For skilled casters, the Sage 790-4 TCXis an excellent all-around choice when chasing bonefish on South Andros Island.
Compared to its predecessor the TCR, the TCX loads much easier at short range, which is critical in those many situations here in which you’re making a 30-foot shot. This happens much more often than the oft-spoken-of ’70-foot shot into the wind’.
On the other hand, this is a very powerful, very fast-action rod that’s perfectly capable of making the long shot when you need to. Its stiff butt section makes short work of picking up and laying down 50+ feet of line without a false cast. Need to put the wood to a big boy? It’s got the backbone.
Yes, a 7-weight is lighter than your typical bonefish setup, but if you’ve got game, this rod has all the power that you need.
Bonefish are hard to see. Keeping these tips in mind will help.
Look For Movement
When you first see a bonefish, it’s very unusual that you actually see the clear outline of the fish. Bonefish generally first appear as dark spots, moving slowly and steadily. They’re almost always moving, so keep your eyes out for moving dark spots. Ripples on the water and the movement of your boat (if you’re poling) can sometimes make it difficult to tell if that dark spot is actually moving, so if you see a spot that might be a bonefish, try to find another object on the bottom as a reference point, and compare the ‘movement’ of the spot against that point.
Look Where You Can See
This may seem obvious at first, but you should spend most of your time looking in the direction that you can see. The angle of the sun and the color of the bottom will make for better visibility in one direction and one area – look there! If you can’t see well 100 feet out, look 50 feet out. A periodic quick scan of areas with tough visibility never hurts, but most of the time you should systematically search the areas where you can see well. Don’t waste your time looking where you can’t see.
If You Can’t See The Bottom, Look At The Surface
If clouds and/or glare prevent you from seeing the bottom, look at the surface of the water. V-wakes, nervous water and certainly tails and/or fins could indicate the presence of bonefish. Cloudy but calm days can actually produce some fantastic fishing if you learn to look for movement on the water rather than trying to look in the water.
Follow Your Released Fish
If you haven’t spent a lot of time looking at bonefish in the water, take advantage of every opportunity that you get. One of the best comes when you or your partner has just released a fish. As the released fish swims away, try to keep your eyes on him for as long as possible. This is a great way to get used to how bonefish look in the water at various distances.
Now get out there and catch ’em!
More Bonefishing Tips
What I have learned is that I love big fish and tails glistening in the sunlight. Below is the rig I have come up with for just those things.”
- Sage 691-4 TCR
- Sage 3400D reel
- Sage Equator Taper 6 weight fly line or Teeny Bruce Chard Bonefish line in 6 weight
- 250 yds 30 lb Micronite backing, attached to the spool with an arbor knot
- Double bimini twist in the fly line end of the backing
- Fly line attached with a loop-to-loop connection, with the loop in the back end of the fly line created by doubling over the fly line, whipping a loop with fly tying thread, and sealing it with AquaSeal
- Tapered knotless leader 8 – 14 feet long, tapered to 10 to 17 lb depending on conditions, tied directly to the fly line with an Albright knot, treated with Zap-A-Gap and AquaSeal (more on this below)
- Large bonefish fly in similar color to the flat, tied on with a non-slip mono loop
“I love the Sage TCR 6 weight for a few reasons. It is light in hand and therefore easy to hang in your hand for long periods while scanning the flats. Even though it is a 6 weight, the bottom of the rod has incredible lifting power and can really put the hurt on a big bone when he is headed into the mangroves. Finally, nothing gets me going like a big bone tailing in mega-skinny water and I feel that I can make a much more delicate presentation with a 6 weight line.”
“The Sage 3400D reel has never failed me and has proven to be corrosion-free even after residing at the beach in Andros for 5 years….enough said.”
“I tie on 250 yds of Cortland Micronite backing to the spool with a double arbor knot. I like the Micronite because it is a happy middle road between Dacron and gel-spun. On the business end I whip on a double bimini that will then be looped to the fly line.”
“I have two choices for flylines. When conditions are calm and I plan on making long casts and delicate presentations I go to the 6 weight Equator Taper by Sage. If the wind is blowing or I am throwing heavier flies, I switch to the Teeney Bruce Chard Bonefish Line in a 6 weight. It has a shorter, more aggressive front taper and turns flies over better in the wind. It’s manufactured to be one half line weight heavy, therefore loading the rod better when making shorter casts.”
“I knot my leader directly to the flyline with an Albright Knot and treat it with Zap-A-Gap and the Aquaseal to give me the confidence it will stay put. I like this set up because it is a smooth sleek connection and has never failed. When it is calm I go with a long 12 to 14 foot leader tapered to 12 or 10 pound test and when it is blowing I will cut back a 10 foot leader to 8 or 9 feet and about 17 pound test to improve turnover and accuracy. I like the knotless leaders because there is no way they are picking up any salad. I curse enough when my hook picks up salad when I am in shallow and a tailer blows up because a piece of seaweed just started dancing!”
