Category : Fresh Mud

How hard is it to get a bonefish to bite?


I got this letter a few days ago from someone calling themselves “a committed guide” [1]. It’s so damn funny and insightful and delightfully frustrated (in a ranting, I’ve-just-gotta-vent kind of way) that I couldn’t help posting it. Maybe the humor is only apparent to other guides and those readers who’ve only ever been on the other side of that business arrangement might find it harsh or sarcastic or even insulting. I hope not. Instead, heed the simple, earthy wisdom and, go ahead, laugh a little. What follows is the letter in full with only a few minor editorial adjustments for clarity. Enjoy, and please leave a comment.

~ Davin Ebanks (a.k.a. Flatswalker)

How hard is it to get bonefish to bite?

Basically it’s only as hard as you make it. I watch people catch them all the time so know it isn’t that hard. First, the cast has to be in the right spot. Second, you have to move the fly in the right way. Third, you have to make a long sharp strip to set the hook. Fourth, let the fish run when it wants to and keep the line tight if it swims towards you. If you don’t do any of these things it will not work.

Sounds simple but, not really. The Bahamas or Central America or Florida all use different types of flies and different retrieves and different presentations. Now I haven’t fished for bass or trout or salmon, but if I was fishing with a guide elsewhere where the fish are feeding mainly on minnows I wouldn’t throw a fly imitating a minnow at the fish and move it like it was a crab or a shrimp, it [probably] won’t work.

If the fish wants the fly 8 inches from its face to notice it and I put it 5 ft. away I don’t [can’t] expect it to bite. If the fish needs the fly to land a minimum of 3 ft away to avoid spooking it and I put it 8 inches away instead, I won’t expect the fish to bite.

Bottom line: the cast, retrieve, and hook-set determine if you’re going to be successful or not. You don’t even need to see the fish; just put it where the guide tells you and retrieve it like he says. If I were to fish elsewhere and didn’t listen to the guide and didn’t hook up, I would be wasting my time and money because I would be paying someone else to advise me on what he knows works and doing things my own way and wondering why it didn’t work.

We [as guides] can only take them where we know the fish have shown up before, advise them on what they need to do, and watch them do their own thing. Remember that it isn’t the guide that wants things a certain way, it is the fish that we are trying to fool with bits of fabric tied into various concoctions. He wants what he wants to eat. Simple.

Remember the strip set, because if the fish bites and never gets hooked the first 2 steps are wasted. Yes, reflex takes over and the rod gets raised and the fly just pops out of the fishes mouth: reflex, habit, it happens to everyone.

All fishermen make errors: bad casts, rod-sets,  the list goes on, (and I’m certainly including myself here), but to blatantly disregard what someone is telling me to do in order to catch a fish… well, not guilty.

I find that people that have never fly fished before listen better than those that have fished in all the exotic locations. Unfortunately it takes a lot of time to get over the rod-set but they end up getting way more bites than the more experienced clientele. [True.]

The only thing that the novice does better than a seasoned fly fisherman is to listen to advice. He can’t cast as far or as accurate but he tries and listens. That is why he is more successful, not beginners luck.

I think it was Lefty Kreh that said the three most important things in fly fishing is presentation, presentation, presentation.

Remember, if it doesn’t look right and doesn’t move right its not going to get bit, RIGHT?

There are some days where nothing works to get the bite or (even worse) there are some days that the fish don’t show up at all. The worse thing is to give up. The sport is called fishing, it is ultimately up to the fish whether it is going to show up and bite or not. Trust me I have yet to meet someone who can promise the fish are going to be at place X at time Y and they are going to bite on fly Z. All you can do is try. By giving up it is guaranteed that you are going to fail. If you don’t try or aren’t there you can’t win.

Do you think this sums up all the things that can go wrong? [Wait, I just thought of another:] add too much alcohol and chances are the fly will never get in front of a fish, and someone might end up with a new piercing. Not cool.

Listening is such a small thing but often without it the hookup will not happen.



Yes, we’re here, my brother. Semper Fi.
1 I’m not quite sure if the author was aware of the dual meaning of the word “committed” when he chose that pseudonym — as in “poor bastard just couldn’t stand the strain; I hate to say it but he should be committed”. [back]



Bare stone of spring: damp
On my back and dreams amidst
Dogwood blossoms fall.


Nadine Schreyer
April 27, 2009

Fish Porn

my screen’s glow:
the parted water frozen
to the rigid fin

Wade Fishing Cayman

A Taste of the Islands from Davin Ebanks on Vimeo.

How does one capture the silence, the light, the sense of space, and of course, the often high-paced action of fly fishing in the tropics? How, especially, in one film? Here is one of my early tries. (And, yes, I do have a better camera now.)

Here’s a sample of the variety available in the Cayman Islands, all on foot, by the way. Snook, bonefish, jacks, and permit: it’s all here.

Music Credits:

  • Abja, Crucial Confessions, Inna Red I Hour
  • NiyoRah, Thinking About My Life, A Different Age
  • Habib Koité, Wassiye, Putumayo Presents: Africa
  • Nathan Herrera, Calle Peral

Out There.

I am the darkness on the edge of the firelight.
I am the cold wind in the pines.
I am the rain, hard on the tin roof.
I am the restless ocean, sighing against your shores.

I am the reason you build walls and fence yourselves in.
I cannot be tamed.
I am never lost.
I am the problem to all of your answers.
I am… out there.

Ri-dic-u-lous Bonefishing Video: Andros, Bahamas

Big Bonefish with Big Charlie from Davin Ebanks on Vimeo.

We recently made a (much too short) pilgramage to Andros, Bahamas to fish big bones with Big Charlie Neymour. Blowin’ like 25-30 (knots) the whole time but Charlie just said, “Bad weather: big fish.” “Kaaay…” we answered. Nothin’ for it but to grab Pancho (the 9-weight), throw on a #10 line, a short 20-lb leader, and the strongest hook I could find. It was ON… and luckily we brought the video camera.

I’d like to echo the sentiments of the bonefishing saint who turned me onto this place: “If I had one more day to fish, it would be the North Bight with Big Charlie.” That’s a recipe for dying happy right there.

For more pics, verbage, and whatnot on this amazing island and fishery check out, and if you go tell ’em Ebanks sent you.

“Welcome to…

the desert of the real.” Those words ring in my mind (after a recent viewing of the legendary film) as my plane touched down at (an undisclosed location) in the midwest. Smokestacks bristled below and the air, once we exit to the jetway, smells like someone has been cooking old socks. Ah, back to the grind.

The quiet waters of the flats seem a world away and I try to hold on to the memories as long as I can. Of course, any such attempt is vain, as it turns out. There is something about this place that makes it seem like you’ve always been here. In a few minutes I’ll be tossing my duffel on the floor of the old apartment — to remain unpacked for the next week except for the occasional quick rifle for fresh socks — and going to the fridge hoping there’s ice in the freezer and something to eat.

The TV, of course, hasn’t worked since the much awaited digital transition (though I foolishly held out hope for a while and it wasn’t until I spent a few sweating minutes in the attic reading the box the thing came it that I admit that I am now without a functional boob-tube). Probably best, I tell myself, I’ve got a lot to do without sitting senseless in front of a glowing box. I could tie flies, update the old website, start that blog I’ve been meaning to or (for goodness sake) actually finish my Thesis and graduate. Guess which one I’ve opted for.

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