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Bonefish Camp

Here's the spot if you are looking for that salty piece of land. Fly lists, trip reports and tidbits of good travel information can be found here in Bonefish Camp.

A Return to Los Roques

Joel La Follette - Sunday, May 24, 2009

I have been blessed enough to have been able to sample some of the best bonefishing destinations in the world and have come to this conclusion. Los Roques is my favorite. Like I’ve said here before Los Roques offers a sampling of every bonefish location I’ve been to. You see Mexico without the swine flu, the Bahamas without flying through Miami and Christmas Island without the peanut butter sandwiches. Now I do like peanut butter sandwiches, just not everyday.

Los Roques has something that makes you want to return the minute to step on the plane headed home. Perhaps it is a sense of having spent the week at the home of a good friend. You feel a part of the island and very much at home. The island’s quaint shops and Posadas line the sandy streets, painted to reflect the owner’s personality. Each is a canvas that comes to life under the Caribbean sun. A walk through town is like a stroll in an art gallery.

The flavors of Los Roques are has varied as the nations represented by its inhabitants. Europeans make up most of the guests on the island and many of the Posadas are owned by foreigners. Our home for the week was the Posada Acuarela which is owned by an Italian who fancies himself an artist. His bright and cheery work hangs throughout the inn decorating the rooms and common areas. It adds to the feeling of staying in a friend’s home.

Another of the benefits of European ownership is the food. We dined on Italian dishes with a Caribbean flavor the entire week. Four course meals of traditional dishes served with tuna, Cuda and other local pescado tempted our taste buds each evening. Topped off with a “to die for” desert of flan, lemon pie or moose. The only thing that kept me from adding ten pounds to my frame was the fishing.

Fishing is all done by wading and Los Roques has miles of wadable flats. Whether small pancake flats are your favorite or flats that stretch for miles, you’ll find them here. The bottom for the most part is hard sand and coral but there are those softer flats that remind you of the Yucatan and will suck your boots right off your feet. Great way to burn off an extra helping of pasta but should be avoided in the heat of the day.

I found the fishing this trip to be technically challenging and most enjoyable. Two flats come to mind as some of the most fun I’ve had chasing bonefish. They went on for miles and the bonefish came in singles and doubles all morning. Big fish in the 5-8 pound range that were cautious but hungry. It required stealth and accurate casting to fool this silver ghosts and I had my “A game” going for once. Fishing alone on the last day I covered over a mile of flat landing 18 nice big Los Roques bonefish and burning off at least one helping of flan. I plan to return soon for seconds.

Yucatan Fly List

Joel La Follette - Monday, November 10, 2008

If you’ve stocked your box with the Bonefish Basics, just add a few of the following flies for your trip to the Yucatan. This destination requires smaller patterns in sizes 6 and 8, mostly 8s. I like the Tan Puff as a go to fly, but also find small Tan or Olive Clousers tyed with bead chain eyes to be handy. 

Swimming Shrimp                                         size 6           Good for deeper, darker flats

Super Swimming Shrimp                                sizes 8          

Tan Mini Shrimp                                            size 8           Must have

Tan Mini Shrimp w/o bead chain                     size 8            

JT Special                                                     size 8           A marabou mess, but it works

Turd                                                               size 8           Cool Name

Cuzan Special                                                size 6           Very good on mud flats

Bonefish Bitters                                size 8           Hermit or Olive

Exuma Mini Puff                                            size 4           Tan or Pink

Marabou Shrimp                           sizes 6         Tan

Golden Mantis Shrimp                                    size 4-8         Another “go to” fly

Grassy Wonder                                              size 8           Odd looking fly for the turtle grass

You’ll also want to have a few Permit flies handy as this is a fantastic location for a shot at the Holy Grail of fly angling. Here are a few good patterns that should do the trick.

Rag Head Crab, Tan                                        size 2-6

Blue Crab                                                      size 2

Fleeing Crab                                                  size 6

Del Brown’s Merkin                                          sizes 1/0, 2

This last pattern has caught more Permit than any fly tyed for them. If you tye your own, have a few tyed very small on good hooks.

