Fly Life Magazine

Can’t cast a lick, bring lotion and a book

An Andros Island, Bahamas, bonefish. A bonefish, Albula vulpes, is nicknamed Spookus easyus in the Florida Keys. It’s also one of the top ten speedsters in the salt – seeking safety at 40 mph (64 km/h). A commons image.

“So, you borrowed your father-in-law’s $800 fly rod and you’re going to the Bahamas for a week of bonefishing. Good. Jacob, can you cast 40-feet and double haul?” No. “Jacob, give back the fly rod, buy lotion and grab a good book while you’re at it.”

By Skip Clement

Sound ridiculous? Well, yes, it is. But all too often it’s the case. Over the years, on no less than dozens of safaris to the subject destination, I’ve witnessed more than a few would-be anglers, outfitted to the teeth, come up fish-less when qualified anglers were scoring every day.

In basketball, golf and baseball or any sport, practice is part of the enjoyment 

A fly fishing destination beyond home waters is not, nor has it ever been, cheap. To enjoy that bonefishing trip to the Bahamas, practice casting a lot. If you can’t cast from the ready position off the deck of a flats boat in a 12-knot wind, do so in one or two false casts and lead a tailing bonefish moving your way; your bonefishing trip to the Bahamas will be an unsatisfying $5,000 sun tanning and Kalik experience.

What does that mean?

It means you’re not going to catch more than a cold if you can’t double haul or hit a Mini-Cooper at 40-feet. It says you’re going to take too many false casts to reach your target and then watch the entire leader collapse onto the fly line; not anywhere near enticing that tailing bonefish into a take – Spookus easyus? Yup.

The bonefish uses its snout to dig through the benthos to root up its prey, which it crushes and grinds with its teeth. Bonefish feed on benthic prey, often in water less than 12-inches in depth. In south Florida, the prey consists primarily of crustaceans (crabs and shrimp), mollusks (clams and snails), worms, and fishes. Illustration by Robert W. Hines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

You MUST practice . . .

And it’s fun if you have a goal. To start, call a nearby fly shop or a look up a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor near you and sign up for a series of lessons. Your goal is to cast from the ready position (fly in the off hand) with about two rod lengths of fly line out (probably the hardest thing for a beginner to pick up), and cast the fly, utilizing the double haul, and in one or two false casts, hit your target at 40- to 45-feet.

The double haul is a must-have skill

However, the double haul is counter-intuitive so it won’t be three tries and you got it. And because you’re a good golfer or spin fisher, it won’t aid you. You can’t borrow from those skills. The double haul is an all alone, nothing like it skill. HINT: To begin learning the double haul, single haul first.

Don’t practice repeat picking up 30- or 40-feet of the fly line directly in front of you, come game time and you’ll not score. Instead, practice casting to that pretends fish from the ready position at varying distances.

Hit the target

A good angler can make a cast in a few seconds, and hit targets at varying distances. If you practice hitting the same target over and over, you do a disservice to your time and effort. Pick out several targets and let the wind into the game. You’ll improve faster. Getting the fly out quickly and on target will make for a happy day on the water.

May the wind be always at your back

Being able to cast in the wind is essential. The most challenging cast is when the wind is blowing at your casting shoulder. The remedy, take the backcast back low and away and make the forward cast high and above your head. Get the feel of that before trying in a real-time wind condition. Again, try casting in all directions and distances.

Strip strike for solid hook-ups and shorter battles

When on a bone your window of opportunity is always a fleeting one – measured in seconds, so practice presenting your fly at a target with no more than two false casts.

For bonefishing at its best, join Docky Smith, who has been referred to in many professional fishing magazines as one of the best bonefish guides in The Bahamas. Docky Smith photo.

Practice transferring line to enable strip sticking

Because it’s much more “catch” productive, transfer your fly line to a strip-striking position ASAP after presenting the fly. Bahama guides say lots of fish are lost because the angler is too slow – doesn’t control the line post-bite. To avoid losing fish, practice transferring the line to the strip-striking position so when it’s fish on, you’re ready.

NOTE: The better flats guides ask to see you cast just after leaving the dock, then ask you how far that cast was. Adding: “Point to 2 o’clock.” The latter establishes what you’re capable of concerning fly casting distance and, two, the guide now knows what you think 35- or 50-feet is and where the clock hands are from the perspective of the casting deck.  

 

 

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