Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cool Short Video of Bonefish Feeding

This is a short, but very cool video. The video gives a good example of how a bonefish searches for food using his highly refined senses. The video also show how bonefish align themselves to feed into the tidal flow. Near the end of the video (approx. 2:08), watch as the bonefish literally finds pay dirt. The fish tips down and digs in the marl with his mouth. You can see how bonefish puffs are formed. If you watch closely, you an see the excavated mud flow out through his gills.

A few things struck me with this video

#1. How important it is to have a fly heavy enough to both get down quickly AND overcome the tidal flow.

#2. How it's always much further than you think. By that I mean you must deliver your fly (depending on its weight) well ahead of the tailwhen a bonefish is tipped down busy excavating a morsel. Hitting this fish on the head would not work. He would never see the fly or he would feel the line as the tide carried the fly over his head and blow up.

#3. How unimportant it is to move the fly with what has become the conventional strip (see this). Obviously, the fish in this video sees no motion. When a bonefish is feeding, all he needs is to spot your fly. Constant repetitive stripping is often both unnecessary AND unnatural. Most prey species don't move very much… they try to hide on the bottom and usually do not flee.  Prey species very rarely "get away".  Their best chance is to hide! Bonefish are too  "fleet of fin" to run from. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Video by the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust on Their Funded Research with Spawning Bonefish

This interesting video Bonefish and Tarpon Trust shows some of their research trip on spawning bonefish in the Bahamas. Bonefish and Tarpon Trust is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting and conserving bonefish, tarpon and permit and their habitats around the globe. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why Bonefish Guides Ask for a LONNNG Strip...

The cast is a good one. Following his guide's instruction, the angler strips his line soon capturing the attention of the bonefish. The fish turns to follow the fly, then as the bone tips down, his broad tail breaks the surface. The angler holds his breath and listens intently for further instructions. Calmly his guide says "lonnnng strip"!

Have you ever wondered why experienced bonefish guides ask for that lonnnng strip... just at that moment when the bonefish tips down to eat?

Well, it's not because the guide wants that angler to move the fly again. Instead, the guide knows the fish has eaten the fly. He wants the angler to remain calm and yet strike the fish! The guide is using a somewhat devious method to make sure the angler does not raise his rod in an effort to set the hook. Why? Because, raising a rod's tip skyward on the hook set turns the rod into a shock absorber greatly diminishing the energy of the strike. As a result, the fly frequently fails to obtain a solid purchase and skips out. Raising the rod tip may protect the light tippet on a trout leader and be sufficient to force the thin wire of a trout fly into a trout's relatively soft mouth… but it's not enough for a bonefish, or most other ocean species for that matter.

So if you want to catch more bonefish, you must learn to properly strip strike. While the strip strike used for bonefish is a less violent strip strike than the more powerful method used on extremely hard mouthed and hard charging species like tarpon and GT's, the mechanics are the same. The bottom line is, if you learn to strip strike, you will hookup more often simply because YOU DIDN"T RAISE THE ROD TIP!

Here are the basics of a good strip strike for bonefish, redfish and other ocean fish with a relatively soft mouth:

Step 1: As you strip line to impart action to your fly, keep your rod tip low and pointed directly at the fish

Step 2: When you see the fish tip down to eat or you feel your line come tight, continue to keep your rod pointed straight at the fish and give one quick, long strip. ( I like to drop my line hand sharply down straightening the elbow which allows your hand to move behind you. If you keep your elbow bent and only pull straight back on the line you get a much shorter strip with less power. Try it! )

Step 3: If the fish has eaten, your line hand may stop before it gets behind you (as the hook point comes home) OR the bonefish will turn and take off (be prepared to quickly let your line slip through your fingers!). Either way, you’re in good shape and the hook is set. Now you can raise your rod and use it for what it is when fighting a fish… a shock absorber.

It can be hard to train yourself not to raise your rod when striking (especially if you are a trout fishermen). But if you keep stripping with the rod tip pointed directly at the fish until the line comes tight (and you don’t raise your rod tip), you'll more often than not bury the hook in the bone's mouth and get a good hook set.

This is all you need to know to properly set a hook in a bonefish. But there is more to learn about the strip strike, especially if you want to fish for the extremely boney-mouthed and hard charging species like tarpon or GT's.