Take along a few Tarpon and streamer flies for Tarpon, Snook, Jacks and Cuda. Here’s a short list.  Hook sizes should be from 1 to 3/0

Keys style Tarpon flies in the following colors:   

Orange/Grizzly

Furnace/Squirrel

Black Death

Cockroach

Lefty’s Deceiver                          Red/Yellow, Red/White, Black

Cuda Needlefish fly

Sad Day on Christmas Island

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Bonefishing world lost an icon this past week when Polau Kaiu passed away on April 1  due to complications of his fight  with diabetes. Polau was the Head Guide at the Captain Cook Hotel on Christmas Island for many years and had only this past year turned those duties over to Tyrone. He continued to work as a Senior Guide.

I was lucky to have  fished with Polau a few times  during my stays at the Cook and we always  had a great day of catching bonefish. He was very quiet and only spoke to answer questions or point out a fish that I had not seen. He was a wealth of information about the island and it's inhabitants so a walk with him was like a history lesson about Christmas Island. If you asked the right questions.

The last time I fished with Polau we walked a flat never out of sight of bonefish. I cast, hooked and landed fish after fish. None were  very large, but all were eager to eat the fly.  In the afternoon I switched guides with my partner and took the younger guide who informed me we would have to work hard to catch as many fish as I had caught with Polau. I had no idea how many fish I had landed so I asked my young guide what our goal was. He replied that Polau had counted 41 fish landed that morning. I was surprised by that number as I didn't think it was that high, and I had no idea Polau was keeping score. I landed 29 fish in the afternoon, greatly disappointing my young guide.  Polau was still the Top Guide.

tiabo  Polau Kaiu,

ko raba

This is an email I received from Biita, the Head Guide at the Shark Place....unedited. JL

Hi Joel.

Sorry for the delay to response. Yes he dead the very sa thing happen. Joel Listen to this story: One of my child was sick so my wife and I went to see the Doctor, 5 minutes later an ampulance came in Palau was in the car with wife and two older children. I asked him what happen he said he has a boil sore when he end diopedics. I mean High sugar.He spoke to me with heart beat like he just came back from a running race. I hold on to his ches to help him a bit, the son came up and I stay away. I ask what he like to eat they said he like to eat a shape Cracker. All over the store could not found one so I came back with an apple and orange. Then we go home. 

Next morning I went to the air-port to say good bye to the Client when some of the Guides told me Palau is dead.

Very very sad. Came back run to the radio station and pay for the announcement about our very welknown Guides Palau. People ask if I related to him but I say no He is very very special to me so I got to do something for him.

Anyway Hew was over 50yrs old. Palau have six or seven Kids. Sorry I cannot give you the right amount. When I get a chance I will count and tell you. 

Thank you again for your time.

Thank you again 

Biita Kairaoi 

Christmas Island

Joel La Follette - Sunday, November 18, 2007

One thing you can count on when heading to the tropics is that the wind will blow sometime during your stay. Sometimes it won’t stop. That was the case during our fall trip to Christmas Island. It never let up. A few mornings it seemed like it had faded, but by the time we got on the flats it was back in full force. Never the less our adventurous group of anglers caught plenty of fish and had a great time.

When embarking on any trip you’ll find that the success of the trip depends on your attitude. Lost luggage, bad weather, illness and a host of other things can only ruin a trip if you let it. Lucky for me my guests all have a great attitude when it comes to fishing trips and all rose to the challenge of the wind. Also lucky for me no one got sick, lost their luggage or had any other problems. All we had was the wind.

Bonefish, Travalley and an assortment of other fish provided enough action for the group and most evenings the bench fishing went on for hours. You should see the Trigger fish my Dad caught! It is fun to sit back and watch as others relive great battles and share the excitement of a really big fish or in some cases a first bonefish. Battling the wind and fish made success stories even sweeter. You earned them.

Apart from the weather we enjoyed great food on this adventure which has not always been the case on Christmas Island. Kata the cook really put together some great meals and no one went hungry. Our hosts made sure we had everything we needed and went above and beyond the call to see we were comfortable. The accommodations at The Shark Place were clean and neat and the staff was friendly and efficient.

