats and start learning the nuances of this truly clever fish.
1. Hire A Guide
There are countless benefits in hiring a guide, especially when heading out to the flats for the first time. These seasoned professionals can act as both your eyes and ears and will spot bones in areas that you might not think to look. They can also recommend the best casting distances and techniques, based upon the behaviors of local bonefish, the outside temperatures and the wind. Until you’ve become a veritable bonefishing expert, the difference between having a guide and not having one can be huge.
2. Practice Your Cast
Before you set out for a bonefishing trip, be sure to log plenty of hours in practice time. Bonefish are quick to get spooked and thus, there is no opportunity for a lot of false casting. You want each cast to be spot on. These fish are usually caught at 25 to 35 feet out, so set yourself a target at this distance and train until you can hit your target every time. The flats can get windy so make sure that you’re sufficiently skilled for hitting the mark when casting both into, against and across the wind. Priming your casting skills before your trip will save you a whole lot of frustration and wasted time.
Many experienced bonefishers assert that bonefishing is more like hunting than fishing. You have to be able to sneak up on your prey without notifying the fish of your presence. This means walking gently on the boat bottom, minimizing or avoiding false casts entirely and keeping your voice low. In addition to limiting noise, be cognizant of how you smell. Bonefish have an excellent sense of smell and thus, they can detect your presence by the sunblock you have on or the smell of gasoline on your hands. Experienced bonefishers always take a minute to rub some of the nearby gravel on their hands before taking to the boat. This gives the skin a local, natural smell that won’t raise any alarm among the bonefish.
4. Cover Up From Head To Toe
When paired with the sun’s glare on the surface of the water, hot, humid weather and the blazing, overhead sun can quickly wreak havoc on your skin and your overall well-being. You may be advised to take off your shoes in the boat in order to limit noise on the boat bottom and avoid stepping on your line. Keep your socks on at all times to protect your feet from sunburn. You should also wear a good sunblock and loose, comfortable clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. Sunglasses that provide peripheral coverage and a good sun hat are recommended as well.
5. Always StripSet, Never “Trout-Set”
Never lift your rod tip up after a bonefish has come in for a bite. This is how you’ll lose him. Instead, strip the fly back to you in slow, solid tugs. This action creates the illusion of swimming prey and will cause the bonefish to follow after it.. Once the bonefish takes the fly into its mouth you will make a long strip called a stripset to hook the fish properly. Lifting the ride high up in the air to set the hook is called a “Trout-Set”, if you want to bring in a big haul, you’ll have to fight against the urge to do it.