I'd like to introduce you to fellow blogger and bonefish brother Bjorn Stromsness. He's a West Coaster who writes Bonefish On The Brain which is a blog dedicated to fly fishing for the elusive Grey Ghost. Bjorn finds something to post about bones EVERYDAY, and is a member of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Bjorn and I both appreciate Aaron Adams, fly tying, and of course....bonefish. I'm sure that if Bjorn lived in Florida, we'd be going to the Keys as often as possible. Without further ado....
Rob - How did you get into bonefish being in California? I always thought they were located in the Caribbean in places I'd never go to.
Bjorn - My love of bonefish all started because my parents decided to celebrate their 40th Anniversary in Kauai. I had heard there were bonefish there and I had read an article in This is Fly that had said something like “Bonefish show up on more people’s “To Do” lists than obituaries” and I decided that I’d try to make it happen when we went. Turns out, totally accidentally, that the house they rented was on the one real flat in Kauai and the one place known to have bones. My dad and I went out with a guide one day and caught a couple of Bluefin Trevally, which was really my first saltwater fly-caught fish. We didn’t even see a bone that day. A few days later I was out wading by myself and I had been walking this one little section of the massive ruble flat for about 3 hours and I was figuring that I just wasn’t going to even see a bone on the whole trip. After I strung up my rod and was walking in I saw a gray shape at 12:00 coming right at me. I fumbled to get the fly off the guides and totally flubbed the cast. In short order I saw 7 fish, cast to 5, hooked none of them. They were all massive fish… I had one swim right by me and coming from more of a steelhead background I would have thought it a 20 pound fish, although now I know how silly that sounds… I figure it was big… really big… maybe 14-15 pounds, but probably not a world record fish. Basically, after that, I was fixated.
Bonefishing was so different from the trout fishing I do, which is mostly short-line/tight-line nymphing in pocket water and short runs. I may cast 1,000 times in a given day. I never see the fish before I hook it. I’m casting to fishy water, trying to get the drift right, but it is always a guess. Bonefishing… the stalking, the visual aspect of it… only casting when you have something to cast to, watching the take… it was a revelation. The power of the first fish I caught (a year after the Kauai trip) also just blew me away. I’ve caught lots of 20” trout and even an 18 pound steelhead, but the power:weight of bonefish was incredible.
I don’t get to fish for them very often, but I think of them every day and I started my blog because I was looking for something to read, a blog focused on bonefish. I tell people that my interest level far outstrips my experience level when it comes to bonefish. I’m not an expert by any definition, but I am really, really interested. I’m never going to be a guy that gets 20 days on the water casting to bonefish… that’s not the life I live.
Rob - How bad were the first flies that you tied?
Bjorn - Not too bad… but it started simple. I also had the opportunity to learn bits and pieces from some really great tiers. I was living in San Francisco when I started tying and would go down to the Golden Gate Casting and Angling Club for lunch sometimes and tie/listen to the actual war stories of the old timers there. I also worked as a short time as a trout guide up in Northern California and when you guide and use a lot of your own flies, you get pretty good at tying certain patterns and you pick up a lot from other guides. I can still tie some crappy flies, but the ones that are really crappy never make it very far from the vice and certainly not in any of my fly boxes. I tend to tie what I tie well and I tend to avoid patterns that I don’t tie well… I wish I could get away from that, but that’s how I end up tying. Means I don’t branch out as much as I should.
Rob - What's your favorite fly to tie?
Bjorn - “Tie” is maybe not the right word, but the Velcro Crab is just such a cool looking fly. It is more assembling than tying, and its use for bonefish is an open question, but when you put a Velcro Crab together it just looks so frigging… crabby! I also had to figure out a lot to get that fly right… like how best to get it to land hook up, how to add weight, how to get the thing to stay closed. It is probably the fly I’ve tinkered with the most. A Merkin would probably be a lot better bonefish option, but my Merkins still look like crap.
Rob - When you do get out onto a flat, what's the first fly that you like to go with?
Bjorn - Pink winged gotcha, maybe with a barred wing.
Rob - What's your current favorite bonefish rod and reel set up to use?
Bjorn - The last trip I used a TFO Clouser 8 wt. and I really liked it. I paired that with a TFO Large Arbor 375 Reel that I was really impressed by. I didn’t even know TFO made reels, but they do, and the LA is awesome. I’m a value-for-money guy and so I like cheap rods and moderate reels. You are not likely to see me casting a lot of Sages or Ables… they are probably great, but I have a real suspicion about how much brand reputation mark-up is in there. I’d rather spend my money on airfare.
Rob - Do you make your own leaders or do you buy tapered?
Bjorn - I buy from the store… maybe at some point I’ll look at making my own leaders, but at this point, I’ll leave that up to the leader makers.
Rob - Any favorite "go to" beer for after the fishing excursion?
Bjorn - Well, you can’t go wrong with a Kalik, because it means you are in the Bahamas. If I’m fishing one of my home waters (the Upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers) for trout, I’m more likely to have a Newcastle or Downtown Brown. Love a good nut brown ale, although that feels a little heavy for the tropics.