Wading in Shallow Water

Johnny walks slowly.  Photo: Louis Cahill
Johnny walks slowly. Photo: Louis Cahill

Bonefish swimming in very shallow water are often at their spookiest, especially when the water’s calm as well.  If you’re chasing shallow water bonefish on foot, these handy tips will help you get your fly into that fish’s mouth – which isn’t going to happen if you spook him first.

  • Walk slowly. The noise created by your feet sloshing through the water and your soles hitting the flat is going to be much less of an issue if you walk slowly.  Approaching a bonefish on the far side of a shallow, calm flat might take 15 minutes or more.  That’s OK – these are some of the coolest shots in bonefishing, so take your time.
  • Step onto the balls of your feet. Landing hard on your heels can make a lot of noise, especially if you’re walking on a ‘crunchy’ bottom.  Your steps will be much quieter if you land on the balls of your feet.  Speaking of crunchy bottoms…
  • Be aware of the bottom in front of you. As you spend more time on the flats, you’ll realize that certain types of bottoms are covered with small shells and limestone (i.e. crunchy) and others are covered with sand or soft grass (i.e. pretty quiet).  Look at the flat and know what’s in front of you – if you’re getting close to a shot at a fish swimming at you and you see crunchy bottom ahead, it’s probably best to wait for the fish to come to you, rather than risk spooking him with a crunchy step.
  • Gather your line slowly. When you’re in position to make a shot, it’s helping to pull the looped line behind you into coils at your feet, so there’s less drag when you shoot line and it pulls out of the water.  Don’t yank when you pull that line in – that tearing sound can send your bonefish running.
  • Recast slowly if he doesn’t eat. Bonefish feeding in shallow water are often moving really slowly, so you may get a chance to make additional shots if the first one doesn’t connect.  After your first shot, strip your line in slowly, and pull the line out of the water slowly before your next cast.  Go slow!

We chase lots of bonefish in shallow water at Andros South

More Bonefishing Tips

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Bonefishing at Andros South is as good as it gets.  Contact us to learn more.


  1. Seth Van Andel says

    Completely off topic, but I was looking for the mouse wars post and couldn’t find it. Can you guys help? It was the post about Hickman and Morrish cleaning up with their respective patterns!

  2. Seth Van Andel says

    Thanks Andrew! I thought for sure it was here.
    Maybe I’m reading too many fishing blogs…

  3. says

    Don’t forget to pick your feet completely out of the water with each step–like a heron–and point your toes on reentry. It looks absolutely ridiculous while you’re doing it, but it does significantly increase stealth.

    The exception to this is if you’re somewhere that has lots of baby stingrays buried in the sand…then shuffling is a good idea. I’ve been “stung”–what a euphemism: bees sting, rays stab you with a serrated, razor-sharp blade that’s soaked in bacteria and covered in a toxic slime–and it was one of the worse experiences I’ve ever had. Let’s put it this way, being a male I’ll never give birth, but I imagine it’s up there with that level of pain.

    But, to get back on topic, if you’re wading over rocky bottom, crunchy stuff, or grass, you’re completely safe not shuffling, and you’ll spook way less fish.

  4. windrider says

    Of course using unweighted flies is usually recommended in very shallow water and casting so the fly lands quietly, pulling back just at the last moment so the fly eases into the water has worked well for me right at the edge of Tobey’s mangrove, Abaco- fb

  5. Trap says

    Here in central PA. In our limestone based streams one must pick their feet up regardless of depth due to the variety of rock sizes. Often while drifting one will find that as the fly swings with the current into shallower water a few second hesitation prior to a recast will entice a bite.


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