Any fly fisherman will tell you that the ultimate goal of any fly angler is the Grand Slam of the Caribbean. The prize known as the Grand Slam is when an angler is able to catch a bonefish, a tarpon, and a permit during one day of fishing. Each year, during the season’s peak, countless anglers travel to areas such as the Florida Keys or Belize in hopes of achieving this ambitious dream. Catching the species that elusively roam the inshore flats is no easy task, however, and requires patience, skill, and, at times, an experienced guide to show you where to find the most action.
Bonefish, a slender, yet powerful, species found inshore, have been a much sought after price for fly anglers for many years. Highly respected as the “ghost of the flats,” the bonefish has long been respected as one of the most formidable opponents on a fly rod. These sleek fish cruise the reefs and flats, digging through grass and sand for crustaceans. They can commonly be found in very shallow water, which makes wading while angling an exciting challenge, not to mention a very rewarding experience once one is caught. Known for their cautiousness and speed, it is common for bonefish to take over a hundred yards of spooled line when hooked, which is a true testament to the power these sleek bullets possess.
You’ll need to be well-prepared in order to undertake a bonefish excursion, but some, especially weekend visitors, can always charter a guide. These experienced captains will undoubtedly have all the necessary tackle, as well as advice and knowledge, to help ensure that your trip is a memorable one. For those who wish to venture out on their own, I have a few tips to start you out on the right path. In the Keys, bonefish can range anywhere from 4-12 pounds, which is perfect for a good 7-9 weight rod with 9-12 feet of 6-10 pound test leader, and at least 200 yards of backing. With this setup, you’ll be able to hold your own against this powerful species, but still enjoy a good fight.
As far as flies are concerned, many seasoned bonefish anglers will recommend Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, and Glouser Minnows, sizes 4 to 8. Tan, pink, white, and green are effective colors. Also, small crab patterns are highly effective, as small crustaceans are a favorite meal for bonefish. Of course, if you’re having great luck with these recommendations, and want to experiment, feel free to try any pattern you like. Who knows, you may have great luck on a bluegill or trout fly! One last item I’ll suggest is a pair of polarized glasses in either a copper or amber tint, as this shade will help you spot camouflaged fish out in the flats much easier.
No fishing trip to the Caribbean can be complete without attempting fly fishing’s most coveted title: the Grand Slam. I hope that this article, and the tips I’ve outlined, will benefit those of you considering taking a trip to the flats in hopes of obtaining this title. Bonefish are just one step towards realizing this goal, however, so be sure to come back and read my coverage of the second step towards a Grand Slam, and one of the most exciting fish to catch, the mighty tarpon.