So with that in mind, here is a bit more on the strip strike:

As you are stripping the fly with your rod pointed directly at the fish etc. (see above) your rod hand should be out in front of you. This gives you, when the fish eats your fly, the full span of your arms for the strip set (i.e. your maximum strip set occurs when your rod hand is well out in front of you and your line hand is fully stretched out behind you).

If you reach that frustrating moment when you are still not tight to the fish, but your line hand is fully extended after completing a strip strike (this occurs most often as the fish is charging towards you), don't resort to a trout set to take up more line!  Instead, clamp down on the line which is running under the index and middle fingers of your rod hand, and again, still keeping the rod pointed directly at the fish, pull strongly straight back with your rod hand as far as you can or until it comes tight (the power you choose to put in this move depends on the species you are fishing for).

These two strips (the one with your line hand arcing behind you and the subsequent one with your rod hand) can be done smoothly and sequentially. Putting these two strips together can take up one hell of a lot of line without the need to reposition you line hand (which can be a game-ending move!). You can also repeat these rod hand jabs quickly, one after the other, if you feel you didn't get a good hook set with the preceding one.

One other note, as you perform this rod hand strike, move your other hand (line hand) forward at the same time. This will put you in good shape to clear your line when the fish comes tight and also repositions you for another line hand strip if necessary. Done properly, these techniques create a powerful tool… good enough to put a hook point in any tough ocean species from permit to giant trevally to tarpon.

Learn the bonefish strip strike and instead of hearing "lonnnng strip" from you guide, you’ll hear “nicely done”. 

Learn the rod hand strike and you'll be successful with any saltwater species!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just a Damn Fun Photo!

Is there anything better than a pretty woman with a fly rod?
Yes, A pretty woman in a very pink skirt with a very big fish!

Jennifer White in the Everglades with a BIG tripletail!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Video from International Angler Trip to Water Cay Lodge

This makes me want to be in the Bahamas!

In this video the guys from The International Angler in Pittsburgh, Pa show us they had another great trip to Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island.  See some nice bones, a bit of life at the lodge and as Mike Taylor lands a permit on their hosted trip last November. Join the International Angler next year in the Bahamas for a great time and some great fishing!  See for dates.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pine Beetles and Our Cold Snap in Wyoming and Montana

After the temps reached a frigid -22 degrees F during the wee hours of the morning last night, it was a penetrating -12 degrees Farenheit when I took my dog for a walk this morning at 8:00 AM.
By 3:00 PM, it had warmed up to a balmy -11 F.  Here in the northern Rockies, we all whine about our current weather, but this latest and very intense deep freeze seems to have a silver lining!!
This is good news indeed for those living in Wyoming and Montana… and for those that love to fish Wyoming and Montana! 

“Cold outside?".

How cold is it?
Cold enough to kill a Pine Beetle!”
As the Montana temperatures dip down to the minus 10 to minus 20 degrees F this week with wind chills at -15 to -35 F we may look forward to Pine Beetle Mortality.  Regniere and Bentz published a paper in 2007 that discusses cold tolerance in the Mountain Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae. In it they discuss how the Pine Beetle is freeze intolerant and must avoid freezing of body tissues.  “The supercooling point (SCP) refers to the temperature at which spontaneous nucleation of body water occurs and lethal ice crystals form in the insect tissue.”  There is a lot of statistical data, charts and graphs including Lethal Temperature (LT) that will warm the cockles of a Science teachers heart in this paper.
Basically,  increased time duration at subzero temperatures can kill our little Pine Beetle dead lumber salesmen.  A quick review indicates that in most circumstances minus 20 degrees Centigrade (equal to -4 F)  is the median of the SCP and more than likely peak of pine beetle mortality.  With the -20 F we’re seeing now this could be a sharp die off for the Pine Beetle in Montana, especially if this cold weather lasts.
And that of course is good for possibly reducing the number of dead standing trees and lessoning our catastrophic fire hazard.
So rejoice in this cold spell!  We are mitigating those pesky pine beetles.
Kent Atwood

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

When Sidney Offers Bonefishing Advice, It's Good to Listen!

We bonefishermen often focus solely on what patterns to bring, but here is some uncomplicated and solid advice from one of the most experienced and knowledgeable guides in the Bahamas. Sid offers some good reminders for the experienced angler and a few important bits of advice for those just starting out. For me, sometimes it's good to go back to the basics! 

