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How to Catch Bonefish

Posted on January 17 2010

Then you get to do the easy part.
Then you get to do the easy part.

A whole lot has been written here and elsewhere on the topic of catching bonefish with flies.  There are thousands of tips and tactics out there, and most of them even have some merit in one situation or another.  Heck, you can even go to bonefishing school!

That being said, we really think that your odds of catching bonefish go up dramatically if you can do 3 things.

#1 – Find the fish.

Yes, a lot goes into this one – more than we’ll attempt to cover here.  Finding fish consists of both being in the right general area at the right time, and then spotting fish once you’re there.  If you’re fishing with a guide, you could translate this one into ‘Listen to your Guide‘, because your guide is going to track them down for you, and if you listen and trust your guide, you can just check #1 off the list.

#2 – Get the fly in the ballpark, quickly.

The easy part of what we’re saying here is that most of the time in a quality fishery, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to get your fly inside a 6 inch target.  In most situations there’s probably a 10 foot circle that will work just fine.  But the ‘quickly’ part is really important.  The fish are moving and your odds go way down the longer you take.  1 false cast is dramatically better than 2.  0 is even better.

You might be surprised how much line you can throw with 1 or 2 false casts.  You should practice shooting line quickly – pick a target and see if you can get your fly there with one fewer false cast than your previous attempt.  Any saltwater guide will tell you that for all but the most experienced anglers, that last ‘just one more’ false cast probably nets you, on average, somewhere between 0 and – 5 feet on your cast.  Really.  Huck it out there fast.

#3 – Strip set.

Bonefish are strong and they’ve got hard mouths.  Raising your rod to set the hook doesn’t work – you have to strip set, every time.  Simple as that.

Graduation Speech

And there you have it!  If you can consistently find the fish (or listen to your guide when he’s found them), get the fly in the ballpark quickly, and strip set when the fish eats, you will catch an awful lot of bonefish.  If you haven’t spent a lot of time on the flats, don’t worry so much about the hundreds of other pointers out there – do these three and you’ll be just fine.

More On How to Catch Bonefish

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