Flats Hunter 101: Fighting Bonefish
The moments spent watching a bonefish and waiting for him to strike your well-placed line can feel like an eternity. The last thing you want to do is ruin a take by incorrectly performing a hook-up.
The most important thing you can do when you feel your line go tight is to never strike up with the rod. If the fish doesn’t have the fly, it will come shooting out of the water at you, or even worse your guide’s head, and you will have lost or spooked the fish. The correct method to hook a bonefish is to perform a short, quick strip-strike with the rod tip kept low and pointed at the fish. If you prefer, you may also use a small rod strike to the side. These two techniques ensure that if the fly doesn’t find its way home it will simply skitter along the bottom a few feet hopefully giving you a second chance for a take.
After you set the hook on a bonefish make sure you hang on! In the flash of an instant, your line will be smoking off your reel and you will have to snap out of your dumbfounded trance to quickly clear your line. You must keep your rod tip held high while you form a circle with your left forefinger and thumb to smoothly clear the line that is blistering off the deck. The sight of an angler doing the bonefish dance on the deck of a flats boat as he tries to clear the line that has accumulated at his feet is often a comical routine that could win large sums of money on the candid video shows.
The instance all your line has been cleared and your bone is in Mexico, you can let out a sigh of relief and begin to fight the fish from your reel. Keep your rod tip high to avoid obstacles, such as mangrove roots, and leave your drag set at no more than a pound. When a bonefish decides he wants to run, you must do nothing to stop him. Bonefish are known for multiple runs so take your time and enjoy the experience.
By the time you get the bonefish to the boat they are near complete exhaustion. It is absolutely imperative to the survival of our sport that you revive and release the fish as quickly as possible. Quickly remove your fly and hold the fish by his lower lip as you gently rock him back and forth in the water. This technique helps the fish recover by pushing oxygenated water across his gills. When your bonefish has recuperated and is ready to leave, he’ll let you know!
Now is the time for celebration! Catching a bonefish on fly is one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences in the sport of angling. Revel in your glory! You are now a hopeless addict.
Casting to Bonefish