Over the course of a week at Andros South, you’re going to see a lot of bonefish. Some will be huge singles hunting by their lonesome. Some will be doubles, triples, or smaller groups scavenging as a team. Others will be in large groups or ‘schools’ from a half dozen to hundreds of fish (yes, hundreds) at a time. In fact, the ability to target any of the above according to our angler’s desires is one of our favorite things about our fishery.
When fishing to schooling bonefish (i.e. a large group of bonefish), one of the most useful pieces of advice we’ve ever heard is to present the fly to the lead fish. All too often we see anglers get caught up in the excitement of a whole bunch of fish coming their way and cast to the group as a whole. Often times this doesn’t end favorably and here’s why:
- The biggest fish is often in front. Schooling bonefish are best thought of as a pack. Often times the ‘leader’ of the pack, or the fish that is leading the direction of the school is the biggest in the bunch. Therefore, by presenting your fly to the leading fish (or shadow, or spot) in the school, you increase your odds of hooking a larger fish. So, unless you can visibly discern a larger fish in the group, aim for the lead fish.
- Spook one, spook all. Schools of bonefish, especially large schools of bonefish, often act as one cohesive unit. As one fish moves (often the front fish), so does the rest of the group. The same goes when you spook one. Thus, by casting at the group as a whole you run the risk of ‘lining’ fish and spooking fish in the middle of the pack, which will most likely spook the rest in the group. Instead, casting on the outer edge of the school (preferably the lead fish) reduces the chance of spooking fish. Even if the outer fish doesn’t eat your fly, there’s a good chance the fish behind it might.
- Bonefish move fast, and they can’t swim backwards. As mentioned above, its important when fishing to schools to cast to the edge of the school, rather than into the middle of it. Casting into the middle of the school is a good way to spook fish from your fly line and/or leader landing overhead. However, bonefish can change directions extremely quickly and its not uncommon for the direction of the school to change the moment you present your fly to the edge. That being said, one direction they can’t change is backwards. Therefore, by putting your fly in front of the front fish (i.e. the fish that’s leading the direction the school is moving as a whole), you greatly increase your odds of the most fish seeing your fly as possible. They might continue to more forward, they might move left, or they might move right, but they won’t move backwards away without turning, which means one (or a whole bunch) of those fish are going to see your fly.