How Not To Learn Bonefishing

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Float to the Bahamas on a 55 gallon drum and save the air fare but hire a good guide every day!

My buddy Brad went to the Bahamas for bonefish recently. I loaned him a rod, reel some leaders and a box of my favorite bonefish patterns. It was his first trip to the salt and when he got home the stories brought back memories.

Brad is a great angler. He guides for trout and when it comes to working a tough fish with a tiny dry fly he’s the man but salt water is a totally different game and, like all of us, he ran up against the learning curve pretty quickly. He came home from the trip with a photo of himself holding a nice bone and that’s better than I did on my first salt water trip so I’m not dogging my friend here but I’m going to tell you where he went right and where he went wrong.

Brad took some advice I gave him and that was a good start. First off he went to the Bahamas. There’s a lot to learn for the beginning bonefish angler and much of it is retraining muscle memory. Developing a good strip set for example. The only way you learn to strip set is by feeding fish. “Those crazy ass fish run every which way!” Brad told me. That’s true, and you only learn how to lead moving fish by getting shots at moving fish. Simply put, in the Bahamas you get a lot more shots and you feed a lot more fish.

The first way he went wrong was he went to the wrong island. I told him to go to South Andros but he has a friend with a place in Eleuthera and went there. He saved some money and I get that, but he caught a lot fewer fish. It’s like my friend Joel told me when I booked my first trip to Andros. “The Bahamas is the best bonefishing in the world and Andros is the best bonefishing in the Bahamas.” Well said, and true.

I learned to fish salt in the Florida Keys and that’s a tough way to go. The fish in the keys are a lot more educated. The bonefish in the keys are big but fewer and the turtle grass bottom makes them hard to see. The Bahamas has

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We All Have Our Vises, Mine’s a Regal

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I made my first tying vise.
I know what you’re thinking, but this vise was not a pair of hemostats duct taped to the back of a chair. I grew up in a machine shop and own two metal lathes and a host of other tools you won’t find at the Home Depot. My vise was sweet. Perfect center axis rotation with a lever at the rear, brass jaws, curly maple base, the works so when I decided to buy a vise my expectations were pretty high.
I decided on the Regal Medallion and I love it. The one thing I sacrificed was the rotary lever at the rear of the vise. Regal offers this in their Revolution series but I opted to save the extra cash and I have not been disappointed. The Regal Medallion is an elegant design with a couple of powerful features that make it an outstanding vise.

The key to the Regal design is

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Don’t Get Mad, Get Even

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Five long years had past since I’d last set foot on a flats boat in the Florida Keys.

My previous trip I had left the keys vowing to not return until I was a more capable saltwater fly fisher. A few things were in my favor this time around. The five years that elapsed, had allowed me to drastically increase my fly casting skills. I wasn’t worried anymore about making quick backhand casts to tarpon trying to slip out the backdoor. Targets at eighty feet no longer seemed an impossible distance to reach, and most importantly, I had permanently imprinted in my brain, “Thou shall never set thy hook like a trout fisherman”. There was no doubt I was going to be much more prepared this trip, but even with all the drastic improvements in my saltwater game, I’d still have to cope with being rusty as hell.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
I don’t recall whether it was Louis or I that came up with the saying, “Don’t get mad, get even”. What I do know is I started silently chanting those five words on the bow after both of us blew shots at high happy tarpon that first day of fishing. It had become

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The Redesigned Lamson Guru Fly Reel

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The New Lamson Guru fly reel is a complete redesign.

The new Guru is more than an update in looks. New design features reduce weight and enhance performance. Ported arbors, new drag and new sizes are on the list of updates, as well as new colors.


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Bonefish Fly Lines: Beyond The Cast

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By Louis Cahill

Does having the right fly line mean catching more fish? Absolutely.

Having the right fly line for the species you’re targeting and the conditions you’re fishing is key for a successful day of fishing. You can buy a line from almost any manufacturer bearing the name ‘Bonefish’ but that doesn’t mean it will be the best line for the day you are on the water. It may do a great job of loading your fast action saltwater fly rod, but not catch you a lot of fish.

When shopping for a fly line, we focus almost completely on how the line casts. Of course it’s important to have a good cast but often it’s too late when we stop to think about how the line we chose fishes, and there are some big differences. This, of course, applies to all types of fishing but is especially pertinent to bonefishing, so I’m using that as an example.

It’s very common these days to see anglers over-line their fly rods. Putting a 9-weight line on an 8-weight rod absolutely makes it easier to load, but that ease of casting may come at a price. I fished recently with an angler who had paired his Sage One 8-weight with a 9-weight RIO Outbound Short. He liked it because it felt like his Winston trout rod. The only problem was, he couldn’t catch a fish.

There are three things wrong with this setup. First, the head diameter on that line is huge! It casts a huge shadow and makes a thunderous racket every time it lands on the water. It spooked every fish on the flat. Secondly, the short head meant that he had to strip the line in completely every time he recast. There’s no time for that in bonefishing. You need a line you can pick up and recast quickly. Lastly, by slowing the action of his rod down to that of a trout rod, my friend had lost all of the benefits of having a fast action rod.

I’ve seen this problem go the other way, too. I tarpon fished with a buddy a while back who had chosen a RIO

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8 Common Fly Line Mending Mistakes

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I spend the majority of my time teaching fly casting when guiding my clients, but the art of mending fly line is a close second.  

