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Old 05-02-2012, 05:48 PM
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Bonefish techniques

Since I have always fished solo for bonefish (no guides either) I'm always learning new things but always coming away with questions. Some are probably answered easily.

1. How much do you estimate incoming tide might be delayed on a flat if it is directly in the face of a 10 mph or 20 mph? Conversely, does it start to run a bit early if the wind is helping in go out?

2. On the flats what the heck are the fish eating when they are tailing? Are they randomly siphoning through the sand and mud hoping for small crabs or mollusks?

3.) Whats creates those small cone shaped mounds of sand? Is something living in there that a bonefish will go after?

4.) If the bones are tailing is it a total waste of time to throw anything but a crab pattern (charlie / gotcha) at them? No minnows for example?

5.) As a rule of thumb are the first 2-3 hours of the incoming and 1-2 hours of the outgoing times prime-time? Should other times be spent exploring new grounds?

I wish there was a Little Red Book for Fly Fishing dedicated to bonefishing.

Thanks,

Marty

Last edited by MartyG; 05-03-2012 at 08:25 AM.
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:02 AM
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Hi Marty,

Here's my thoughts on your questions...

1) How much do you estimate in incoming tide might be delayed on a flat if it is directly in the face of a 10 mph or 20 mph? Conversely, does it start to run a bit early if the wind is helping in go out?

1) Not by much if any time at all...but, I have found that low tide will be lower and high tide will be higher than predicted on tide tables dependant on the direction of the wind. When this happens, tide currents run much faster on and off the flats primarily because of the additional and/or lesser volume of water that has to be moved thereby giving the impression that the tide is late or early.

2) On the flats what the heck are the fish eating when they are tailing? Are they randomly siphoning through the sand and mud hoping for small crabs or mollusks?

2) Shrimp, crabs and believe it or not...those tiny dark cone snails that seemingly litter the flats like Savannah Sound. One time there while de-hooking a bone, it sh_t all over my pant leg and it was nothing but a load of pasty goo and crushed up snail shells.

3) Whats creates those small cone shaped mounds of sand? Is something living in there that a bonefish will go after?

3) Snapping and Mantis shrimp. I'm sure you've heard the snapping shrimp at low tide on marly flats, or while snorkling...sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies!

4) If the bones are tailing is it a total waste of time to throw anything but a crab pattern (charlie / gotcha) at them? No minnows for example?

4) Contrary to popular opinion, I like to drop a large #4 or #2 mantis shrimp pattern (or similar) directly on top of their heads. Time your cast for exactly when the bones tails are splashing to cover up the sound of your fly touching down. Then, let it settle without moving it at all (move it and you'll likely line the fish). Then when the fish stop tailing...finger crawl the fly and get ready.

5) As a rule of thumb are the first 2-3 hours of the incoming and 1-2 hours of the outgoing times prime-time? Should other times be spent exploring new grounds?

5) No hard and fast rules here...all is dependant on the type of flat you're fishing.
For example...

i) a large open flat like Savannah or 10 Bay with no or few mangrove backwaters...I fish from low to high...I just follow the 1 foot depth contour casting to fish shallow and deep.

ii) Flats with mangrove backwaters and/or creek systems finds me fishing from the start of the rising tide till the fish bugger off into the mangroves or creeks then I take a break (Kalik lunch) then hit them again as the fish come out during the falling tide. One specific creek on Eleuthera that can't easily be accesed by foot has bones coming out of it like fans leaving the stadium after the Superbowl.

iii) Ocean-side beaches...a couple rules I follow here...

iiia) if the ocean is reasonably calm (lets say less than 6 to 12 inches of waves/swell, I'll typically fish through any stage of the tide but prefer any part of the rising.

iiib) If the ocean is rough with large swells, I target beaches that are in the lee of cay's, points and/or large reefs. Cay's and points my reasoning is obvious, and I'll fish them throughout the entire tide cycle... but selecting beach sections in the lee of reefs pays dividends 2 hours either side of low tide. When the tide is down, the reefs are closer to the surface thereby taking more energy out of ocean swells. Lot's of places ocean-side on Eleuthera can be found like this and if you locate them, concentrate your efforts nearby beach and rock transitional areas. I've found the bones to favor these the most.

Of course Marty, all of the above is just conjecture and up for discussion I'm sure. I will say this though, "Bones are where and when you find them and believe me when I say that I've found them in the weirdest places at the most unlikely stage of the tide"

Here's a shrimp fly that follows the theme of my "Castanet Crab" fly...I call it the "Castanet Camarone" Recipe to follow once I take the step-by-step pics.

