Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Game of Bones

The Beginning of a Palm Tree

After my night from hell and a few precious hours of sleep, I awoke for another day in paradise. I unrigged the hammock and hopped back into the car to head to the dock. At the rallying point, I used the bathroom, brushed my teeth, changed into my gear, and spotted a nice bonefish on a micro flat as I exited an outhouse. Excited, I hunched down to hide my silhouette and made my way to the trunk to get the rod. I used the car to hide myself and awaited the bonefish's arrival. I've had several chances in years past on this small flat beside the dock but the fish are really spooky so I took extra caution. My unweighted fly landed with a whimper and after one small pop, the bonefish was on it. He was really big and I soon realized that I was doomed. The micro flat has an edge to it with a drop off into deeper water. The edge, a hundred yards aways, is lined with a hard bottom and turtle grass and he was heading right for it. To prevent a break off, I was standing on some rocks by the dock, about to jump onto the hood of the car to get my rod up higher. However, bonefish don't really care for expensive reels and great drag systems. The initial run can't really be stopped no matter how much pressure you put on them. Once he made it over the edge he rubbed off, leaving me to reel in my backing and fly line as some ferry travelers asked me a hundred questions. 

Looking East on the Top Half of Beach #3

I headed to an upper beach to spot some tailing fish on a morning low tide. My intention was to just fish this beach and then head west to walk a much larger area, so I only brought one water bottle that was half full. Looking out onto the beach and seeing nothing, I decided to mix up my strategy. Rather than walk the shoreline, I waded into about thigh deep water to walk down. By doing this, I could still see the skinny water bones along the beach but I could also have chances at fish coming into the shoreline. The first hundred yards I walked, I came away with six chances at bonefish, an incredible amount here for an angler on foot. I struck out on all six. 

By this time, my fly box was looking pretty weak. I still had some nice flies, but I was missing ones that were properly weighted for this type of water. I was either too heavy or too light. When I switched it up with a fly that had the right weight, I learned that the bones did not like colors that were lighter or darker than the bottom. In short, I had to run the chances of spooking the fish with a heavier pattern or not getting a proper presentation with a lighter one. It was frustrating.

Looking West on the Bottom Half of Beach #3

Halfway down the first beach and after changing my fly for the fourth time, I spotted a pair of bones in close to shore. In the high winds, I didn't get the presentation I wanted but it didn't matter. My fly landed right on top of them (which can be a good thing). With their competitive nature for food, the second bonefish took it before it hit the bottom. He was a pretty decent fish.

At this point in time, I was having a great day with a lot of chances. I had to keep going down the coast. With half a water bottle, I made it all the way back to the vicinity of the dock. Using google maps, that is a three mile hike (without taking into account, the curvature of the beaches). There are three sections of beach each about a mile in length. In 90+ degree heat, with raw feet, and half a bottle of water, I was pretty dumb. Only thing was, I had to hike all the way back. 

The bonefish kept me going. I couldn't believe the amount of chances I was getting but even more unbelievable was my batting percentage. I was getting schooled. With the high winds, there was a nice chop on the surface of the water that was disturbing sand and mud on the flat making visibility difficult, but I had a cloudless sky and the sun overhead. Often, I could see the bonefish but by the time I got into position for a cast, I couldn't see them anymore. Taking your eye off a fish for a split second or even blinking resulted in missed opportunities. I left a lot of big bonefish on the table.

On the way back, on beach number two, I spotted a tall and round fish working its way down the coast.  The presentation was directly into the wind. The big bone meandered over to my fly and plucked it off the bottom. With a large sandy flat, I had no worries of him breaking me off. He ran, ran, and ran some more before I brought him in. It was the heaviest fish of the trip.

Tall, Round, and Mean.

After releasing this guy, I continued my journey back to the car. On this sandy flat, there are a lot of baby sharks that often are easily confused with bonefish, especially the lemon sharks. Walking into the wind and chop, I spotted what I thought was a nice bone. It ended up being a lemon shark. I watched him swimming away from me and to my right, when something scared him causing him to dart off the flat. The shark was easily three feet long and something spooked him? That something was a gigantic bonefish. He was swimming the same path I was walking about forty feet away when he turned and heading to my left. I made the shot directly into the wind and put my fly 10 ft. in front of his projected path. As he got closer, I popped the fly and he was on it. Heading directly toward me, I crouched so low, my pack, and chest were in the water. He kept following so I stopped the fly. Nothing. I popped it again. He followed. I stopped it again. Nothing. I popped that fly all the way into my leader and still he was there, a foot behind it. By the time I was stripping tippet, the bonefish finally turned. He was at the end of my rod tip and didn't spook like most bonefish do when they see you. He simply turned and meandered away without a care in the world. He was definitely just messing around with me. He knew this game, and he knew that the fly at the end of my line was not something he should be eating.

After that encounter, I power walked the last beach and drove directly to the nearest bar to get some cold drinks. I was exhausted from the day long pursuit of bones on foot. I caught two big fish, several hours apart, with nothing in between but adrenaline rushes, blown chances, and a whole lot of walking.

Good times. 


Mark Kautz said...

I love it. Only a die hard fisherman would jump on the hood of his car to pursue a fish. that is too cool.


Bjorn said...

Damn it. I've had a draft blog post for about 2 weeks that was "Game of Bones" but couldn't get the content right! Awesome, as usual.

Mark said...

nice Bjorn, I probably could have done a better job with the post connecting with the title, but being in the middle of the series during a bonefishing trip was too hard to pass up.

I am a 1/3 done with book 4...its been tough after 3