We headed a little farther south today to the Santa Rosa area where there are many lagoons separated by small threads of sand and mangroves. Access was through a narrow channel through a tunnel in the mangroves.
|Tunnel through the mangroves|
Once through the mangroves, we entered a series of beautiful lagoons, some very large, most of which you could wade just about anywhere and not be deeper than knee to thigh deep. Once the guides reached a spot in the lagoons somewhat protected from the wind (yes, it was windy again today!), we would start the search for bonefish.
|One of the big lagoons in Santa Rosa|
Once found, the guide would tell you the direction and distance to cast to get ahead of the school, then tell you when to start stripping. With the wind and the clouds passing by, it was sometimes very hard to see what the guides saw and you followed on faith. When conditions were a bit better, we could also see the fish, which made the hunt a little easier and also more fun.
|Strip! Strip! Strip!|
Once the fish were found and the cast put in the right place, the bonefish were generally quite willing to take the well-presented shrimp fly. They don't take and grab like a trout. The only way you know they picked up the fly is by listening to the guide (Set! Set!), seeing them pick it up yourself, or feeling resistance on your subsequent strip (they seem to pick it up between strips). Often it would be all three. Once set, the bones would take off in a screaming run, and the job was to keep the slack line from entangling around the reel, base of the rod, your hand, or anything else (Rick broke a few flies off when the line got caught this way). Once on reel, the fish were brought to hand, interrupted by a few more runs depending upon the size. Today we got quite a few to hand (or should we say, to lips, since we follow the well-established tradition founded by Rick's daughter, Jessica, of kissing the fish and telling them thank you before releasing them).
|Rob with a good sized bone|
|A typical bonefish, not to large in size, but gigantic in fight!|
|Rick with a nice bone|
|The only way to keep the fish willing to keep taking your fly - be nice and gracious!|
Sometimes we fished from the boat, one of us fishing in the front and the other relaxing in the back. When we found areas with good schools of fish, one or both of us would get out with our guide and wade the flats in search of fish. When the fish were there, this was the coolest! Today, Rob got out in a small lagoon with lots of fish, but they were skittish and he had to work carefully to avoid spooking them. Still, he managed to get several to hand. Rick was wading in a larger lagoon and came to a spot where for about an hour schools of bones would come by from one direction or the other. Sometimes they would be right on you before you saw them, and a simple roll cast was all that was required. It seemed you were almost standing on top of them when they took the fly. Other times were frustrating trying to throw the fly into the strong wind, only to have it drop far short of the school of fish. The guides were great for the willing learning, giving us tips and showing us ways to improve our casting. Next time our skills will be much improved (and perhaps the wind will be a little less!).
|Rob wading the flats|