I remember my first trips very well. They weren’t that long ago, really, so it isn’t like my first steelhead trips, but still, they stand out very clearly. One of the feelings I recall is the feeling of dread when I finally had a fish in sight. I felt very unsure about what action I should give to the fly. To complicate things I had a friend tell me about some fish he had seen in Los Roques where he needed to not move the fly at all. With that in the back of my head I would wonder if I should leave the fly alone or if I should strip it in and if so, how fast and how long the strips should be? That sort of argument going on in your head as you try to fool a bonefish is very nearly a game ender for the whole enterprise.
Down in Belize in 2010 I got to fish with my friend Shane. Shane has seen a lot of water and cast at a lot of fish. He has over 365 days of bonefishing, which I find pretty damn impressive since he is pretty much fully employed as a trout fly fishing guide, guide service manager or lodge host (AK, not the salt). Nor is he a Floridian or independently wealthy (or dependently wealthy… which you never really hear about, those poor guys). Watching him fish and talking to him a bit about what he was a great shortcut to better fishing. Here is some of his advice, combined with some thoughts from Captain Perry (anyone know where he’s guiding out of in Grand Bahama these days?).
1. When you cast you should give one long slow strip to start things off. That makes sure you clear your slack and gives some movement to your fly. Movement catches the eye of a bonefish and that first strip could get you your fish. If the fish doesn’t see your fly, it will
almost never eat it.
2. You need to strip at a speed which will keep your fly off the bottom. If you are fishing above turtle grass, you need to keep it off the grass. Otherwise, you just need to be above the sand. That isn’t too fast and it isn’t too slow.
Beyond that, there are times you leave it, times you give a jerky retrieve, times you do other stuff I haven’t had to do yet. I am not yet proficient enough to know when to give a bonefish a fly that I’m not stripping. I’m going to need to do more of this to figure that out, but it is good to have a game plan going when I have a fish to cast at.
If you have a Plan A, you can divert. If you have no Plan A, you are basically screwed. Not making a decision is, in fact, making a decision. It is making a decision to have crappy fishing.