On my vacation; a trip north from Ft. Lauderdale with stops in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Georgia, Delaware and Greenport, New York I stopped at a few fly shops in route to get the local fishing news, buy a few things I didn’t need and see what rods and reels they carried.
At one shop along the way, I listened to a fly shop salesperson begin to tell an older gent just what he needed in flies for a four day Grand Bahama bonefishing trip that he was going on the following week (second week in July).
I was dumbfounded at the advice the shop salesperson was starting to give to the prospective customer about bonefishing and fly pattern selection recommendations. It was clear to me that the lad didn’t know bonefishing from flower arranging. It was bluefish and striper country.
I couldn’t help myself and intervened – saying I’d been to The Bahamas a few times and if interested I’d be glad to help. Fortunately, the young sales person was all ears, seemed quite relieved and the old gent, about my age, was more than ready to listen. Fortunately, the shop was well stocked with flies that were perfect for the Bahamas – several were signature Chris Dean patterns and several more were from Don Reeds’ Saltwater Fly Tyers.
I picked out several, Crazy Charlies, Gotcha, Critter Crabs and two of Dean’s shrimp patterns that would produce movement like rubber legs, rabbit strips, craft fur or marabou do. All had weed guards and all were tied to be fished hook up. I varied the colors, hook sizes #2 and #4 and weighted and not weighted. The customer selected 20 flies. The customer said that he was not staying at “lodge,” but at a friends house who knew a guy that guided part time. I warned him that this guide whom his friend had arranged to guide him would probably not have one fly on his boat. The customer bought 30 more flies. I asked him if he had his fly rod with him and he said, “Yes, it’s in my car, but my arsenal is at home (3-, 4- and 5-weight trout rods). ” The rod he brought in from the car was a Scott STS 909/3 piece (9-weight) in moderately used shape and bought online. The cork was showing signs of cracking (probably from storage in a too hot place), the fly reel was rusted and vintage and the fly-line cracked and as useless. I let the salesperson sell the new 8-weight (I suggested he bring at least one back up rod), an 8-weight would be perfect I said. So the kid sold the guy a TFO 8-weight, 9-foot 4 piece (about $160.00), backing, fly line (SA 9-weight Textured), did the rigging and sold a handful of tappered leaders and a couple of in-the-pocket leader spools.
As it turned out the customer was a dermatologist so he appropriately interrupted me when I started talking about sunscreen and polarized glasses. However, he was glad that I told him sunscreen and bug spray were as repugnant to fish as tobacco and gasoline and that touching the fly, leader or fly line with either on his hands would guarantee refusal.
In The Bahamas, as well as bonefish turf anywhere, the bottom can be anything from hard sand, to marl-like or a combination of both, grassy, sandy potholes with coral outcroppings and you could be fishing in 5-feet of water to tails visible height water. In The Bahamas you could be fishing at fast moving crowd of a 100 or more bonefish in deep water, to just a few that will stop and feed for a moment and move on, or a single fish or several tailing fish. Each scenario may require a pattern adjustment and you don’t need 40 different patterns. A better approach would to change color, hook size or go to weighted or unweighted of the same patterns.
The Doc and salesperson were all ears now. Bonefish, I went on to say, will not feed if you strip your fly with long pulls, crabs and shrimp do not ambulate like that, they move just inches and puff the sand in so doing. You want to have the bone “encounter” you fly and you don’t want it to have a long look at it either. The shop didn’t have any flats walker boots, but said they’d get a pair from either Simms or Patagonia in about two days. The prices were about the same ($150). Doc ordered a pair.
Doc, the fly shop lad and I exchanged cards. The kid, it turned out, owned the fly shop and asked if I lived nearby and wanted to work part time. I thanked him, but said I had 1,000 miles more to drive before getting home. Doc Benson sent the enclosed images of his Bahamas experience.