Articles & Reviews
Rua passed me my rod with the deep-sink line attached and pointed along the edge of the sand. "You go and walk along the edge and cast out to the drop-off. Casting without... ahh... looking.". "Fishing blind?" I asked. "Yeah, yeah," said Rua, "fishing blind."
So I walked off into a warm thirty-knot nor'west wind and sideways rain that was blasting down the lagoon and proceeded to do as Rua suggested. It seemed like an odd instruction, especially in these conditions. It was difficult to get the sinking line moving into that wind and the limited ability to see anything in the water meant you had to just trust that fish would be there.
I wasn't about to question Itu and Rua's judgement. These boys were ex-commercial fishermen and knew everything there was to know about fishing for bonefish in Aitutaki. If they said fish would be there, they would be there.
The others jumped in the boat and blasted off, stopping further along the sandbar. I wasn't too sure what they were doing. The wind was still howling and surf was starting to pick up and crash on the sandbar ahead.
My fishing buddies were little more than fuzzy black dots in a cloudy wall of bad tropical weather. Uncertain as to what this operation's outcome would be, I just carried on fishing as I'd been told. This wasn't blind fishing, this was blind faith.
Then I got close enough to see what was going on. Neil was standing up to his waist punching a big line out into that heavy wind, while Itu and Rua had Mike and Richard further along the sandbar with everyone staring intently into the waves. That, at least, gave me more confirmation that there would be fish here. It boosted the confidence I had in Itu and Rua not leading us off on a wild goose chase.
And yet, the fishing was not easy. I did reflect on the fact that I would never have contemplated fishing in these conditions at home, and few of my clients would even have the ability to punch a line out into this surf, rain and wind. I was finding it difficult myself.
Big waves were starting to pick up and smack into me every time I tried to cast. My solution was to get the line moving in the air while standing in shallow water, then run fast into the deeper water and shoot the line forward, getting enough distance to shoot the fly over the edge of the drop-off, then retreating before the next big wave rolled in. I'm sure everyone was thinking that this really was extreme fly-fishing.
As I wondered how long we could keep doing this, a whoop of delight filtered down to me on the wind; Neil was hooked up and his line was pointing straight out to sea. Fantastic!
I reeled up and ran over. Backing was disappearing at a huge rate and the flat angle of the line had 'big bonefish' stamped all over it. Neil backed up out of the waves, spent ten hard minutes frantically winding in and losing line, then had the fish doing turbo-charged runs backwards and forwards along the sandbar.
Bonefish are known for their speed and power, but the rapidity at which they change direction and accelerate on a completely different heading is something quite remarkable to see.
We all watched from the beach and hoped that Neil would land it. Bones don't normally shed hooks too easily, but bits of coral on which the line could be cut lay unseen under the stormy sea conditions. Finally we got sight of a flash of silver in the surf. The fish rolled in the shallow shore break and a bigger wave washed it up the beach. Neil had done it! A solid four-kilo bonefish from the surf, and in the most trying conditions you could ask for.
Apparently the surf was a prerequisite for really making this place fire. An onshore wind and large waves scour out the sand on the beach and uncover lots of food items that bonefish prefer. Richard had tried spotting in the shallow surf while standing in shallow water only. With Rua's assistance he had seen two huge bonefish moving in extremely shallow water. He had cast a good line to them, but had moved his foot at the wrong moment and watched as two monster bonefish fled to deeper water. Touchy fish these bones!
Not surprisingly, the advice to use sinking shooting heads in these conditions was absolutely correct as well.
By the time Neil had hooked up, we were fishing in full-blooded surf inside a tropical lagoon. The recommended approach for fishing in surf is to use sinking lines because this stops the waves moving your line around too much. The sinking line sinks below the level of wave influence and allows for a relatively unhindered straight line retrieve. A floating line in those conditions would have been up on the sand in seconds, while the intermediate-tipped lines we had used in most other parts of the lagoon wouldn't have been much better.
As it was, Itu and Rua had the perfect fishing solution to some awful weather conditions. It was fishing that absolutely saved the day, impressed us no-end, and really made us think.
Indeed, Neil's fish remained the most epic capture of the trip. We caught bigger fish on the sandflats and also had some fast fishing action in the 'milk', but nothing can quite compare to Neil's big bone off that beach. I'm sure we will all remember the day when we went surfcasting for bonefish at Aitutaki.
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