When Sidney offers advice, it's good to listen!
This morning I was talking with Sidney Thomas, the head guide at Water Cay Lodge. We started talking about flies and fly patterns.

I asked him what were the most productive bonefish flies this past season and he said "Orange and pink for cloudy days with a bit of gold flash and tan with gold flash for sunny days." (Sid obviously likes gold flash!)

Take away #1: Gold flash is good.

Suddenly Sid stopped talking, thought for a second, then said "The truth is, any fly will work if the fisherman thinks it will work."

Sid went on, "It really doesn't matter that much. Guys fish differently with a fly they have confidence in. I've seen two guys switch to what their partner is fishing and they both still catch fish. They just switched flies with each other. Funny!" 

Take away #2: Fish a fly you believe in.

I pressed on asking Sid what flies to bring and he said, "The important thing is to have an assortment from big flies like #1's to small flies like #6's. So have flies, big and small, with no eyes, bead chain eyes, heavier lead eyes. Big patterns, small patterns, heavy patterns, unweighted patterns.

Take away #3: Bring a variety of flies.

"I see guys come with hundreds of great flies in many different colors and sizes, but they all have bead chain eyes. Man, that won't work. You got to have a variety of sizes  and  weights."

Then Sid said, "But no matter what you bring, make sure your flies are tied on high quality hooks. You wouldn't believe how many cheap hooks I see straightened out by big bonefish and permit. Guys spend all this time tying beautiful flies, but then they tie them on cheap hooks. NOT GOOD!"

Then Sid sighed and said, "They often pay for that."

He then added, "We had a 32 inch at the fork... 23" around bone caught this year. Thank God the guy's fly was tied on a good hook. A cheap hook would have straightened-out on the first run."

Take away #4: Tie with good hooks.

Good hooks are important with these guys too!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Be Ready!

Some of us were sitting around the other day having a cold one when we started talking about an important, yet rarely discussed, time in our fishing days. We were discussing that time period between meeting your guide and when you make your first cast to a fish. As result of this conversation, we decided to offer some hints on how to approach and best be ready for this time period in your fishing day.
We all agreed there has been plenty written about fly rods, fly reels, terminal tackle, flies, casting styles, retrieval styles, places to go and when to go there, but the topic of being ready to fish for the day is not talked about very often... but being ready: ready to meet your guide, ready to load up, ready to launch, and ready to fish can make a big difference in your day.

Here are some suggestions that can make you more efficient in your preparation which will translate to a smoother pick-up, launch and first cast. A little forward thinking about how you pack, where you put things on the boat, and being ready to fish can give you an extra 30 minutes of fishing time, make your guide a happy person, and just maybe ensure you don’t miss the first and only fish of the day.

Preparing for Pick-Up
Foremost, be on time.  No one likes to be kept waiting and that applies to you as well as to your guide.  Establish your pick-up time and make sure you meet it.  That usually means doing some packing the night before.  If you have not been to your location or fished with your guide before, you might ask your guide the night before how the morning will go. This will help you pack.  Will you rig up your rods before or after you launch?  What kind of fly line and leader is recommended?  Should you plan to have multiple rods ready? Don't ask a million questions... just those crucial few that will help you prepare and be ready.
Try to minimize the amount of gear you have to schlep around.   It’s easier on you and you will make a better first impression with your guide if you don’t show up bringing the equivalent of an entire fly shop.  A rod tube/case and a boat bag is pretty optimum.  Sometimes if you have lots of camera gear or are going to a location with a large variety of fish that requires more than average gear you might need two bags.  If you are bringing two rods or less, you might leave the tube/case at home and simply bring the rods in their socks.  Four piece rods are always best and will usually fit in at least one of the cargo compartments on the boat. If you only have two piece rods it might be best to bring the protective tube.  Again, ask your guide what is best
Your boat bag should be water proof (or water repellent as a minimum) and should be able to fit in the cargo compartments of most boats or under the seat.  Cluttering up deck space with gear often results in stumbling around, loud noises, tangled fly lines, and worse, broken gear.  A boat bag with a wide opening mouth is better than a bag with a narrow opening that requires you to remove some gear in order to find stuff that is beneath it.
Since you are only bringing one boat bag, it pays to think about the order in which you might need the stuff you put in the bag.  For instance, if you will be putting together your rod and reel before you launch, don’t put your reels in the bottom of the bag.  If it will be cool or rainy on the run out, keep your rain jacket near the top of the bag.  If you wear gloves, protective stripping sleeves, a face buff, pliers, have extendable fighting butts for your rods, or anything else that you need or want to have on before you start fishing, make sure it is easy to find near the top of your boat bag.  Zip lock bags are great for keeping small pieces of equipment together and easy to find.  Put on sunscreen before you leave your room.
When your guide shows up, be ready.  When you stow your gear in the boat make sure you and your guide know which gear you’ll need to access during the day.  Ask if you should put your rods together and put them in the protective sleeves in the boat.  Do not string the line through the guides unless you will be tying on a fly. 

