Kyle Perkins was one of our attendees at FIBFest at Andros South last spring.
That trip was Kyle’s first experience on the saltwater flats, and he put together today’s really insightful article about getting ready and making the trip. We think you’re going to like it – especially the end.
All the Important Questions
You’re a month away from your first bonefishing experience, let alone your first salt fishing trip. While you grew up on small streams in the Rockies stalking pocket water for pigs as you slowly hike through brush or snow, you know this is going to be different – but how different, exactly?
The first thing you do before a trip to South Andros and Deneki Outdoors’ Andros South Lodge is talk to people who have been to flats in search of bonefish before. Luckily, a few close friends plan yearly trips, so you’re in good hands.
Key points of advice are to practice casting longer distances (with wind if possible) and remember to strip-set instead of the usual trout-set. After a few lessons, the results are something like, “Nope, you need to double-haul that cast”, or “Nope, too many false casts.” As you can imagine, anxiety rears its ugly head.
As time passes, your anxiety about failing increases. It seems the only thing you can do right is tie up Gotcha patterns. Finding a suitable way to create the salt flat experience in a high- altitude, snowy climate just isn’t working.
So the time comes to catch the first red-eye, then another flight in the morning, and finally a short hop over to the island of South Andros. Beautiful skies, sand filled beaches, and of course Kalik await. You hang out your first night at the Slack Tide, tie a few flies, and discuss the possible destinations for the next morning.
With a loud 6 am wake-up call, you jump out of bed and feel the lump in your throat almost growing by the minute – it’s time. After a great breakfast and full spread of lunch items (in which you only make peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, of course), you set off to the launching dock. You’re met by your first guide of the day, and the announcement that you’re heading to the West Side more than excites your comrade and boat buddy for the day.
The run is about 30 minutes, and then it’s time to grab a rod and get up on the bow. You wait, nervous, as your guide slowly poles a flat. Small lessons are already being learned: pull enough line off your reel, leave enough leader, and line off the end of your rod. Don’t forget to hold that fly loosely in your left hand. It’s silent, only wind and small waves making subtle sounds.
Then, it happens – you hear, “30 feet, 11 o’clock.” Your bare feet shuffle, you cast and just about pop that fish on the head with your fly. Nothing more to say other than that fish is long gone. You knew it, knew you were going to fail.
While searching more flats, your guide is very instructional in an almost comedic way, as your fishing mate sits back and laughs quietly at your attempts – almost assuming you’re getting skunked your first day.
On the bow again, your guide spots a large school of bonefish. While you can’t see a thing, you trust his instincts and just start launching flies into the area – “50 feet, 9 o’clock!” Strip, strip, strip, “fish on!” your guide yells. First thing you do is try to trout set. Then you reach for the reel, “No, let him run, mon.” After about 20 minutes of your heart racing, the fish making runs, and all the while your buddy in the chair laughing, you have almost got the fish to the boat. Everything has seemed minimal before this – you’ve landed your first bonefish on your first day ever saltwater fishing.
Everyone is ecstatic, and you have your first bonefish in your hands. The camera flashes, but one question you forgot to ask was how to handle these fine fish…