January 07, 2014
Book Review: 'Do It Yourself Bonefishing' by Rod Hamilton
By Kirk Deeter
First things first. If you take a close look at the attached image, you'll notice that I am listed on the cover of "Do It Yourself Bonefishing" (Derrydale Press, $29.95 ). I'm a contributor who did some wordsmithing and certainly offered moral support. But I want to make it clear that Rod Hamilton, the author, did all the heavy lifting. More specifically, he is the guy who literally walked hundreds of miles on the flats over many months and years to produce what I feel is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind resource.
In my opinion, nobody else has ever produced a book quite like this on any fishing topic, let alone bonefishing, and I doubt if anyone else can or will. So I'm not blowing my own horn. I'm telling you about a book you should buy if you ever had any inkling at all to chase ghosts on the flats by yourself.
The book is neatly organized. Hamilton spends a decent amount of time on the "hows" and "whys" of DIY fishing for bones. And that's important because "DIY" and "bonefish" have been perceived as a mutually-exclusive deal for many years. If you wanted to catch bonefish, you needed to hire a flats guide in Florida for $500 a day, or pony up the dough to jet off to some Caribbean lodge to find the right water, right? Well, not really.
Hamilton eloquently writes about the ethos and motivation of bonefishing on your own. As this is perhaps the supreme challenge for fly rodders, where spotting fish, making long casts, and delivering gentle presentations all come into play, there is indeed something special about pulling it off without anyone else whispering in your ear.
The text is engaging and conversational. There's no ego, no wasted words. Just honest, genuine passion for the flats. The advice is straightforward and easy to understand. Moreover, this is the ticket to help any serious angler who doesn't have the means or interest in paying several thousand dollars to visit bonefish Nirvana to find success.
The meat of the book is the most detailed "where to" guide on bonefish flats in the Western Hemisphere I've ever seen. Bahamas, Belize, Mexico, and the Keys included, Hamilton shares it all. If you're looking for the virgin flat, and you understand and accept that it might involve eating Cheez Whiz on crackers and drinking bottled water to stay there, he'll tell you where and how.
On the other hand, one of the best attributes of the book is his ability to share an honest "Spousal Rating." You might be jazzed as heck to be there, but if you dare to bring a non-angling spouse, girlfriend, or companion, he tells you what they're going to think about the place, before you get there. Which, as we all know, may in fact be the key to a return trip someday.
You will be amazed by Hamilton's specifics. He tells you where to park, how far to walk, when to turn right or left, and so forth. "Park here, walk there, turn left at the rock, and go until you see the fish." "The bottom is soft here, it's grassy there, and be sure to wear boots in this place because the coral is sharp." I have been to, and fished, about half of the places that Hamilton writes about in his book. And what I read is spot-on. Granted, storms and such might eventually mix things up. But the lay of the land he provides is as accurate as anything you will find in print or online.
This leads me to a difficult bonefishing dilemma, and that is the whole DIY phenomenon of amateurs versus guides and so forth. Some guides in the Bahamas would just as soon do away with DIY fishing. Others are embracing it. And Florida Keys guides can be downright stingy when it comes to sharing flats with DIY anglers. In fact, there was a worthy and interesting dialogue started on the topic at This is Fly last summer, which was picked up by Bonefish on the Brain. Does DIY indeed jibe with the notion of good fly fishing on the flats in the first place? A misguided angler can indeed wreck a certain flat by pounding it over and over again.
My bottom line is that I think a tourist angler is more apt to ruin a flat because he or she doesn't understand what's really going on, and he or she doesn't know the options available. Knowledge is power, and that power transcends. It helps the local guide, as well as the drop-in dabbler. And that's why everyone should embrace and support this book.
You can pony up the dough for all the bonefish adventures you've ever dreamed of, and you can walk all those flats you had in your mind. Even if you start today, you'd probably never hit all the places Hamilton has. He's already been there, and he's already written about all of it as clearly, honestly, and succinctly as you might ever imagine.
Buy the book. Then go fish. On your own. You won't be disappointed.