Be Ready to Launch
Most guides have launched their boats so many times they have a well-established routine.  Often trying to help launch only disrupts that routine with the end result being less efficient.  Always ask if you can help before stepping in.  Your time might be better used to put on a buff, gloves, stripping guide, pliers, etc.
Many guides prefer you not wear the shoes you wore on the gravel path onto their boat without rinsing the bottom off.  And many guides do not want you wearing shoes with dark soles that can mark their deck.  So be prepared with shoes that have non-marking soles and that you can rinse off.  Or if you fish barefoot be ready to remove your shoes as you board.
Most flats skiffs have protective rod holders beneath the gunwales of the deck.  If you are in a panga or other type of boat without protective rod holders, ask your guide where the best place is to secure your rod (if you haven’t already stowed your rods).
When your guide starts motoring out, be ready with your jacket, buff, or other gear you need for the run.  If you wear gloves, protective stripping guides, or other equipment, get ready as you motor away from the marina.  Waiting until you get to the first flat wastes time.  This may mean you need to keep your boat bag by your seat for a bit.
Obviously, take care not to have your gear blow overboard. Also, make sure your hat is secured so it doesn't blow off and you have to waste valuable time going back to retrieve it. Pull you buff over your hat or use clips to attach your shirt or jacket to your hat.
If you didn’t do it before you launched, you might try to string your rods while you motor out, but ask your guide first.  There is often a “no wake” zone that requires slow going and that’s a perfect time to get ready.  Ask about terminal tackle and flies and get ready (this is a good question to ask the night before or when you are stringing your rod at the dock or beach).  If you don’t your guide will often have to stop some distance from your first flat to allow you time to rig up.
Being ready helps the launch go smoothly and quickly. And it is definitely bush league to plug up the launch ramp or slow your party's progress because you left something in the truck or in your room!

Be Ready to Fish
As you near your first flat or fishing spot, your guide will usually slow down and often stop the motor to avoid spooking fish.  We  cannot count the number of times we have pulled up next to a flat only to bump up a tarpon or bonefish.  Not being ready would have meant missing a chance at those fish.
Remember you have entered the quiet zone.  No dropping hatch covers, slamming cooler lids, tossing gear bags, and no stomping noisily around on the deck.  Be efficient, but be quiet.
Have your buff, your protective stripping guides, your pliers, hat, sunglasses on and ready as you pull up.  Follow the guide’s advice, but usually one must be ready to step up onto the casting deck and start scanning the water immediately.  Strip off at least 50 to 60 feet of line (more if you can accurately cast more) and stretch it between your hands to remove any memory coils.  This is especially true if it is cool in the morning.  Tropical lines stiffen when the temperature drops and retain memory coils from the reel.  If you try to cast the line without stretching out those coils, you risk a massive knot and another blown opportunity.
Once you’ve scanned the water and made sure there isn’t a fish in the area, pick a target and cast your fly.   This serves several purposes.  First you reverse the way the line is coiled on the deck – so the part that will fly out when you cast will be the top most part of the line.  Second, you give your guide an indication of your casting ability.  If you make a cast that approaches your maximum accurate range, you can tell your guide.  This helps your guide know where to position the boat and coach you when to cast.  You and your guide can also agree on the distance of that cast.  Sometimes guides and clients depth perception differs and it helps to get agreement on what is 60 feet before you actually cast at a fish.  By actually picking a target rather than just randomly casting, you give yourself some target practice.  You also avoid casting into an oyster bed or coral head that can snag your fly and cause more delays and commotion to retrieve your fly.

