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Bahamas BonefishThere are certain moments that fly fisherman never forget. Their first fly rod, their first fly caught fish or their first trophy. Having made a recent trip to a warm southern destination to escape from Maine’s lengthy winter I experienced a “first” that will be burned indelibly into my mind forever. The sight of a school of tailing bonefish gliding gently over the flats. It was my second day on Exuma Island in The Bahamas and I had been itching to get out and wade the flats behind the small cottage we were staying in. As the tide went out I wandered about on the massive white sand flat that stretched for what seemed like an eternity. Having never fished for Bonefish I was a little concerned that I would not be able to spot them as salt water flats fishing was a foreign element to me. I was scheduled to fish with a guide later in the week but saw this as an oppurunity to cut my teeth a little, and get a feel for the environment. The first half hour I slowly picked my way along looking for signs of fish… no dice. The cloud cover was just enough to make it difficult. I had heard that sunlight was critical to spotting the fish, but never had guessed it was this essential.Then, as the sun peeked out from behind a cloud; it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, for just a second, I saw what I thought was a tail quivering in the increasing sunlight. I waited, scanning the water for signs of the fish … vanished!! After several more minutes I began to work my way in the direction of the “phantom tail” when the water nearly exploded under my feet! Several bones had been feeding in my direction the whole time, and I had missed them completely. They left a wake as they zoomed off from the direction which they had come, leaving me to contemplate how I had not spotted them. I now had a new appreciation for the ghost of the flats and his ability to vanish in front of me in a foot of water! Another twenty minutes of walking, watching and wading slowly went by until, once again, I thought that I saw a flicker of a tail. I paused and examined every dark spot on the bottom. There it was again! A bonefish tail for sure! No, three! No wait, even more! Slowly gliding along was a school of about twenty bonefish. It was as if they had just appeared out of nowhere. They were about 50 yards away and closing fast! They would pause and root around on the bottom with their tails shaking vigourously in the shimmering sunlight. I was so nervous I could barely cast. Finally I peeled enough line out and judged the distance to the fish, only to land my first cast right on the lead fish’s head. Another eruption of water, and another school of fleeing bones sprinting over the flat like silver lightning. I stood there and grinned for a second, these fish were more nervous than I was. The next two hours was the same scene repeated in some form or another. Tails in the air, nervous water, even more nervous angler, and spooked fish leaving me to ponder what went wrong. I had not yet hooked a bonefish, but I sure was hooked on bonefishing! It was not until the next day that I managed to hook and land a small bone and also hooked up and lost a second fish as well. The first Bone I landed was in a school of about ten fish. Same pattern as the day before. Shimmering tails and gently drifting shadows over the white sand. I led the school by about twenty feet and let my little tan crazy charlie come to a rest on the bottom. as the fish approached I began slowly stripping the fly toward me. I never saw the fish take, he was just there. I set the hook as soon as I knew he was on, and he raced across the flat taking me into my backing, and amazing me with his strength. After a couple of runs he came in and I was able to get a snapshot of him lying in my hand. I caught a half dozen nice fish with the guide the next day from a boat. He was superb, as was the fishing, yet the sight of that first school cruising gently along, pausing to feed with their forked tails glinting in the sunlight will never be forgotten by me. Trust me Bahamas Bones, I will return to tangle with you again, even if all I see are your shadows and tails!