In the words of a great guide, one who spent some time on the island and who now has his own very successful guiding business, “Grand Cayman is a great place to flats fish but not a great flats fishing place.”
Having just spent two weeks there he was right, the place is stunning driving around the island at silly o’clock was great fun, though you’d kill a hundred crabs doing so, lots of the little suckers coming out from all over the place, land crabs, creepy looking buggers black and red ones and pale orangey ones… no matter……. CRUNCH, they all sound the same when you go over them in a hired car, a big one litre Hyundai, my chariot for me my wife Bethan and baby girl Poppy, it didn’t like corners that’s for sure!
Early morning session 1
The day was bright with 20kmh winds, not too bad! I was expecting crystal clear water and lovely flats, WRONG!
There are just NO flats, not the the type you’d associate with bone fishing that’s for sure, from the word go I knew this was going to be tough!
This is more or less what I was faced with, as you can see a storm was brewing!
So, let’s see what’s what then! Well, after a few hours walking this area, I managed to see NOTHING!
The problem was I’d hit the island on a week of spring tides, the water was just a tad too deep to see any tailing fish, I needed to find another place and come back here the following week, this was the area I’d had secret info on, lets call this place Area 51.
Early Morning Session 2
Okay, another day out, up at 5am so I can get the car and bugger off without impacting on ‘family time’.
I hit a known area called the FRANK SOUND, the main road runs right along the sea here so parking’s a breeze, I also stop for a coffee at one of the Texaco garages, this is to become a little ritual, coffee with SWEET milk, lovely, but god it plays havoc on one’s bowels!
I also religiously listen to the local COOL radio station:
Anyway hitting the Flat, that’s not quite a flat, I realise that this too is rather deep but it’s not as windy today, so I’m hopeful.
Anyone that’s done this kind of fishing will be aware of just how ‘in the zone’ you can get. You become like a heron, every footsteps is measured and patient as you peer intently at, in and on the water, by the way if you’ve never owned a pair of Costa’s with 580 lenses, you need to own some, they are by far the best I have ever used, just the ticket for this type of fishing.
The turtle grass gave way every now and again to some deeper holes, turquoisey green and beautiful, I was hoping I’d see some bones swimming over the area but I never did. Out of the corner of my eye every now and again a shoal of needle fish would make the water ‘nervous’, I’d turn hawk-eyed only to be disappointed when I saw what it was, you see every crease and ripple differently when in the zone!
Having walked the entire length, east to west, I headed back. Halfway back in a little bay, I saw a glint, was it, wasn’t it….. IT WAS! Bonefish, get in. It was moving though, not feeding and it was moving away from me, shit! I moved higher up the beach and headed up past it hoping against hope that I could get in front, I had to take my eyes off the water, so was concerned about losing it and not seeing it again.
I did though, it had stalled and started to tail on top of some turtle grass, me 20-yards further up the beach in front of it.
I pulled off some line and made my way a little closer towards it, the water this close in was shallow, real shallow, so ff came my fly and on went an unweighted shrimp with a weed guard, all the while I’m looking up and praying that it keeps coming, it’s still there but even better still, another has appeared,. two of the buggers sitting feeding 10 yards away, this is a given I’m thinking! I cast – right on their noses – no reaction, strip, strip,and the fish are gone, bolted like scalded cats. BEEP!! I can’t tell you how frustrating that is!
It took me a few more trips to realise that stripping the line without the rod tip under water was spooking them, bare in mind this place has plenty of local fly fishers, it seems you have to get cute to catch these buggers!
Early Morning Session 3
Get up , sneak down to the hotel docks, it’s still dark, cast out a large green tarpon toad, pull back at speed, get a tarpon! Well jump them! I did this twice before the hotel guard came down and told me I couldn’t fish from the dock, Damn, I went to the beach and waded out and casts towards the dock, this was just as effective! I caught and managed to land another two, one about 20 the other a bit bigger. Tarpon are AWESOME! But this was cheating in my eyes.
I hopped into the car about 6am and headed to my favourite place Area 51.
I stopped off had my ‘sweetmilk’ coffee, and listened to some reggae on hot 104.1 FM as I went there. When you arrive, you come through some seriously expensive property – LOADSAMUNY, through a long street before coming on a small carpark, I say small it’s enough of a bare bit of beach for one or two cars. From here I can see out onto the water, the reef, which more or less surrounds the island, was up to my left, the lazy water to my right, with some beach and some mangroves.
The tide was now neeps, good, lowish water perfect for seeing the buggers tail or move some water!
My rods are always set up in the car, I just roll my window down, any way I had a new 9wt jobby in case I saw tarpon or sharks, and my trusty Jenson, 9ft 8wt, my rod of choice for bones, until someone buys me a Cross Current. I was using a 10ft tapered leader to 10lb cut back and a tippet, loop to loop of 5ft of Powerflex 12lb, I tend to use my own fly for bones, a concoction of coral rabbit, rubber legs and coral straggle Fritz, time to walk the area.
