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A Passion for Bonefish and Some Great Tips for Beginners




I LOVE BONEFISH!  They bite good, fight good, and live in beautiful places.  The hunt, the environment, and the thrill of casting at these critters is just too much fun.  This article is a "re-post" of an article from a couple of year's ago, but after putting together the basic Bonefish tips video up above, I thought that this would be helpful.  Right now we are booking our annual trips to Ascension Bay and Christmas Island.  Get schooled up and then get spooled up.  Come with us! The first video is just tips.  The next video has some action!




A Passion for Bonefish
I am midway through my fourth trip to Ascension Bay which might host the broadest variety of saltwater flats fishing in the world.  Initially, what brought me here was the idea of  catching Tarpon, Snook, Permit, Barracuda, and lastly Bonefish.  What keeps me coming here though… is the Bonefish.

There is a lot of glory in coming home with that picture of a glorious Tarpon, even the babies can be 20 pounds!  I always laugh at the term “baby tarpon”.  That is usually thrown around by somebody that has never had an 8 weight snapped in half by a “baby”.  A better term is “Mangrove Tarpon” to me as we see 50 – 100 pound Tarpon in the Lagoons of Ascension.  The next glory fish is the Permit.  Searching for Permit is like looking for the Holy Grail and Snook are very condition specific.  The tides and the weather have to be just right for killer Snook fishing.   All in all, Bonefish are the heartbeat of flats fishing.

It is hard to put your finger on exactly why Bonefish are so appealing.  Initially one assumes that it has to be because there are good numbers of Bonefish. While this is true , there are also good numbers of other saltwater species available too.  Any day of the week the guides here can take you to blind cast for Jacks off of ledge somewhere and you can catch similarly sized Jacks till your arm gets tired.

The romance of Bonefish to me is that it is “fair chase”.  I love it.  It is the one species that is consistent in its availability and behavior.  You get to see almost every fish you hook before you hook it.  This is the ultimate in shallow water site fishing.  The availability is great too.  In Ascension Bay every day you can ask your guide to target Bonefish and they will generate some great opportunities for you and they will often by tailing in shallow water.  From that point on it is ALL you.  You get to use the guide’s eyes but it has to be your quiet footsteps combined with an accurate and soft delivery of the correct fly.  Do your job right and the fish should be yours almost every time.  Do your job wrong and adios amigos.  The fish are gone.  Fast.  Just imagine a Roadrunner cartoon and the dust it leaves behind.  The angler feels like the Wile E. Coyote.  Inept and hungry.   “Bonefish are touchy” is what one angler on a trip with us described today.   I like that description.  They are touchy.  If you push too hard and put that fly too close or it lands rough then they are GONE with no questions asked.  Make too big of waves with your feet and bye bye!

A good Bonefish angler relishes the challenge of flat spooky water where the presentation must be near perfect.  We wait for these conditions.  For those of you that haven’t been on a Bonefishing trip “yet” I will try to describe it to you.  Just imagine a smart old 3 pound Rainbow trout sitting in 8” of calm water feeding on mayflies in a backeddy and you need to place a fly within 36” of that fish and then strip it back just right.  It is fun and there are LOTS of opportunities.  There is no shortage of Bonefish in Ascension Bay.  The fish circulate while feeding and you have to judge their direction and pattern along with making a good cast.  It doesn’t always have to be a long cast it just needs to be smart and clean.  Casting ability is a huge bonus but don’t be put off by flats fishing if you aren’t experienced.  Red’s hosts countless intermediate level anglers in the flats with great success.  We’ll teach you what you need to know.

The Bonefish game is fair.  If you do the right things you will have success.  My favorite fishing is hunting for tailing Bonefish in extremely shallow lagoons. When Bonefish feed in shallow water they tip their heads down and expose their tail out of the water.  This is a great way to spot them in flat light and will give a massive shot of adrenaline your first, fifth, or fiftieth trip to the flats.  Once you spot the fish tailing you tip toe in and the hunt begins quietly stalking your prey waiting for the right moment to make the perfect cast.  There isn’t much luck involved with Bonefish.  We catch as many Tarpon at under 30’ than we do Bonefish!  To be called a great Bonefish angler is among the highest compliment you can receive.

The lure seems to be that we all dream about being deadly with a fly rod.  As human beings we gravitate towards fly fishing because it is simply hunting with a hook.  With Bonefish you get that ultimate feeling of being a “silent hunter on the flats” versus some of the other fishing we do is awfully noisy.  The light leaders, rods, and delicate casts seem to reflect the stealth that we all associate with fly fishing.  Not to take anything away from Tarpon, Snook, or Cuda but 60 pound shock tippet and wire leader isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think fly fishing.  Couple this with the fact that Bonefish are abundant and spread through most of Central America and you have the species that more people get on a plane to fish than any other species on earth.

I don’t mean to make Bonefish sound hard because that is not at all the case it that they are “fair”.  The better cast you make, the quieter you are, the better you see fish, and the softer you can deliver the fly and the more you catch.  Plain and simple.  No other species plays out like this.  Permit are similar but their numbers are few enough that there is some simple luck involved.  Find a player and you might have a fish.  My suggestion is to get a lot of Bonefish under your belt before you spend too much time on Permit!

Hopefully you can join us on one of our hosted trips to Ascension Bay sometime and experience the thrill of casting to tailing Bonefish.  Our guide team hosts many weeks each winter on the flats of Ascension Bay and we would love to host you or your group.  If you are new to flats fishing you will especially appreciate our hosted trips because we travel and fish alongside you as a group host and leader.   Our friendly staff is there to prepare you and teach you, in good English, how to properly flats fish and have a successful trip.

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