Sunday, November 23, 2014

What We Don't Know About Bonefish

After five years on Aruba, I sometimes feel like I know each bonefish by name. This is not true, of course, as I only name the ones that follow the fly head down, for several seconds, before unkindly refusing it. Nevertheless, I feel like I know a significant proportion of our resident fish, and am rather fond of one or two.

But yesterday something happened that made me realize that I don't know them at all.

Based on past experience, I would've said that conditions were not good for bonefishing. A northeast swell had churned up the water near shore. Standing at the edge of a sea-grass flat in thigh-deep water, the occasional wave would smack me in the chest. And there was so much sand and loose seaweed suspended in the water column that I couldn't see my feet.

I hooked a couple of houndfish by stripping a deep-eyed anchovy imitation quickly through the shallows, then paused for a moment to scan the surface, the line dangling from the rod tip.

That's when the bonefish struck, angling up through the murk to take the fly. It quickly made off with all the line in the stripping basket, then pulled off a few yards of backing for good measure.

I don't know how it could see the fly in all that mess, or how—if it could make out its target—it didn't also see me. Nevertheless, it happened: bonefish on the fly, taken with the same sort of inattention that has yielded only a precious few individuals of other, less-discerning species. (Think farm-pond bluegill or hatchery rainbow.)


Later in the fight, a pelican (you can see it in the upper left-hand corner of the frame) dove on the bonefish with the intention of swallowing it. We had a rather intimate conversation, that pelican and I, about appropriately sized prey, and then I bade farewell to both bird and bone . . .