Strip your fly back making sure to carefully coil your line without snags.  Leave your leader and about 10 to 15 feet of fly line outside the tip top.  Hold the fly in your non-rod hand, pinching the bend of the hook between your fingers.  Holding the leader or the head of the fly make it possible to hook your finger when you start to make a cast, something that is both painful and causes delays.  
One last recommendation – pick your stance, plant your feet and don’t move them.  Anglers afflicted with “happy feet” eventually step on their line at a crucial moment, get tangled up or make lots of noise.  Having "happy feet" can also rock the boat and this sends out little waves that put fish on the alert. Yes, the creak of a hatch cover can spook fish, but the thump of a foot on the deck resonates through the water like an explosion.  Fish may not spook, but they will know something else is in the area and that makes them very nervous and on guard.  And never, ever scrape your foot along the deck in an attempt to reposition your fly line.  This is absolutely the worst thing you can do to your fly line. It can put a permanent twist in your line that you will fight for as long as you keep that line.

We hope you like these suggestions. If you have more suggestions or any comments, we would like to hear them.  We'll try to keep these thoughts on Being Ready a work in progress, so please chime in with your suggestions!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bonefish, Humility and a Dark Closet

Sometimes the events of a day leave an angler with a strong sense of personal expertise and accomplishment. While on other days, repeated episodes of failure batter an angler's ego until it is a bloody and bruised mess. In my experience, humility is generally forced upon us rather than it being a chosen path...

On a recent trip to South Andros Island, humble pie was on the menu one day. It all began when we saw a few big mangrove bushes off the main channel. Knowing these big bushes needed a good tide flow, we hoped to find the creek system that was feeding them. Searching carefully, we hugged the shore until we saw a sliver of green water bending southwest. Upon reaching this channel, a huge ‘cuda, his head as wide as a battering ram, silently slid in behind us. He followed us up what was now becoming a narrow, but deep creek. The channel soon gave way to shallow water and that was when the ‘cuda's curiosity waned and he returned to his ambush spot in the channel. With each step, the creek opened up more, eventually revealing a huge flat that was shaped like a four-leaf clover. Each lobe had a big mangrove bush that stood alone and served as the focal point for that particular bay.

These were the man-o-war bushes we had seen from outside the creek. I waded one shoreline, while my partner waded the other. We chugged ahead through soft marl that was just beginning to get tiring when the muck suddenly changed to packed sand. The bug dope and sunscreen flavored sweat that had just begun to leak into the corners of my mouth stopped as the wading got progressively easier and, as an added bonus, a soft breeze picked up.

I caught a few schoolies that were milling about near a rocky bar, then crossed the mouth of a small bay that seemed to have a slightly deeper channel on the far side. When I got to the channel, I saw that some of the charcoal grey innards of the flat had just been sucked up and spewed out onto the dazzling white sand of the bay. 

“That was done by a bonefish...” I said to myself, “... and not too long ago.” 

This I deduced because the morning tide was now falling and all the sucked-out debris was deposited on the down-tide side of the holes that I was now slowly wading past. Feeling a bit like a coon dog on a hot scent, I mentally connected the dots of each root hole as I muttered to myself, “There are fish here somewhere. Maybe they are still up in the bay and haven't yet been spooked by the dropping water.” 

I then glanced toward shore and saw a root hole that was smoking like a small volcano. 

“That couldn't have been there for more than a minute.” I thought as I searched the pocket, but saw no fish.

The light was perfect. If a fish was mining the marl in front of me, I should have been able to see it. But I saw nothing. Maybe, I had spooked the fish. If so, I suck! I should have been able to see any fish on this white sand long before I might spook them.

Just then a tail popped up. It waved happily in the air. I watched as a new smoking hole appeared complete with charcoal grey debris scattered on the down-tide side. When the fish was done rooting, he tilted back to horizontal and completely disappeared in the stirred-up and slightly muddy marl. Again, I could see no fish. He just vanished in water so shallow it barely covered my ankles. 

