Sometimes I worry myself with the amount of times I can make the same mistake again and again. I’m pretty sure a chimp learns after a few electric shocks not touch a wire but I seem unable to learn to never go to look at water without a fishing rod. How many times have you made that mistake too?
There I stood looking out across the reef facing South across the Indian Ocean when I noticed a fish-shaped shadow idling towards me about forty yards away. A particularly big shape too, now about thirty yards to my left, only a yards from the shore and in inches of water. My instinct said Bonefish immediately but my inner pessimist said “you’ve never seen a bone in this area and it’s way too big. I went through the possible species in my head. Shark? Wrong shape. Mullet? It’d be odd to see one on its own. GT? Too shallow.
At fifteen yards away from the the fish stood on its nose and puffed up mud as it ate something from the soft white sand. The biggest bonefish I have ever seen and it was feeding and cruising while heading straight for me. I stopped, crouched down, took a deep breath and gathered myself…..
Had I have gathered my fly kit which was sat in an office two minutes away I’d have had a clear shot at the fish of a lifetime but as it was all I’d shot was my own foot. I followed the fish along the shore to a small but inviting looking pancake flat where it fed for a while before drifting away. I drifted (stomped) my way back to the office muttering under my breath never to make the same mistake again.
Thirty minutes later I found myself stood on the edge of the same flat, this time fully kitted out and ready for action. There were four shapes moving confidently over the sand and while visibility was now poor I knew they were bonefish. The wind blew strongly and in the wrong direction (as it always does) so instead of selecting a fish to target I selected an area of the small flat that I could fish most effectively and waited for one of these shadows to drift in to my zone. This didn’t take long – no more than a few seconds and I took my chance with a single false cast off the wrong shoulder. In truth it wasn’t a great cast, the fly landed ten feet from the fish but such is the pulling power of the Fulling Mill Sand Prawn the fish charged the fly as soon as it hit the water. Half a strip and I was finally connected to a Desroches Bone!
The fight was an odd one with the fish having no intention of taking a chance by swimming over the reef. Instead it charged thirty yards over the flat, hit the brakes and charged right back at me – not how you expect to fight a bonefish at all. A dozen relays of the flat and the fish was totally tired out my the drag of my newly christened Tibor Signature 9/10 . I had gained an audience of one during the fight, a German lady who was fascinated by the commotion and willing to take a quick photo before the release.
At around 4lb it was probably less than half the size of the fish I had seen earlier, but I don’t think that matters too much. Not having the chance to hook the bigger fish was frustrating but it led me to an area that had never been discussed as holding feeding bonefish. Had i have hooked and landed or lost the larger fish it may have taken weeks or months to find that busy little flat in amongst the reefs and rocks.
I’ve been back there since and seen plenty of feeding bonefish. Each time I’ve been back I’ve left the rods behind too. While it would be nice it isn’t my job to catch every single fish on the island. I’m getting a good idea of where they all are though, and at what time and on what tides. One thing is for sure, my first Desroches Bonefish won’t be my last!