Hunting the invisible
How bonefish on the fly made me a better bass fisherman.
The first time I cast to bonefish of course I couldn’t see them, I was directed by my guide stood high on the stern of his skiff. Eventually I learned to stop looking ‘at’ and began looking ‘through’. I started to see, sometimes! On the second day things improved and slowly during day three I started to ‘catch’ the fish. Don’t get me wrong, I only caught two fish that day, but I caught them in a very specific way, I was hunting for them seeing them.
Each cast became very important and had a specific objective, each footstep, each raising of the rod and line, I was alert too and ready in the fishing world I moved through to find my fish. Wind direction, sun position, moving clouds, moving water, tails! Surely, your thinking, they are very different species, European sea bass and bonefish, they are, but what I learned about catching bonefish by trying to do my best I then applied to my bass fishing.
Eliminating the similarities, rod weight, line weight, leader and reel both species can be caught on #8’s with 9′-0″ leaders and medium sized flies (no. 2- 1/0). At Andros BIG bonefish eat BIG flies, the only significant difference might be the line profile and its tropical counterpart. Head length might be one strategic difference (in the air more, shooting less) but its nothing of huge concern – you could say the gear transfers from species to species, I’ve caught bass on my bonefish lines and vice versa. The fish behave differently but at times too they behave very similarly – the key difference for me was that I was looking to see the fish I wanted to catch, I needed to see them before they saw me and I needed to give them a fly without spooking them.
I don’t ‘see’ a lot of bass in Wexford, that I have opportunities to cast too with the fly. (Sometimes in specific places with specific condition yes). What I do in Wexford and other places a lot of the time is hunt for the invisible, I cast to fish that I cant see but I imagine they are in specific positions and locations at specific times. I mentally place fish behind a rock, on a corner, lying in a gully, along a seam, under weed.
Just because I cant catch my imaginary fish doesn’t mean they’re not there, it generally means I’m not good enough.
So whether your casting to a waving tail or an imaginary hoisted sail of a spiky dorsal in 24 inches of water – make sure its your best cast, the best position, the best wind direction, the most favourable wave break, the lowest cover, and that you understand the behaviour, the attitude, the hunting and timing patterns of your invisible prey.
On the fly this takes considerable time -make sure you get out there, often!