I flipped my fly forward like a discarded cigarette, then threw it behind me into a backcast. Just as I planned to drop my fly in the mud, the leading edge of a huge cloud, one of the few we had seen this week, covered the sun. I decided to wait. After only a few minutes, a tail appeared on the side opposite side me. 

“Two fish or just one fish that has moved?" I wondered.

Now, perhaps I was caught between two tailing fish - in impossibly shallow water - with a cloud covering the sun - on a white sand flat that even with no sun, I should be able to see everything... but, I could see no fish. 

I was once described in a book about flat’s fishing as, and I quote, “Heywood is seemingly able to see bonefish in a dark closet.” My friends like to kid me about this, but at this moment, apparently I needed a dark closet. I was glad no one was watching my inept stalk. As my frustration mounted, the sun slowly reappeared. My mood immediately improved until the whole scene replayed itself in maddening detail. There was a tail followed by a puff of mud, the fish tipped down and again vanished, I started to cast, a cloud covered the sun, I stopped casting etc, etc. 

Good God almighty! I was getting downright apoplectic so I decided to make a cast anyway. My thought was I would be proactive and try to retrieve something from this slowly deteriorating situation. This is probably never a very good strategy when bonefishing. Of course, my cast netted nothing... no hookup, no excited fluttering tail, hell, I didn’t even spook anything! Eventually I just stood there waiting for the sun, or a break... or perhaps some help from the fish gods! 

When the sun finally came out, I watched the root carefully. I could see no fish, but that obviously meant nothing. Eventually, impatience got the better of me and I waded slowly over to the root hole. My intention was to congratulate this bonefish on his total victory and perhaps turn around so he could kick me in the ass just for good measure. But he wasn’t there! Where in God’s name did he go? Just then two tails popped up on the other side of me and not very far away. Now they were just screwing with me!

Soon the whole scene repeated itself yet again. You know it well by now: tail appears, tail disappears... I get nothing. No hook-up, no follow, not even a slam-the-door-in-your-face exit... at least that would have brought a conclusion to this sordid affair. Eventually, the sun goes behind yet another cloud and I’m left at the doorstep again. Muttering to myself, I am now extremely worked-up and frustrated... none of the Zen, in-the-groove, patience of Job, process-oriented approach I often preach to others. Hell no, now I'm in full blown, type-A, yell at your kids, punch the dog, I-want-the-product-now behavior. Hell, I’m getting worked-up all over again just writing about this day. In fact, I can’t wait to conclude this paragraph and get on with my life. I'll be right back...

...OK, I’m better. Amazing what a slug of Jameson and a handful of Oreos does for the nervous system. 

Anyway, the net result of all this folderol was zip... absolutely nothing! For a moment, I thought I might find myself running through the bonefish roots screaming, “OK, screw you all. You win! I’m leaving! I don’t need you and your stinking tails.” 

Obviously, I was reaching the far side of emotional control and had donated my mental health to a couple of 22” bonefish. Maybe all the freeze-dried meals, tepid drinking water and incandescent sunshine we had experienced in the last ten days had poached my brain and turned me in to a simpering idiot. Must be, because at this moment I was contemplating yelling at an animal that probably didn’t even know I was there. I like to think so... to do otherwise means that these two bonefish were just playing with me. 

Maybe they had told each other, “Watch this... if you do it just right, you can make creatures crazy. Eventually, they’ll stomp their feet, pout and leave. Then we can get back to our meal.” 

Eventually, I did leave. I took my one-millibar-short-of-a-stroke blood pressure to visit the next bay where I wailed on 17” schoolies until I was once again convinced I was a superior animal... then I went looking for a dark closet.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Permit Caught with The International Angler Group at Water Cay Lodge

As I said in my last post, Water Cay Lodge is quickly becoming one of the best spots in the Bahamas to catch a permit. We are consistently seeing permit and we've had quite a few caught this year. Enough that anglers should be "rigged and ready" for permit when they visit. The Water Cay Lodge guides are becoming more and more experienced with permit and definitely have been a big asset to those angers who have been lucky enough to get "hooked-up".

Greg Rolle and angler Mike Taylor celebrate!

In early November, a group from the International Angler in Pittsburgh, PA led by Franklyn Gorrell also had an angler lucky enough to catch a permit at Water Cay Lodge. Franklyn told me the anglers name is Mike Taylor and he is also from Pittsburgh. This was his first permit.  The fish was about 25 - 30 lbs.! 

