My Most Memorable Bonefish

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The release shot of the most memorable bonefish of my life. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Isn’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 provide you the feeling of complete bliss.

I’ll never forget that day of fly fishing in the Bahamas.

It started off beautiful. The water was calm as can be, and there was barely a cloud in the sky. Louis and I were both confident it was going to be our best day of bonefishing for the week. Forty-five minutes later though, that all changed. That’s when it looked like we had a perfect storm developing on the horizon, and it was threatening to swallow us up. Our guide tried his best to out run it with the boat, but no matter what direction he headed, the storm system found a way to encircle us. Then the sun vanished, as the dark mat of clouds choked it out. We went from being able to spot bonefish eighty feet out, to barely being able to see them fifteen feet off the bow.

Louis had first dibs that morning. He gave it his all, as he always does. He managed to pull off some superman casts directly into the wind, and even hooked a couple bones, but he wasn’t able to land either of them. There were quite a few inflamatory words shouted on the bow that day, by all of us, and they were all well justified. That day of fishing was down right some of the most brutal saltwater fly fishing conditions I’ve ever experienced. Louis kept telling me to get on the bow–that it was my turn, but I kept saying, “Give it a few more minutes”. When fishing is tough, Louis always seems to be able to get something going for us. If Louis can find a way to catch a fish when we’re in the dumps, it always provides us the momentum we feed on for the rest of the day. That day, however, for some reason or another, he wasn’t able to get the job done. Worn out, and drained from his valiant efforts, he finally gave in, and told me, “if we were going to catch a bonefish, it was going to be up to me.” His tank was empty and I respected his request to bow out.

I stepped up onto the bow stripping line off my reel, and got into my ready position.

Moments later, a gust of wind hit me broadside, nearly blowing me off the bow. As I struggled to recover my balance and composer, our guide Freddie, shouted, “bonefish 55 feet, 12 o’clock.” Somehow, despite all the water churned up from the waves, a bonefish had managed to swim across the only tiny patch of clear water we had, and for a welcome change we could actually see the target we were aiming for. I made what I thought was a perfect presentation, but the 35 mph wind blew it off the mark by twenty-five feet. I had no chance of catching that bonefish with that cast, and the bonefish vanished. It was by far, the best shot we had been blessed with the entire day and it was heartbreaking. Even our guide Freddie, who’s always giddy, had the wind blown out of his sails on the missed opportunity. He was being such a trooper that day, doing his best to not let the horrible fishing conditions ruin his positive attitude. As we all let our our frustrations out from the previous failed attempt, Freddie told us we had time to fish one more spot before we had no choice, but to head back to the docks (our safety was in jeopardy). Freddie poled hard towards the spot, doing his best to keep us from running the skiff aground and in position. All three of us scanned the water with as much focus as we could, but none of us really had much hope left at this point we were going to see anything. All we really cared about is giving it our all to the very end, that way we could head with our heads high. We were literally down to the last twenty or thirty feet of this tiny island shelf when I spotted a bonefish a couple feet of shore seventy-five feet away. I immediately presented my fly to the bonefish as quickly as I could and began my strip. With the skiff drifting so fast, I had only a couple seconds to get the attention of the bonefish. Thankfully, that bonefish spotted my fly in all that choppy water and aggressively tracked it down and chomped on it. I set the hook and we battled that bonefish to the boat and hand with all of us cheering. We all felt like we had pulled off a miracle, and we drowned that skunk. I’ll never forget the reward that bonefish provided us. Freddie felt like the guide of the year, and I felt like a hero. Somehow we had pulled of a 1 and a 100 shot and I bet I’ll never forget it until the day I die.

If you’d like to join one of our Bonefish Schools this year, there are a couple of spots still open, including a last minute cancelation for South Andros Nov. 12-18 . We’d love to have you. follow these links to get more info on Abaco and South Andros and G&G Hosted Trips, or email me at hookups@ginkandgasoline.com to reserve your spot.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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4 thoughts on “My Most Memorable Bonefish

  1. Man…I’ve been waiting for the right bonefish post to comment on since June….

    Over the years, I read many a post from G & G about getting prepared for the salt water trip. Most of them are all about personal experience and usually hint at an over confident trout guy stepping on a flats boat for the first time with HIGH expectations…only to be deflated by the challenges of the salt.

