Tom Larimer – top-drawer Oregon guide, host at Alaska West, BC West and Andros South, Andros FIBFest 2011 attendee – draws some great analogies today between fishing for bonefish and fishing for steelhead. We loved his writeup and we think you will too.
The Hunter in All of Us
Chasing bonefish had never held huge appeal to me… after all, I’m a steelhead angler that thrives on punishment. Give me a river full of fish and I start losing interest – the hunt is what captivates me.
I did some flats fishing for bonefish many years ago in Belize. It was a fun experience but it didn’t bite me like steelheading has. At the end of the day, casting into huge pods of two-pound bonefish lacked the challenge that drives me as an angler. In short, it was just way too easy. It was a little challenging in the beginning but once my ego was quickly inflated I began to wonder why folks make such a big deal about bonefish – it was like taking candy from a baby.
When I was invited down to Andros South for the Deneki FIBFest recently, I graciously accepted the invitation. After a cold damp Oregon winter, a little fun in the sun sounded pretty damn good. However, my expectations were based on my one and only bonefish experience from my past – ego stroke fishing with very little skill involved.
The first day on Andros I shared the boat with my buddy Andrew. Andrew told me that our guide Josie Sands had a reputation for finding big fish and having high expectations of his anglers. I could tell immediately Josie was an experienced boatman and possessed a quality I hadn’t seen in the bonefish guides I had fished with in the past. He was intense – really intense. More so, he expected perfection from you. When I saw my first twelve-pound Andros bonefish cruising the flat at eighty feet out, I realized why – these were not the schoolie bonefish of Belize.
While Andros has big schools of smaller bonefish which are fairly easy to fool, what makes it the world’s best bonefish destination is the possibility of finding truly massive bones in singles and doubles. To my glutton-for-punishment delight, the behemoths of Andros don’t reward sloppy casts and poor presentation. That’s when it all started to click for me.
The next day I fished with guide Charlie Sweeting. Charlie and I laughed a lot… he was a little more laid back than Josie but still had an edge to him when it came to the fishing. I watched him carefully as we waded down a beautiful flat on the east side of the island. He was incredibly stealthy as he crept and would pause to scan the horizon every thirty seconds or so.
The other thing I noticed about Charlie was his incredible eyesight and uncanny ability to spot fish in tough light conditions. When he cleaned his glasses I could see why – his eyes were those of a man on a mission, focused and intense. At one point in the day I asked him what his favorite element of chasing bonefish was, “The hunt man, it’s all about the hunt” were his thoughtful words.
That comment finally connected the dots for me with bonefish. Like my own fishing and guiding here in the Northwest, there are many elements I consider during a day on the water. In the end though, the pursuit of steelhead, like bonefish, is all about the hunt. I finally connected with bonefish the way I connect with anadromous fish, and the hunter in me can’t wait to get back to the flats.