In keeping with my status as an annoying newb, I added the post below to two other sections of the site before realizing that there was a devoted saltwater forum. I'm sharp like that. Anyhoo, I'm adding it here as well in the hopes that I'll get a response or two before the Mods ask me to git:
So I have a trip planned to Andros (Mangrove Cay area) in late April. It's my first foray for the grey ghost after the lion's share of a lifetime spent in SW Florida a stone's throw away from a number of epic bonefishing destinations. I can't say why the little guys never intrigued me exactly, except to say that I love my snook, redfish and tarpon so much I never considered catting around. But I am excited about the trip which is partly a romantic getaway with the wifey and partly a mostly DIY angling outing punctuated by a single day aboard a skiff with a guide.
In preparing my gear, I've spoken to a few fishing buddies (some of them guides) and I've read quite a few threads on fly fishing sites. While there are differing opinions, the consensus seems to be that I should bring an 8 wt for bones given the prevailing breeze and probably a 9 or 10 wt on the off chance that I encounter permit or tarpon or big-time winds. In fact, some folks go so far as to say that 6 and 7 wts have no place on a bonefish flat in any context. To which I say: please. I do concede, however, that big wind in open spaces can put a real damper on things and prove challenging to anglers with, well, smaller rods. The problem is that I shuttled my 8 AND 9 weights a few years back and replaced them with 7 wts. In fact, the two rods I'd planned on taking for me and the missus are a TICRx and an Echo Ion, one spooled with WF 7 line and one with 8. The Echo, especially, is a tough-ass/heavy rod, and with the #8 line adds up to, in my mind, essentially an 8 wt outfit. As for my casting abilities, I do devote time to the long rod between long bouts of spin fishing so I'd say they're average to above-average. I can double haul nicely and shoot 80 or so feet of line accurately without issue. OK, so maybe 60 into a breeze. So, question: do you bonefish vets think the 7 wts will be fine, or should I pick up an 8? (I've lusted after the TFO Axiom, and this might be just the excuse I need. If you have one you want to part with let me know).
Also, I've read a lot of what I perceive as breathless hyperbole when it comes to backing for bonefish. Some folks say 125 years is plenty, while others swear that at least 250 yards of heavy backing are needed and that, short of that, I risk losing my rod, my pride and a good portion of my manhood to a feisty bone. Given that I've beaten large snook in tight quarters on said 7 wts, I (perhaps naively) do not fear any bonefish. However, I've never tangled with a large bone, so I am open to the fact that they might just kick my ass (which, so it's said, would make me inexpressibly happy). My Galvan Torque 6 reels are spooled with 150 yards of braid backing apiece, and my beefier Torque 8 will come along for the ride. Is that plenty? I can't imagine that it is not.
Truth be told, I tend to be a seat-of-the-pants type so I'll likely wing it with what I have regardless, but I'd be interested (and obliged) to hear the opinions of the seasoned bonefishers in the crowd, including any legit stories of joy-inspiring ass kickings.
You definitely have a gift for prose. IMHO you can lick any Bone with a 6wt from a boat. Wading is a different issue, as you don't have the option of unlimited chase. I think the real issues are two-fold: 1. Subdueing the fish with sufficient alacrity that it is not too tired to survive the battle, and 2. If one of the seemingly ever present sharks takes an interest in your hooked prize, will the lighter rod offer enough back-bone to land it before it becomes lunch.
I consider the southerly parts of Andros to be a delight, enjoy all the conch and Kalik you can. I fish #'s 7, 8 & 9 rods with the 8-weights getting the lions share of use. I do enjoy fishing the 7 in calm conditions with sparse, light flies in skinny water and similarly, am happy to fish the 9 when the wind howls and the lead eyed fly is called for (mostly from the skiff in a bit deeper water). An 8 is the perfect bonefish rod and, as you must have at least one back-up outfit and you are traveling to a lovely but no tackle available destination, get yourself a new 8-weight for the trip. The "Flying Pig" is highly recommended in a tackle review here, Rise Fly Fishing is worth a look and ECHO3 is a darn nice rod, none of which will break the bank and might give you more feeling than the stiff TFO. I use 200 yds. of backing because "you are supposed to" and have never seen the metal of my spool in nearly 3 decades of bonefishing. Both the SA and RIO bonefish lines are excellent and I prefer Fluorocarbon hand tied leaders of about 12'. Amber or copper polarized shades are the most important piece of gear you will bring and protective wading boots are the second most important. I use the Patagonia Marlewalkers and the Simms are also very good. Have a great trip.
I am heading to Islamorada in April for the same reason the op is heading to Andros. Anyway, I'm currently looking for a new 8wt. setup that won't break the bank.
I've been looking at Allen, specifically the Xa series rods and the Alpha II or III reels. How does the Allen Xa (or Compass) compare with the Rise Level (or Balance) rods you mentioned? This rod will only get used in FL for this trip, possibly more trips down the road, and maybe some steel head and salmon up in MI.
Also, do you have any other suggestions on reels besides the Alpha that won't break the bank, so to speak?
Thanks for the replies, mr.fzx and sweetandsalt. I've decided to roll the dice with my 7 wt Echo Ion overlined with Rio 8 line, which essentially renders that (heavy) rod an 8 wt. I may pick up an 8 wt if I find a good deal—thanks, sweet-salt, for the nudge. One interesting wrinkle: I've decided to add a short (7' 10") rod to the mix—a 6 wt Redington Predator, to be exact. This article I read was the final push I needed. As noted, most of my fishing is done down Everglades shorelines and I've long wanted a lighter weight outfit for that game. And I'm intrigued by the idea of battling it out with good-sized bones on a lighter-weight outfit. I believe most folks grossly overestimate the size of tackle needed for most species, and in the process they 1) struggle to place accurate casts when needed and 2) take the fun out of the scrap. Even a light rod—used the right way—can subdue a fairly large fish in short order. Here's proof. Oh, and I'm not as cavalier about not taking a heavy rod as I seem—my 9 wt St Croix, which has tamed a good-sized tarpon or two, will probably hitch a ride, as well. I'm told there's some good **** action on Andros and that the odd permit does make an appearance. Cannot wait.
