8 Tips for increasing your chances of catching bonefish on the fly. Presented by Ross Reels.
1. Make sure you are fishing bonefish waters.
We spent the last week fishing down in Belize with GofishBelize, and we had a bonefish on the line within 15 minutes of our first day. Belize is home to millions of bonefish and is a great place if you want to give this fish a shot. The Florida Keys and the Bahamas are also great areas to target this fish. There are some solid DIY options, but if it’s your first-time bonefishing we would recommend going with an experienced angler who can show you the way, or with a guide.
2. Have the right gear.
Using the proper gear is essential when it comes to saltwater fly fishing. Our Go-To bonefish setup on this past trip was an 8 weight Thomas and Thomas Exocett, with a 7/8 Ross Reel Evolution. We were also throwing a Scientific Anglers Amplitude Grand Slam Fly line, with a 12-pound tapered leader. You don’t have to have the best of the best to catch fish, just make sure you are throwing a rod that can handle a good size bonefish, anyone who hooks a bonefish for the first time is always surprised by this small fish’s strength, they are torpedos. Also having a good pair of polarized glasses will be essential, because if you can see the fish your chances of catching them greatly increase.
3. Using the right fly
Luckily, bonefish aren’t too picky, especially when you compare them to Permit. A shrimp fly that has some weight to it will do the trick, but also make sure you have an idea how fast the fly sinks. Sometimes bonefish are tailing in half a foot of water, and other times they might be in 5 feet of water, so understanding what depth your fly is at is important. You want to make sure your fly gets in-front of the fishes face.
4. Practice your casting
Your biggest enemy on the flats will be a poor cast, especially when you are dealing with wind. We recently asked Capt. Will Benson how people can improve their cast and Will said practice casting into the wind. Practice making shots that you will get on the water. Stand on a cooler in the yard, throw a 40 ft cast into the wind, then pick up your line and throw another cast directly at 9 o’clock. Also make sure you practice how to shoot casts at different times, 12 o’clock being directly ahead of you.
5. Listen to your guide
Chasing these fish on the flats is teamwork. Your guide not only has the advantage of being on the poling platform, but they also are trained to spot these fish, make sure you listen to them and don’t get frustrated if something goes wrong. It’s essential that you can work together to have the most successful day on the water. These fish are extremely hard to spot so your guide will be your eyes.
6. The strip
A proper retrieval and hook-set is crucial when targeting saltwater fish. If you are a trout fisherman, you need to throw everything out the door that you have learned about setting the hook. If you try and “trout-set” on a bonefish, you will most likely pull the fly out of the fishes mouth. The best tip I can give you is to keep your rod tip pointed low at all times, heck you can even put the tip in the water. When you are retrieving your fly you want to have long slow, smooth strips teasing the bonefish to take the fly. When you feel pressure at the end of your line continue to strip the fly, you can also increase the speed here. When you feel enough pressure… pull back hard on the line one last time and now you can slowly raise your rod when you feel the fish is hooked. From this point on you need to keep the pressure on the line, and point the rod tip in the opposite direction that the fish is running.
7. Line Management
Line management is crucial, especially when you hook a bonefish on the front of a flats boat. Make sure your line stays organized, and you are not stepping on it. Most people have a tendency to take too much line out, just use what you need. When the fish runs, stay relaxed, keep your rod high in the air, you may need to lift your feet up to let the line go through the guides, and make sure the line is not wrapped around the rod. The most important thing here is to stay calm. When the fish starts to run, make sure you have a decent amount of drag, and keep your knuckles away from the reel, they can really put on the wheels during the first and second runs.
8. Proper release
After fighting a bonefish make sure you are quick when releasing them. Try your best to keep them in the water, and if you have a pair of pliers ready to pop the hook out that will be the quickest. Wet your hands and let him swim free. If you want to take a photo try leaning over the side of the boat vs’s a photo of the fish in the boat. These fish are very susceptible to predators on the flats, especially once they have been exhausted.
And thanks to Ross Reels, for making this article possible.