: Improving the game
02-09-2008, 05:48 AM
I'm wondering what I can do on the flats to improve my bonefishing game. I was thinking yesterday if I'm falling into a rut in terms of presentation, accuracy, distance and such.
There's the obviouos, such as occasional target practice or a cross-wind shot, but would anyone have a more organized approach to improving flats fishing technical skills?
02-09-2008, 01:53 PM
I've read many of your posts regarding bonefishing. Seems to me as if you have the "Game" well in hand. I got to thinking what I do that others that I've watched didn't do. I'm going to describe a pretty specific scenario but one that seems to come up more often these days...for me at least.
Okay, here's the set-up...
It's very windy and the sky is clear with only the occasional high cloud temporarily obscurring the sun. You're following the falling tide on a large expansive flat with the sun and stiff wind at your back. Bones have been working their way towards you from down-current. Time and time again...a single or double appears out of nowhere barely a few rods-lengths away. Little if any time exists to make a decent presentation before the fish is reading the brand label on your wading shoes. We've all been in this situation more than once and we kick ourselves for not being more prepared.
Here's what I do!...
With no more than 20 - 30ft. of casting line out (minus tippet), I slowly walk the flat "down-current" and throw very high "Roll Casts" ahead of myself only taking up line and re-casting as I approach my flies position. I do this for a few main reasons. #1...it keeps my line and tippet neat and organized for the big moment... #2...excess casting line doesn't have a chance to drift up behind me and wrap around my legs because of wind and current... and, #3...in the event of a fish suddenly showing up, I'm in perfect position to either start stripping and/or quickly do a single roll cast 45 degrees left or right of the oncomming fish and if the fish is close, I'll even drop down to my knees to keep out of sight!.
All the hype about bonefishing and the need to execute long casts has gotten us all into the frame of mind that every cast "must" have a "back-cast"...NOT!!! I can't even count the number of bones I've taken where my tippet knot was already inside my rod-tip.
To me!, a quick and precise roll-cast is my most effective tool when wading the flats! Roll-casts are a great way to turn "missed opportunities" into "pose for the picture" type situations.
I can't wait to read all the other informative insights everyone else has to offer regarding your querie!...
...the "Game" never ends and that's what I love about Bonefishing!!!
Over a dozen or so years of bonefishing my best results have come from learning to think like the fish, or at least testing and proving things that click. Obviously I have no idea what they're thinking but when they react to what I think they think, it gives me something to put into the arsenal worth keeping. I suppose it's not unlike human courtship, you never know what they're thinking but some things click ;)
Pods of patiently waiting fish are coming hard with the tide. There are places where they are excited about reaching the edge of the flat from bigger water, places where they are exposed and running like hell for the destination, places they feel momentarily comfortable and places they are tail in the air eating or cruising like wolves down lanes between thick mangroves.
Each of these solicits a different reaction for best results from the angler. Throwing a slow sinking and soft landing fly at a running pack beating fin over marl humps is going to yield little result. Throwing a fast sinking down and dirty fly into an flat-calm eddy packed with tailers is going to explode the pack.
Over time I've come to find that the best presentation is the one that "fits" each phase of the fish's own actions.
The very hardest for me has been the giant bones in coral heads or deep water with other species like small cuda among them. To be honest I have not put as much time into these more difficult situations because it's tricky enough just working large groups of normal sized bones and more readily gratifying. However I swear I am going to put that aside and just spend entire days on the double-digit habitats that I know of despite the higher difficulty factor.
Stepping back, one has to be at the right place at the right tide and when fishing an area for the first time there is a lot of research involved even more so DIY. It's better to be lucky than good they say, and we've been very lucky with our satellite recons and exploratory efforts.
So Josko, I am curious... what is the situation you are trying to perfect down there in bonefish heaven?
02-09-2008, 04:15 PM
I don't think there is a specific situation - I've spent a lot of time with Andros eastside fish, and it's a rare day I can't average at least one an hour. But still, there is always room to grow, whether it's casting, retrieving/spotting takes, reading flats or whatnot.
I was iout yesterday and got to wondering what I could do to improve my skills - combine practice with actual fishing. Since I spend so much time fishing alone, I got to wondetring if I'm falling behind the skills curve. Just focusing on the next fish is probably not the best strategy towards improving technical bonefishing skills, and I wonder how to combine the two - fishing and getting better at the game.
