I first encountered Vince Tobia on the Fly Fishing Forum/Fly Talk message board. He owns Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters. He has a wide range of offerings, from steelhead to bonefish. His bonefish offerings have stood out to be due to their shear affordability. He is trying to bring “Cheap” and “Bonefish” together and I like that. Vince agreed to answer some questions about bonefish, his trips and his experiences chasing the Gray Ghost.
Vince, I’ve drooled over some of the packaged offered through Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters for a couple years now… you offer a lot of what I’d call “DIY Plus” trips, basically setting out the logistics from folks do go to some great places for self-guided fishing. It is a pretty unique offering. How did you come up with all those packages?
Ever since I went on my first DIY trip over 10 years ago and began exploring Eleuthera and Acklins islands, I thought that I could put together packages to assist anglers wishing to fish those islands on their own. When I started going to these islands, I did the homework beforehand. However, there is no substitute for time on the water, exploring and fishing. The first time you go to an island to fish on your own, without a guide, there is a steep learning curve. You have to find the best flats and fish them at the right times. An angler’s experience level is also a big factor. My goal is to assist the DIY anglers and speed up the learning curve on these islands. When you only have one week to fish without a guide it helps to maximize your odds by fishing the right places at the right times.
I just love exploring remote flats and beaches on my own. The more remote the better. It’s an adrenaline rush for me to be in a remote area, searching for fish. And of course when you find those fish, it’s the icing on the cake. I feel like a kid again rafting down the creeks near my house, having the anticipation that around the next bend there will be a huge bass or pike, waiting to attack!
Of all the places you’ve been, has there ever been a place where the quality of the fishing actually surprised you, in a good way or a bad way?
The fishing in the Seychelles, on Farquhar Atoll, was awesome. Of course I kind of expected that.
Each trip is different. While on Eleuthera this past April, the best day bonefishing we had (where we saw lots of fish and had many good shots) was on the cloudiest day of the week. It even rained on us for a while. Still, we were fishing in the right spot, where you didn’t need to see the fish from 40+ feet before they spooked. I’ve also had some tough days on both Eleuthera and Acklins, when the weather & tides were perfect for bonefish, and I was excited and thought we’d have a great day.
What’s the worst gear malfunction you’ve ever had out on the flats?
I’ve been pretty lucky with gear. No major reel malfunctions. A broken rod on occasion. But we always carry extra ones so it never is a big issue. Preparation is the key.
Do you have a bonefish that stands out in your memory?
While fishing Acklins island @ Grey’s Point Lodge and hosting two weeks there several years ago (a fully guided trip), I was waiting for the next group to arrive at the lodge on Saturday am. The weather was windy and very cloudy–it was very dark. The conditions were poor for flats fishing. I went out anyway and walked the edge of the flat. I hadn’t seen much all am. On my way back I happened to glace behind me ( I often do this as fish sometimes approach from behind, or I may have missed seeing something at first look) and two nice fish were feeding, moving slowly along the shore in about 2 1/2 to 3′ of water. I turned and made a 20′ cast and the bone immediately rushed the fly and was on. It took a couple very nice runs and I landed it within 5 minutes. It was 28 1/2″. It pays to get out and fish, no matter what the conditions–especially when you are there anyway! I’ve caught some nice fish in less than ideal conditions.
There are many other memorable bonefish. Not all of them very big, but I remember some for the particular conditions they were caught under.
What’s your favorite rod/reel these days?
I love the Scott s4s 9′ 8wt. I like my Nautilus, and sage 3400D reels too.
Do you have anything unique on your gear or packing list?
We’ll bring two way radios when DIY fishing, to communicate about what we’re seeing on the flats. That way we can move if we need to, and not waste too much daylight in the wrong area.
I also like to wear a pair of thin surfing neoprene socks that Velcro tight around the shin. I’ll wear a gravel guard over the tops to further prevent sand from getting in. One way to ruin your trip is to get bad blisters on your feet.
The more time you spend on the water the more you see things that others will never see. What’s the weirdest, funniest or most frightening thing you’ve seen out there on the flats?
One time while motoring back to a lodge on South Andros in about 8-10′ of water, the guide suddenly slowed the boat down and started to turn. When I asked him what was wrong, he said “shark.” I’m thinking, so what? We’ve seen dozens of sharks already today, no big deal. The he says “big shark” and we motor up to a hammerhead shark that was as long as the boat! Really big. Biggest I’ve ever seen. It was very cool to see it up close.
Another time on Eleuthera, we’re catching some bones along the beach, in thigh deep water. One of my friends is about to land his bone, holding his rod high in his right hand, and bending down to grab the fish with his left, when all of a sudden there is a huge explosion of water. He looks over at us thinking we are messing with him. Then he sees the huge barracuda that has his bone, and it starts peeling line from his reel. He was a second or two away from a very bad incident. That ‘cuda would have bit his hand–it was that close. I always caution people to be aware of their surroundings and land fish in shallower water. And I always carry a first aid kit in the vehicle, just in case.
A funny story was when we were motoring thru some narrow channels in Mexico, near boca paila. We’re moving at a pretty good clip and we startled a huge school of mullet. I am sitting next to a friend and I see one of the mullet come straight out of the water from the side, and smack him in the side of the head! The whole incident happened like it was in slow motion. He fortunately was not hurt, and it was pretty funny to see.
I know casting is pretty important when it comes to bonefishing. I have my double haul down, but I think of my dad, who has a bit more trouble with casting in the wind for distance or accuracy. Where is the best place for someone like that to go if they want to get into some bonefish?
First of all that person should probably have a guide helping him. Also, it would be good practice for him to fish to schools of fish in slightly deeper water. Not classic bonefishing or the kind I prefer to do, but for beginners it can be very fun, and they can perfect the cast, strip and hook set.
For more traditional flats fishing, someone like your Dad needs a lot of shots at bones, so the Bahamas, Mexico or Belize would be good. Or the Seychelles! Beginners need to keep their interest up with lots of opportunities, and with each shot at bonefish they’ll learn something new. The more shots the better.
Thanks Vince and good fishing.
- If you liked the story above, check out these stories below
- Bonefish on a Shoestring a la Charles (1.000)
- Anatomy of Cheap Bonefishing (1.000)
- How to get your first bonefish (1.000)
Tags: bonefishing, Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters, Cheap, flyfishing, Vince Tobia
Oh, I KNOW guides change the catching experience by miles and leaps and bounds… of that I have no doubt. Still… there is something special about finding your own fish and making it happen on your own that I find very rewarding. On most trout streams I can pretty much find my own fish. There were a couple of guides that catapulted my ability to do that, like Fred Gordon (who also is a fantastic artist) and friends Andrew and Shane.
Bonefish are another matter for me… I need the help, frankly, but that makes the DIY fish all the more special.
I’ve done the complete DIY thing, picked guides out the phone book, and the all-inclusive bit, and can honestly say nothing (NOTHING) beats the latter. What you might save by cutting corners on one trip must be multiplied several times over to equal even a modicum of the experience you’ll have with real pros.
I can further the point by saying I’ve spent an enormous amount of time fishing the mountain west, and the expense cutting my teeth could have been greatly reduced by sucking it up and hiring guides.
I will never make that mistake again.
PS: Vince must be a brilliant fellow – the Scott S4S 9′ 8wt is an absolute wonder.