Confessions of a Steelhead Guide - Saltwater Part One

Travis De Boer - 02/10/17

Bonefish on the Fly.

Spoiler alert - just do it!

The hype is warranted! Though this isn't news to anyone but me probably. Saltwater flats and the species that inhabit them are amazing! This winter my wife took me to do some flats fishing in celebration of an anniversary that is very important to us. I had been wanting to try it for a few years. Admittedly not “all my life”, just for the last few years. I have had the chance to fish for them numerous times in life and for some silly reason always opted to do other things (such as head up into fresh water systems and fish for other species like peacock bass in the jungle, or fish reefs and more pelagic salt species). I hate to admit I even lived (for a very short time) in view of what I now know was a beautiful flat and did little more than admire its beauty every night watching the sting rays and various other creatures mill around on it searching for food. I also now know that all of these circumstances that must sound so damn absurd to anyone who loves the flats happened for a reason. The fact is that after the amazing introduction to flats fishing I received on this trip, my life, in many ways, has been ruined and I will be in the grip of (yet another) life altering addiction for the rest of my days.

My reasons for shying away from the flats for many years weren't entirely based on my ill informed fishing bias. Between my days in the military working in hot places as well as being stationed in the hot humid armpit they call Ft. Benning, Georgia followed by a stint in Kentucky (still too hot and humid) I had been so ready to return home to my trout, steelhead and colder temps. I really just didn't want to go anywhere hot for a lot of years. Seems guiding steelhead for a decade and dragging my wife to all the cold corners of the northern states and Alaska cured me of that ailment and I found myself looking at these weird (almost comical) little fish a bit differently on my friends Facebook feeds. My wife noticed this and, tired of always freezing herself, began a scheme that landed my ignorant ass in one of the most beautiful places I could imagine, the salt flats of the Caribbean. I will give some of my impressions of the flats and its primary species. Some of these things where never quite clear to me prior to these experiences and (if there is anyone out there still on the fence as to whether or not to try a salt trip) might help push you the right way. Spoiler alert - just do it!

  • Travis de Boer Bonefish.
  • Belize Bonefish.

Part One - Bonefish

  1. Preconceived notions
    What I though of these goofy little creatures prior to actually meeting them face-to-face is a little embarrassing. Aside from them being shiny and kind of funny to look at I was sure they would not be a species I would want to spend much time on. Nowhere near the dignity grace of a salmonid and I just didn't believe they could be very impressive on the line either. I thought it beyond silly that people used eight weights and the like on these goofy things.
  2. Truth
    I caught fish ranging from 12” to low 20” range (not at all huge by bonefish standards) after spooking countless fish and schools and hooking a fair amount finally getting the hang of how to ambush them with a lot of help from more experienced people (kick ass guides). I quickly found out why so many people absolutely love these fish. They are quite possibly the funnest creatures to cast at (especially when your really into them) they are like little race cars. They also, simply put, seem to defy physics. Even the small ones seem to have the super natural ability to peel line of an eight weight that is rigged in a way top to tippet that I would be quite confident going into a battle with any double digit steelhead. I’m still (weeks later) scratching my head about the strength of this species. Couple this with how fun they are to cast at, their willingness to take a properly presented fly and it becomes very easy to see why they are arguably the most popular target on the flats.

- Travis De Boer

Upcoming Confessions...

Part Two - Tarpon
Part Three - Permit / Conclusion

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