As I head to the dead tree in the water, see image above, I wake the two dogs that stay in the mansions next to the water, noisy gits how can I concentrate, feel sorry for the owners! : )
As I get to the the little point of the beach in front of the tree, the mangroves to my right, I stand and survey the water, I can see far in both directions, it’s a great vantage point.
To my right, about 100 yards away the water moves, it moves again, then I see splash, it’s a few bones pushing and shoving their way towards me. As I watch, hoping that they come closer, a silver flash appears in the – unseeinable water – in front of me, bonefish?
I strain to see through the water, I can’t, but I don’t have to, the tip of a tail appears, then another, and another. There are at least three bones only 30ft away from me and another lot coming my way, get in!
I peel line from the reel, check the drag, nice and tight, there’s mangroves here after all and roll my fly out, to get the line working through the rings. I kneel down and cast out, a short cast, one foot in front of the leading tail, breathe for a second, put the rod tip under the water and slow strip, just the once, the group and the water move in unison, pull again, something pulls back, keep the strip going, it’s not there anymore but the fish are following, strip, then the line goes solid as I pull into my first bone of the trip.
Despite what every one will have you think this fish doesn’t take off at a rate of knots, it pulls steady, as if it’s checking that something is indeed wrong. It soon realisies that something;s up and suddenly the water boils as my fish takes off spooking god knows how many with it!
I’m holding on, the reel spool is spinning against the tightly set drag,as the bone heads off towards the other group of tailing bones, in the process these spook. If I thought the first group was big I was mistaken, this group shifted water the size of a tennis court.
My fish hared off out into open water, thank god, I let the reel do the work and it was only case of me reeling in and letting go if and when it decided to run , soon enough I was pulling it up the beach for a photo:
That was that section AREA 51 knackered for a wee while, so I made my way up to the reef area. Bigger bones often are in this area. working the stones looking for crabs and shrimp as the tide pushes in and out.
There was a few fish tailing when I got there, thank goodness for neep tides!
Off came my fly and on went a lightweight crab, and I started to make my way above them, I’ve yet to catch a bonefish, when casting ‘Downstream’ of one.
I managed to get above them, just in time they were close to me as I got ready, as I went to cast, my line got caught on the sharp lava, the result was my line hit the water like a ton of rocks about a meter short, the splash was too much and they pushed off into deeper water, must bring line tray next time I go abroad!
I did catch this little bugger, flicking my fly over the turtle grass as I made my way back to the car, elated yet slightly deflated at another missed opportunity!
Early Morning Session 4, 5 and 6
All pretty uneventful, apart from seeing one big ass snook, nothing to report but HEAT!
Early Morning Session 7
I hit Area 51 early doors, as I get the rods out the car, I see two or three, it’s hard to tell, bones tailing as they feed heading up to the reef, in between two large stones. Okay experience tells me to get in front, it also tells me to get right in the water so that my line snags nothing, I need no slip ups if I’m to get a hold of one of these tricky buggers.
I head up past them keeping low, all the time watching them as they can move fast, real fast, but I’m soon getting ahead of them, my heart is going like a piston in my chest, me the sea and a group of bones, not a soul was stirring in the houses, game on!
I’m rigged up with a crab pattern, using a long leader, these big ones are tricky, so you need to be very careful, stealthy and bang on with your casting!
I get the line out and fire my fly, arrow-like into the fish, I reckon I have it a foot in front, I’d weed guarded a whole host of flies with bug bond and some 80lb fluoro, this crab was one of those flies, it needed it, not so much for the weeds but the rocks, lethal.
I do nothing, neither do the fish, I pull, the fish move, one takes it, I feel it, a tension first then the full blown lock up, YES! Lift rod tip, pull line and hang on tight!
That first instant when a bone, goes from being calm feeding away to the realisation that it’s hooked is mental! Happy, feeding, Happy, feeding, Happy, feeding, Happy, feeding….. then BOOOOM! warp speed crazy, mental, nutcase that’s just a swallowed a shed load of Bolivian marching powder, like a rainbow that has been given the Superman treatment, a famous five rainbow if you like, I love it!
On it’s first run it barreled out towards the reef, towards the jaggy stones, clever little shit, I have the hands up and the rod tip high, but it’s inevitable, the tension in the line and the lava stones and are a recipe for disaster, soon enough the leader is rubbing against something and no matter what I do to try and keep up and deal with it, I know I can’t, but still I play it. I’m winning it’s nearly at my hand, quick a photo. I get one and guess what, it then comes off! The frayed line held and the bloody hooks slips out, bloody barbless! I look at the small area of water where it’s sitting, i go to gran it and it swims off!
I have a drink, a long slug of my pink lemonade, very refreshing but nowt like catching a bone, time to walk down to the point where the mangroves are.Before I get there I can see the calm water in the lea of the promintary, what’s this then? Bones, oh hell yes, they are there and close in to!
I quickly set up a new bonefish leader, cheers Rio, and then add my tippet loop to loop and the my fly, my little coral thing.
Pulling line off my reel the things are getting closer to the mangroves, mmm I don’t like it but hey if I hook one I’ll deal with it! Ready… Steady…GO!