If you’re considering a bonefish trip this winter, you’ve probably already heard the well-worn advice that better preparation leads to better experiences. And while that’s 100% true, you may find that certain aspects of the trip are easier to prepare for than others. One particularly challenging thing to prepare for, especially if you’re used to catching trout, is what to do once you actually hook into a solid bonefish. If you’re not ready for a sudden and notoriously intense fight, you may end up with just a fish story instead of a cherished photo.
Even though this video by CC Fly Company is only 90 seconds long and has no dialogue, it shows several effective techniques for fighting bonefish that are worth highlighting in more detail:
1. Keep the rod tip low until after the hook set (0:16)
Use a sideways swing of the rod to set the hook, quickly applying tension to the line without raising the rod tip. Only after the fish is securely hooked and begins to turn and run should you lift the rod tip in order to help keep the tippet away from potential snags.
2. Spread your hands far apart (0:19)
Once the hook is secure, immediately extend your arms like the angler does, so that your stripping hand is as far away from the fly rod as possible. This helps to prevent the slack line from wrapping around the rod butt or reel as it’s flying out of the guides, which would result in an instant break-off at those speeds.
3. Start walking backwards (0:29)
As soon as the fish slows down after its initial run, start walking backwards. The benefits are twofold: first, it helps you maintain line tension in the event that the fish decides to change direction, so you won’t have to reel in as frantically. Second, it helps to apply more consistent pressure on the fish (compared to standing still and only using the rod to pull on them), which makes break-offs less likely.
4. Be ready for a final burst of energy (1:00)
Just when it seems like the fight is over, this fish suddenly zips around the camera operator and makes one last desperate run toward freedom. You should be expecting this behavior, and resisting the urge to rush in and land a bonefish before its last hurrah. Notice how he sweeps an arm out to secure the leader before reaching for the fish, ensuring that the rod tip doesn’t flex to the breaking point if it tries to take off yet again.