Again, thanks for the replies. I'll let you know if I do well or if the Andros bonefish slap me around a bit. One can only hope.
Oh, and any further input on this topic by others is welcome and appreciated.
I've quit using any fly but the SimRam on South Andros' flats:
I have never had a bone refuse it. This fellow that I gave one to thinks its pretty good, too (its in the fish's mouth):
Personally, I would not wish to buck the wind all day with a 7wt. Nice on calm days, though.
Just a thought re: acquiring an 8wt. There are many good used rods on ebay. You can pick up an Orvis or Sage for less than $300. I've done it many times. Same goes for reels. English-made Orvis Battenkill Large Arbors almost always less than $200, and they are great bonefish reels. I have 3 or 4 of them.
Also, I've never had a guide ask (tell, lol) me to cast more than 50 feet.
P.S. Please let us know what your guide(s) say when you bring out that short rod.
Note to self: buy or tie some Simrams. Thanks, Gary. I've been assembling a mess of flies based on advice I've picked up here and there—headlined by #2, 4 and 6 tan Gotchas. Oh, and that's a gorgeous bonefish. Congrats.
I actually own a Battenkill mid-arbor IV that's a backup to my Galvans—an underrated reel. In fact, it has my favorite (flat) handle on any fly reel I've ever used.
As for the 8wt, I've cast many different rods over the years — including a buddy's high-end Sages and Scotts—but by comparison the TICRx and Ion rods pack a comparable punch. Maybe it's me, but the Ion, especially, seems to be rated a weight lower than posted. I will admit, tho, that most of my fly fishing has been in the backcountry. Once I get out in that open wind I may be in for a humbling experience. As for the "short rod", I'm looking beyond the Bahamas to what I'll use the Predator for most of the time: fishing Everglades shorelines. It should excel there since old-schoolers down have long sworn by chopped-down rods for backwater fistfights with reds and snook, especially from the bow of a skiff. I've also heard a few credible sources say that short rods have their place on a bonefish flat since they are much easier to cast repeatedly throughout the day and they can excel at the shorter casts that are apparently common in that setting. I'll soon find out.
On a related note, have any of you been to the Mangrove Cay area on Andros? And if so, can you recommend a good guide? I'd much prefer someone with a patient manner because my wife is learning to fly fish and I will not handle a bossy presence very well. I've never hired a guide so it will be a new experience for me. Also, is it worth asking the guide to make the run to the West side of the island? Any additional tips would be great. There's a cold Kalik in it for ya.
Since several folks offered helpful advice on my original question I'm following up with a report.
Mangrove Cay was, in a word, great. The little spot where we stayed was perfect, at least to me: lovely in a muted way, no-frills, clean, remote. Yes, I caught bones in the waters out front (and to the left/right) of the hotel, but it was tough going since the wind blew like stink most of the week. Cloudy days added to the crappy visibility. On the single guided day I caught several nice fish in the 5-8 lb. range but only logged about 3 hours of fishing before squalls sent us flying for the dock—bye bye dreams of fishing the fabled west side.
In a nutshell, the DIY stuff was tough going, the guided fish relatively easy. I'm sure that's the case in most fishing destinations, no? As the week wore on I explored more remote spots on my own and finally found large schools of spooky fish...late on my last day there.
As for rods, I used a 7 wt a great deal of the time, but when the wind became tolerable in small stretches I actually used a 5 wt overlined with 7 WT WF line with little issue (though, as noted above, the Jim Teeny 5 I own is more like a hefty 6). I never strung up my new 8 wt, though I can see why some folks say that it would be effective in the heavier winds. I just hated the idea of chasing those smaller fish with an outfit I will use for mid-sized tarpon back home. When I mentioned that to the guide he laughed and said "wait 'til you hang a 10-plus pounder, mon, then you tell me who has dee advantage." I'm sure he's right. He did, however, like the way my 7wt (TICRx/Galvan T6/Rio 7) outfit performed. On one occasion a hefty bone appeared suddenly on right side of the skiff. I made a short backhand cast into a stiff wind that fell a bit short, flicked a cast in front of the bow as the fish spooked left to right, then sent a long overhead cast to the right with the wind as the fish disappeared...only to have the line go tight 60 yards away with the biggest fish of the day. Getting applauded by a surprised guide does wonders for the ego, as did the fact that the bones I caught all took simple (and pretty damn ugly) Maribou flies I tied myself. Of course, I also hooked a fat fish on that same outfit earlier in the week that smoked off 60-70 yards of line and wrapped my fly—and my shattered confidence—around some coral.
As for Andros, it it what it is: wild as a march hare, windy as all get-out, buggy and then some, unrefined, somehat polluted, populated by natives who are generally friendly and often drunk, a bit hairy to reach via a dilapidated little plane, stunningly beautiful in spots, relaxing, and, if I'm honest, better suited to a guy's trip than a married retreat. If I go back with the wife we'll probably hit a more populated island, but if I get a hall pass I'll be back on Andros before you can say "Beeg bone, two o'clock."
Anyhoo, thanks again for the helpful advice. It served me well.
"I was born to fish" Lee Wulff
"There's more B.S. in fly fishing then there is in a Kansas feedlot." Lefty Kreh
" It ain't over till it's over." Yogi Berra
"Your not old,you've simply acquired a patina." Swirlchaser