Bonefish from a Kayak – Check that Box

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Bonefish are a big prize of the fly fishing flats – skittish, finicky, hard to see, harder to land, blistering fast runs, and arguably the strongest fish pound for pound on the flats, they are a wonderful sport fish. People travel the far reaches of the globe to chase these wonderful ‘Ghosts of the Flats’ with a fly rod. Seeing bonefish tails glistening in the sun are visuals you never forget, and grace your dreams.

 

The first bonefish fun for me came on my honeymoon in Belize, and love was certainly in the air. The sound of a fly line cutting through the water as a hooked bonefish screams across the flats is a sound you never forget. I’ve been patiently waiting for a chance to catch one from a kayak for years, and finally got the chance this winter by simply driving down to Key West with kayaks and fly rods.

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I had already been out once with with Jackson Kayak Team Member Randy Morrow from Lower Keys Kayak Fishing, and had been successful getting some big barracuda to the Jackson Kayak Kilroy, but bonefish and permit were eluding us, and cold water temperatures weren’t helping. We checked a few flats, and took more shots at barracuda, before finally crawling out onto a large flat bordering open ocean.

 

As we fought some winds across the flat, and were about to give up, we spotted a bunch of lemon sharks, which are often a good clue for other fish activity on the flat. Not long after, I spotted another barracuda, and by yelling to Randy to cast fifty yards to his right, he quickly hooked up with it. Fish on. As I watched him fight that fish, I noticed another barracuda chasing his. I got my fly in there too, and pretty quickly, two fish on. Fun times on the flat.

 

After that chaos ended, the winds had calmed a bit, and we decided to see if we could get a shark on the fly. We tried for a while, and got some follows, but no takers. We were in about 3-4 feet of water, way to deep to see tailing bonefish, but I started to see what I thought were bright flashes of smaller fish below me. Jacks perhaps? I yelled to Randy that I thought something else was in our midst. His keen, trained eyes agreed, and before I knew it, he was crouching and tossing bait and wham, Randy was on bonefish. Despite the cold water in the 60’s, they were in fact there. Game time.

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After landing and releasing Randy’s fish, we were back on the hunt. I couldn’t spot them in the wavy, deeper water as Randy could, but teamwork led to a yell of ‘cast 50 feet at your 11 o’clock’, so I did, straight towards Randy, right in between us. I waited a bit for the shrimp fly to sink in the deeper water, then started with slow strips of the fly line. One, two, three, bam, line stops, and starts going the other way. Bonefish takes are unique and subtle, set too hard, and you’ll rip the fly right out. Just let the line go tight, little tug, and hold on and hope you have enough backing on the your reel.

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It was a fairly open flat with little risk of wrapping around coral or mangroves, so I took my time and enjoyed the play. It was easy to hold position by using the Power-Pole Micro Anchor on the back of my Jackson Kayak Kilroy. Just press a button on my life jacket, and the spike held me in place throughout the fight, landing and photos ensued. I shot a brief video of the encounter, seen here.

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That was it, that check box on the to-do list was now filled for eternity.  Of course I still have tails in the sun to dream about, and you can be sure that I’ll be back. After all, the permit on the fly from a kayak check box is still wide open☺

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