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How to Pack for Your Day of Bonefishing

Posted on October 08 2009

It actually matters a lot what’s in here.

Today’s post relates to packing and bonefishing, but it’s not about loading your big bag before you leave your house – you already know how to do that.

Today we’re talking about your typical day on a bonefishing trip – it’s the first morning of your week at Andros South, and you’re trying to decide what goes in your pocket, what goes in your hip pack, what goes in your boat bag, and what stays at the lodge.

In all packing-related conversations, opinions range from ‘less is more’ to ‘bring anything you might need’. We like to strike a happy balance – well-prepared, but not too weighed-down.

At a fishery like ours on South Andros, you’re probably going to do a combination of wading away from the boat and fishing from the boat. If you’re in the boat, we still think you should keep the ‘On Your Person’ items on your person. If you’re wading, the ‘Hip Pack’ items will be in your hip pack; if you’re fishing from the boat they’re probably still in your hip pack but that pack will be in your boat…that’s OK.

Here’s what we think you should bring along, and where we think you should bring it.

On Your Person
No matter how or where you’re bonefishing, you should always have these items on your person. If you’re a hip pack type of angler, they could be in your hip pack, but make sure they’re easily accessible, regardless.
  • Pliers or hemostats, including nippers or scissors. You need to be able to cut leader material (no, not with your teeth), and you need to be able to remove flies that are deeply and/or strangely hooked.
  • Tippet. Obvious, right? You might lengthen your tippet on a calm day, and you might lose some tippet when a giant bonefish breaks you off and you need to re-tie.
  • Flies. They might be in a really nice box and they might be in a crappy little Ziplock, but you need at least a handful of flies to be prepared for light and dark bottoms (light and dark flies), shallow and deep flats (light and heavy flies), and for those cases when you get broken off and need to re-tie.
  • Camera. That bonefish of a lifetime could swim up onto any given flat in the world. You never know and you’ll probably want to take a picture of it. Keep a camera on you, whether you prefer full-blown SLRs, or you want to go with one of the super-cool modern waterproof, shockproof point-and-shoots that takes awesome pictures.
This is a hip pack.

In Your Hip Pack
If you’re out on a long walk on an enormous flat, you’re going to want to bring along a little more than the absolute bare essentials that are on your person already. We think hip packs are the way to go, and yes, we like the Simms Dry Creek Flats Pack.
Throw in your…
  • Water. Be smart.
  • Expanded fly selection. Maybe some unweighted flies, maybe some permit flies, maybe that double-secret fly tied by your Uncle Merlin.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm. You might be out there for a while, and you need to reapply this stuff.
  • Spare leaders or material for tying more leaders. Sometimes a big fish swims around a mangrove and you lose the whole shootin’ match – you need to be prepared to re-rig.
  • Buff, if you’re not wearing it already. It’s a good idea to stay out of the sun, and Buffs help.
  • Lens Cloth. It’s teensy and light, and you’ll see a lot better, which matters when you’re chasing bonefish.
In Your Boat Bag
Your flats skiff is your home base for the day, whether or not you’re fishing out of it. This is where everything else important lives.
  • Raincoat. In tropical environments, heavy squalls can blow through unexpectedly and you don’t want to get soaked. Boat spray happens too. On the flats we like simple, lightweight raincoats like the Simms Paclite Jacket.
  • Wire Leader and Barracuda Flies. If you don’t have a rod already rigged to target ‘cudas, you should at least have some wire leader and flies ready, so you’re ready.
  • More Water. A couple of liters a day is a good idea.
  • Lunch. And make sure you made that sandwich correctly, OK?
  • Flats Boots and Socks. Even if you think you’re going to be fishing from the boat most of the day, bring your boots along. You never know when you’re going to need to hop out to pursue that tailing fish on foot.
  • Bug Spray. It’s really not too often that bugs are a problem on the flats, but when they’re getting annoying you’re going to be glad you can slap on some DEET.
  • Cash for Beer. You’re probably going to want to hang out and play some dominoes at the end of the day, so a few bucks for beer wouldn’t hurt.
If you want to be really prepared, you could also throw into your boat bag…
  • Sunglasses with different tints. Yes, it’s getting a little technical, but darker lenses are better when the sun is raging, and yellow or rose lenses are better when it’s cloudy.
  • Extra fly line. Sometimes things go really wrong, and your fly line falls victim to a coral head or a nasty mangrove or a giant bonefish. It’s pretty easy to pack an extra line along, just in case.
  • Multitool. It never hurts to have a Leathermanalong to help out with opening bottles, repairing reels, or dealing with any number of unforeseen chores during your day on the water.

OK, got all that? You’re ready to go bonefishing!

We hope to see you at Andros South. Tight lines.

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