Best regards and perhaps we'll meet up on L'utra sometime and share a few Klicks and fishing stories.

Henry
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Last edited by Henry; 05-04-2012 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:48 AM
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Great post and response. "Conjecture" though it may be, it's a great starting "thinking" point for the less than novice, like myself, bonefish chasing wannabe.
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:51 AM
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Thanks Henry

Henry,

Thanks for your detailed reply. Your points are explained quite well. I think when I go down again in Oct/Nov I'll bring a few printouts of the area of the island I want to focus on and accurately map the current and forecasted wind direction if it's howling so that I can single out spots in the lee. And also engage more patience and thought about the location, situation, etc... to make sure I've tied on the fly which will give me the greatest chance of hooking up.

I did manage to only break off one fish this time on 12 # tippet and leader. Sometimes I pinch the line too tight thinking i've hooked a palmetto and feel the big tug and then line seperates. Argh.

I don't mind the learning curve. What's better than walking the flats or beach in water up to your knees enjoying the Bahamas? A nice Cohiba from Ronnie's? Fried snapper at the Friday Night Fish Fry in GHB? It's all great.
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Old 05-03-2012, 11:13 PM
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Marty,

My favorite at the GHB fish fry is the BBQ chicken with Johnny bread, cole slaw and Peas with rice. Before that though, I'll down a conch salad and following the fun, I'll bring back a double order of conch fritters to the Duck Inn. Oh yeah, at least one Rum Bubba and a handfull of Kaliks keeps me hydrated he he!!!

Henry
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:00 AM
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Thumbs up

Henry,
Great advise, and good to see back on the site. I likewise have been somewhat absent from here, and unfortunately not because I was chasing bones. It appears that this great site, and another one I visit have been pretty slow lately when it comes to bones....saltwater flats stuff. GREAT PATTERNS, YOU CONTINUE TO PRODUCE OUTSTANDING PATTERNS.....I KEEP A FILE OF THE BEST I FIND. Have more that a few of yours. Experimented a few years ago with peacock bead/glued to burnt mono, most effective....deadly actually, what is the clear material/bead/tube material you used in your
examples in this thread ? Looks vey fishly/shrimpy. Anyway gald to see you posting, guess I'm back too.....NGo1 where are you ? (Frank)
Mark ....Abaco nut.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:23 AM
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Hi Mark!...long time - no speak!

Yeah, been a while since I've posted here or anywhere else for that matter. Been busy doing "other stuff" Lately, I've been concentrating of getting stuff in order for my pending retirement this fall. Actually, I've started tying flies again after about a 2 year or so.

It's great to touch base with you again and thanks so much for your complimets.

These new flies I'm tying use 50lb flourocarbon posts with clear glass beads. I wanted this unusual weighting system to be virtually "invisible" underwater and that's pretty much the case.

Even though I haven't posted much; if anything at all lately, I still visit "this" as well as a handfull of "other" FFing sites daily. I'm getting back to the point whereby I am starting to re-focus my goals with my pending retirement and plan to be a frequent contributor to our FFing communities.

Nice talking again,

Henry
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Old 05-30-2012, 02:46 AM
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I agree with most of what Henry has said, but here's my take on your questions:
1. How much do you estimate incoming tide might be delayed on a flat if it is directly in the face of a 10 mph or 20 mph? Conversely, does it start to run a bit early if the wind is helping in go out?
There's a big difference between a 10 and 20 mph wind. A 10 mph wind isn't going to change things much (if at all), but a sustained 20 mph wind will in general delay or advance tides by 20 minutes or so. This isn't just my personal opinion but what I've discussed with guides across the Bahamas. The answer can also depend on whether you're talking about moon tides. The winds will affect those tides more than "normal" tides.


2. On the flats what the heck are the fish eating when they are tailing? Are they randomly siphoning through the sand and mud hoping for small crabs or mollusks?
They're eating anything and everything. Small crabs, clams, worms, some types of minnows and any other prey that's capable of burrowing into sand could be what they're chasing. Bonefish operate very strongly by scent and not just sight. I've seen multiple fish over 8 pounds with their bodies all the way out of the water to their dorsal fin trying to dig things out!

3.) Whats creates those small cone shaped mounds of sand? Is something living in there that a bonefish will go after?
In general those are caused by mollusks.

4.) If the bones are tailing is it a total waste of time to throw anything but a crab pattern (charlie / gotcha) at them? No minnows for example?
Charlies and gotchas aren't designed to mimic crabs first and foremost. They're designed to imitate shrimp and other small invertebrates. I've been successful catching tailing fish on just about every pattern imaginable.

