Bonefishing places demands on anglers that are distinct from those of the freshwater world and even from those of other saltwater environments. But while these demands are unique, they are not uniform across the bonefishing world. Weather, locale, particulars about the fish you’re chasing and more all play in to change the equation.
Part of adapting to that changing equation is choosing what fly line to tote along. No, you don’t need three or even two different bonefish lines to catch bonefish — you can find success with almost any of today’s better bonefish lines. That said, certain lines excel at certain tasks and will up your chances for success as conditions differ.
These lines are all solid performers we’ve come to trust and reach for as conditions on the flats dictate. They're all ready to be your every day bonefish line, but each particularly excels in certain conditions.
Scientific Anglers Mastery Bonefish
Scientific Anglers’ Mastery series is chock full of solid fly lines and one standout is the Mastery Bonefish line. If you’re fishing to spooky bones (read: Florida Keys), this may be the it line.
The Mastery Bonefish series is a conservatively weighted (210 grain head), more traditional bonefish line when compared to designs from other manufacturers seem to be trending towards a more aggressive weight forward design. The Master Bonefish also features a compound (and slightly convex) taper towards the front end, which combined with its restrained head design, allows for more delicate presentations to skittish quarry. At least, that’s how SA bills it.
On the water, the marketing materials ring true. When casting the Mastery Bonefish line, experienced casters will almost certainly be able to drop small gotchas and bitters in front of or into pods of tailing bones with a whisper-quiet presentation. When carrying longer lengths of line, the Mastery Bonefish is an absolute pleasure to cast. Yes, you’ll give up quick-loading for short presentation and some wind fighting abilities, but if you’re fishing to pressured bones, presentation conquers all.
RIO Bonefish Quickshooter
If you're a beginner looking for a great line for your first flats trip or are an experienced flats angler looking for an all-around line, there's a good chance RIO’s Bonefish Quickshooter is your ticket. When reaching for a workhorse line, rather than reach for a “standard” bonefish line, we’ll more often reach for the Quickshooter.
RIO built the Bonefish Quickshooter with one primary purpose in mind: loading rods quickly. Bonefishing greenhorns are led to believe that all shots at bonefish come at 60 feet or greater. This is, of course, a load of crap. Bonefish are commonly caught inside 30 feet. Even 20 feet. Even with roll casts. RIO recognized the need to be able to load modern fast-action rods quickly for in close shots and sought out to build a line to help do so. To accomplish this, RIO cut the head length to 35’ (as compared to 50’ on their standard bonefish line), consequently distributing more of the weight towards the front of the line. But thanks to the unique taper that RIO put on the Quickshooter, which distributes weight towards the back of the head, the line still allows for relatively delicate presentations.
RIO’s Bonefish Quickshooter line is a dependable and versatile line that pairs well with virtually any rod and that even newcomers to the flats will find to be a feather in their cap.
Airflo Chard's Tropical Punch
Sometimes it seems like wind is ever-present on the flats and to some degree it is. On a day when its blowing or we expect to be throwing big flies, Airflo’s Chard's Tropical punch — designed by flats guru Bruce Chard — there’s no line we’ll reach for faster.
The weight in the Tropical Punch’s taper is distributed towards the front of the head, which results in that extra namesake “punch” but also is a great asset when turning over larger flies, such as heavyweighted shrimp patterns. This bit also makes the Tropical Punch more versatile for fishing for other species, which should come as no surprise as the line isn’t designed to be a bonefish-specific line. Chard’s line also makes an excellent permit line, turning over big crab patterns with relative ease, and even works well for tossing mega flies for barracuda.
The line has a bulky head and you’ll sacrifice some grace as a result, but Airflo’s SuperDRI coating keeps the line riding high which makes picking up long lengths of line very manageable. We dig this line. If you want to know more about why, you can read our full review.
Airflo’s lines also always score a few extra points in the tropics due to their polyurethane construction (vs. PVC like most other fly lines). These days, if you're taking care of yourself on the flats, you're lathering up with sunscreen and — in the age of a rapidly spreading Zika virus and and reinvigorated Dengue fever — mosquito repellent. Polyurethane, unlike PVC, isn't affected by the chemicals in sunscreen and bug sprays (DEET), which goes a long way towards the longevity of your fly line and your ability to be carefree about handling your lines.