Sunday Classic / Fish With Benefits

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Who’s My Buddy? Photo by Louis Cahill

I was asked the other day what was my favorite species of fish.

That’s a really tough question for me. Sort of a Sophie’s choice question. After thinking about it for a long time I answered trout, for a host of reasons, but I quickly added, “and bone fish”! For some odd reason I then felt like I had to defend that answer. I had said trout and I had just finished talking at length about a tarpon trip I had just been on and here I was blurting out bonefish. Why? I went on to explain using a rationale I have used for years. “The bonefish is just right. It’s hard enough to catch, usually because of the conditions, that you feel like you’ve done something worthwhile but it’s not impossible like a permit. When you hook them it’s a great fight, but not an ass beating like a tarpon. They’re the just right fish”.

That’s all true and I believe it but inside I knew there was more. It ate at me, why do I love bonefish so much? I think I’ve come up with the answer. I love the fish but what I really love is bonefishing. When I think of bonefish I think of the Bahamas and when I think about fishing the Bahamas it’s a whole different feeling.

When I’m headed to the Keys for tarpon, for example, I’m excited, hell, more than excited. I know that I’m taking on a huge challenge and that something truly awesome may happen, and then again it may not. I may catch the fish of a life time or I may get schooled. The challenge is exhilarating. I love challenging fishing. I love challenging myself as a fisherman, but it’s a different me that goes to the Bahamas for bonefish.

In the Bahamas there is no pressure. I’m not concerned about being a hero or a zero, I’m just there to have a great time and I always do. Sometimes the fishing is better than others but it’s never bad. In fact it ranges from really good to unbelievable. I know that I’m going to catch fish, relax on a flats boat with guides that I’ve come to know and like and spend my evenings drinking rum or gully wash and listening to fishing stories. My islands never disappoint.

So when the beautiful little trout turn their noses up at my flies or the steelhead stand me up or the tarpon burn my fingers and blow me a kiss goodbye, I know I can always go running back to the bonefish and they will have me. Even if my eye wanders and I philander about with all kinds of fish, my bonefish will always be special to me because like a good friend, they are always there. Bonefish are my fish with benefits.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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3 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Fish With Benefits

  1. Louis, unlike any other species, except for trout, they really enjoy inhaling flies. I’m from Lefty country and talked to him many times about his favorite specie to catch, and I believe he really liked smallmouth bass. They also like to eat flies as do other bass species. My favorite has always been the tarpon, for some of the reasons, you spoke of. For me it’s about the hook up and fight, but like you said, you will probably get schooled more times then catch. Tarpon & bonefish can be caught here in Florida, but tarpon have also been caught as far north as the Virginia eastern shore. Believe me I’ve caught them there. Anyway it’s a great subject. I’m just hoping the tarpon cooperate next week in Ambergris, tight lines.

  2. Well said, Louis. Bonefish might be my choice as well, but a close second for me is fishing for snook on Florida canal and bay dock lights. The snook is a magnificent fish. The conditions are terrific (cool and quiet and alone at night in the tropics — amongst waterfront homes). You see the attack on your fly as you make it entice and then flee the predator in the light or the penumbra. Ambush and chase and hookup. And you made it happen. The snook is a great fighter and leaper. Some dock lights also hold redfish, seatrout, and jack crevalle, but the snook is king, unless you are fortunate enough to run across the rare but magnificent baby tarpon.

  3. I’m going to indulge myself with two favourite species. One freshwater, the other salt. I think that’s fair :-).

    The sea trout of Europe is my favourite freshwater species. There’s something about the magic and mystery of a fresh run Sea Trout at night on fly. Unlike a salmon, they are more difficult to tail by hand. The wrist of their caudal tail is proportionally bigger than that of an Atlantic Salmon.

    Saltwater, the bonefish. If permit and tarpon are proving elusive the bonefish can often save the day.Those initial searing runs and trying to keep your knuckles out of the way add to its credibility.

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