There’s this river I go Bonefishing on. I don’t really catch Bones there, I catch trout. But it’s just like Bonefishing. The angling is all visual.
Around mid to late morning when the sun gets high in the sky I look for some shallow water areas that have a fairly light and uniform bottom; or as uniform as a trout stream bottom can get. The presence of trout and their movement is harder to detect when I’m walking so when I get to a promising location I sit or stand still and watch.
The trout in this bonefishing river often move out of the deeper water into these shallows and prowl for food. They tend to cycle in and out of these spots. If I see one exiting such a location for deeper water I wait as it will probably be back. If you watch cycling trout for a while you soon realise they often repeat the same route or path over and over. If a trout disappears I plan for its return and strategize my approach and get ready to cast. It all sounds easy but with wary fish in clear shallow water on a bright sunny day, a lot can go wrong. Trout are always hypervigilant, especially for any kind of movement from above.
To spot these fish I look for movement. A blue sky with few or no clouds to create reflection is ideal. Clouds and sun can turn the river surface milky white blinding your vision. Light colored riverside cliffs are just like clouds, they reflect light and create glare when it is sunny. Dark cliffs with vegetation are good but unfortunately my favorite sight fishing river has little of this. I prefer river terrain that is flat and open on a sunny day so there is little around to reflect light. The neat thing about this angling style is that you can often sight fish even when there is no hatch occurring, and on my Bonefishing river there has been an unusual absence of bugs lately. This makes the game even more challenging.
I do best with this type of fishing when the river drops and I can wade across it in many areas. This allows me to take advantage of the changing light as the sun arcs throughout the day. A good spot late morning is probably not going to be as good mid-afternoon. Cross the river and you can sight fish again. The key is to use the light to your advantage so you have maximum vision and can spot movement. This type of angling is all about seeing. I move around until I can see real well and look for a section of river bottom where a fish will stand out.
Once I spot a cycling fish I stay low and still. I often creep up on fish and cast from my knees. Drab clothing helps me blend in. A white shirt or hat in full sun is like waving a flag and causes trout to bolt. Forget about those shiney silver or gold fly reels. I also tuck away anything that glitters or shines on my vest or pack. I try to blend in, stay still, cast side arm and if I have to move for a better position I do so when the fish turns away from me or re-enters deep water. It is best to approach a fish from behind but often that’s not possible. I catch many from the side or feeding them the fly from above (downstream presentation). In these situations staying low, still and at some distance is even more important.
My Bonefishing river harbours some great trout but not a lot of them and therefore on any given day you only get so many shots at a good fish. If you throw in a bit of cloud, some wind, intense summer heat and an absence of bugs, and some snooty/selective fish into the equation, then a hook up becomes even more special. I often come home from such an outing knees sore from crawling on hot river rocks and eyes tired. On my last outing I hooked several but only landed one.