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The bonefish broke away from the school and took the fly. After the student set the hook, the fish quickly started its famous run, which gives the species the name “torpedo of the flats”. After a run of perhaps 120 yards, the bonefish slowed down and turned – to the relief of the angler – and after a couple of shorter runs, the happy angler had caught his first bonefish. After a couple of handshakes from the guide and me, it was time to wade-on and look for more fish. This was the morning of the second day of The Orvis Bahamas Bonefish School, on famous Andros Island.
Most beginning bonefish anglers have fished for trout and are looking for new challenges and some sunshine and excitement in the dead of winter. Bonefish tackle is not complicated, and the same outfit will serve you well for bonefishing from the Bahamas to the Seychelles.
Check out our Bonefish Essentials collection for everything you need to get started or catch more bonefish.
Check out our Learning Center for an entire series on Fly Fishing Saltwater Inshore Flats.
Students often ask me in our fly fishing schools to describe the difference between casting to trout in moving water, and casting to saltwater species. Trout, in moving water, remain fairly stationary (especially in moderate to fast current) to conserve energy, and let the current bring them food. Saltwater fish are usually always on the move, chasing prey, or fleeing from predators trying to eat them. When a bonefish is sighted, it is important to get the fly to the fish quickly, by making as few false casts as possible. Learning to double haul will make long distance casting much easier, and make it easier to cast in windy conditions. Also, the hauls you give to the line when you double haul will take a lot of stress and strain off of your casting arm, and will enable you to fish for longer periods of time without tiring.
Setting the hook: Bonefish do not have tough bony mouths like tarpon, so you don’t need to use a lot of hook setting energy. When a bonefish takes, use a strip-strike to set the hook: when you feel the fish take the fly, strip the line with your line hand, keeping the rod tip low. After the fish is hooked, you can then lift the rod, (usually it’s best to lift the rod slightly off to the side, rather than straight up), clear the line (get the line on the reel), and enjoy the run. For more hook-ups, remember to keep the hook points sharp. To make releasing fish easier, and to do less damage to the fish, mash the barbs of the hooks down.
Of all the students attending The Orvis Bahamas Bonefish School this year, only one person had previous saltwater experience and two students had no previous fly fishing experience at all. Not only did all the students end up catching bonefish in the school, some of the students had double digit days – and most importantly – had a great time in a beautiful environment pursuing the “ghost of the flats”.
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