    Well, let me add to that line of thought. I’ve been slinging a trout rod for 20-25 years and can confidently target a rising brown with bugs as big as a standard Size 4 hex at upwards of 60 + feet without a care in the world. Wood, no issue, distance, usually not a problem…. dropping the fly under overhanging braches a foot or so from the bank is no biggie. I say all of this with confidence because I’ve gotten so accustomed to hearing guides tell me things like ”Good Shot”, “ Great Drift”, & “Nice Fish” from beginning to end of a trip. I’ve also got accustomed to using 4 , 5 and sometime 6 WT rods….

    Back to the Salt… so in June we were on a family vaca on the Yucatan peninsula. It was around Fathers Day, so my wife and kids booked ( and surprised me ) with a full day with Pesca Mesa. They gave me enough heads up to start slinging my Sage One 8wt that I’d gotten from finally joining TU as a Lifer…. Admittedly it had a bit of dust on it, but I mention it by name because it’s a quality rod. There was no blaming it. Having weeks to prepare, I only went out and practiced 1 day.. I got used to the action , saw I could sling it a mile and figured I was ready… In hind sight, COMICAL!!!! What a moron…..

    Let me tell you, all I heard all day was 10 o’ clock, 40 feet…… give my 5 more feet…. 11 o’clock 50 feet . 12 o’clock , now 60 feet and so on throughout the day. Anyone who’s done it will see that I was short lining the fish and pushing them across the flats.. it hurts to type this, but it’s the truth…..

    Yes, I did catch fish, but I was so underprepared it was embarrassing..

    Thankfully I had the entire boat to myself to get the hang of things because if I’d split the day with another angler, it would have been terrible. In my mind, things to prepare for are wind, nervous water, weighted flies and heavier wt rods…. You can practice 3 of the 4 …… but being prepared for nervous water isn’t really that easy. More than 50% of the time, I had no idea what I was casting to as I couldn’t keep up with the guides eyes.. he saw things that just didn’t exist in my sight path. Could be experience, but it made things TOUGH. Unless the water was calm, I was casting blind…

    When it comes to wind, rods and heavy flies, all I can say is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE….. You are probably as good as you think you are.

    Lastly, listen to your guide and try and learn all day long. The SALT is a different animal all together. In the end if you prepare and step on the boat with an open mind, you will come out of it a better Angler. Me, I can’t wait to have another go….

    • John, I appreciate your honesty. Don’t be hard on yourself. That’s almost everyone’s story to tell. My friend Kirk Deeter says “saltwater fly fishing and freshwater fly fishing are two different sports played with the same equipment.” I’ve never heard it put better. Until you step on that bow, you have no idea. Not only of what the challenges are, but of the rewards. I truly think saltwater fly fishing is the very highest level of angling and the most exciting. Wouldn’t you agree? I don’t say that looking down my nose at freshwater anglers but as an evangelist who thinks anyone can fish in the salt. I promise you that if you stick with it you’ll be seeing those fish and catching them before you know it. Every fish is a challenge and that’s what makes it so great.

      That’s why I teach the bonefish schools. It just shortens the learning curve and get people catching fish. I hope some day you will be able to join me. I’d love to spend some time on the boat with you. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I think I probably should have started the above post with…”If you wanna make your first bonefish memorable for the right reasons, don’t do as I did…” or something along those lines….

  3. Hey Louis

    Its definitely the highest level of FF Angling that I’ve tried. .I say that with the disclosure that I’ve yet to stalk the big Browns in NZ or test the wary trout at the Harriman Ranch… still quite a few “unmentioned places to go on my bucket list…

    I’d say the experience was akin to the first time I went night fishing on the Ausable, Nothing was the same.. not the river, not the noises, not casting, because there is really no visual clarity .it was like fishing with your eyes closed from the initial cast to take….

    In both cases, You just kind have to say “Shit, we sure aren’t in Kansas anymore” roll with the punches and learn as much as you can to get ready for the next opportunity…

    when it gets real tough, stop, drink a beer, level set and have another go at it ….

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