Ode to the Bonefish

Posted by Marty Shubert
On November 15, 2017

Bonefish will be my ruination. The challenge of such fishing, in seeing, stalking, casting to them in brisk winds, and then judiciously strip-setting the hookup is indelibly etched into my psyche. After the scorching runs of these fish on a coral rubble flat behind a fringing reef in the tropics, other fishing seems to pale in comparison. Thomas McGuane so aptly described this in his book The Longest Silence. “Their speed and power are so far out of proportion to their size that a bonefish, finally landed, seems to have gone through a magical reduction from the brute that burned line off against the shrieking drag to the demure little fellow one holds in one’s hand while gently removing the fly.  With his big round eyes and friendly face, the bonefish scarcely looks guilty of the searing runs he just performed”.

I hate what the bonefish has done to me. Fishing for wild cutthroat in the backcountry of Colorado some months after a bonefishing trip, I set the hook on a stunningly beautiful 14″ fish. In landing him, I think about how easy the fight was and how sure I was of the landing. “Not like a bonefish,” I think.

Then, that fall, while fishing for striped bass, I am blind-casting into a rip along a rock jetty. All my casts are thrown at max range with little focus on accuracy since I will be stripping the clouser fly over a 70 ft span across the rip, hoping to collide with a striper. “Not like stalking a bonefish,” I think.

Later that same fall day, I’m casting to a blitz of bluefish mixed with striped bass, with the cacophony of gulls all around. Every cast is a fish, and the blues can put up a pretty good scrap.  “But not like a bonefish,” I think.

I’m ruined. Gotta go back to the tropics.