Keys bonefish questions [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Keys bonefish questions

02-01-2006, 07:12 PM
I've been searching the theads here on the bonefish sections and I am amazed at the amount of information. It's great, I had saved a few links to various thread this morning but lost them.

John the bonefish/permit fly board is really something, nice work.

I'll be hitting the Keys for a few days and have rounded up some prospective wading spots. I'll be taking a 9wt and warm water floating line that once uncoiled I was able to cast with decent accuracy at a range of about 75' after that it gets iffy. This past weekend was a real gift for those of us up North and I took advantage of it with some casting practice and I think I've got it down.

Some questions -

Do I need any special wading boots to protect against coral and things that creep and crawl on the flats down that way or will regluar dive boots sufice?

How about tippet - 10lb?

Any tides better than others ex. 1/2 incoming, top of the drop, etc...?

FL has a saltwater licence - can those be had online?

I saw a term mentioned (tailing fly) asuming this is a fly that works while the fish are tailing and I'm assuming that means they are grubing the bottom. What are some examples of tailing flies?

Adrian, that's good advice about not casting toward barracuda while any part of your body is in the water, I will heed it.:wink:

02-02-2006, 08:46 AM
So I imagine you'll be after bones?

Boots, I'm not sure what dive boots entail, but if they don't have a rubber bottom of some sort you'll need a pair or wading boots or if you don't want to spend the money a cheap pair of sneakers. You don't want to step on something sharp or spiney. Puts a huge damper on the day, plus your going to be in salt water doesn't feel to good on cuts/gashes.

If your out wading by yourself and no guide, I'd consider cudas are more numerious and easier to catch than bones. I've caught numerous ones while wading and they all took off the opposite way onced hooked. Just be really careful when handling and wade to some more shallow water when it comes to handle them. Make sure they aren't playing possum then grab them firmly behind the head. They can be a LOT of fun, fight hard, good runs and HIGH jumps, if your not finding bones some action is better than no action. Get some wire leader, a cht/wht clouser and strip as fast as you can.

I think FL lic. can be bought online, just google the FL DNR. Or stop by one of the gazillion walmarts done there. Or better yet find a fly shop, buy some flies, and get first hand advice on where to go(probably one of the smartest things to do). Considering renting a yak, make a cheap little anchor, you'll be able to get to a lot more flats.

Keep prac. on your casting makes a big difference. Wish I was going w/ ya.

02-02-2006, 08:46 AM
bring some stronger tippet 12+15#. definitely wear something on your feet. wading boots are nice, but anything is better than nothing. you will not be comfortable otherwise. a tailing fly is one that lands quietly. often they are eyeless.

02-02-2006, 09:30 AM
Jim -

Sounds like you are headed for some fun.

Some flats are really lined with coral while others are sandy or mucky. The only problem I think you'll have with the neoprene boots is on coral which will cut into the neoprene pretty bad otherwise you will be all set.

Where it's mucky move your feet so that you wont' pin a stingray down (slide low to the mud) or they could curl up and sting your instep. usually if the water is clear they are easy to see, and if not they can be kind of difficult

Tide movement in general gets 'dem bones worked up, but not always incoming. Outgoing can create current and food draining from basins that also gets them excited.

Incoming urges them to push inshore while outgoing pushes them out but they often turn to eat in the current just like stripers.

So if you are staking out a mangrove stand then go at incoming, if you find a creek outlet they will scurry out as the tide drops and where the first safe haven (deeper pool) is reached they will take a fly.

more later work calls

02-03-2006, 08:46 AM
Thanks a bunch guys.

02-04-2006, 06:37 PM
Hi Jim-

One of the biggest problems you are going to face in the Keys when wading is finding accessibility to the water and good bottom that is reasonably easy to tread on. Many roadside flats are marl (mud) and make wading difficult, if not at times hazardous. If you find yourself sinking into your knees or above, look elsewhere. On harder bottom like limestone, (mistakenly referred to as coral) the only problem you'll run into are urchins. Cheap "reef walkers" with a hard sole are as almost as good as any high priced wading bootie for protection against their spines. As far as cudas go, don't worry. Most of the fish you find at wading depths are small. While curious, they spook readily and don't amount to a threat to the wading angler. If you do happen to hook one and aren't cut off, gripping them behind the head will completely subdue them, although I do recommend using your pliers to remove the fly. :D

Okay, hypothetically you've found your flat. What fly should I use? What's the best tide to fish? Your time is limited and you want to make the best of it. What now? If you're fishing on your own and want to have a chance of catching a bonefish your biggest concern is simply finding them. The truth is you're probably not going to see a fish if the water temp isn't right and the current isn't moving. This time of year finding warm water is critical. If you're visiting during the winter months don't bother with watching the sun come up. Wait until the afternoon when the water is warmest. Itís possible this time of year to find tailers but I would focus your attention on water thatís from knee to thigh deep. Look for the cruisers. Obviously, your flies need some weight but almost as important are weedguards. For cruisers, I like bulkier patterns such as Borskiís Bonefish Slider. For tailers, the Kwan works well. As far as leaders go, 12# is pretty standard. Hope this helps. Good luck.


