A question we get asked all the time at Andros South is ‘how far should I lead a bonefish?’ In other words, how far in front of the fish should I aim my cast? Bonefish are almost always moving and therefore it is important to present the fly far enough in front to avoid ‘lining’ them. Most fish don’t appreciate the fly line slapping the surface of the water over their heads, and bonefish are no exception.
We’d love to give you an exact answer on how far to lead your fly, but unfortunately it isn’t quite that simple. As with most fishing related questions the answer is, you got it, it depends! We’ve asked our super experienced guide team and have heard a number of answers from 2-3 feet, to 18 inches, to “right on his head mahn!”
So, if you’re looking for a generalized answer, we’d say presenting the fly a few feet in front of a cruising bonefish will get you in the zone the majority of the time. However, from our experience, how far to lead a bonefish depends on a number of variables such as the following..
- Speed of the Fish: This one’s not rocket surgery, but worth mentioning nonetheless. If the fish is moving fast, lead more. If the fish is moving slow, lead less.. But you already knew that!
- Weight of the Fly: The key to catching bonefish is getting your fly into the feeding zone as quickly as possible. The majority of a bonefish’s diet is found along the bottom and therefore getting your fly down (to where a fish can see it) is crucial. If using a light fly, you may have to lead your fly further ahead of the fish to ensure it gets down in time for the fish to see it.
- Depth of the Water: Just like the weight of the fly, determining how far to lead your fly in order to get your fly deep enough is important. Bonefish are focused on the bottom, so if you spot fish in deeper water, it may be necessary to lead the fish more to get your fly down in time.
- Fish Behavior: The behavior of your target plays a huge role in where to land your fly. If the fish is lazily cruising around the flats, then your text book ‘2-3 feet ahead’ cast will most likely ensure your fly will sink to the proper depth without spooking the fish. However, if you find yourself casting to a tailing bonefish, your best option is to land your fly as close as possible. Tailing fish means happy fish and more often than not, ‘hitting ’em on the head‘ will elicit a strike.. Trust us.
- Fish Size: All other conditions aside, the size of the fish can play a role in how far to lead your cast as well. When fishing to average size bonefish, odds are a few feet in front will get it done. However, if you’re lucky to wander upon that double digit monster, we’ve found landing your fly closer than normal results in more hookups. Big fish don’t get big by being stupid. Don’t give him a chance to inspect your fly, land it close!
- Weather: As with all realms of fishing, the weather dictates a lot of our decisions. On a calm sunny day, odds are leading your fly a little further than normal is your best option. Calm sunny days usually mean spooky fish, and landing your fly as delicately as possible is the primary concern. Lead the fish a little further to prevent the splash of the fly from spooking the fish. On the other hand, on a breezy day with lower light conditions, feel free to land your fly a little tighter! Bonefish are usually more comfortable under these conditions and a closer cast will often catch more fish.. As long as it has a chance to get down!