These Andros bones are getting educated indeed. A lot of things have to be done right to take some of them, especially big ones. Today, I was noticing they have an innate skill for maintaining a 100' radius between me and them. A bunch of times, they pounced on the fly only to spook from it - took me the best part of the morning to dial in the pattern and get in the game. The 40' flick cast is pretty much a thing on the past on flats between Cargill and Stafford creeks - these fish see way too many anglers to fakll form these decade-old methods. I also hear guides grumbling about how much harder the fish have gotten. One can still get out to remote areas and find dumb fish like a decade ago, but Andros bonefishing is evolving. Fnding dumb fish is a bit like finding virgin powder at Killington. It's great sport for those that are on top of their game, but I'm seeing more and more visitors go away frustrated. Gotta grow to stay with it.
not sure how much time you spend on the grass casting, but practice time is def different than on the water time (although if i was in andros as much as, why would i ever cast in the yard:cool: ) even the very best caster can work on things like tracking, timing, etc to improve their cast and distance. another thing is to experiment with a fly size and weight while practicing. its very different throwing a weighted fly than a rod with just a leader.
i'm not sure what rod weight you usually use, but you could consider mixing it up. many use an 8 wt for bonefishing. switch up and use and 9 in the wind and deeper water and 7 when it's dead calm. this will give you a few more options
finally, try some new fly patterns. if the andros fish are getting better educated, try throwing some florida flys.
maybe you already do these things, but its just a thought.
post some pics of those bones!!!!!!
02-11-2008, 05:02 AM
On my last few trips I also thought that bonefishing is getting tougher.
Even in Los Roques the fish have become "educated". I think that more and more people are taking part in this wonderfull sport and the fish have probably been caught before of have certainly seen a number of flies and wading boots. On some of the flats on my last trip I had to try to make 90ft casts to fish in very shallow water which is not easy to do without either spooking the fish or the fish not seeing the fly.
Once an angler has reached a certain level of competence in bonefsihing and I think most people must agree that it is very different to trout fishing the important things are to think about where the fly is and how it is moving but most important is a positive metal attitude.
You must never doubt that you can and will catch the fish you are stalking. Without the positive attitude you may as well not bother.
However I am sure that you have heard all this before. The great thing is that even someone with your experience is still looking for ways to improve.:) :) :)
Good luck in your quest and please let us know what you come up with.
02-11-2008, 10:07 AM
Just returned from an Out Island trip and here are the things I found I need to work on.
The conditions were not the best with high winds and poor vision much of the time because of a turbulance on the water and clouds. I found it difficult to spot the fish before they were right up on me or even past me. It was difficult not to line them. I found I had to make lots of casts to fish within 25' of me and fish to my right side. When fish are that close you don't have to cast, you just lay the fly out there. A 9' rod, 10' leader and a little line out is all you need sometimes with a strong wind at your back. Its also important to flip it out quickly. The fish seem to sense you are there about the same time you see them.
On fish to your right in a strong wind you can't turn and cast normally to them. With the wind hitting your right shoulder you will get a hook in your ass or worse. I found I need to do a lot of work on my backcasts. I can backcast but not very accurately. It is difficult to lead the fish enough in that situation.
I also used a furled leader for the first time and found that it turns over much better than the tapered mono leaders in those conditions. I will not be going back to the mono leaders. A 7' furled leader and 3' tippet worked really well.
02-11-2008, 12:06 PM
as you know I'm a beginner at this game. (thanks for all your generous advice)
What I tried to do was to put as many factors in my favor as possible. (I certainly needed as much advantage as possible) :confused:
for instance: I'd try to approach the flat with the sun and wind behind me. I'd go as far as doing a big loop around where I wanted to fish so I would be in the desired position at the right time. This worked well for dawn or dusk tailers too. I'd try to be in position to best see the tails against the low light glare on the water. This worked well in areas of shallow grass beds.
I'd try to be in a favorable spot ahead of time. For instance: if I knew there was a channel or depression the bones would use to get on the flat.... I'd be there before the flood and be in position to intercept.
Another thing I did was to walk or kayak long distances to reach less pressured and dumb fish. In Eleutherea this made a big difference.
Again, because I am a novice at this game, I tried to gain as much advantage with the factors I could control and the rest kinda fell into place.
Hope this low tech perspective helps.... ;)