By King Montgomery
The saltwater flats of the Caribbean are magical -- and often profoundly spiritual as well. Gliding along silently in a comfortable flats boat poled by an experienced native guide, and surrounded by physical and natural sights worthy of paradise, is invigorating yet tranquil, and, particularly when the guide spots a bonefish, a whole lot of fun.
King Montgomery had the pleasure of helping Capt. Forest Pressnell (pictured) catch his first-ever bonefish on a fly. (King Montgomery)
"Bonefish, 11 o’clock, 45 feet!" says the guide in a loud whisper. That phrase is enough to initiate a controlled panic as you point the rod in the direction indicated.
"More left, more left, there," and you move the rod tip accordingly -- then see it or them, and wonder how you missed seeing them in the fist place.
You have patiently been standing on the front deck of the flats skiff, fly rod in one hand, fly in the other, and line coiled neatly at your feet. You’ve been taking it all in: The sky the color of a robin’s egg, with little puffy white clouds here and there; the roseate spoonbill and the familiar osprey slide by on different missions; the nearby mangroves with verdant leaves and reddish brown branches that reach outward into the shallow water; the sea creatures darting to and fro as the boat, now part of the seascape, slides over the surface.
You toss the fly out, bring you rod back, shooting some line as you haul once, then bring it forward with another haul, shooting more line forward to the target that you never took your eyes from.
With luck or skill or a synergy of the two, the Gotcha fly plops quietly about two feet in front of the bonefish. You wait for what seems like an eternity. Perspiration creeps from under your hat and stings your eyes, but you dare not move.
"Wait, wait," whispers the guide, now crouched low in the same position as you, "strip, strip, strip." And your line goes tight as you set the hook, and now all heck is about to break loose.
The fish, stung by the hook and the unfamiliar resistance to its movement, streaks for the mangroves where it often goes when spooked or chased. You clear the line from obstruction, such as from under your fat feet, and the bone puts the line on the reel which now is singing like the Fat Lady in a Wagnerian opera.
You turn the fish with pressure and it heads for open water. You use the butt of the rod and not the tip to fight the bone, so you hold the rod a little above parallel to the water pointed always in the direction away from which the fish is running.
The give and take continues, and once you’ve been into your backing one or two times, you apply more pressure and reel faster. And the fish comes to you in all its iridescence, slowly at first, then yielding to the inevitable.
You remove the hook, admire the fish, and offer a silent yet profound "thank you" and raise it to the air briefly sharing your world with its -- a quick photo or two and back into the water it goes. With a slight ripple of muscle and fins, it is gone.
Sometimes when I’ve been particularly deep in thought and reflection on the casting deck when I should have been paying closer attention, I find that when I briefly hold this magnificent animal, a creature that means so much to me in many ways, it is more than sweat that fills my eyes.
This is an invitation for readers to join me on a bonefishing trip to the Grand Bahama Island with Grand Bahama Outfitters, Nov. 9 -14, 2008.
The adventure is $1,800 and includes food and lodging at the Sunrise Resort & Marina in Freeport/Lucaya, and four days of guided fishing on the saltwater flats with topnotch guides. It does not include airfare, guide and staff tips, and alcoholic beverages. The island is a 30-minute flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Issue 3.38: September 18, 2008