While not every angler is an overseas traveller, most will have had the desire to try fishing in overseas waters at least once suggests Gary Kemsley.
Once the borders are open and we can again move freely there will probably be a be a rush on the resort and fishing camp locations around the world.
“I could never afford it,” you may think, but you never know what may lead to some time overseas. You may even get a chance to represent our country. If you are lucky as I was, that could be fishing representation. I had an unbelievable experience when I represented New Zealand at the World Salmon Fishing Championships in British Columbia. It included fishing in the waters around and on Vancouver Island and a tag on trip to a fly-in-only lake up towards the Alaskan Border.
This was something I would never have done otherwise and as well as gaining New Zealand a second place in the Championships, I was able to catch several fish I had only read of before.
Another trip took me to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, USA. This was to fish for New Zealand in the World Fly Fishing Championships. No second place there but it was an awesome event and I experienced some fine trout fishing before, during and after the event. It was also a chance to catch several new species. On one outing in a drift boat on the Green River, I was able to catch six species in a day, all on fly. One was my biggest ever brook trout. You would struggle to find six species in a day’s fishing on our rivers, let alone catch them. That all seems a long time ago, but it does show that an overseas trip could be a welcome surprise at any time.
By now, any seasoned travellers used to popping over to Vanuatu, Fiji or Samoa on an annual basis will be cringing as visions of tropical speedsters and high jumping marlin will be working their way into their thoughts. For me, this takes the form of “Bonefish Blues”. I have spent much of my time overseas in the last ten years at Aitutaki (Rarotonga) and at Christmas Island (CXI) chasing what I consider the most challenging and satisfying species of all, bonefish (albula vulpes).
A trophy bonefish taken in Aitutaki.
To know them is to love them. Once you are introduced to fly (or spin) fishing for bonefish there is no turning back. It is like a drug. It can harm your health through lack of sleep when you are not in the tropics and will drive you to the depths of despair briefly when you are there and cannot catch one. Bonefish will take over your life. You will not be able to escape the vision of one floating like a ghost ship through the tropical shallows. It matters not if you are in a boardroom, bedroom, or bathroom, they will invade your thoughts. Size is unimportant for most of us. From 30cm on they are a worthy pursuit and will justify the huge investment you will have made to catch one.
It is a bonus that bonefish live in some wildly spectacular places. It can be varied too. They don’t live everywhere in the tropics. They prefer the waters between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator. That includes places like Rarotonga, Tahiti, the Bahamas, Florida, Christmas Island and other developed spots. There are bonefish in the north western part of Australia and in Mexico also.
They love shallow feeding areas but, in some locations, will stay deep. They are still catchable when in deeper waters, but it’s not the same. In Christmas Island the bonefish move with the tides over clean flats comprised of coral sand (marl). This sets the stage for some fantastic fly fishing. The fish are in waters that range from ankle to thigh deep. You can readily see them when you get your eyes trained. They are easy to approach within casting distance. Some may swim around your legs at times but that does not mean they are silly enough to take any fly thrown at them. In places like the Bahamas, they like to feed on the flats where there are mangroves. The bushes offer cover for the small animals and fish they prey on. In other locations, they may be found over eel grass. This makes them very hard to see and adds to the challenge of finding and fooling them.
Paris at CXI. It's here that the bonefish gather on the full moon.
It is a surprise to most that bonefish will often use the same spaces as people. They can be spotted in the shallows in front of resorts where people are swimming. A chef at one of the small resorts in Aitutaki was known to leave a line out day and night and cast into the swimming area with a fish bait on it. Trevally often took his bait, but bonefish did too. I saw him catch a 3kg fish that he took to cut up for dinner. A waste I say. Worldwide, the catch and release of bonefish is recommended by all guides and resort owners. They certainly wouldn’t want an asset like a bonefish killed.
You don’t need heavy gear to catch bonefish. They are unbelievably fast and stubborn but seldom run more than 200m. You won’t believe the first runner you get when it tears out 100m then comes back to your feet faster than you can reel, and when you finally bring the fish in, it is only about a kilo in weight. The last few years I have taken to fishing them with my seven-weight fly outfit. If it is really windy (and it can be in the tropics), I will go to a nine weight. Small flies generally catch more fish than big ones and the best pattern I have found is a Crazy Charlie in yellow, white or brown. These I carry from 1/0 down to size 12.
That rant has helped with my Bonefish Blues – now what else can you expect? Well, wherever you find bonefish, you will find trevally. Giant trevally. These range from one to 50kg. They might just be the toughest fish in the tropical oceans. They like to cruise the reefs offshore and travel the channels in the lagoons. They will scare your pants off when they explode on the shallows as they chase bonefish. When present, they are not too hard to hook. Landing them can be another thing. They will take flies as big as a bonefish if you can cast them. In the shallowest waters, small GT’s will compete with the bonefish for your flies. There are several trevally that could show up: giants, bluefin, golden, bigeye, yellow finned trevally, island trevally and black trevally. Other close relatives like permit and dart will be also present in some areas. Tropical barracuda, queenfish, coral trout and a number of emperors will smash your gear and milkfish offer a great challenge as they do not readily take flies.
A Huff dam GT taken on a popper by Costa Georgiou.
Get your gear sorted and get ready for a return to tropical fishing. It won’t be long before the borders reopen and we are able to wade the lukewarm, crystal clear shallows in search of bonefish. It’s the only way to beat the Bonefish Blues!
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