Fly Fishing for Bonefish in the Bahamas
Fly Fisher/Fly Tyer/Photographer
Brian O'Keefe has traveled to some of the wildest and most remote angling destinations in the world, including: Bikini Atoll, the Seychelles, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Tonga, Cuba and Kashmir. He has also traveled to more accessible locations, such as: the Bahamas, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Chile, New Zealand, Christmas Island and more. He's fished for Bonefish just about everywhere so join us and learn how to fish for these incredibly fast flats fish.
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Bonefish are found around most islands of the Bahamas. The northern part of Grand Bahama and Abaco are literally world famous for their bonefish. Any area that has shallow water flats will have bonefish. If you’re looking for larger concentrations of bonefish where there’s a lot of fly fishing action all day, you’ll want to go to the larger islands, such as the Abacos or the Andros. These areas have the potential for lots of fish, singles, doubles, schools, as well as big fish. If you’re looking for larger bonefish (8-13 pounds), you’ll want to fish smaller islands like Mayaguana.
Brian O’Keefe has been fly fishing for over 30 years, is a professional outdoors photographer, and a certified Master Fly Casting instructor. O’Keefe has won many fly casting competitions and has been fly fishing in remote areas of Asia, Africa, and South America. He has fished the Bahamas many times and has gained a unique perspective on fly fishing for bonefish in the Bahamas.
Fly fishing for bonefish in the Bahamas is generally good all year long. The peak time is probably April and May when there’s a high sun and longer days. It’s also a little less windy that time of year. In June, July, and August it’s much hotter, but you’re in the water a lot, so it’s bearable. Fall and winter fly fishing in the Bahamas is also good, but a little windier.
O’Keefe recommends hiring a guide rather than roaming around on your own to find the premium bonefish fly fishing spots in the Bahamas. The local guides know where the hot spots are and you’ll waste less time looking and more time actually catching bonefish. A good fly fishing guide will also know the tides and how the local waters work.
The tides, temperature, and wind can be key factors in fly fishing for bonefish in the Bahamas. In the early mornings and late evenings, when the tides are low, the bonefish seem to be more active on the flats and are more comfortable in the low light times. When the temperatures get too low (mid 70s) or too high (low 90s) the bonefish head to deeper waters. The wind doesn’t seem to affect bonefish habits too much, but it does affect the fly fisher because it’s harder to see the fish in the water. The winds tend to build up in the afternoon.
Catching bonefish in the Bahamas is not easy. They’re a nervous fish, so they’re easily spooked. When bonefish are in pursuit of bait, they wiggle around and get very excited. O’Keefe suggests putting a little slack on the fly causing the bonefish to take it on the sink or off the bottom. Another important thing in catching bonefish in the Bahamas is your casting. You don’t want to make long 75 to 80 foot casts. Long casts are not as accurate or soft, so you’ll want to watch the habits of the fish to ascertain when they’ll be within a closer range. Take a few seconds to feel out what direction the bonefish is going, take a deep breath, note the direction of the wind, and make a quick cast off within 40 to 50 feet with a soft presentation, and most importantly, enjoy yourself. O’Keefe suggests using a fast-action, 8 weight, fighting butt, oversized guide rod. Many of them come in a four piece configurations that travel easily and cast well. You’ll need a good anodized reel that is has power, won’t rust, and holds at least 200 yards of backing once you hook up and are into the fight.