When I think about bonefish immediately a screaming reel comes in my mind. I haven’t seen so far a fish that takes, compared to his size, more line than a bonefish. These are pretty amazing fish. Hard to land, hard to catch and the most of all hard to see. I was fishing for them already in Cuba and they were a miracle already there but in Aitutaki bone fishing comes to its peak, .. for spotting them and especially because of their size. In Aitutaki catching a bigger one, lets say, above 7 pounds is more likely
than catching a small one.
Why are they so big in Aitutaki
Let me firstly define big. What would you say when I tell you that the biggest ever caught in Aitutaki by netting was 19 kilos (42 pounds). That’s light years away from big, that’s already huge. Just as a small reminder. The IGFA all tackle world record is 16 lbs. And the bonefish grow so big because there are less predators in the lagoon that hunt for them. There are no sharks, only a small amount of bigger Barracudas and the bigger GTs that could go for them. The majority of predators reside outside the lagoon most of the year. Plenty of food for them round the recipe for world record bonefish.
Sight fishing for Bonefish
In my eyes the one and only technique of fishing for them. Basically you spot a fish and present the fly in front of him so that he can see the fly to grabit. As I already mentioned the lagoon offers the most clear water in the world so sight fishing for them is no problem. Did I say no problem? That’s not the full truth, at least for me. I had my troubles in spotting them. They are incredibly camouflaged. You sometimes only look for the shadow of the fish. They hide perfectly. Someone told me once that the eyes do recognize them but the brain doesn’t know what to look for. It’s the shadow, a blink of a scale in the water or a bit of murky water from feeding, that reveal them. The guides that are living there for their entire lifetime know all their secrets and spot the bones without any problems and can even spot a bone far further than you could cast.
I really recommend to fish with a guide. Firstly you encounter much more bones per day. I have to be honest. I would have spotted maybe only 5% of the fish they are spotting. It is easy to spot a fish 5 meters away but much harder to catch it at this distance. I forgot to mention that they are a hell of spooky. They spook already if they see your eyes moving. If the fly lands too ruggedly or too close to them, they spook. If you make any sound on the boat, e.g. with your shoes, they spook. If you move too fast or they are too close, they spook. So spotting a fish at a good distance brings a lot of advantages. The fish can’t see you that much, and you can place the fly a bit before them on their swimming direction. And you do have more room for failures, for example if the bone didn’t take the fly immediately and follows it for a few meters. I felt for me much more comfortable if you could have casted to a fish 20 meters rather than one less than 10 meters. The risk to spook a bone was much higher the closer the fish was.
The next thing that was pretty hard to handle where groups of bonefish. If you can place a good shot the chance of hooking a fish is much higher since you have more fish that might go for the fly but you really need to see all fish. I rarely succeeded with groups of bonefish because there was for sure one fish that I haven’t seen and exactly there the fly landed. Spooked!!! all of them.
Listen to your guides
There is one more thing that I have to recommend when fishing with the guides. Listen to them. And I mean this in all aspects like tackle, flies and technique. When the guides tell you there is a fish at 11 o’clock, 15 meters then you can be sure there is one, even if you don’t see the fish. And if he tells you to do a strike, do it! With their eagle eyes they can see your fly and the fish and know when the fish took the fly. I was fishing with Itu Davey and his brother Rua Davey all guided dayes and I was very happy to have them booked.
On the hunt you will get from the Itu or Rua some commands that you should follow, here are the most common ones.
“Get ready” -> Itu or Rua spotted a fish and want to prepare the client for the fish. Now it must go fast.
“Fish, 11 o’clock, 15 meters, moving left” -> I think that’s self explaining. This is optional if the client can see the fish. The last addition is important to know where to place the fly.
“Fish moving left, now 10 o’clock” -> If the client is too slow
—– CAST ——
Either “Nice cast”, “too short, recast” or “Spooked” -> all clear
“Let it sink” -> Sometimes you fish in a bit deeper water, you have to be sure the fly reached the bottom. Moving it to early will spook the fish for sure.
“Start stripping” -> all clear
“Get his attention” -> Sometimes the fish doesn’t see the fly or he swims away from it. With two short strips you can get his attention.
“Fish at your fly” -> This means a long slow strip to tease the fish to the fly
“Strike” -> This is beside the location of the fish the most important command. You rarely feel the bite, Aitutaki bonefish are very tricky. But the guides know from the movement of the fish whether the fish took it.
“Feel the tab” -> In case the guides can’t see the situation properly it all depends on the angler. In this case you have to feel the bite.
When is the best time the bonefish
The answer to this question is clear. All year around. But there are some limitations and changes on the tactics. During the winter season like May, June, July the weather conditions can variy and there is a very high chance of having a lot wind. I was fishing this time and honestly I can’t recommend it. On the 26 days I was on the island we had 2 days with no wind. The rest the wind was blowing from 30 kmh to 50 kmh. The kite surfers where in paradise. If the wind blows from south this usually also means that the water temperature drops and the fish are not fully active. Wind from east is acceptable, even if it blows a little more, you have a lot islands you can use as wind break.
Summer months, Dec, Jan, Feb are ultra hot and the wind is not that much but you also do have more rain. This time also offers for bonefish something very special. There will be a lot baitfish activity in the lagoon, like a huge bait ball that attracts predators as well as huge bonefish that also feed on the small bait fish. Yes the big bones feed on fish. And based on the information from the guides they can be targeted with bait fish patterns on the fly in deeper water.
Fishing the milk
There is something that is worth to mention. Itu and his brothers are also known that they do sometimes “drifting the milk”. MILK??? With milk it is meant that big schools of bonefish feeding on the bottom and produce a haze. The Guides spot for this schools and the milk and drift with the boat over it and usually there is a fish that takes the fly. How this exactly works I don’t know because I haven’t done it. But there is a lot of critics in the web that declare this to a second level fishery for bonefish. In fact it is but why are these, very good guides do this. The answer is easy. Some fly fisherman do have their problems with casting, weather conditions, or targeting bonefish by sight. In this case this is plan B to get a fish. Also this techniques produce even bigger bones than the fishery by sight. The bigger fish usually resides in the deeper waters inside the schools. You either like it or hate it.
Enough said.. lets go to the fishing..