6 Tips For Catching Spooky Bonefish

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Bruce Chard hooks a spooky bonefish Photo by Louis Cahill

Bruce Chard hooks a spooky bonefish Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Bonefish can get spooky. Crazy, unreal, maddeningly spooky.

I found myself dealing with just this situation the other day. Wading for super spooky bonefish in skinny water. Not the easiest day of fishing to be sure, but I did pretty well. I thought I’d share some of the tactics that I use to bring spooky bonefish to hand. Some are obvious and some, not so much.

Wade quiet, or not at all

Bonefish are very sensitive to sound. Especially the sound of your legs pushing water. On days when the wind is still and the water calm, you can barely move without alerting them. Take special care that your steps do not push water. Go super slow! Be aware of pot holes and soft mud that may throw you off balance and cause sudden movements. Find ambush spots like inlets and points and just hang out for a while. Let the fish come to you.

Use light flies

Bonefish are extra spooky in skinny water. You don’t need a heavy fly when the water is shallow so switch to a lighter fly that will land softer on the water. Use bead chain eyes instead of lead eyes, and for extra quiet presentations wrap some hackle at the eyes to cushion their landing.

Keep a low profile

When bonefish are close, crouch or kneel to minimize your visibility. Wear soft natural colors that blend with the surroundings. This is crucial when fish are following your fly and swimming straight for you.

Lead ’em farther

If fish are blowing up on good presentations, or even before the fly hits the water, it’s time to lengthen your lead. The other day I couldn’t get away with dropping the fly twenty feet in front of the fish. In this case, you can lead moving fish by as much as forty feet. Let the fly sink to the bottom and start your retrieve when the fish are ten feet away. This is a challenging tactic. Bonefish tend to meander and change course. You will occasionally place your fly and the fish not show up, but it does work.

Use structure to conceal your presentation

When the opportunity presents itself, use natural structure to keep the fish from seeing your fly land. If fish are working the edge of the mangroves, wait until they approach a freestanding mangrove and drop your fly on the far side. Start your retrieve when the fish is close enough to see the movement.

The turn around shot

Sometimes, no matter what you do, fish spook. Sometimes, that presents an opportunity. Schools of bonefish play follow the leader. Mature, experienced fish take the lead, and get the first chance at food, while less experienced fish take up the rear, for safety, and fight for scraps. Schools take broad turns and everybody stays in line. Sometimes the lead fish will spook at a presentation, but instead of blowing up they will pull an abrupt about face. The rest of the school will follow suit. Now, for just a matter of seconds the order of the school is reversed, with the hungry, less experienced fish in the lead. Pick your fly up and put it in front of them. It usually gets eaten. These fish are smaller but better than no fish at all.

Hopefully these tips will help you put sone bonefish on the board. Give them a try next time you’re on the flats and the bonefish are really spooky.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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2 thoughts on “6 Tips For Catching Spooky Bonefish

  1. Pingback: Gink & Gasoline – 6 Tips For Catching Spooky Bonefish | A Fly Rod in My Sea Bag

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