I saw 3 or 4 swimming straight at me. It was almost surreal. I did exactly as you had described in the book and without a hitch dropped the tan Crazy Charlie about 2 feet in front of the lead fish. I watched astonished as he just kept coming with intent and then tipped…
Loved this story over on diybonefishing.com. It realistically depicts the challenge (and rewards) of catching the Grey Ghost of the flats on fly by yourself. It also demonstrates why some instruction—in this case Rod’s very useful book—is better than trying to figure the whole thing out from scratch.
Bonefish are pretty much 180 degrees from the species most anglers target on fly. Everything, from the presentation to the hook-set is wildly different from what we’re used to. I see it every day I guide. If you cast past the fish and pull the fly towards them: game over. If you “trout set”: game over. If you roll-cast and rip the water: game over. If you use tippet with the letter X anywhere in it: game over. Walk the flats and blind cast: game over.
Rod’s book contains the fundamentals of targeting bonefish on the fly and helps clarify all these issues. After that, it’s just up to you get out there and do it!
If you haven’t already subscribed to Rod Hamilton’s blog on that site, you should. Weekly stories, fishing reports and tips to get you fired up (and more prepared) for that next flats fishing venture.
Here, I am slow motion. Layers of break-neck life peeling away. I know it’s the wide-open expanse of frontier plainsong. Forever rolling and howling as the speedometer pushes 85 and The Grateful Dead wander their highway through Althea in Nassau. I am small here.
If you haven’t yet, you should head over to FishingPoet and read the rest. I usually try to stick to salty subjects here on FlatsWalker, but some stuff is simply so good you’ve got to make allowances. Besides, it certainly falls under the heading of “Spilled Ink”.
Rod Hamilton over at DIYbonefishing.com is giving away tons of stuff, including a FREE bonefishing trip to Long Island, Bahamas. There are also weekly prizes like fly rods, etc. All good stuff!
Rod is the author of Do It Yourself Bonefishing, the latest must have book for DIY anglers interested in connecting to the grey ghost of the flats, both on their own and guided. Along with Kirk Deeter, Rod has put together a great volume full of practical angling advice and a fairly comprehensive list of places to fishing. The best part is Rod has considered both the adventurous, hard-core angler and those who have to consider fitting in a few days of fishing on a family trip. I highly endorse it (and not just because I just received my autographed copy a few days ago).
Day II November 30, 2013 In Transit, Bahamas
Dawn is a grey and drizzly affair, but calm. Perhaps our luck is turning.
Aside from the typical incompetence by the local airline (SOP), the transfer goes smoothly. Even though my companions have been to Acklins before their excitement is palpable. Watching the panorama of the Exuma keys extending to the horizon a few thousand feet below our fuselage does little to alleviate that. After nearly two solid days of traveling, there is only one thing on our mind: bonefish.
Strangely, my own emotions are subdued, even calm. Traveling does that to me, no matter how exciting the destination. I think travel is a kind of mobile meditation—removed from the quiet room and the silent garden—an opportunity to practice awarenessing.
I have plenty of time to practice. After touch-down and collecting our bags, we head for the lodge, which I’m now informed has excellent flats out the back door. But, instead of squealing tired to get there—rigging our fly rods en route—we stop for fuel, to grab a few cold beers (which I slug guiltily in the back of the rental car) and just to pass the time of day with a few of the locals. The upshot is we’re on the water about an hour later than feels reasonable. But never mind; we’re here and safe and there are indeed bonefish. The tide low and starting to rise, ideal to find bones pushing past into the creek system behind us.
My first shots are bold, aggressive. I’m using a fairly heavy crab pattern, because it’s the Bahamas and the fish here are idiots. Plus, I’m me; I got this. But, staggeringly, in the quiet of the slack tide my fly lands heavily enough to spook the few fish I see. Perplexing. I switch patterns for something lighter—a Gotha-like thing with bead-chain eyes—and connect with the next fish I see. The take is gentle, nervous even and I respond by hammering home the fly and attempting to horse the fish in. This results in a pulled hook and lost fish. Brilliant.
The clouds of the past few days still haven’t fully clear out, so visibility comes and goes. The westering sun doesn’t help. I finally land a couple, but all the fish I’ve seen have been smallish—1½-2 pounds—so I wade deeper, looking for their bigger cousins. Behind me the newbie Bob is working the shoreline, and I can’t help but notice that every time I turn around he’s casting at something. Schools of baby bones in shallow water? Must be. Right?
Right. I keep wading down the main channel, scanning for grey shapes in the failing light. Even if I don’t spot them in time, spooking a few would at least tell me they’re there, but no, nothing. Not a needlefish.
Bob is still casting and the light is failing fast so I wade toward shore. Maybe I’ll pick up a tailer on the way. I’m still fixated on spotting bigger fish in the channels when a disturbance near shore catches my eye: tails! Big ones. I wade into position and realize this fly won’t do; it’s much too heavy. I retie and also lengthen the leader a bit. It’s probably unnecessary but I’m running out of chances and want to actually land a decent fish. With the new fly on I wade in close, searching for signs of life in the glare. Suddenly I see a swirl and a push headed my way. My cast snakes out to intercept, but drops to far ahead. I let the fly sit rather than recast. Dusk has come and the glassy water belies the slightest movement on my part. There! I see a movement toward my fly, I think. I begin a halting, gentle retrieve, feeling for the take and then there’s that moment, that almost imperceptible feeling that something is going to happen.
