So Long Long Island Bones
Best way to end a Bahamas fishing trip . . . shaking hands with one more bone.
By Gil Greenberg

This nice bonefish doubled as a parting gift and the just reward for the author’s persistence.

Being in the fly-fishing travel industry is tough. I travel around the world, scouting locations and trying my best to catch fish while collecting footage and photos along the way. That’s the fun part. On the flip side of the coin you have the stress of counting dollars and turning a passion into a successful business. Not long ago I got way too caught up in the stress and started sinking into a hole. Then I got a call.


“Hi Gil, I’m looking to get out with my wife for a week of flats fishing. I would love to put her on her first bonefish,” said the voice on the phone. “Fantastic, how can I help?” I replied, and from there I forgot about the business side of fly fishing. I forgot about the stress, the overhead and debt. Now I was just an angler talking fishing with a fellow angler, something I love almost as much as the fishing itself. Like most passionate fly fishers, I find it very hard not to talk about the last fish I caught, in this case a beautiful bonefish landed on my last day in Long Island, Bahamas.

I had been on the island for over a month, working remotely with my laptop, while also hosting friends and clients and fishing both with the fly rod and spear (to procure dinner) whenever possible. The trip had been a great escape from the northern winter’s cold, and it quenched my yearning for the island life, which I love and truly miss from my days of marine biology and fisheries work.

Cloudy skies the last day in Long Island made stalking fish quite challenging.


But that last day was different. I already had my flight back to reality booked for the next morning, and outside of a quick sunset fishing session at the local salt pond, I hadn’t wet a line in a while. Some clients had canceled their trip due to Covid, and Mark, my co-host during the Long Island foray, and I could feel a darkness setting in. There was only one cure for this type of mood. Fishing.

The weather, however, was now awful. A cold front rolled in earlier in the week, bringing with it some real nastiness. I’m talking legit 45 mph winds, and serious rain and thunder. Any other day, I would have poured a stiff rum drink, put on some tunes and called it a day. Any sensible angler would have chosen to look back at the awesome month of exploration and pack up contentedly. Only I couldn’t.

Large schools of small bonefish regularly invade Long Island’s salt pans.   Photo by Alex Suescun


The night prior, we had tried our luck in the inland salt pans, a cool fishery that serves as a bonefish nursery. About 10 minutes before the sun set, schools of baby bones showed up by the hundreds in one of the pans’ shallow corners, where depth remains at a consistent 6 to 8 inches, regardless of the tide. While you can't actually see the fish in the water, the spot is shallow enough that it causes cruising fish to push a nice bow wake, and the tails of any feeding fish pop right past the surface and wave like little flags.

While locating fish was not hard, seeing them eat was nearly impossible. These were small bones, often swimming towards you, so detecting the bite was extremely difficult. We tried stripping faster than the fish were swimming, but that often spooked the school or turned off the fish. Eventually we found a tactic that worked. The trick was to delicately cast an unweighted fly right on their noses, make two short strips to get the fish's attention and tighten the line. Then we added a short pause to allow the bone to eat, followed by a blind set. With some practice, we had it down to an art form.

When bonefish don’t cooperate, anglers visiting Long Island find other flats dwellers to target.


Although that wasn’t the most rewarding way of catching bones, it was fun all the same, plus Mark and I had a little competition going, one that ended rather pathetically. It was a simple one-fly challenge where whoever caught the most fish before sunset, on a single fly, was declared the winner. The contest would have been simple enough, had we not just finished a bottle of Old Nassau rum. Neither of us were in any state to go fishing, and our scores proved it. I hooked seven fish, landing none—only realizing my fly had a bent hook the next morning. Mark didn’t do any better. He struggled to find any feeding fish.

It was certainly not our finest hour, but we aren’t the kind that backs away from a challenge and were not about to end the trip this way. So the contest resumed the next day. We arrived at the flat just after 11a.m.. It was the bottom of the tide and the skies were completely overcast. We worked the channel edge for some time until a heavy, chilling shower forced us to take cover in a rocky depression and start a fire. Eventually the rain stopped, and I went back out on the flats in search of redemption. But I was alone. Mark had given up on the fly challenge and was posted up by the channel trying to hook a shark, using for bait a piece of a barracuda he had caught earlier.

Tough conditions have always pushed me to endure, but I admit my confidence was low. Throughout the trip I had wanted to test myself and prove I could still see and catch fish at a high level. Instead, I struggled. And now common sense was telling me it was way too dark to track potential targets, and my only chance to land a fish would be to get close and catch it by surprise. With stalking and patrolling out of the question, ambushing seemed the only choice. So I spent the next three hours by the mouth of a small channel, the only entrance to a large flat filling up with the incoming tide. I’d spotted only a single fish, a truly large one, but after three casts the hefty bone showed no interest in my fly. And then it started raining. Again.

No matter the species, a hookup and the ensuing bent rod bring a smile to every angler’s face.


Over my left shoulder, I could see Mark struggling with his rod bent over. He is from the Philippines, technically an islander, but as far as I knew, he had never landed a large shark before. Seriously doubting his game plan, I decided it would be best to give him a hand. As I waded back towards him, the rain stopped and a small window of sunlight opened. Suddenly, about 40 feet in front of me, I saw a gray smudge moving, but it quickly disappeared into the darkness of more approaching clouds. I estimated approximately where the fish could be and sent a cast in that direction. Immediately the gray smudge reappeared, bolted toward my fly, then paused and… BANG! I hit him with a hard strip-set.

Three or four seconds later, the fish had peeled off all my fly line and a considerable length of backing. It had to be a big bonefish, and it was heading for a deeper channel where I had seen a number of hefty lemon sharks on the prowl, some menacingly large ‘cudas, and, almost as troubling, tall seaweed bundles. But with 12-pound tippet, there was no stopping the hooked fish, so I tried the next best thing: redirection.

This triggerfish provided some laughs and the chance to practice valuable casting and fish-fighting skills.


Walking up to the shore, I was able to follow the bone along the channel, applying side pressure to encourage it to turn into a protected horseshoe between the deep channel and a rocky outcropping, where I was finally able to land it. By this time, Mark’s shark had gotten off, so he was able to take a couple of snapshots with my camera. After a quick release, a wave of satisfaction set in.

While that wasn't the largest fish I caught in Long Island, it was indeed a bonefish of respectable size and, without a doubt, my favorite of the trip. Later that evening, as I packed my gear in preparation for our return home, my mind played back the exciting moments of the catch, and I thought . . . There’s no better way to end the trip than shaking hands with a final bonefish.

Aside from the great fishing, the beauty and vastness of Long Island’s flats keep anglers coming back.

Gil Greenburg Bio Image

Gil Greenberg

Gil Greenberg is the founder of Gil’s Fly Fishing International. He holds a degree in marine biology and has always felt most at home on the water. At age 18, Gil bought his first fly rod and took it on his family’s annual walleye fishing trip. Just like so many fly-fishers before him, he was instantly hooked on the fly. To date, Gil has thrown flies at fish in over 25 countries, spanning five continents. Before getting into the fly-fishing industry, Gil served in the IDF and worked as a fisheries consultant in the Solomon Islands.