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Tailing Bonefish – Take Your Time

Posted on March 21 2014

Underwater Bonefish Shot from Andros South
Take your time! Photo: Kyle Shea

There is nothing more exciting when bonefishing than seeing that first flash of a tail as it breaks the surface. Many of us have learned that tailing fish are often the most aggressive and because of this fact, we see a lot of anglers rush the shot, including yours truly!

We learn quickly that when fishing to cruising bonefish, it is important to get the fly in front of the fish as quickly as possible. There is often a short window of time to make your shot, and you must do so fast. However, tailing fish means happy fish and you are best off taking your time to make the best shot possible. The next time you spot a tailer, slow down, ease that bonefish fever, and take a second to evaluate your best shot. Here’s a few things to consider before letting him have it.

  1. Are there other fish around? It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you spot a tailing fish. However, look closely to make sure he is alone. On many occasions we have seen a perfect cast at a tailing fish hit the water only to have the fly line spook the other six fish that weren’t spotted before hand, causing the tailing fish to spook as well. Take a moment to check what you are casting over. You might even spot a larger fish than your original target.
  2. Which way is he headed? If a fish is actively feeding with his tail out of the water, your best option is to land the fly as close as possible. The fish is entirely consumed by the food in the area and will most likely change directions constantly as it feeds. Therefore landing a fly as close as possible will increase your odds of a hookup. With that said, if you spot a fish with its tail or even back out of the water moving in one direction or the other, the odds are he is still searching for food and it is best to take the time to see which direction he is moving. Bonefish don’t like things chasing them, and a fly stripped from behind them will often cause them to spook, even a tailer. Take your time and lead the fish from the appropriate direction.
  3. What’s the wind doing? Take a moment to consider how the wind will effect your cast. It’s easy to get turned around as the guide changes the direction of the boat. Get an idea of which way the wind might push your fly to avoid casting the fly line or leader over the fish.
  4. What’s your best cast? Can you reach him with a standard cast or are you better off presenting the fly on your back cast? There may even be enough time to turn the boat for a better casting angle. Take the time to communicate with your guide to help make the best shot possible for the situation.
  5. Bonefish Fever. Tailing bonefish are exciting. Exciting enough to make most of us lose our composure at times. Take a deep breath, set your watch to ‘island time,’ and let ‘er fly! Don’t sweat blowing the shot, everybody does from time to time! There will be more, trust us.

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