Over at the Villages we had six anglers that had traveled with us from Hawaii and we joined them mid week for a luau. The Villages staff put on a great party. We enjoyed music and a native dancer in addition to a fantastic meal. On the last evening the “Village People” joined us for dinner and again we were entertained with native dancers. We had a group of women who presented us with flower leis during their dance. Then a group of men in traditional dress did some impressive dancing of their own. Food again was center stage and Kata did a great job. We also crowned TMack the winner of the ugly shirt contest and awarded him a lovely pink Lava lava as the prize. Two of the dancers were chosen as judges and I’m sure we’ll need to disqualify Troy if he tries to enter that shirt again. I think I saw him slip the female judge a five spot earlier….

Los Roques

Joel La Follette - Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The second stop on the Brotherhood of the Bonefish World Tour in 2007 was the archipelago of Los Roques. Located about 90 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Los Roques is a sleepy little tourist hangout with sandy streets and colorful Posadas (hotels). Far removed from all that is Caracas, Los Roques is safe, clean and very friendly to Americans. The pace is slow and very comfortable. And the Bonefishing is superb.

Your trip starts with an overnight stay on the mainland near the airport. Most flights from the US arrive in the evening so flying directly to Los Roques is not an option as there are no lights on the runway. If you’re on the east coast you may be able to get an afternoon flight to the island and avoid the stay in Caracas, although that is an interesting part of the trip. Your safety is always taken care of by SightCast and you are met at the airport by Tony, a very friendly and helpful tour operator. Tony will exchange money and make sure you get to the hotel safely. He will also point out places to dine if you are so inclined.

Sunday morning Tony gets everyone to the airport and through security before leaving you on your own to fly to Los Roques. Upon your arrival you are met by Chris or one of his staff and escorted through the sandy streets to your bonefishing headquarters, the Posada Vistalmar. A quick breakfast and grab your gear, you’re off to the flats.

All bonefishing is done by wading. Local panga style boats are used only to excess the fishing locations. The boats are comfortable and very seaworthy. Most have bimini tops for sun protection while moving from flat to flat or when stopping for lunch. Each pair of anglers fishes with a guide and a boatman. You are let off on the upwind side of a flat and fish downwind. The boatman meets you at the far end of the flat and it’s off to the next one. A very efficient way to fish!

The flats of Los Roques vary from white sand flats that go for miles, to small pancake flats popping up from deep blue waters. You’ll see a little of everything in a week of fishing here. It’s like fishing all the world’s bonefishing destinations in one week. You’ll see places that remind you of Mexico, Christmas Island, the Bahamas, Belize and some that are uniquely Los Roques. Another thing you’ll see are big bonefish.

The week I chose to host a trip this year gave us good tides to fish the pancakes. We spent most of the week hopping from one flat to another casting to schools of very large fish. Bonefish average 4-5 pounds and many larger fish were landed during the week. Anglers are also treated to tarpon, jacks, Cuda and the occasional permit. This trip I cast to several groups of permit that lived up to their reputation and refused all my offerings. In two days I counted over 27 permit in the 15-30 pound class, and never got one to eat a fly…guess that’s why I keep trying.

We had a great week of weather and fishing with several in our group landing their very first bonefish. Everyone enjoyed the fishing, but some of the other interesting sites of Los Roques also got their attention. There was plenty of things to see both on the water and on the beach. I’ll leave my guests to describe their favorites.

With near perfect weather for most of the year due to it’s location near the equator, Los Roques offers an extended bonefishing season. One can do well and be very comfortable right into July and August without worrying about hurricanes. Winter months can also be productive and a great break from the cold wet winters. Peak months are like most of the Caribbean and run from April through June. The rainy season starts in June, but rain showers are brief on the islands and normally lead to hungry fish.

Of all the places I’ve chased after bonefish, Los Roques, Venezuela is my favorite. Friendly people, comfortable lodging, 100 percent wade fishing, different types of flats and big bonefish add up to a great angling experience. OK, their president is a little wacko, but he doesn’t fish! I’ll be going back, hopefully very soon.

Bonefish Tackle List

Joel La Follette - Sunday, February 18, 2007

There are two rules to remember when packing for any adventure. Keep it simple and only take what you REALLY NEED. Of course knowing what you’ll need on any trip is in some cases a “best guess” but with experience you’ll find you can get by with much less stuff. Here’s a few things you shouldn’t forget when heading to the Bonefish flats...

