Thursday, April 28, 2011

On a Boat

How many do you see?

When a group of like-minded people find themselves in an outdoor sports hotspot, they start to acquire and share toys. It is in this way that we've found ourselves with three surfboards, two kayaks and a SUP stashed on our front porch. I was more than a bit envious when some friends purchased a small, used boat, but knew that I'd just as soon reap some of the benefits.

When the call came in to take the boat to a decent bonefish flat on a nearby island, I was pumped that I'd be able to fish there without kayaking for an hour to reach it. I was also pretty excited to show the owner of the boat a few things about bonefishing, as it would be his first time. The three of us set out to fish from mid-morning until late afternoon.

We arrived to a low, incoming tide. Perfect conditions.

Sunny skies and a high sun illuminated the substrate from all angles. We marched around, slowly, looking for our prey.

I spotted this relatively huge school of fish about 20 minutes before I realized that they were, indeed, bonefish. I saw the shadows but they didn't move at all. I assumed they were bottom structure and kept moving. It wasn't until we got much closer that I realized they were bones. I have never encountered laid-up bonefish before. They were motionless in the shallows for at least those 20 minutes.

Evidently, they could identify us better than we could identify them. They spooked as we approached, slowly peeling off in the opposite direction to make a huge loop around us and disappear into deeper water. We saw them a good two hours later and repeated the failed stalk.

The pathways between eyes and mind that distinguish a barely moving green form beneath the surface as a fish from some other, even less moving green patch on the bottom began to take shape in my friend's brain. He was becoming a flats flyfisherman.

Blind casting off of the drop off, he landed a miniscule squirrelfish. His first fish on the fly. We had plans to take a ferry to a coral atoll for some serious bonefish the next week, so this day was a primer for the big leagues.

We motored to another spot, ignoring the axiom of not leaving fish to find fish, in search of better pastures. The waves at the entrance to another flat were a bit too rough, so we decided to stop at a new spot on the way back to the marina.

Arriving, we beached the boat on a turtle grass flat and split off for some blind casting.

Zach worked a very steep drop off and soon found himself connected to something strong.

We didn't know what it was, but Zach assured us that it had "a whole lot of heart."

He brought the beastly bar jack to hand in the green grass. The subtle colors and markings on these fish are gorgeous.

The release

Not long after that I hooked a 4" yellow-tail snapper which was immediately chowed by an aggressive 'cuda. The snapper was decapitated and I brought to hand a bleeding head. I flipped it back out into the turbulence and the 'cuda came back for his leftovers. Somehow, I hooked him, also.

We all caught fish on this beautiful day. Temporarily satisfied but eager for our upcoming trip the following week, we returned to the marina, cleaned the boat and drove home.

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