5.) As a rule of thumb are the first 2-3 hours of the incoming and 1-2 hours of the outgoing times prime-time? Should other times be spent exploring new grounds?
Yes, those are definitely the prime times in my opinion. However, any time other than dead low is a great time to fish for schools of small fish on the flats. It's only when the tide reaches dead low that the small fish leave flats. Those prime times are when you're going to find the biggest fish however. It's best to fish the deeper edges of the flats to get the bigger fish, especially weed growth lines. However, you can never tell. This year I saw the biggest bone of my life in 10" of water just in a random spot on a flat halfway between the shore and the deep edge as the tide was coming up. It was probably a 20 pounder (no joke!). The guide and I both thought it was a small shark swimming with a group of about a half dozen bones, then the next thought in my head was "That's two big bonefish swimming nose to tail!" I thought the dorsal was the tail of the first one and the tail was the tail of the second one. It's back was practically out of the water and it easily was over 40". I'll never forget that fish!!!

I wish there was a Little Red Book for Fly Fishing dedicated to bonefishing.
Are you familiar with Dick Brown's bonefishing book? It's the closest thing to a bonefishing little red book (or bible) that I've found. Orvis also sells a really good overall book.
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Old 06-01-2012, 12:38 PM
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Thanks for the reply.

I have Randall Kaufmann's "Bonefishing". I enjoy it as much for the instructions as the awesome photographs.

The question about throwing crab patterns (charlies/gotcha) I mispoke and do understand they are shrimp patterns. I guess I was wondering if the are intent to tail would they bother chasing a minnow. But your point is well taken than they will eat anything that is presented well.

I'll look up Dick Brown's book. Thanks for the recommendation.

Marty
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Old 06-28-2012, 07:56 AM
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Hi Marty,

Someone passed along a link to your post.

Like others (Hi, Henry, Mark, and Scott) I'm not on the forums as often these days but thought I'd pass along a couple thoughts. You have good advice from the others. I would add that when you are selecting flies for tailing fish the most important thing is that they land quietly and sink at the right rate and you should drop it close to the fish. Tailing fish are routing around in the bottom and digging out prey. This gives off a debris "cloud" of sediment with dislodged prey tumbling through it, so the fish are on the lookout for disoriented prey forms (crabs, shrimp, worms slowing falling back to the bottom. So you want flies that attract well and have close to a neutral buoyancy like the Reverend Laing or Ghost shrimp patterns. Henry's suggestion of dropping a meaty fly like a mantis can be very effective and again I would weight it to sink on the slow side not to rocket to the bottom where it can get lost in the falling debris.

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Old 06-28-2012, 03:38 PM
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Re: techniques

Thanks Dick & all other reponders.

I am intent on hooking up to one of the darn Savannah Sound bones while they are tailing. Part of my problem is probably the movement I add to the fly once it hits the water. When twitching or stripping I seem to spook the fish. I've had follows from cruising fish only to be refused but I guess that's just "bonefishing."

When it comes to tailing fish do you recommend just letting it sit and only strip or twitch when the fish have moved on a few few away from the fly?

Thanks,

Marty
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Old 06-29-2012, 04:37 AM
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Hi Marty

Savannah Sounds tailing bones are indeed frustrating. One thing you might try that I know works for me is to take note which way the tide/current is running. Typically, bones tail into the current. I suppose it's just easier for them to see/smell their prey as the disturbed silt and sand is constantly being cleared from their path. That's why I like to drop the fly "up-current" and almost on their heads and just let it sit. I keep my rod tip in the water (with line tight to the fly) to keep the wind from blowing my line and moving my fly. When I'm fortunate and the fish don't spook by that point, I know I've got a good chance at getting bit. Once the tail splashing and rooting calms down, that means the fish are looking for their next victim, it's then that I just inch my fly along (figure 8 finger retrieve)...NO TWITCHES. Typically, as soon as the fly exits the mud the stirke is almost immediate. I figure I get about a 50% hookup rate doing that.

Regards,
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:55 AM
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I agree on those tailing Savannah bones. Barely moving your fly is best. If you move it too much they easily spook.
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Old 06-29-2012, 11:00 AM
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Inching the fly while staying tight to it usually works best. Using self-animating flies helps too--those with fine supple material like rabbit hair that moves in the current even when the fly is stopped.

Dick
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Old 06-29-2012, 07:59 PM
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I have never fished there but the talk about Savanah Sound made me think of a fly called the the Tiny Baitfish Fly. Google "Tiny Baitfish Fly For Bonefish" and it will bring up an article that describes fishing what may be Savanah Sound or at least a similar spot. These flies are easy to tie and I have included a few in chart and tan in my fly box. I have not used it much but have taken a few fish with it.
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