Rods and Reels  (carry them on with you)

Flies    (check out my fly selections for suggestions elsewhere)

Leaders and tippet   (I use 0x and 1 x fluorocarbon) 

Nippers, pliers, knot tyer and a knife

Waterproof gear bag and Flats pack w/water bottle

Sunglasses w/cleaning kit

Camera

Flash light

Fix-Anything Kit   (see Fix-Anything Kit post)

First-Aid Kit

Sunscreen and lip balm

Handy wipes

Hat and sun gloves

Flats boots and wet wading socks

Zip-off wading pants  (two pairs)

Long Sleeve fishing shirts  (two or three)

Fast drying underwear   (two or three pairs)

Travel clothes

Passport   (carry a few photo copies in your bags)

Cash    (most places won’t take cards or checks)

A good book or two

Flip-flops and a good attitude

Casa Blanca

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 16, 2006

It’s always nice to back up a northern steelheading adventure with a trip to a warmer location. I find that tropical weather helps get my joints working again. Upon returning from BC I had a very short time to tye a few flies, pack my bonefishing gear, switch a few fly lines and fly off to Mexico for a visit to the world famous Casa Blanca Bonefish Lodge. Sometimes it’s tough being me.

Casa Blanca is located on a small island just inside the barrier reef on the southern end on Ascension Bay on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. When you see what the owners have created on this secluded patch of sand you’ll understand why Casa Blanca is one of the premier bonefishing lodges in world. I also heard the food is good.

Traveling with me on this adventure was a mix of first time bonefishers, some fairly new to the game of saltwater angling and a few non-fishing spousal units. Under normal conditions Ascension Bay gives up her secrets easily making it a perfect destination for anglers of varying skill levels. Schools of happy Bonefish, an abundant Permit population, plenty of cruising Tarpon and sneaky Snook make for a regular saltwater smorgasbord of fishing fun. I said under normal conditions. We didn’t have normal conditions. The freaky weather that brought early snow storms to the east coast brought dark clouds and stormy skies to this otherwise tropical paradise. Good thing the food was good.

Although fishing conditions were not the best, they were challenging. Bonefish were nervous and headed for cover even if you thought about making a cast. Tarpon and Snook hung close to cover and used it to their advantage. All in all it was a test of angler against the elements and the fish. It made better anglers of us all. Tough fishing does that. You have to bring your A game.

Fortunately Casa Blanca is one of the most comfortable places to wait out bad weather that there is. I’ve been to a few bonefish lodges that would have been unbearable under the same conditions. We all had comfortable rooms to nap or read before dinner after a hard day on the flats. The staff made sure we also had plenty of food and drink at all times. The service was second to none, and the food was great. Did I mention that?

OK so it wasn’t the most successful fishing trip I’ve ever had. I had a great time and made a few new friends. I caught some nice fish and fought many more. I made some great casts under difficult conditions that many anglers couldn’t have made. I brought my A game. Well, most of the time. I also hit a lot of fish right on the old bean when the wind grabbed my cast. That didn’t work. Pedro my guide never complained when I launched a cast into the mangroves and he had to pole over so I could retrieve my fly while Mr. Tarpon and Snook snickered. Oh well, at least the food was good. Now if the pilot can just figure out how to land on the runway...

Back to Abaco Island Bahamas

Joel La Follette - Monday, May 09, 2005

So I saddled up my seahorse, with a fly rod in my hand. I was not looking for salvation, just a salty piece of land....

Sandy Point, Abaco was that salty piece of land this past week for my group of angling adventurers. We landed at the end of the road and Rickmon Lodge on Saturday and felt the worries of the world disappear as we readied our gear for the week ahead. We all came from the northwest but hailed from many walks of life. Builders and businessmen, chefs and plumbers, retired welders and unemployed trout bums, we came to the flats to chase after bonefish and adventure. Both were found. No one went home without at least one quest fulfilled, some a quest not even imagined.

