We have always taken immense satisfaction in making unfamiliar waters produce through nothing but research, time and trial and error. The frustrated, fishless hours, days or however long it takes make the first honest fish from that water a real accomplishment. Our modus operandi has been DIY since we first put fly to water.
So, it was with a little trepidation that I accepted a very cool birthday gift from my girlfriend: a half-day guided bonefishing trip on a nearby island. This was back in November, but Stace could foresee an as yet unplanned fishing trip that would take place the following August, and deferred her spot on the boat to my brother. She knew he and Adam would be coming down in August for an adventure even if we hadn't discussed any particulars.
When the long-awaited day finally arrived, we approached the dock and I, for one, was pretty damn nervous. I was more worried about hooking the guide in the face with an errant cast than not catching any fish.
Our guide said that another group was going out today and they were going to be filming a TV show. He said that there was a friendly wager between the head guide on the boat with the film crew and our guide over which boat would land the most fish.
Our guide asked us how far we could cast, and I just looked at Mark. He said probably 60 or 70ft accurately. I said probably a lot less than that. We hopped onto the skiff and blasted across the clear waters, heading East.
I was up first on the front of the boat. The first thing our guide asked me to do was cast at a lone mangrove to see what my abilities were. Somehow, I was on target and he seemed pleased.
Within minutes, our guide was pointing me towards the largest schools of bonefish that I've ever seen. He had me strip quickly through 4 or 5ft of water. This brought the bones up to the surface as they chased down my tiny mink strip pattern. In about 10 minutes I was hooked up with the first bonefish of the morning and the pressure was off.
Sadly, a few minutes after that, the fish came 'unbuttoned.' I let Mark up on the front while I retied and Mark was into a nice fish within two casts. The fish ran once and was brought close to the boat. On its second run, Mark was almost spooled. His arm aching, the fish was netted and Mark had landed his first bonefish besides the one he pulled in by hand the day before. The fish was a pig of a bonefish.
I hopped back up on the bow and had some ridiculous shots at massive schools of fish with no takes. I had a permit dance around my fly and take some good, long looks at it before swimming off. A giant school of bones cruised within range and I plopped my fly in the center of the front of the pack. They scattered, but the rear of the pack kept advancing. When they were on top of the fly, one strip resulted in an instant hookup.
Sadly, again, slack in the line resulted in the belly catching on some coral and snapping my leader. I was getting pretty pissed off at my inability to seal the deal when Mark took the bow and hooked up with a good fish in one cast.
When this fish was netted, our guide seemed very impressed. He passed the thick fish to Mark for a picture as he radioed the head guide at the lodge, who was out with the film crew.
The head guide told us to wait with the fish for him and the film crew. When they motored alongside, they said they were filming a TV show for the VERSUS channel that will air in September and October. The head guide took Mark's fish and held it up for the camera. The host measured the fish at 27" to the fork while he and the head guide discussed the fishing opportunities on the flats. Mark and I sat on the boat, relegated to the background, while our fish took center stage.
The VERSUS crew examines and films Mark's fish.
As the half day expired, I couldn't make it happen with a third fish. We had landed two and missed two, as well as had an exciting glance from a permit. The day's tally ended up being 2 bones to 1, our boat was victorious.