A perfect cast can quickly become obsolete if you don’t understand the concept of mending fly line. When mending is timed correctly and executed properly it allows fly anglers to maintain a drag-free presentation, keep their fly in the target zone, and prolong the length of their drift. Developing good mending technique my friends, translates into more fish being hooked and landed. If you’re lucky enough to already have the basics of fly casting down, I highly encourage you to next focus your time on understanding and mastering the mechanics of mending fly line.

Throughout this post I’m going to try to touch base on the most popular mending mistakes I see on the river, but before I do so, here’s an intriguing question for everyone. Why is it, that fly anglers seem to always get their left and right mixed up when mending fly line? It happens to me guiding all the time. I’ll instruct my client to mend to the left and they’ll do the opposite, by mending to the right. One of the most common four word phrases out of my mouth is, “no, your other left”. This will probably hit home with more guides than anglers but I had to bring it up, since we all do it. I’ve tried using upstream and downstream for instructing mending direction, but that seems to be even more confusing. That being said, here are the most common mending mistakes I see on the river.

1. Anglers Wait Too Long to Mend
Everyone deserves props when a perfect cast is made, but don’t make the mistake of admiring it, and forget to follow it up with a good mend. Most often, but not always, a fly angler should make their first mend within a second or two of the fly landing on the water. Why you ask? Because it’s the most critical mend of your drift. It sets up your entire drift, and will eliminate the need for extra mending.

2. Anglers rod tip does not travel high enough in the air during the mend
The majority of the time when mending you’re trying to mend as much of your fly line and leader without moving your flies. The longer the cast or more fly line you have on the water, the higher you’ll need to move your rod tip in an oval shape path. “Give me a superman mend”, I say to my clients, when their mending a bunch of fly line. What I’m meaning by this is giving me the biggest mend you can.

3. Anglers mend their line by moving their fly rod in a sideways motion instead of upside down u-shape or n-shape
When your mending, your trying to pick up fly line and leader off the water and reposition it (placing it back down upstream or downstream of your fly). I see a lot of anglers moving their rod sideways in a straight line when mending. All this does is require you to mend again seconds later.

4. Some drifts require multiple mends
Even a perfect first mend isn’t always enough to get you through the entire drift drag-free. Sometimes fly anglers will

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What’s Correct, Left or Right Hand Retreive?

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I cast right handed so I should reel with my left hand right?

Ask a saltwater guide and 95% of them will tell you the correct way is to always reel with your dominant hand. Ask a trout fisherman and most will say you should reel with the hand opposite your casting hand, because that way you don’t have to switch hands in the middle of fighting a fish to reel. I could go on and on arguing for both sides actually, but I think in the end it’s really a matter of personal preference. In my opinion, there’s no right or wrong way to reel as long as you’re able to get the job done on the water. I figured out a long time ago it would be beneficial for me to learn how to reel and fish effectively both ways. That way it would never be an issue when I was borrowing gear from a buddy, fishing the rod my guide has rigged up for me, or hitting the saltwater flats. It’s worked out great for me and I highly recommend others doing so.

That being said, having sat here and pondered this subject for about an hour now, I decided to call a couple of my buddies in the industry to get their personal opinions. My first buddy works at one of the most prestigious fly shops in the country and he told me the left hand right hand debate, has become one of his biggest pet peeves. He says customers come into the shop all the time asking to get a reel spooled up and when he asks them if they want left or right hand retrieve, he often gets the answer, “Let me call my buddy and ask him what setup I should use”. My fly shop buddy argues, “There’s no law or rule that requires us to fish and reel a certain way. Who cares if someone says your ass backwards. You have every right to fish the way you feel most comfortable”. I happen to strongly agree

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A Closer Look / The Large Mouth Bass

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I have called them ugly fish. I have shown a lack of interest in bass largely due to their color palette. Then, just the other day I noticed the fin on this large mouth.

I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong.

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Bonefish Flats Revealed

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When we look at a bonefish flat we tend to perceive it as two- dimensional. It’s right there in the name, flat. The truth is, it’s far from flat. The bonefish’s world is as three-dimensional as ours. It’s a landscape full of hills and valleys, mounds and burrows. The crabs, shrimp and such that bonefish feed on use these features to hide or escape from the hungry predator. Knowing this can give us an advantage.

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My Most Memorable Bonefish

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sn’t it funny, how certain fish we catch during our fly fishing trips can end up providing us with ten times the satisfaction over all the others.

Sometimes, the size of our catch has little at all to do with the amount of reward it brings. I love catching big fish just as much as the next guy, but for me at least, it’s often more about overcoming the challenges along the way that’s what really makes one catch end up standing out amongst all the rest.

For example, my most memorable bonefish to date, only weighed around four pounds. I’ve landed much larger bones over the years, but what made this particular bonefish so special to me, were the extremely difficult fly fishing conditions I had to work through to hook and land it. Before it all unfolded, and I found myself feeling that special fish tugging on the end of my line, I was holding onto the last remaining tidbits of hope I had left inside me for dear life. I thought success was just about impossible. Never give up when you’re out fly fishing. For when you succeed when everything is stacked up against you, it will be invigorating to your very core.

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