“At the end on the leader I am attaching my fly with a non-slip mono loop with a very small loop to allow freedom of movement without fouling.”
“My fly selection will vary but I will say that I am sure to be mindful of using the right amount of weight for the situation and I am not afraid to throw some big morsels to entice those bonefish. I am also sure to include in the fly colors that are present in the area I am fishing at that moment. The critters I am trying to imitate are certainly doing the same which makes it all important.”
“Finally – always rub some weeds or muck on your fly before you fish it to get all your nasty stink off it. You will be glad you did!”
Why is that?
- Lots of fish
- Big fish
- Ocean-side flats
- Inland flats
- Huge fishery
- Few anglers
- Incredible guides
- Solid infrastructure
Maybe it’s not such a mystery after all.
Big and Light.
At Andros South, we have the luxury of chasing bonefish under a pretty unique set of circumstances.
- Bigger fish than normal
- More aggressive fish than normal
- Shallower water than normal
This combination is exactly what most bonefish anglers would ask for, but it can present some problems for guests who want to arrive with a box full of perfect flies for the week. Most widely available bonefish flies fall into one of two categories –
- Designed for places like Belize and Christmas Island, so they’re light enough but way too small
- Designed for the deep water of the Florida Keys, so they’re big enough but way too heavy
At Andros South, we like our flies big and light.
The go-to fly on most days on South Andros Island is a #2 with bead chain eyes. This matches the water depth that we fish most frequently, but presents a meal that’s big enough that it seems to get the big, aggressive fish of South Andros most excited.
It’s certainly helpful to have flies of various weights available for different water depths. An average box for South Andros might have 80% flies with bead chain eyes or very small lead eyes, 10% flies with normal lead eyes and 10% flies with mono eyes or no eyes.
Likewise, a range of sizes can be helpful, but think big. Your smaller fly on South Andros is a #4, and some veterans of the fishery have been known to fish bonefish flies longer than 3″ and tied on 2/0 hooks. #2 is your most versatile size.
A couple of different colors are also good to have, but again a huge variation is not too important. A darker pattern to match turtle grass or marl and a lighter pattern to match light sand should get the job done.
On this page we’ll periodically be profiling the gear setups of world-class anglers, to let you know from top to bottom how they ready their equipment when they head to our fisheries. Our first installment comes from Captain Bruce Chard, legendary Keys guide and teacher of our bonefishing schools at Andros South.
Here’s what Bruce would fish with on a typical day on South Andros Island.
- Ross Worldwide Essence FW 790-4 – 9 foot for a 7 weight line
- Ross Momentum 4
- Teeny / Bruce Chard Bonefish Taper, 7 weight
- 20 pound dacron backing in a high-vis color like chartreuse or orange
- 2 wraps around the barrel of the spool, attached to the spool with a 6-turn Uni Knot
- Bimini twist on the line end of the backing with a doubled over closing knot to provide double loops
- Teeny / Bruce Chard Bonefish Taper, 7 weight or 8 weight. “I’ll throw a 7 on a light wind day and an 8 on a heavy wind day, but both on the 7 weight Essence FW”
- Loop whipped with fly tying thread on the backing end of the fly line, sealed with superglue or Zap A Gap
- Another similar whipped loop in the leader end of the fly line
- Tapered leader hand-tied with Rio Saltwater Hard Mono
- Perfection loop tied in fly line end of leader
- Leader tapered with blood knots, starting with 27 lb Rio Hard Mono, going to 22 lb, then 17 lb, then 13 lb
- Tippet section of leader is 18 lb Seaguar Grand Max Fluorocarbon. “It’s actually smaller diameter than the 13 lb mono, so the taper is perfect”
- The go-to fly on a typical day would be a Bruce Chard Bahamas Mantis shrimp, tied on with a Lefty Kreh Non-Slip Mono Loop.
Join Andros South in our support of Bonefish Tarpon Unlimited’s research efforts! Aaron Adams Ph. D., BTU’s Director of Research and Operations, will be hosting a week at Andros South from May 23 – 30, 2009. Guests at the lodge will experience our normal fishing program, but will also assist BTU and our team in tagging efforts on the flats of South Andros. In addition, Dr. Adams will give slideshows on bonefish biology and research, and will be available throughout the week for Q&A sessions related to bonefish.
This is an excellent opportunity to support a great cause, and at the same time learn about bonefish from one of the foremost bonefish experts in the world.