02-05-2006, 09:18 AM

How's the water temp outlook for the end of March? The month of March is still Winter up here in the NE but I don't know how you call it down that way. Thanks for the tip on the muck, wouldn't have been fun to learn that first hand.

I read in another post somewhere that some tarpon can be had under the bridges at night. I realize trying to land one of the jumbos from shore is wishful thinking so my question is, are there places that smaller fish congregate at night?

I've got no problem fishing at night from shore, navigating the boat at night is another matter even in familar waters.

02-05-2006, 05:23 PM

If you're planning on coming down in late March you should pretty much have nothing to worry about. We do get the occasional late season cold front which may mess things up for a couple of days but on whole, things at that time of year are really starting to fire up. If you are looking to get a tarpon from shore with a fly rod, the canals are your best option. Most of the fish are small although you can always have a pleasant surprise! Give the area a lookover for 10 minutes or so and if you don't see any rollers, move on. Because most canals are out of the wind you can find fish rolling anytime of day, so they are always worth a look no matter what the time.


02-06-2006, 09:10 AM
I've read of people fly fishing under bridges hooking up w/ tarpon. Now this is from what i read not first hand knowledge. Usually the fish throws the hook right away. Also it can get crowded fishing under the bridges as a lot of people w/ non fly tackle fish the bridges as well. But if the fish stays on your not going to be able to land (which you know) then there is the chance of ruining your fly line as they pass around the pillars. Be neat if you could find some smaller poons to tye up with. I wish ya luck and wish I was going.. I love the keys absolutely beautiful.

Have you looked into renting a boat?

02-06-2006, 07:18 PM
Thanks again. Tarpon in the canals sounds like fun, I'll give it a shot.

I run a boat up here in the NE but it's taken me a while to venture out onto some of the more challenging waters where I am at least somewhat familiar with the soundings, current flow, weather, etc... Let's just say I like to take it slow and be sure of what I'm doing. It looks pretty tricky down in the keys, I've got to think there's a big learning curve and have visions of sitting in a rented boat on a flat high and dry. My wife has friends in Islamarada who have a boat so I think we'll be hanging out there for a day or so. I am interested in catching something wading the flats, just to see if I can pull it off. Thanks for the tip on the tarpon wrapping the pillings, hadn't though of that, I hear they get 'em at night under the bridges, that's got to be a blast. So long as nothings going to try to take a significant bite out of me I'll wade fish at night.

02-07-2006, 04:01 PM
I like your research approach. Yes I would not want to be one who is left high and dry. The canal tip was a good one. When my family rented a condo after dinner we would fish right out in front of the condo in the canal. We caught a little of everything. Chrt/wht clouser being the best fly.

Lady fish, many different jacks, snapper, cuda, bite off by shark, and my brother busted a 60ish tarpon on the hook set (he only had 12lb on at the time), I had some huge fish on but never saw it as it snapped my line.
The canals are not exciting but will produce for sure.

If you do not like the rent a boat idea I would think long and hard about buying some maps and renting a yak. I did just that in Clear Water FL. Bought a cheap 5lb wt and some rope made an anchor so that I could get out and explore and not lose the yak. A yak will help you get around from flat to flat. I am NOT a key expert only have been to the keys 2 times each a wk stay; but wading is not going to be easy in the keys. Use google earth to look around the different keys some of the islands turn out better than other will help give you an idea. Look for mouths b/w the keys where the tidal changes will be bring in and out water, as Juro said where there is tide changes Bones will be there feeding. I hope you post a report, truly wish I was going. I miss the keys.. :(

02-07-2006, 04:48 PM
hand held GPS mandatory if you rent a yak anywhere other than Bahia Honda, where you need a yak least of all

take a look at google earth, it will make you want to go the yak route on the back side

If I were you I would take the main right after crossing Bow Channel on the south side of Summerland and follow it past all the houses to 24 40' 30 N / 81 32' 44 W

then take ony path (left off the road) to the water on a rising tide

... for starters

02-07-2006, 09:03 PM
Gotta love the yak - hit some structure and all you have to do is pick up the bow and drag 'er to the next 8" of water.:smokin:
That might be a good way to go. Thanks for the long/lats - the gps is definately on the list, as is a compass.
The low-tech method: If you see Cuban refugees you've probably ventured out too far. :hihi: