Missing tails

The sun is wrong.

The clouds are up.

The glare is in my eyes.

I’m looking for a clue, a sign, a give away. I’m looking for a tail, wagging off in the distance, reflecting light off of blue edged silver, a sign saying “Here I Am.”

There is nervous water and where you see that, fantastic. However, I have likely cast to more schools of mullet or lord-knows-what hoping they were bones, only to find that they were something “else.” Hopeful, I’ve made the cast and crouched down, making the strip, anticipating the pull, only for there to be… well… nothing and seconds later a school of small, nervous fish passing me by, busy not being bonefish.

I know they tail. They tail in photos and in stories and in films and in emails, blog posts, message board posts and casual conversations.  They tail in my mind.

Why aren’t they tailing, like, now? When I need them to tail?

They tail or I am just out here for a walk, just out soaking up the sun and the saltwater.

Scanning the water I make one pass trying to look in the water, which hasn’t worked well, and another looking on the water for that nervous water and waving tails. A lifeguard scans the water looking at each face, trying to see individuals instead of a mass of people. You can’t pick out a swimmer in distress by looking at the mass. You have to see the distress on someone’s face. In the same way I try to scan the water without just seeing the expanse of the flat, but trying to focus on each section, each feature, each moving shadow to confirm or reject the question at hand, trying to discern if there is a bonefish there, or there, or there, or there.

A tail. That’s what I need in the failing light, under the grey sky, over the turtle grass, with the glare, without it. A tail is definitive. It won’t be a jack or a mullet or a cormorant.

Sometimes, most of the time, they just aren’t there. These are not my trained monkeys. They do not perform on command.

It happens seldom enough to make it frustratingly and fantastically unpredictably wonderful when they pop up and announce…

Here I Am.

Photo by Jasper Vos

Come and get me. (photo by Jasper Vos)

Johan Persson Friberg

This is it. (photo by Johan Persson Friberg)


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  1. On my maidentrip I spotted a lot of tailing bonefish. I guess you just have to be lucky. On some spots you could set the clock on it: every late afternoon on the same spot you would see the waving tails, greyish against the setting sun…

  2. i have a spot a 6 am to 7.30 am on a low morning tide with a calm wind all you can see is tail it is so beautiful you spend more time in amazement than fishing i seen it again today 6 times in a row same tide every two weeks so amazing.

  3. I’ve seen some huge schools of tailing fish, but I’ve also been out there on days with none, when I really needed one.

  4. […] Missing Tails.  Bjorn ponders the elusive tailing bonefish. […]

  5. love the bottom image!

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