Get in the Zone for more Bones

It’s a postcard Caribbean day. 85 degrees and sunny. A few high, snow-white clouds float effortlessly across the sky, as if going nowhere. A light breeze cools you as it ripples the surface of the water. Off in the distance you gaze at the turquoise cut that bonefish use as a highway to move onto the flats. Looking farther off, into deeper water, the blues darken and seem to melt into each other. You wade quietly through the knee-deep Bahamian flat, it’s warm, clear water enveloping your legs to the knees. You feel alive! More alive than when you’re anyplace else, especially back in “civilization.” You look around and take it all in, the sun, the clouds, the water, the colors, and instantly feel free. Awesome, you think. And you’re right. Paradise!

Finally you look into the water ahead of you, straining to see the ghost of the flats. Then you see them, a pair, at ten o’clock to your left, moving away from you at forty feet, then fifty feet three seconds later. You missed them. Too late. They swam right by you and you missed your shot. Those five seconds you spent feeling “alive” cost you a shot at a nice fish.

You are there to catch bonefish you tell yourself. Pay attention. Don’t get distracted. You blew a good shot, and the largest one in the pair looked around ten pounds! Maybe larger. You start scanning the water again, more intently, concentrating harder, ignoring the spectacular world around you. You want to hook a bone.

Such is the dilemma that bonefishermen everywhere face. It’s a tough life, chasing bones. Drinking Kalik beer and dining on fresh conch and lobster in the evenings, then sleeping soundly with no covers while the salty sea breeze freshens the warm nighttime air.

So you missed a shot at a bone. You’ll miss many more before the trip is through. You’ll mess up some casts. When you make a good cast and the fish follows and takes your fly, you’ll screw-up the hook-set. When he charges the same fly again seconds later, you’ll mess it up again. When you finally do hook a fish, you’ll lose it one way or another. Maybe you’ll lose it through your own fault in failing to clear the line properly. Maybe it will be lost to the mangrove Mother Nature nurtured in the middle of the flat.

But you will also catch bones. Maybe lots of bones. Maybe enough so that as you watch a pair of bones approach, you will keep watching them, lacking the desire to present your fly, and then laugh to yourself when they slowly cruise out of sight. Then you will look around at all of the colors, all of the beauty that is mother nature’s, and feel alive again.

It’s your trip. You decide how hard you want to fish, how hard you want to concentrate. Sure, the harder you concentrate, the more “shots” you’ll have. The more “shots” you have, the more fish you’ll catch. But where do you draw the line? You came here to catch bonefish. But you came to catch bonefish here in the Caribbean. You wouldn’t want to fish for them with steelmills and smog in the background. The beauty has got to be there, it has got to be a part of it too, along with the bones. One without the other wouldn’t cut it.

So you wade quietly along the Bahamian flat, seemingly all alone, yet surrounded by more life than ever before. You move slowly, trying not to spook any wary bones. You admire the beauty that unfolds endlessly in every direction; you scan the water for the “ghosts,” ready to make a quick cast; and you think to yourself that this is paradise. Where would you rather be than right here, right now! Bonefishing in the tropics.

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