I grew up fishing in Alaska. While growing up, during Sockeye season, most people used gear rods to “flip” for Sockeye and were very successful. Nowadays, most Sockeye anglers use fly rods to “flip” for them, as fly rods are much lighter and more convenient. Many of these anglers consider themselves “fly anglers” just because they use a fly rod instead of conventional gear. We’ll tackle this topic in a later post. The only saltwater fishing in Alaska is for halibut, cod, rockfish, etc. It’s usually cold and wet. Fly fishing in the salt in Alaska is almost unheard of (although quickly becoming popular now) as it is more of an exciting way to harvest fish. Obviously, saltwater fishing in The Bahamas is a whole different ball game. I had the pleasure to experience it for the first time, and of course, I did as much research on fly rods, reels, lines, fly patterns, and techniques to practice. I downloaded the Bonefish 101 guide, which you can get here. Regardless, I still fell short. As someone who has never fished in the salt with a fly rod, there are 3 things I wish I had done before I went and one thing I did well.
3 Things I wish I had known before My First Trip to Andros South Lodge:
1- Practice Casting.
Before your trip, practice your single-hand casting with a specific line. Get a saltwater-specific setup for bonefish at Andros South Lodge (6- 8 weights) and practice in your yard or open area and practice casting. In some situations, you’ll be fishing off the boat’s bow. Your guide will be polling the platform to spot bonefish. The direction is based on a clock face, 12 o’clock, pointing off the front of the boat’s bow. Once your guide sees fish, you’ll be instructed to cast in a direction, e.g., “11 o’clock, 20 ft.”
Here is how to set it up to practice your casting.
- Set up targets around your yard or a park, creating a clock face at 10 ft, 20 ft, and 30 ft distances similar to the diagram below. Practice casting the furthest you can.
- Always be in the “ready position,” i.e. fly line out, fly in hand (don’t hold the fly, hold the line above the fly).
- Have someone behind you bark instructions at varying times and distances. e.g., “2 o’clock 30 ft.”
- Your goal should be to cast to the target as quickly as possible. Learn to reach the greatest distance with the fewest amount of false casts.
2- Trust your Guide. When the guide told me to cast, my tendency was to try to see the fish before I cast. Don’t do that. Just cast; if you’re off target, your guide will tell you where to recast. Don’t try to spot the fish. Don’t think, just do.
3- Wear “light” colored clothing and shoes. The Bahamas is beautiful. At Andros South, the Lodge is located right on the beach, where shorts and short-sleeved shirts are appropriate and comfortable. That said, while fishing, do your best to cover up, including your feet. For two reasons: the sun and the bugs. The first time out, I wore a sun shirt hoodie, and shorts. As we were polling near shore, I swatted at flies and bugs. It was distracting. The only reprieve was while we were motoring or after a slight breeze decided to show up. The next time out, I did wear darker-colored, long, quick-dry pants. The only challenge there is the bugs are attracted to my darker colors. I noticed both my angling partner and the guide wore light-colored clothing, and the bugs weren’t bothering them as much. I would also invest in some water or deck shoes to keep your feet protected, too, because the flies will find your feet if they are exposed.
Despite my inadequacies, I still caught bonefish; it was a great time. Next time, it will be even better with some casting practice and better clothing!
For those of you paying attention, the one thing I did well is strip set, No trout set going on here!
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