Last Cast Bonefish

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Photos by Louis Cahill

Photos by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Bonefishing, for me, is the purest form of the drug.

I’m just returning from the first of this season’s three G&G Bonefish Schools in the Bahamas. This trip was more of a reunion than a school, with better than half of the anglers returning for the second or third time. I’m feeling pretty spoiled having spent a week in my favorite place, doing what I love with great friends. It’s incredibly rewarding to see these guys grow from complete beginners to really accomplished anglers.

We had a great week on South Andros. The island was spared any serious damage from hurricane Mathew and the fishery was invigorated after the storm. November is a great time for bonefishing in the Bahamas. The rains and the cooling weather bring big fish up from deep water and it’s a great time to land a trophy. This year we also had the super moon. The big tides make wade fishing scarcer but they bring out the big fish as well. We had one day of tough weather but the rest of the week was wonderful.

edit-1990My friend, and G&G contributor, Owen Plair joined us on this week. A rockstar redfish guide from Beaufort, SC, this was Owen’s first time fishing the Bahamas. He was like a kid in a candy store and put his keen eyes and casting skills to work right away, landing a nice bonefish on the first cast of the trip. Several mornings, in fact, it seemed like we were on fish as quickly as we could strip our line off the reel.

Owen managed a one-in-a-million hookup on a big barracuda with his bonefish rod, while wading. The fly lodged perfectly in the corner of the cuda’s mouth and, after an aggressive fish on an eight weight, he tailed the fish expertly and, after a few photos, released it. That’s a second chance Bahamian cuda seldom see, as they are favorite table fare in spite of the risk of fish poisoning.

I love the art of targeting a hunting fish with a fly.

Seeing that fish, analyzing his behavior and intercepting with the appropriate presentation is the highest level of fly fishing. There are species which are harder to fool with a fly, and species which fight harder, but no fish I know requires the combination of strategy and tactics it takes to catch bonefish. That aside, I know of no fish that’s more fun. Bonefishing is food for the soul. Everything about it, from the warm tropical air and vivid color of the flats, to the voracity with which they attack the fly and take line, is restorative. A week of bonefishing can heal just about anything.

I personally had some really great fishing this week. I had some very cool and unique shots. I picked up lots of fish from the mangroves, which is one of my favorite ways to fish. I caught bonefish on some very difficult casts. I made presentations to some super tankers who charged my fly and then took a pass. I love all of that stuff, even the fish I didn’t catch.

DSCF3070Several of those hookups hang there, shiny in my mind, like ornaments on the Christmas tree. Like a fish I caught within seconds of rolling up on a flat. My guide, Tory Bevins, not even on the platform yet and about to wet himself. “Big fish, BIG FISH, 11 o’clock, hurry, HURRY!” I ripped the line off my reel, made a long cast and only one strip before the fish was on.

I hooked another fish five feet from the boat. We poled around a corner and he was just laid up under a mangrove. I just dapped him like I was trout fishing in pocket water. He pounced on the fly and in a few seconds backing, was pouring off of my reel. Everyone on the boat was laughing.

My most memorable fish was my last. Not because it was the biggest, or the hardest to catch, but because it was exactly what I needed. It was the very end of the last day. The light was getting low and visibility was getting tough. It had been a while since we’d seen a fish and I was mentally preparing myself for the end. We were nearing the end of the flat and I knew at any minute my guide would say, “Reel ‘em up Lou, we’ll have to catch the rest next time,” but instead, when Ellie spoke he said, “Bonefish coming, 11 o’clock, 40 feet.” I was just able to make out the form of the fish in the waning light, I made the cast and stripped twice. The take was so ferocious I literally almost lost the grip on my rod. As the fish pealed line off my reel, Ellie said, “ I hate to tell you fellas, this one’s for the road.”

I don’t often take photos of my fish, unless I think I can sell them and someone else is holding them, but I snapped a few photos of this fish while he was by the boat. I released him, buttoned up my fly and we started the run back to the lodge.

DSCF3234“I’m just trying to soak it in, one last time,” Owen shouted in my ear, over the whine of the outboard.

He knew how special it was to end a week-long trip with a fish on the last cast. As special as it had been for him landing on on his first cast in the Bahamas.

“I’ll be doing this every year from now on,” he told me. “This is just too special…this place, I mean…”

I remember that feeling. I remember my first trip to the Bahamas, my first day on the flats, my first bonefish. I remember falling in love with this place, these people and these fish. I know every inch of the path that Owen is headed down. I know how it becomes part of you. There is no way I can explain it to him. Nothing I can say to prepare him for how deep this rabbit hole goes.

I turn to him, and all I say is, “I think about this place every day.”

Join me at the G&G Bonefish School. Email for details.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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