Aug 10

Interview with Butch Leone

How about living on a remote atoll in the middle of the South Pacific?  Sounds intriguing, no?  That’s exactly what Butch Leone does on the atoll of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands where he guides anglers to some really big bonefish. Atoll life sounds pretty interesting.

Nice fish Butch

Butch with a nice Aitutaki Bonefish

Aitataki is a long way from anything.  How did you find yourself living there pursuing bonefish?

I first came to Aitutaki 13 years ago and just fell in love with the place.  How I decided to come to the Cook Islands is a bit funny.  I was just a kid and just spun the globe and put my finger down.  It landed on the Cook Islands so I figured that someday I would go there.  It took 30 some years to make the trip but it was certainly worth the wait.  When I was planning my trip here for the first time I saw all the sand flats and thought there must be bonefish in the lagoon.  I tried to do some research on the subject but nothing was written about bonefishing on Aitutaki at that time.  I just came down with a 9wt rod and started throwing flies at everything with fins.  I loved it.  Once I got back to where I lived in Bend, Oregon I booked another trip and was back on Aitutaki 6 months later.

What’s the most difficult part of living somewhere that is so isolated?

People ask me all the time what I miss most while I am down here.  I have to tell them honestly, “nothing.”   My lovely wife and little daughter supply everything I could want in life on the island.  With modern technology and the internet I can stay in close contact with my family and friends in the US.

Do you have a particularly memorable bonefish?

If I had to choose a memorable bonefish I would have to say “my last one.”  They are all just so much fun to have run my backing out that it is hard to choose which would be my most memorable.  I guess if I had to pick one it would be my 37 inch bonefish caught in the main channel in town while I was fishing for trevally.  It was quite a surprise to hook a big bonefish on a fly that was just under the surface of the water while stripping as fast as I could.  All I saw when it hit the fly was a slab of silver and I figured it was just a big trevally.  As soon as it started to come back at me after the first massive run I had an idea it wasn’t a trevally.  The size of the thing had me shaking in wading sandals.  I haven’t landed another one that large but seen them plenty of times.

I would imagine that you don’t have a lot of fly shops there, how do you get gear and flies?  Does the remoteness of your circumstances force you to be more careful with your gear?

If you lose gear here you better have back ups because you can’t just run down to your local fly shop and restock.  I have most of my fly tying materials sent in from The Patient Angler Fly Shop in Bend.  Peter Bowers, the owner has been more than accommodating sending my supplies.  For my leaders I just get big spools of the stuff as I go thru so much of it.  I use the RIO Saltwater F/I lines and order right from RIO.  They also have been great and have taken care of me on numerous occasions.  No I am not cautious with my gear.  I’ll toss to anything.  If you get cautious you don’t take the chances that can land a great fish.  My gear is meant to be used and I use it and put it to the test as often as I can.

Do you have a favorite rod/reel these days?

Right now my rod of choice is a 9wt Pieroway rod from Pieroway Rod Company of Calgary Canada.  It is probably the smoothest casting rod I have ever used.  It offers great finesse on short shots and has plenty of power for the long shots.   I would put it up against any of the top rated rods that are much more expensive.  It has helped me land many bonefish in all kinds of conditions.  I also use a 9wt TFO TiCrX that I like and have landed plenty of great fish on.


A Pieroway rod and Cook Bonefish

When you are out on the water a lot you get the opportunity to see things that other people simply will never see.  You see unique things, funny things, frightening things.  Is there something you’ve seen out on the flats that is memorable like that?

I guess the strangest thing I have ever seen out here on the lagoon has to do with a bonefish that we saw one day.  As we were poling along the edge of one of the little islands in the lagoon looking for bonefish, we saw this fish snapping at the tail of an eel.  We poled up close and saw that it was a bonefish and it was just nipping at the eel’s tail end.  This was up on the surface of the water.  My friend Mark and I just kind of looked at each other not sure what we were seeing.  We kept trying to put a fly between the bonefish and the eel but the fish wanted nothing but the eel.  Finally the eel got under a rock and that was the end of it.  These bonefish here are a different fish not only are they big but they just don’t act like normal bonefish, what ever that is.  I know people here that have picked up bonefish trolling.  These fish have the brain the size of a breadcrumb but they still outsmart me all the time.

Working the boat

Butch poling along the atoll.

Thanks Butch.  Hope you enjoy Aitutaki.  Sounds like a special place.

Mar 10

TFO Clouser 8 wt., a Review

The giving season last year gave me a gift certificate to my local fly shop (thanks hon, just my size).  With that new found wealth I sought to pick up a true and pure bonefishing rod, an 8 weight, that I could cherish and love and make part of the family.  After some discussion with Frank, I opted for the Temple Fork Outfitter Clouser, an 8’9″ 4 pc. 8 wt.   I read some reviews and gear thoughts from a couple of message boards and went ahead and made the purchase.

Being a stay-at-home dad with a wife that travels means I simply didn’t have time to get this rod out on a grassy field or body of water before I went to Grand Bahama in January.  I brought the Clouser, untested, along with two other virgin rods.  This wasn’t an ideal scenario, I’ll admit.  Someone once said you go to battle with the army you have, not the army you may want and I wasn’t totally sure if I’d be making due or if I’d be confidently assured.

