Sunday, December 24, 2000
I scared some fish pretty badly today. None died of heart attacks, so I didn’t catch any.
For the first time in days it was a decent weather. Not good, but decent. It wasn’t blowing a full gale and there were the odd moments of sunlight between the driven clouds. I hadn’t been on that flat since summer and I wanted to see if there would be any real difference in the fishing… apparently not. Just windier. In three hours I saw maybe eight fish. The first were in a group of maybe a half dozen and were past me so fast I had only one shot at them. The other two were singles and I spooked them both.
I still don’t get this bonefishing thing. I mean, other fish make sense: they eat baitfish so you throw a streamer at them, pull it away, and if they like what they see they’ll come over and eat it. It’s simple. The only worry is maybe matching the size of the bait, though if the fish are biting this hardly matters.
Bonefish seem totally different, even though one hears they can be caught using the same logic. The trick, they say (usually in magazines that come out of places like Illinois or New Hampshire), is to figure out what the bonefish are eating, learn how those bait act, and present a fly accordingly. Apparently this works, since in the same publications they have pictures of anglers cradling five-pounders with the flies still stuck in their mouths. Smug bastards.
Every time I try their advice the whole thing goes to pieces (threatening to take my sanity with it). I have tossed all sorts of flies at many bonefish and the results are fairly predictable. About the only thing that varies is how the fish leave. Some hustle around nervously and then cruise off while others bolt outright, pushing what I invariably think of as “bow-wakes” across the flat. Most, however, either ignore my offerings or never see them. To borrow from Tom Stoppard’s Guildenstern, I feel like a blind man looting a bazaar for his own portrait.
Clearly more research is needed, but how? Do I take a year’s hiatus from my job and try to discover some of their secrets on my own, or do I simply hire one of the Bahamian gurus – “Crazy” Charlie Smith, perhaps – to teach me what they know? I suppose I could pray for enlightenment, but I’m reasonably confident catching a bonefish doesn’t rate very highly on The Almighty’s list of goals for my life. At the rate I’m going I might catch one before the year is out, but the odds seem against it. I’m either so hopeless that I should be banned from all bonefish flats for life, or these fish are just impossible. If I ever do nail this thing it’ll undoubtedly turn out that there was some really simple thing I was doing wrong the whole time. I hope so. I’m tired of throwing flies at fish and either scaring them, or (worse) having them not see my fly at all. There has got to be a middle ground somewhere – a zone where the fly lands perfectly, the bonefish sees the fly, likes it, swims over and eats it. I would love to be there just once. That would be a pretty nice Christmas gift.