do it yourself
If for some fly-fishing for bonefish is like sight nymphing for trout in a chalk-stream raised to the power of ten, what when this is accomplished on one's own while fishing in unknown waters with no one to point you in the right direction? When guiding is great for getting used to the local fishery and being driven to great scenarios and nice fish, the twist of making it on your own provides the ultimate experience.
For the newbies to this fish, the first hurdle is figuring out what a bonefish underwater looks like. If one has never seen a bonefish and does not know how they behave or swimm it won't be an easy task to catch them. Thus, if you are approaching this fishing for the first time, renting a guide is surely the best approach to learn fast. If you still think that you want to pursue the challenge on your own, be welcome by reading further.
The first good news is that bonefish are not that difficult to catch, if you area able to spot them and can cast appropriately. You won't have too many concerns about the choice of the fly. The key is: it has to work correctly. Most of the time, the bonefish' take is triggered by the sand set in motion while retrieving the sunken fly on the bottom. The color of the imitation has to roughly match the bottom that we are fishing on. The preys of the bonefish always try to disguise themselves as the surroundings.
Fishing the water is counterproductive with bonefish. You got to spot the fish and then cast. Plenty of other species dwell in the costal flats. Some may be obvious to identify. Some others remain contrasts of shadows on white sand. Bonefish ? Where to look for?
The fish in the picture above are obviously no bonefish, but unless you were already confronted with them, you likely you won't be able to say. Bonefish usually swim in school. The school can move relatively fast even while they are eating, or it can 'idle' grazing in specific area. In shallow water, the tips of the tails emerge and create dimples, splashes and wakes (the famous nervous water).
Where to place the fly: once you understand in which direction the bones are moving, always place the fly some meters in front of them. This distance will vary depending on the depth of the water the fish is in and the weight of the fly we are casting. It's very easy to spook a group of grazing bones, this is one of the most important things. The casting must be as precise and delicate as possible. In shallow water use flies with less weight.
Never underestimate the knowledge of local people or mind asking around. I recall an early morning while walking on the beach in a flat facing some sparse housings. In the dim light of dawn, I was gazing the surface in search of nervous waters. In the stillness and silence on the deserted beach a person was doing work on an hedgerow. As soon as he saw me, he approached and started talking. He was a native of the island, and even though he did not seem to fish himself, he assured me that the bonefish were coming in with the incoming tide from that corner of the beach. Thankful for the hint, I headed to the place. I approached the area in ankle-deep water. In slow motion and trying to create the least water disturbances I scanned the flats through the pol-glasses, and yes a school of bonefish was feeding.
The tides are very important, and most of the time the fish will near the coast on a rising tide and start leaving the area after the ebb starts. However, when diy consider also other factors, like the time of the day. My best diy moments often happened in the very early morning hours.
Fish handling: minimize handling, for this can remove the fish natural protective slime, if possible, use barbless hooks. Minimize the fish's exposure to the air to no longer than 15 seconds, supporting the fish with the hands behind the head and the belly. Ensure to have clean hands, do not handle a fish with the hands full of sand. Stay away from the gills; it can be very easy to damage them.
When releasing a bonefish, if he does not swim away or turns upside down, make sure to revive him until he can swim upright. While reviving a fish ensure that the water is entering the gills from the back. The fight must last the right time —neither too long nor too short— because an exhausted fish is easy prey for predators.
The external islands and atolls of the most re-known tropical places that host flats are ideal prospects. Here the fishing pressure is often minimal, but fish will not come to look for you. The search encopasses space and time, the same flat can be deserted during unfavorable conditions and teeming with bones at the right hour. There is a lot to walk and explore while doing diy. In the tropics, the weather can change suddenly, so be prepared. It can go from heavy rain to bright sunshine and vice versa in a few minutes. So can the fish, which can appear from nowhere and disappear in a wink.
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