We could spend hours talking about Bonefish. They are our favorite saltwater fish to chase and we strongly believe that the habits learned in bonefishing will help you become a much better flats angler, regardless of the species you are targeting. There are a ton of articles going over casting on the flats and an equal amount regarding fly selection. Today we wanted to go over a lesser discussed topic and that is the retrieval of your fly through the water. You spotted a fish and made the cast, what do you do next?
The answer to this varies based on how the fish reacts to your fly. If your fly landed softly on the water (the fish isn’t swimming mach 5 in the other direction because it spooked) watch the fish and its reaction, then vary your retrieval by his behavior. General rule of thumb is if it is a fast moving fish, strip fast. Slow cruising fish, strip slow and smooth. My personal favorite approach, quick, quick, slow. Small, short strips to get their attention, once they start to follow, long and slow. If they don’t eat on long and slow, I go back to quick and short. Regardless, you want to make sure you always stay connected to your fly. Ideally you want to feel the weight of the fly as it is pulled through the water. Like many things in fly fishing, slack is the enemy so keep tight throughout your retrieval. Keep in mind variables like the direction or speed the boat is drifting. Always make sure to keep the rod tip low and pointed at the fish. If your rod tip gets low but to the side, it will be hard to get a proper strip set as the soft tip of the rod will absorb some of the force giving the fish time to spit out the fly.
If you see a fish charge quickly and then stop, SET! You may have not felt anything but he just ate. If you have a fish follow your fly all the way to the boat but not eat, don’t give up on it. Give it another cast as often times we get fish on our second or even third shots.
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