Weather is always the great unknown when heading to the tropics and this week was no different. If you didn't like it you just had to wait a few minutes and things changed. We had wind and calm, sun and cloud, fantastic thunderstorms and perfect tropical days. The storms for the most part provided entertainment in the evening into the night. The lightning would light up the night sky showing the silhouette of Gorda Cay or Cast-a-way Cay with Micky's cruise ship at anchor. The show would last most of the night and one night moved closer to our home a way from home and provided an up-close view of the power of nature.

Mornings dawned peacefully with a breeze coming from a different direction most days. This provided the opportunity to fish different flats, looking for protection from the breeze. Personally I never fished the same place twice during the week and still never saw all the places to fish. Sandy Point offers a vast of territory to chase Bonefish. Guess I'll just have to return.

The fishing itself ran from fair to great with plenty of big Bonefish to play with. Many fish in the 5-7 pound range found our flies and many more eluded them. Anglers traveling to the flats for the first time were in awe of these powerful silver bullets and many converts to the Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) of the Bonefish were made. All received official Brotherhood names with certificates (suitable for framing mon!) on the last night of our stay with one in particular being a very appropriate name. Darrell "One Cast" Webb earned his name by hooking and landing the first Permit he ever saw in his life on the first cast!  The battle lasted 50 minutes and when the dust had settled a 30 pound Permit posed for photos before being released to look for another lucky angler. Ya wanted to hate him but he's such a nice guy!

We fished with different guides each day, a rotation based on a first day drawing. Each guide was scored by the anglers with points awarded each day on the bases of ten different criteria. On the last day the scores were added and entries into a drawing were made based on the score. The prize for the week was a new Winston fly rod donated by the R.L. Winston Company and  a Bauer MZ 4 fly reel donated by the kind folks at Bauer Reels. Rods and reels are not easy to come by for most of these young men and the guides all worked hard for a chance to win this prize. In the end the outfit went to "Foots" a very deserving young man and one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to fish with. He's probably out on the flats right now chasing Bonefish with his new rod! All the guides were a real pleasure and I look forward to fishing with them again very soon.

The only bad part about any trip is that it does come to an end. We have to return to our everyday lives and the duties we have made for ourselves. It's comforting to think that while we make our way through our normal everyday lives there's a bit of adventurer that we keep in our heart knowing that there's always a Bonefish (or Permit) out there with our name on it and a salty piece of land.

Rickmon Lodge Abaco

Joel La Follette - Monday, May 10, 2004

“Reel in Dale, we’ll go somewhere else” Ricardo said as he bounded off the poling platform. Dad started to retrieve his fly line and step off the bow of Ricardo’s flats skiff. “Permit!”  Ricardo’s words had barely left his mouth; my permit rod was pulled from the rack and I had 30 feet of line laying on the deck. “Where?” I asked. “Nine o’clock”. 

My fly line was air-born with one false cast and I shot the little yarn crab fly towards the fish. The fly landed and the fish didn’t spook. Well, that’s a first. I thought to myself. The fish moved to the fly then turned away. That was more like the Permit I’ve met, very picky. I fired another cast. Again the fished looked over the fly but didn’t pick it up. Cast again, same result. The fish was moving closer, he would soon see the boat. Last shot. The fish moved to the fly. I stripped a little line then stopped. The fish tipped up and suck up the fly. “You got’em mon!” Ricardo shouted. And I did. My first Permit hooked and landed. Not a big fish, but I’ll take him.

 This all happened in a matter of ten minutes on the forth day of a wonderful stay at Rickmon Bonefish Lodge at Sandy Point on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Ricardo Burrows is the head guide and owner of this little piece of paradise on the SE tip of Abaco. His lodge is very comfortable and the staff most welcoming. I had the opportunity to fish with Ricardo two days during our stay and you seldom meet anyone who loves what he does as much as this guy. His smile is contagious and his laugh will make you forget the wind, clouds and bad casts.

 Although the weather was not perfect, we did have a little wind most of the week. Everyone had a great time. Raingear came out only briefly one day. Fishing was fair. Bonefish were one day easy and close lipped the next. Most likely due to the changes in wind direction and cooler water that moved in with it. Everyone caught fish and saw many hundreds more. I was impressed with the number and size of the fish I saw and caught. Although no double digit fish where landed we all saw some. It will be easy to return to Rickmon, we all have a few fish, we’d like another shot at. 


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