The two best books on Bonefishing are "Fly Fishing for Bonefish" by Dick Brown
and "Bonefishing" by Randall Kaufmann. I read and re-read both books often prior
to going to Christmas Island. However, I discovered a number of things that
improved my fishing which were missing from all the books. Some may be unique to
Christmas Island, but the majority apply universally. Hopefully these tips will
help the club members who are preparing for the Bahamas fishout.
The best fishing spots on the island are the "saddles" that connect
adjacent deep water holes in the lagoon. At low tide fish cruise the
length of the depression and use its deepest section to migrate from
one hole to the other. At incoming and outgoing tides they enter and
leave the adjacent flats flat from the 2 ends of the saddle. At such
times all you have to do is just stand at these points and wait for the
fish to come by.
Contrary to popular belief a fish on a sandy bottom is more difficult to
see than a coral bottom. The reason is that most encounters with bones are
of fish viewed from the side. When you look at a bonefish broadside the sand
is reflected on the fish's mirror-like scales and they become virtually
invisible. Bones over coral appear gray.
Bonefish are usually easier spotted on sunny days than otherwise. It is
not the lack of light that makes fish difficult to see. It is the reflection
of clouds on the surface of the water that makes it difficult to see past
the surface layer to the bottom. The water loses it's transparency and you
end up looking at the surface itself.
Bones are often easier to see with direct overhead cloud layer. If the
cloud layer throws a shadow over you but is behind your line of vision and
therefore not being reflected into your line of vision the fish are easier
to see. The subdued light makes it easier to see them. In such cases bones
appear green over brown coral and yellow/brown over gray sand.
Casting into Wind
Learn to cast into the wind!!! Bonefish feed facing into the wind. They
are far more approachable from their backside. Casts into the wind result
in quieter deliveries because the wind is working against the force of
the delivery and dissipates the force of the cast. Lining a fish once
during a 20 mph wind at Xmas will usually not spook him.
The greatest concentration of bonefish occurs on the upwind edge of
a flat. Christmas Island has numerous circular flats called "pancake"
flats. Most guides walk you downwind along an edge to make casting easier.
Most fish will roam or hold within 20 yards of the windward edge of the flat,
often facing into the surge.
There are 4 tides to consider when scheduling a trip: high spring tide,
low spring tide, high neap tide, and low neap tide. The best fishing is
on the incoming higher high tide of a spring tide. At this time fish are
foraging heavily. The fishing during neap tides is good to spotty. At
such times the water level is consistent throughout the day and the fish
are present but they are often cruising – not feeding. Generally, low
spring tides are disastrous because the entire flat dries up or has
so little water that fish are very spooky. However there are a few flats
that fish just as well during low tides.
The best fishing for trophy bones is during low tides when the flat is
almost dry. The big bones will cruise the green water off the edges of
the flat. They're hard to see because you're looking at them sideways
(you're standing on the flat). Large fish rarely pass over a flat and
will only do so after the water is waist deep. They are very hard to see
at such a depth (you are not in a boat) and are not worth pursuing.
Cast and Wait
The cast and wait method is one of the best and easiest techniques,
especially for beginners. The cruising fish is led by 10-15 ft during
the cast and the fly allowed to sink to the bottom. When the fly is 3
feet from the fish it is pulled gently about a yard and allowed to sink.
The fish should move to the fly. The greatest asset of this technique
is that it overcomes faulty deliveries (the main cause of failure).
However, there are numerous problems with this method such as schools
changing direction. Also, it doesn't work for tailing fish.
Fluorocarbon is a mixed blessing for bonefishing. Although less visible,
it sinks much faster than mono. Flies get caught on coral because they
are pulled along the bottom with each retrieve, instead of being lifted
off the bottom. Also, the sound of leader scraping the sandy bottom
spooks fish. You can't use the cast and wait method of fishing because
of the fast sink-rate. The delivery has to be on target and stripped
soon thereafter. That requires close casts which spook fish, especially
the big ones.
Best Time of Day
Morning fishing is considered best at Christmas Island because the trade
winds blow east to west and the sun rises from the east. By stalking
towards the west you omit the glare from the sun and the wind helps your
casting. However, you can have great afternoon fishing by learning to cast
into the wind and fishing in the opposite direction (east to west) to
At least 30% of the fish will not be seen initially and will be spotted
less than 20ft from you, the angler. At this point any movement will
spook the fish. Casting a fly with just the leader requires a lot of
motion. Freeze! Let him swim right past you. After he's a safe distance
away turn around slowly and make the cast. If you are consistently
seeing fish only at close range the spotting is bad: move to another
flat with different characteristics.
The single most important skill in bonefishing is spotting. After
2 weeks at Xmas I could see about 15% of the fish within 40 ft of me
in the direction I was searching. The guide sees about 50%. Your guide's
main function is spotting fish. However, casting blindly to fish that
only the guide is seeing is no fun at all. After learning the basics
of bonefishing use the guides sparingly or go solo. It's far more rewarding.