Craven's Bonefish Junk

Mike's permit took a Craven’s " Bonefish Junk “ on the first cast with NO hesitation! Franklyn and Mike were guided by Water Cay Lodge guide Greg Rolle. Franklyn said Greg was very good with boat position and helped a great deal by talking Mike through the presentation. Greg also did a good job of keeping the boat close to the fish as it ran thus keeping most of the line out of the water. 

Franklyn Gorrell congratulates Mike Taylor!

The International Angler is a great source for gear and if you're looking for my Top 5 bonefsh flies, these guys stock Umpqua Flies and my Top 5. The staff has a great deal of experience in the Bahamas so they are a good source for info on flies, lines, leaders etc. Besides, they usuallly give Angling Desination clients a bit of a break! Try them, you'll like them:

The International Angler is at 412-788-8088 or


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dental Education Adventures Water Cay Permit and Trip Report

Water Cay Lodge is quickly becoming one of the best spots in the Bahamas to catch a big permit. Visiting anglers are consistently seeing permit and we've had enough of these elusive beasts caught this year that visiting anglers should be "rigged and ready" for permit. The Water Cay Lodge guides have often been the difference between a catch and coming back with a big zero.

All three guides (Sidney Thomas, Ezra Thomas and Greg Rolle) have great eyes and find permit that few other guides would see. Water Cay Lodge guides are amazingly skillful and quiet polers and help anglers with a bad case of "permit fever"  to deliver the fly at the proper time. The guides keep everyone calm when approaching one of these fish of a lifetime and do everything they can to avoid the "wrecks" that so often happen when going after permit. Once hooked, their excellent boat handling skills give anglers the best chance of actually putting a hooked permit in the boat. To put it bluntly, these guides are damn good and I'm proud as hell of them!

But back to this trip... Here is the trip report from late October with the Dental Education Adventures group, led by my old friends Drs. Brian Crock and Larry Towning. In Brian's words:

Dr. Towning obviously had a good day!
"The guides worked tirelessly to put us on fish, as an impending cold front likely pushed fish off the flats into deeper water.  With that being said, we still saw plenty of fish.  The fact that impressed all us was the size of the fish we caught.  On any other trip, bonefish of this size would have been noteworthy. At Water Cay, these bruisers were the average, and we boated many of them.  More remarkable was when you boated a small fish, as they were very few in number.
We have had many legitimate shots at permit in our fishing travels.  Almost every day on this trip, a boat would return to the dock and tell stories of seeing and casting to permit. Inevitably, the heat of the moment leads to a fly in your shirt or the line tangled around your legs.  The possibilities of screwing up a permit presentation are endless.  Sidney's (head guide Sidney Thomas) calm manner made catching this permit possible.  Dan (Dr. Dan Merker) was calm throughout, as he didn't see the sickle tail go down on the fly and wasn't sure what we were fighting 'til Sidney lifted the fish from the water.  Nonetheless, the two of them worked as one for over an hour until the 25 lb permit finally tired."

Dr. Merker and head guide Sidney Thomas with their catch.

Dr. Merker and Dr. Brian Crock celebrate the moment!

Congratulations to Dr. Dan Merker and the members of this year's Dental Education Adventures!

Be looking for the next week's trip report as yet another permit was caught in early November by Franklyn Gorrell's group from the International Angler in Pittsburgh, PA.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Top 5 Bonefish Flies: #1 Bob Veverka's Mantis Shrimp

The real critter that inspired the fly... a Mantis Shrimp
Drum roll please... !!

After much consideration, my top choice... my go-to bonefish fly is Bob Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp (available commercially from Umpqua Flies).

I've known Bob for many years having been asked by him to write a chapter on bonefish flies for his great book Innovative Saltwater Flies published in 1999 by Stackpole Press. I was honored to be included alongside such excellent fly tiers as Tim Borski, Dick Brown, Jack Gartside and Trey Combs. Knowing the company he kept, I knew Bob understood fly design and what it takes to make a fly work well, so I confidently tried his mantis shrimp pattern in a number of different bonefish destinations. It worked like a charm and it's been one of my default options ever since!

