Peninsula Fly Fishers
  

Bonefish in Grand Cayman and Cozumel

by Rocky Ferraro

June 2009


Grand Cayman

Cayman Bonefish Flat
Bonefish Flat

This all started due to the H1N1 flu out break. My family and I were planning on going on a Mexican Riviera cruise after my daughter’s graduation from middle school with several other families. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the cruise route changed due to Royal Caribbean canceling all cruises down to the part of Mexico we were going. They re-routed our cruise up north from Los Angeles to Seattle. We were not planning on another cold weather vacation so we decided to go to the Caribbean instead. I did some research and found that at 2 of the 4 destinations the ship stopped at I could fish for bonefish and other saltwater species. I did not know who to book with so I started doing some research. I found that in Grand Cayman there was a guide named Captain Ron Ebanks. I called him up a few weeks before I was going to be there and told him I was coming in on a cruise ship and had only about 4 hrs to fish for bonefish. Captain Ron said no problem and that he could pick me up from my cruise ship when it arrived. He was booked but suggested I use his nephew Alex that had been guiding for him this past year. Alex has been fishing Grand Cayman most of his life but just started fishing for bones this year. Alex is a great person and gave me nothing but compliments as soon as he saw I had my own equipment. That boosted both my ego and confidence.

The cruise ship did not dock in Grand Cayman and from past experiences I thought it would be slow going getting into port by tender but it turned out to be  fairly quick. Both Ron and Alex where there to pick me up when I arrived in an air conditioned SUV. Ron drove us approximately 45 Minutes to the eastern side of the island. They drive on the wrong side of the road there and my eyes got big as saucers when Ron negotiated the roundabout in a clock wise direction. He said don’t worry and smiled. He picked up his flats boat along the way and soon we were there. I showed Ron some of the flies I tied for the trip and he suggested I try my brown wing Gotcha.  Ron made sure it was tied on right. As I was about to find out, these fish test it all, if you have a week link bye bye bonefish.

Flats Boat
Cayman Flats Boat

I got into the flats boat and was elated about being there. The skies were blue with white puffy clouds the weather was balmy with not too much wind and the water was turquoise blue. I high fived Alex and said “GAME ON!” We went to different spots on the flats and Alex would stop the motor pole for a while, get me into position and tell me where to cast. He truly guided me and wanted to see me catch fish. I sight cast to some ladyfish first. I got a taker but did not set the hook correctly and the fish spit it out. We continued and saw turtles, rays, jacks and barracuda along the way. I started stripping a bit slower and paused in the middle of stripping. This let my fly skink a little deeper but I snagged my fly on a rock, which I strip striked. Alex poled over the snag and it got loose.

Then Alex spotted some bonefish fish mudding in a depression. “Ah, that’s were they are! “He said. He poled closer and told me to cast. I was lucky because everything came together and I cast in the perfect spot. I felt like I had another snag almost but the boat was not moving and I felt a bit of a pull. I strip struck and felt the line tighten. I remembered to let the fish run and take all the slack off the deck. Thirty feet of line went out in what felt like a split second and the fish was taking his first run. The reel was singing and line flew off the reel. On and on this went; I held on with both hands, Alex telling me to keep my rod up. The fish ran for quite a while and I suddenly noticed I was into my backing. He stopped for a second and I started to reel him in. Then he was off again on his second run, again more and more backing disappearing and Alex saying “you gota big fish mun, a nice one”. This run was not quite as long but my arms were starting to feel it. My reel was not well balanced and had loosened from the rod. I quickly tightened it back only to have the fish take another run for open water, rod bent, and reel screaming. It loosened up again so I tightened it again while playing the fish. Alex also gave it a tweak. The fish was now pulling but not running. He would strip off a bit of line but nothing like his first 3. Then suddenly he started heading for the boat. I reeled as fast as I could. Alex was telling me they do this to try and rub the leader on the coral to break off. I remembered what was discussed at the last meeting and changed the direction of my rod as I was reeling in. This worked and the fish was now pulling again but this time he was sort of trying to circle the boat. He was still pulling awfully hard and it took me a while to get him close enough to net. He was by Alex’s estimate a little over 5lbs. Later I inspected the leader and it was frayed in a couple of spots. The fish had tried to break off.