The rod in action

From reviews I knew a few things… first, others said the rod cast very well, was fairly fast on the spectrum and that no one who  had cast it missed the three inches that kept the rod from being a true 9 footer.  I know one of the reviewers and if he said it cast well, I believed him.

I had paired the rod with a TFO Large Arbor 375 reel and a Bruce Chard 8 wt. line.  My first casts with the rod felt great and my first fish on the rod, about a 3-4 pound bonefish, satisfied me that the rod had the backbone I needed.  In the end, I fished that rod pretty much the whole time and every fish landed was on that rod.  I even cast in the face of a pretty stiff wind and the rod did the trick.  I left the Bahamas impressed and it clearly had established itself as my go to stick for the salt.

On a recent trip to Mexico (Vallarta, primarily a family trip) I brought the Clouser 8 and another TFO 7 wt (Axiom).  I had the Clouser set up with the TFO LA 375 and a 9 wt. clear intermediate sink, although who the manufacturer of the line is I have no idea.

After casting the 7 a bit, I switched to the 8 just to get a little more distance and again, I was impressed with the rod’s ability to throw line.  I think this rod would do very well with shooting heads or sinking lines.  My biggest fish of the trip, about a 4 pound Jack Crevalle, felt great on the rod (and the reel). Again, I’m a happy camper.

At $250, this rod is a great value.  I know others swear by some of the more expensive sticks, but I need every dollar to stretch as far as it can.  With some of the more elite rods on the market for $700-$800… if you can find a good, quality rod  for a quarter of that price it seems kind of crazy to me to opt for the more  expensive option.

The Clouser 8 wt. is now a true part of the family and will remain my go-to saltwater stick for the foreseeable future, barring fire or theft.

The guys at Three Amigos like the Clouser rods too.

Jan 10

Want a Hell's Bay Skiff for $100?

Hell’s Bay makes some good looking boats.  I’m sure they are impressive.  What if you could get a Waterman (a $33,000 boat) for $100?  That would be kind of kick ass, no?

Well… you can… if you are the lucky winner of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s Sweepstakes.  Basically, if you are a first-time member and join at the $100 level, you get put in the drawing.  If you are a renewing member and come in at $250 or higher, you are in the drawing.

In addition to the big prize, there are a monthly drawings for gear from companies like Sage, Orvis, Tibor, Redington, Penn and Temple Fork Outfitters.

So… join, now.  That’s some mighty good shwag and if you are reading this, BTT is probably an organization that should be getting your support.

Dec 09

Rods for the Bahamas from Deneki

Once again, Deneki Outdoors is dealing the goods.  This time, they dish advice about rod selection.  While I was surprised at the suggestion of a 5 weight, the others sound like the advice offered by the luminaries.  Check out their  suggestions here.

My upcoming Bahamas trip just increased in rod count by +1.  I’ll have an 8.  I’ll have an 8/9.  Now, I’ll have a 7.  I just put the order in for a TFO Axiom 7 weight.  I have a good reel already, I have the line… all I needed was the rod (my 4 pc. 7 wt. was stolen in Mexico and my other 7 wt. is a 2 pc.).  So… now I’ll have the Axiom too.

Hey you, Axiom... want to come to the Bahamas with me?

PS… no, Deneki Outdoors didn’t really suggest a 5 wt., but check out their post to see what they did recommend and why.

Aug 09

Three Bonefish Rods Under $200

It seems the most folks look toward 8 weights when going after bones.  Sage seems to be the rod folks talk about most often.  The Z-Axis looks great… and costs $690 or so.  If you are on the water every day, or if you have the scratch, it might make good sense.  I think there is a threshold of fishing days/year where it makes sense.  For me… for 95% of folks going after bonefish, I’m guessing we aren’t there, although “there” sounds like a lovely place where my wife would never be able to find a job that would pay enough to support my lavish and bonefish-centric lifestyle.  So… since I don’t live “there,” how about some rods that will ease the pressure on your wallet while still allowing you to put the right amount of pressure on the fish.

Echo – Ion – $190

The Echo Ion

Echo Rods… these rods are pretty durable and just might come with a tiny bit of the Rajeff fishing mojo.  I got to talk to Tim Rajeff at a fishing show and got to  play with one of these rods.  Medium-Fast action and a great price.  This is probably the best rod under $200.

TFO – Lefty Kreh Professional – $150

TFO Professional

TFO really started the low-price party a few years back.  I own two of these rods and a third TFO.  I’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of these rods.  I’d call them on the fast end of Med-Fast.  I can tell  you that their repair service is quick… broken my 4 wt. lots of times.

Albright – GP – $114 (the updated GPX)

Albright GP’s

This is a split weight rod… 8/9 is the one that just was dropped off at the house.  While the price tag really can’t be beat, the delivery guy did run over some of my daughter’s sidewalk chalk, so I’ll say this cost a total of $84.  This is not the world’s best, best piece of hardware… but it will do the job.  It’s on the slower end of Med-Fast, but if you haul, you can get the fly there.  Remember, guys used to do this with Bamboo and Fiberglass… this rod is certainly better than those options and it is the rod I’m going to take with me to the Bahamas when (oh God, please let it be) I go in Spring 2010.