Angler Story of the Week: Puerto Rican Boxfish

“The boxfish and I have a history. Better yet, it could be said to be a curse. I have been fortunate enough to cast on some of these unique fish, but have only met with unfortunate results. They have saved me either through simple rejection, broken/bent hooks, the leader cutting the coral, or just about any other catastrophic scenario you can think of!

Boxfish are notoriously picky eaters. They will rush a fly with full intent, inspect, suck rubber feet, lose interest and leave you confused with nothing but a chewed up fly. Add to the equation, they have a small mouth tricked out with sharp, clean like teeth, great for eating crustaceans, but making a good hookup with a fly almost impossible! But on days when bonefishing can be slow, they make for a fun species to try and fool with a Gotcha! Plus, they tail like bony fish and a good sized box fish will get you to your support almost as fast as a bone!

This fish story begins on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. The only mission of the day involved my good friend Justin Hodge (@jhodgeproductions) and started with a taxi ride to the ferry terminal, followed by another hour of sweet talking at the ticket office for 2 tickets on a sold out ferry , a one-hour ferry ride, and eventually, a golf cart rental. Our objective? Bonefish tail and maybe even a shot at a permit…

After what seemed like days to reach, we climbed to the first flat with high morale and bonefish on the brain! This is the kind of flat that has all the makings of a bonefish paradise and before you know it we were zipping up our boots and I started tying my bonefish fly.

I choose my tried and true: a modified pearl tumbler with orange rubber feet. It’s show time!

For the first 45 minutes, we split up to cover more ground. We diligently scan the flat for any sign of life, but encounter only spikes or small sharks. At the edge of the turtle grass, a light-colored figure catches my eye, but quickly has my full attention when its tail comes to the surface for the first time. His tail is a dead giveaway. Unlike the silvery fork-like form of the bonefish’s tail, I can see a much more yellow hue with small flecks of light blue. Not bonefish, but the elusive fish and one of the biggest I’ve ever seen on a flat. Would my boxfish luck finally change?

Cast after cast, presentation after presentation, he would blur my fly causing a wake to roll behind him, tail up, inspect and lose interest… stereotypical boxfish behavior. After many attempts, he finally gets fed up with me and as he leaves the apartment, so does any hope of my box fish curse being broken…

5 minutes later, probably just to rub it in my face, he reappears in the same place he left the apartment.

“Damn, who’s another actor?”

I lay the fly about 4 meters in front of him, he sees it, blinks, I continue to strip and he continues to follow, I stop and so does he, *micro tick*, he takes the fly, *one last micro tick* , he realizes something outside, but….HER ON!

In my head, I’ve been here before and getting him to eat was only part of the battle. His initial run was a blistering run, going into my support in mere seconds. As he changes directions, it’s critical that I keep tension on him, and while standing can be a challenge, it can allow you to get creative with your power! A waltz of flats ensues as we bounce around coral, rocks, stingrays and even a sailboat. Heart pounding, I can finally see the leader and the curse was about to be broken. With one swipe, I grab him by his flat but firm underbelly.

The box fish landed and the curse is officially back!

A few quick photos and he’s released back into his turtle grass hideout to frustrate another fly fisherman in the future!

Although the bones never turned up that day, it will be an adventure I will never forget.”

Fisherman’s story from Justin Delatorre and Justin Hodge’s trip to Puerto Rico. Find him on Instagram @snapbackjr and @j.hodgeproductions.

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