My First Bonefish… Blue Fins and All (Pt. III)
December 28, 2000
Since I had only been out practicing my cast I had no more flies on me. I carefully waded back to shore and, once on the beach, bolted for my car. I scrabbled through the first flybox I found, tied on a new fly (taking at least five times as long as I should have) and dashed back to the flat. The school was still there. I promptly hooked another, which immediately spit the hook. Another cast and I broke off again: steady, now, this won’t do at all. I hadn”t brought any more flies with me so wade back to shore, dash to car, cut off bloody eight-pound tippet, tie on ten-pound, new fly on, dash back.
The school had moved somewhat, drifting further out with the last of the tide, but they were still within range. When the line came tight this time I calmly cleared the loose fly line and let the drag do the rest. The first run stopped just into my backing and then the fish changed directions, swimming back toward me. I reeled like mad and stumbled backward, trying to keep a tight line. Soon I saw my leader crawl toward my rod tip, but I still couldn’t see the fish. I couldn’t believe how well camouflaged it was. Desperately I searched the water in front of me and suddenly there it was, all lit up and banded. Each scale was distinct, as if it was freshly cut from glass and platinum, reflecting the coral and grass of the bottom. The fins were a surprise; they were edged in the most unexpected, startling blue: my first bonefish.
I had been laughing with glee but upon seeing the fish I was struck by its somber demeanor. Other types of fish look clownish, aggressive, or cow-like, but not this. I’m sure it was simply anthropomorphism on my part, but it’s down-turned mouth and direct gaze seemed slightly disapproving to me, like a professor handing a favorite student a D-minus. I was struck too by the same notion as many other first time bonefishers: that the fish seemed somehow to have shrunk upon capture. Surely such a little creature could not have fought so hard, could not have taken me into my backing. I held it gently and quickly removed the barbless hook, marveling again at the sky-blue fins.
A second later my first bonefish slipped easily from my hand and, not ten feet from me, it completely disappeared, blue fins and all.