Fairfax County, Virginia, July 9, 2012
It was another tough day of fishing. Eric, SteveT and I were battling high wind and rain as we pursued Hawaiian bonefish. We were blind casting our way across the flats on the south shore and conditions really sucked but we kept at it--changing flies, shortening or lengthening the leader and emptying the water from our stripping baskets. We weren’t getting any bites and somewhere on the flats, as we met to exchange information on what was working and what wasn’t, SteveT asked me, “Does the color of the fly line matter?”

My answer was a firm yes and no. It all depends on the fishing situation.

Steve was using a Rio Tropical Outbound line--dark olive drab head followed by a cream-colored main line. I was using the Monic Tropical Clear line, a line I have always used for bonefishing on the flats. Steve recently swapped out to the Rio line after initially using the Cortland PE Crystal line for a few days and with the tough fishing he was doubting his decision to swap lines.

To me it made sense to use the Rio line because you could throw a huge weighted fly an incredible distance in high wind with little effort. Besides, Hawaii bonefish weren’t known to be leader shy so the color of the line shouldn’t matter. Yeah, it shouldn’t matter and after years of fishing these waters I KNEW it shouldn’t matter. But with blind casting I needed every break I could get and I felt the clear line gave me a slight presentation advantage over a colored line. The fish might not be put off by a clear line zipping above their heads but might head for the open ocean if you sling a colored line over them. A clear line also enables me to fish a short leader in the high wind--Steve says the clear line is “one giant leader anyway.” And I’ve used the Monic lines for years and caught a lot of fish so why mess with a good thing.

However colored fly lines definitely hold the advantage when sight fishing. The local guides don’t like clear lines for this type of fishing because you need to see where the line is in relation to the location of a cruising or feeding bonefish. I agree with their assessment. If I know I’m going to sight fish, I’ll use a colored line. It’s difficult to spot a clear line unless the conditions are perfect--calm water, little or no wind, bright sun and close casting distance.

I can’t really claim that a clear line gives you an advantage over a colored line. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I use clear lines because they work for me but only for blind casting. I think the most important thing you can do when fishing on the flats, whether blind casting or sight fishing, is pretty obvious. Put the fly in front of the fish. Hawaii bonefish are not that picky about their food and if it looks edible they WILL eat it.