I hate to be too stereotypical, but if you are reading this, there’s a good chance you fish mostly for trout.  So do we…  We get needy for different sorts of “pulls” from muskie, wipers, carp, etc., but we always fall back on the hunt for big, predaceous trout.  I think many of you can relate.

For me SALT was something I only dreamed of because as a biologist,  ca$h is hard to come by.  Even so I have always spent countless hours watching short films and edits depicting screaming reels and gorgeous flats. As a result,  I have quite often wondered… “Do bones really pull that much harder than freshwater fish?”

So here’s the answer coming from a trout/muskie/carp angler that just got his first fix of bonefish …

WAY harder

Rather than just give you a play by play, I want to first share some of what I learned on this trip just in case you get the wonderful opportunity to make a trip happen.  I had many misconceptions that almost lead to not catching one of the coolest fish on the planet.  Here’s a few quick tips on how to fly fish for bonefish.

1) Bones live in the tropics.  Obvious right?  Well with that distinction comes a handful of complications.  Tropical storms are a near daily occurrence much of the year. Clouds?  LOTS. Sight fishing for bones in 40 mpg winds with black clouds overhead while horizontal rain splatters on your sad, sad face is honestly a likely possibility that will result in few fish spotted and most likely no hookups.  Come to peace with that NOW.

2) If you are on vacation with your wife (I was), plan more than one day into your agenda for fishing.  Your odds for friendly weather goes way up if you have a day 2 or 3 or, even better, 4 +.

3) Get a guide. I don’t care how much you think you know or how much you have read.  I read (past tense) more on bone fishing than could fit into a book the size of Moby Dick and still showed up in a foreign country with no idea of where the fish were and where they were headed. The mazes of mangrove inlets, flats, dead ends, etc. can end your DIY trip fast.

4) So, you have a big head?… Think you have mad casting skills?  Well, get on the platform for your first time ever with an 8lb bone cruising your way and lets see how well you perform. Practice casting.  Don’t focus on making that 95′ foot cast because honestly it will be rare.  Practice casting ACCURATE 35-70′ casts.  If you end up with a windy day, casting gets complicated fast so whenever possible, practice casting in windy conditions prior to making your trip.

Was I guilty of ignoring some of these tips myself? … Maybe.

Here’s the story of my first ever bone.

The fish was moving slowly toward the skiff that had gone as close as possible and was hung up on the shallow bottom about 100′ out.  The fish tipped again, its mirror-like tail glistened and reflected slowly in the sunlight.  My emotions were getting the best of me.  The fish began moving closer, coming in with the tide.  Rather than chance spooking the fish on a close-range cast I picked a spot in the fish’s line and laid down a “Tailers Beware” with plenty of cushion in front of the hunting fish.  To be completely honest, my fingers shook as my fly somehow landed surprisingly soft on the water and the fish continued moving, stalking.  My heart was pounding as I realized the fish’s line was perfect and I began wrapping my brain around the idea that,  “this might actually happen!”  The fish moved from 10′ to 7′ to 5’… to 2’….  I stripped the fly slowly, once.

The bone shot forward at the sight of movement and I was convinced he had it.  Luckily I check-set (not dry fly set) and the fly shot from under the fish another 10 inches forward.  The angry bone darted again, and pinned the fly hard against the bottom.  His gills flared and I could easily see the mud swirl from the back of his gills as he sucked.  I strip-set, came tight,  and watched as the bone rocketed back toward the ocean. Miraculously the line at my feet made it to the reel without tangle and the Opti sang unlike it ever has before. This next part I can’t really explain effectively…

To fully understand is to experience.

I will, however say that the fish moved fast enough that I would liken it to hooking a passing car on the freeway, it pulled me to within 20 yds of spooling me TWICE on a tight drag (300yds backing) with many other shorter runs trying to bury itself in the mangrove roots,  tested my rod (LOOP Cross S1), reel (LOOP Opti-Runner), and personal skills more than any other fish… EVER!

Enough said. Big bone to hand.  Happy me 🙂

About The Author

The Professor

Phil Tuttle is a Fisheries Biologist, a Guide, Loop Global Team Pro Staff Member, Fly Innovator, and a skilled Videographer/Video Editor. His passion for conservation, travel, youth fishing programs, and fly fishing drive his desire to promote the sport in diverse and out-of-the-box ways.

5 Responses

  1. Kirk

    Very cool, and a really nice first bonefish! My wife and I have our ten year anniversary coming up in 2 years and a splurge for a tropical flyfishing/sun-soaking trip has already been discussed. I’ll definitely keep your tips on mind!

    • Phil

      Thanks Kirk! Good luck and if there are any other questions feel free to email me at phil@outsmartingfish.com

      I’m looking to do something similar for our 10 year! Salt is on my mind………and it never leaves.


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