A few hours later I hold a sweating drink as the crew discusses plans for tomorrow. I listen smugly with half an ear and no opinion. Wherever we go will be fine, I’m sure—interesting anyways. Besides, I’ve already got a 5-pounder under my belt, dinner smells good and tomorrow is the first full day in a full week of fishing. It’s a good day to be alive.
Day I November 29, 2013 Orange Hill Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas
The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli.
I watch squalls pass to the north, unless that’s south. The overcast is so complete that I really can’t tell, but it feels north. Spindrift mists my glasses, blurring the horizon further.
I cross back over the low berm of sand and climb the concrete steps of Orange Hill. Tomorrow we’ll board a small prop plane and fly an hour and a half eastward in this crap. Our destination: a tiny island somewhere east of Bimini and north of Cuba. There, I’m told, we’ll find bonefish—lots of them and dumb as rocks (or rockets, which is a more apt description of that particular species).
This is a fish that, based on current evidence, will drive sane people from the comfort of their home to fly thousands of miles, endure strange food, stranger landscapes and bloodsucking creatures in their millions just for the opportunity to catch one, and then gently let it go again. What a weird and wonderful little world we live in.
I reach the hotel bar: dry, plainly furnished, with a quartet of anglers drinking in the corner. In place of a bartender there’s a ledger with a number of hash marks. Ah. The honor system. There’s a picnic cooler with an assortment of beer. A little digging surfaces a Kalik and after the first swig I feel my hopes rising. Surely the weather will clear to the east, right? Bound to. Surely.
I wonder if the cracked conch is any good here.
Jamie Howard (of Howard Films?) posted this delectable permit treat compiled from footage shot during the Palometa Club Permit tournament in May of 3013. Wish I’d been there for that. There’s just something about permit that gets under your skin and stays there.
Ok, ok. It’s finally been done. Finally. This is probably the first (and only) really great fly fishing video I’ve seen. At last, someone has got it right.
If that sounds harsh to all the other production crews and fly-anglers-come-videographers out there, well, let’s just review. We had the Trout Bum Diaries produced by the now extinct Angling Exploration Group (AEG, which has actually been re-invented in the Geofish series, but more on that later). These films were OK, certainly better than what was around at the time, but they still didn’t really get it. Mostly it was a bunch of guys who wanted to go fishing and maybe use the video as an excuse to get sponsorship to fulfill an angling dream. Good for them. Clever. However, it was pretty obvious that no one wanted to hold the camera. So what we got was a jumbled story-line, incomplete fishing sequences, and a final Smörgåsbord of dripping fish to finish the movie off.
Saltwater videos have done no better. The dudes that did The Search: Tahiti made a good start of it, but also had an aversion to actually holding anything so mundane as a camera when bonefish were around. As a result the film falls flat.
I mean, it’s not a complicated formula. If you set up the journey/quest by saying, “We’re off to [insert exotic destination here] to see if we can catch trophy [insert species here] on our own”, then you’ve got to get the shot. Simple.
However, film after film left us hanging. Bonefish: A Fishing Odyssey was another that started well but failed to capture the final shot. There was simply no pay-off for the weeks of searching for the elusive double-digit bonefish. Sure, there was some shaky footage at the end where Mr. Rangely-Wilson is holding a so-called 10-pounder (and since he was there and we weren’t, he’s got the benefit of the doubt) but we don’t really see it. What we get is some shaking hand-held footage of a bonefish release. No hookup, no fight, nothing.
But these were all done by amateurs, anglers that set themselves a quest and either accomplished it or didn’t. You’d think that professional guides with nearly endless time on the water could do better, but no. Not so much. Black Tailed Devils was awesome in trailer form but the actual feature film was just horrible. Save your money on that one.
A major exception was In Search of a Rising Tide, which features a couple Bahamian guides on a “day off.” Of course, it’s filmed and produced by Howard Films, and these are guys who know how to get the shot. I remember reading an interview with the videographer where he said he refuses to combine fishing and filming, because he’ll either miss the fish, or miss the shot, or, more likely, both. The man is dropping knowledge, and it paid off. For me this short film is pretty much a cult classic for anyone interested in trophy bonefish on the fly. But, it’s a somewhat different set-up. It’s not so much about a journey or quest as it is about the history of Bahamian bonefishing. It’s a glimpse into the life of the younger generation of guides that have taken the sport of bonefishing with a flyrod to the next level. Being on board with Andy Smith and “Big” Charlie Neymour as they cast flies at bonefish is a relaxing, almost comforting experience, not the nerve-wracking trek the boys from Geofish set themselves.
So, back to that. I can personally attest that their first installment, Geofish Mexico, really does capture the same sense of a wild adventure that you see in the above trailer, and they do it by sticking to the script. First, there’s the set-up: four friends (which, weirdly, includes some of the original Trout Bum players) have the idea to travel from the Pacific Northwest down to the tip of South America, by driving… and, of course, fish like hell along the way. But, this time there’s no rush to get to the fishing action. The first half of the film is dedicated to the journey, and the first half of that first half is them simply trying to get the truck they bought to actually work on recycled frier oil. There are some truly classic scenes here. Think A-Team if the dudes from Top Gear were in charge: ambitious, but rubbish. By the time we do actually get to some fishing you can seriously empathize with the guys on-screen who’ve been waiting much longer than you have. Basically, they get you into the story by mimicking—on a smaller scale—the frustrating wait they had themselves. This is a case of giving the audience what they need, not what they want, and in this world of short attention spans and 30-second film bytes, I applaud them for this. Of course, it’s also simply good story-telling.
In the end that’s what this first film is: a great story, well told. I could go on, but I won’t. Buy a copy now! You’ll thank me later.
Sitting down to watch it again,
WindKnot the (jealous) Angler