Growing up in New Orleans, Steve Hare (@shallowwaterfly on Instagram) would go out reeling with his dad, just trying to catch whatever they could get to bite. These days, Hare still loves getting fish to bite.
“One of the things I love most about fishing is the challenge of tricking a fish into taking my fly,” he says. “Putting something into the natural environment and convincing them that what they see is real and something they want to eat.”
When it comes to fishing, Hare likes to keep challenging himself. He began by targeting redfish along the Gulf Coast and Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
He started out using a spinning rig. Then Hare learned out sight cast with spinning gear. Finally he graduated to saltwater fly fishing.
“It was a natural progression for me. Increasing the challenge, until I hit the big time: Fly casting for permit, tarpon, and bonefish.”
From his home in Panama City, Florida, Hare would hit the flats of the Florida keys, chasing those renowned skinny water species.
“Pound-for-pound, a bonefish will give you four times the fight of a redfish,” he says.
For the last several months, Hare and his wife have lived in Sydney, Australia, where the bonefishing has been a little light.
“The bonefish are along the north and west coasts — the other side of the continent from where I am,” he says.
Fortunately, he’s been able to travel considerably, fly fishing around the world, chasing flats fish as he goes.
Hare’s advice for novice reelers hoping to get on flats fish, in general, and especially bonefish, is to start with a good guide and listen to what they tell you.
“Part of learning how to fish the flats is learning how to see the fish. Bonefish aren’t like other species. You need to learn to look for things like nervous water — small disturbances that look out of place — that’s where the fish will be,” he says. “A guide can really help you learn on the flats.”
Stealth is crucial, as well.
“If you’re wading, move slowly and deliberately. Don’t splash or kick up the bottom. And if you’re standing on the bow of a boat, limit your movements,” Hare cautions. “Because if you move, the boat moves. And that makes noise in the water, and that spooks the fish.”
Bonefish spook so easily that a small difference in the weight of a fly, and how it hits the water, can be the deciding factor between hooking and scaring a fish.
“Even changing the hook you’re using or switching out lead eyes with plastic beads can make a huge difference,” Hare says.
According to Hare, one of the best things about chasing bonefish is where they live.
“They live between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer,” he explains. “And that means you’ll find the
m in a lot of very beautiful places.”
Between Florida and Australia, Hare has traveled the world looking for bonefish, from the Bahamas to Hawaii, the Seychelles to the Maldives and Cook Islands.
“I get to fish, and the wife is happy,” he says.
Definitely sounds like a win-win to us.