Photos and Story: A Magical Bonefish Morning

Written by: Chris Lewis

Once you’ve brought the first big South Florida bonefish to hand, the rest of the day is gravy.
Photos by Chris Lewis

The day starts with a zero-dark-thirty launch of the canoe. The less light, the better the odds of a hook up, so you become familiar with the darkness quickly. You must pole aggressively to cover as much ground as possible, while scanning the horizon for that familiar flicker of the tail. The sunrise is firing and Mother Nature is painting the sky but there is not a second to spare to admire it. You must find the tails while the tide is right!

Finally, the tails pop up, and they are much bigger than you remember. Your heart starts to race even more, and you are already heavily winded from poling. Now is the time to take a deep breath and mentally prepare. You will only have one shot, as these giant bones will feel your pressure wakes and detect your presence after just one failed attempt.  A last check at your feet to ensure your line is perfectly laid out for the shot. The softest presentation possible is a must. The EP spawning shrimp is the chosen bug for the bite.

Heart racing a mile a minute, you begin to double haul as softly as possible so as not to rock the shaky canoe. The fly lands perfectly about 10 feet short of the small group of giants. It feels like an eternity as they close the distance on your fly. The urge to strip is almost overwhelming, but you must resist until the last possible moment. The biggest fish of the group pins your fly to the bottom and you’re tight!  The last hurdle to clear is the line that disappears in a flash.

All the stars have to align to create a morning full of big bonefish.

You instantly begin to wonder if today is the day you regret choosing the small, delicate outfit. The backing gets lower and lower as you struggle to pole one handed toward the fish. Finally, with a few wraps to spare, the fish lets up, and the tug of war ensues. As the fish gets close, you can feel the weight. The anxiety is almost too much to bare, as thoughts of hook pulls and leader breaks from the past creep in. You hop out of the canoe and wade through waist-deep mud towards the fish. Round and round, the fish still pulls drag with each tired kick of the tail. Finally, you close the distance and reach for the tail.

It’s hard to realize the true size of a trophy bonefish without seeing the width and girth in person. A quick lift of the fish for a hero shot on the go pro, and you remove the fly. Now you can finally let your guard down, as you admire the fish and revive it. A farewell kick of the tail, and the fish disappears in the tide.

As you climb back in the canoe, sopping wet and drenched with sweat, you scan the horizon. More tails are inbound, but you are in no rush, since the day is made and you can fish relaxed. In short fashion, you are 3-for-3, and what started as a beautiful, slicked-out, summer morning ends with a memory of summer and bonefish, you will never forget and constantly strive to recreate.

Chris Lewis lives and fishes in South Florida.

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