This fly is great on most terrain, but especially mixed bottoms such as turtle grass and white sand, dark or light or deep runnels running thru shallow undulating mounds. The mantis shrimp covers all my prerequisites: it is tan (as they say in the Bahamas, "Any color will work, as long as it is tan!") and it blends in like the real critter (see photo above), yet can be seen. In addition, the fly has rubber legs, big eyes and spikey dubbing. Bob's fly has all the qualities I like in a bonefish fly. It is also easily modifiable via different color/diameter rubber legs, dubbings (try coyote or fox) and weight or color of the eyes. I fish mostly #4′s, but do use size #2 and #6 at times.

Veverka's Mantis Shrimp

Here is the creation of the mantis shrimp in Bob Veverka's own words:

Bob Veverka

Several years ago while sitting at my tying desk contemplating an upcoming trip to the Bahamas, I looked over my fly box filled with all the standard Bonefish patterns. I felt something was missing, something different, a fly of my own design. I thought about all the stories I heard about these elusive, fly-pattern-wary bonefish. They eat shrimp so my idea was to tie a shrimp pattern that would entice the smartest ghost on the flat.

While tying the first Mantis Shrimp I thought back to a TV program I saw that included a clip on the behavior of Mantis shrimp. Most noticeable to me was the movement of their many appendages and their eyes. I feel that movement incorporated in your flies displays life,  and to a hungry bonefish, dinner.

When designing flies for predator fish I feel it’s best to match the prey they are feeding on. Most important are the size, shape and color. Size can easily be changed or matched by the size of the hook you tie on. Shape or silhouette must be built into a pattern so it resembles the prey you wish to represent. It should be a fly that’s easy to tie with basic materials, lands lightly, sinks fast and most important, catches fish. The bulky body on my Mantis pattern makes it land softly, and the bead chain eyes bring it to the critical zone.
To simulate a few key elements, small accents are added to our flies that make them look more realistic and lifelike. These features include translucent materials that reflect light, flash materials for attraction, legs that move and emulate life and the addition of eyes that are a predominant feature on all shrimp.

For the color of my mantis shrimp, I felt you can’t go wrong with a light tan or sandy color to match the environment. While tying up some false albacore flies with Craft-fur for the wings I noticed that the material contained shorter fibers that were pulled out and discarded. At the time I thought this would make a beautiful translucent dubbing material. With this thought it was only natural that I used tan Craft-fur for the tail and dubbed body on my Mantis shrimp pattern.

One notable feature on all shrimp are their eyes. Eyes on real shrimp move and make them look like a creature from another planet. I have not figured out how to incorporate this component into a fly pattern so I used the standard burnt mono eyes.

For the carapace I tied in a tuft of tan rabbit fur. This material looks bulky in the water and displays the most enticing movement. Even at rest this material quivers with life. A slight current or a strip on the line will make this material pulse like no other.

Perhaps the most important feature on my Mantis Shrimp pattern are the legs and the way they are tied on. Most bonefish flies that include legs have them tied in all together in one area on the fly. To me this looks like a clump of legs or a dead shrimp. I wanted my pattern to simulate life so each leg had to be separate and act like a natural shrimp with lots of movement. It takes a little extra time to tie a fly in this manner but I feel this is what makes this fly so distinctive and deadly on wary bonefish. Over the years it has become one of the go to patterns used in the Bahamas and a standard in every fly box that travels to this area.

Recipe for Bob Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp
  • Hook – Size #2-6
  • Weight – Bead chain or small dumb-bell eyes
  • Tail – Tan Craft-fur, same length as body. 2 strands of flash material can be added. One set of rubber legs are added at this point, 
  • Burnt mono eyes and a tuff of tan rabbit fur
  • Body – One turn of tan Craft-fur dubbing then another set of rubber legs, followed by another turn of tan dubbing and another set of rubber legs, 3 sets in all.

Bob also has some new variations on his classic mantis shrimp pattern that will soon be available from Umpqua Flies. They are:

Veverka's Spawning Mantis Shrimp

Veverka's Ghost Mantis Shrimp

Veverka's Ghost Mantis Shrimp
S.S. Flies also has a version that works great too.
If you are interested in buying this fly, give me a call (800-211-8530) or e-mail me at 
I'll give you a code for a discount and make appropriate color and size suggestions depending on the island you are fishing. 

S. S. Flies Mantis Shrimp