Bonefish Speed

Rocky's Bonefish
Landed!

This was my first bonefish and I did not realize what I had done or how lucky I had been. Imagine going some where and having 4 hours to fish and being fortunate enough to catch one of these top game fish, awesome! I asked Alex about how big the bonefish get there. He said the biggest he’s heard of is a bit over 13 1/2 lbs. There are also large permit and snook that can be caught there but your odds will be much better if you can fish a few days. There are also tarpon you can fish for. I owe many thanks to Alex my guide for his positive attitude and skill as well as Ron for training him so well. You can contact Ron and Alex at: 345-916-5753, flyfish@candw.ky the web site is http://flyfishgrandcayman.com

I also want to thank the Peninsula Fly Fishers for all the fly casting lessons, fly tying lessons, seminars and the 8wt Reddington fly rod and GLoomis fly reel that I won at the raffle, it has served me well. I also want to thank Chris Arbulich for setting me up with a great saltwater line and giving me some pointers on the double hall out in the back of the California Fly Shop.

Cozumel


As I left Grand Cayman I had developed a case of Bonefish fever. If any of you have experienced this you know that the symptoms are delirium, tired forearms and week knees. Some people may even experience whip lash from trying to listen to 2 conversations about the latest bonefish trip simultaneously. I booked this trip through a website I found about Cozumel fly fishing. They use paypal so you will have recourse in case something goes awry. http://www.cozumelflyfishing.net ;1-800-605-9490. The people who arrange the trip are not real knowledgeable about fly fishing but they speak good English and are accommodating. They know a little bit but as I found out until you meet the guide you may not get all the information you need. In this article I will try and give you the benefit of my experience. On this trip I met guide at the Iglesia San Miguel church located in central Cozumel, just a short cab ride away from the port where the cruise ships doc. Again having4 hours to fish and about 6 hours for the whole trip is no where long enough to do this but when that is all the time you have, you make do and enjoy the your beautiful Caribbean surroundings. I met my guide Adolfo Vazquez at a church. From talking to the locals it is much better to either contact the guide directly or just show up at the pier down from the church and hire a guide. I vote for pre arranging the trip directly with the guide. His cell is 044-987-105-67-52 his English is somewhat limited but you can communicate with him. It would be good to contact him and ask what are the best times of the year to fish and what are the best times of the day as well as what flies work or are working.

Adolfo picked me up from the church in a taxi which contained all his gear, ice chest boat motor odds and ends etc. The ride was not too long and did go for a while over dirt roads until we arrived at this magnificent lagoon. The lagoon was a vast saltwater flat that went on for miles surrounded by white sandy beaches. It was a mix of turtle grass and sand. I showed him the flies I tied and he was very impressed. I ended up using various color crazy charlies and gotchas I had tied. I also used a couple of his flies which were similar patterns with a little color variation and a heavier shrimp pattern.

Cozumel Boats
Boats, Cozumel

The boats they use are a variation of a saltwater dory skiff. They do not have platforms they use to pole so they are at the same level as the fishermen when it comes to spotting fish. I did a lot of blind casting on this trip some was to muds some was to deeper areas. The water temperature had warmed up by this time of the day and we did not see any tailing fish. We did eventually see 4 bonefish off a shallow beach area but we spooked them almost immediately. From talking to Adolfo the fish were just not biting that day.

Cozumel Lagoon
Lagoon, Cozumel

Since my time was limited he could not take me to the many lagoons he has access too. Also he told me it is much better casting to tailing fish in the early morning hours around 5am. Another circumstance is the tides. When you have a limited amount of time you may not be able to go to the best spots according to what the tides dictate. I did end up catching a small snapper in some deeper water we fished later on in the day. Over all it was an excellent experience and if you are ever down there have a try at it. There are many unspoiled lagoons that can be fished for bonefish, permit, snook, small tarpon, barracuda, jacks, snapper etc, etc.
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