“Me and boxfish have a history. Better yet, one could even say it’s a curse. I’ve been fortunate enough to cast at quite a few of these unique fish but have only been met with misfortunate results. They’ve eluded me either through simple rejection, broken/bent hooks, leader slicing coral, or just about every other disastrous scenario you can think of!
Boxfish are notorious for being picky eaters. They’ll bull rush a fly with full intent, inspect, nibble the rubber legs off, lose interest, and leave you confused with nothing but a chewed up fly. Add to the equation, they have a tiny mouth rigged up with sharp, sheer like teeth that are great for eating crustaceans but makes a good hook up with a fly nearly impossible! But on days where bonefishing can be slow, they make for a fun species to try and trick with a Gotcha! Plus, they tail like bonefish and a good sized boxfish will get you to your backing almost as quick as a bone would!
This fish story begins on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. The single day DIY mission included my good friend, Justin Hodge (@jhodgeproductions) & it started with an hour long taxi ride to the ferry terminal, followed by another hour of sweet talking the ticket office for 2 tickets on a sold out ferry, an hour long ferry ride, and eventually, a rented golf cart. Our target? Tailing Bonefish and maybe even a shot on a Permit…
After what seemed like it took days to get to, we pulled up to the first flat with morale at an all time high and bonefish on the brain! This is the kind of flat that has all the makings of being a bonefish paradise & before you know it, we were zipping up our wading boots and I started tying on my go-to bonefish fly.
I choose my tried & true: a modified pearl gotcha w/ orange rubber legs. It’s showtime!
For the first 45 minutes, we split up to cover more ground. We diligently scan the flat for any signs of life, but only run into the occasional stingray or small shark. On the edge of a turtle grass patch, a light colored figure catches my eye but soon gets my full attention when his tail breaches the surface for the first time. His tail is a dead giveaway. Unlike the silver fork-like shape of a bonefish tail, I can see a much more yellow hue with small light blue colored spots. No bonefish, but the elusive boxfish and one of the largest I’ve ever seen on a flat. Was my boxfish luck about to finally change?
Cast after cast, presentation after presentation, he’d bullrush my fly causing a rolling wake behind him, tail up, inspect, & would lose interest… stereotypical boxfish behavior. After multiple attempts, he’s finally annoyed with me and as he leaves the flat, so does any hope of my boxfish curse being broken…
5 minutes later, maybe just to rub it in my face, he shows back up in the exact same place that he’d exited the flat.
“Heck, what’s one more cast?”
I lay out the gotcha about 4 feet in front him, he sees it, bullrushes, I keep stripping and he keeps following, I stop and so does he, *micro tics*, he picks up the fly, *one last micro tic*, he realizes somethings off but….HE’S ON!
In my head, I’ve been here before and getting him to eat was only a part of the battle. His initial run was a blistering one, getting into my backing in mere seconds. As he changes directions, it’s critical that I keep tension on him and even though being on foot can be a challenge, it can allow you to get creative with your leverage! A flats waltz ensues as we dance around coral, rocks, stingrays, and even a sailboat. Heart racing, I can finally see the leader and the curse was within arms length of being broken. With one swipe, I grab him by his flat but rock solid underbelly.
Boxfish landed & curse officially reversed!
A few quick pics and he’s released back into his turtle grass sanctuary to frustrate some other fly fisherman in the future!
Even though the bones never showed up that day, it’ll be an adventure I’ll never forget.”
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