Review by Steve Raymond
_Western Fisherman’s Press
__PO Box 357
Moose, WY 83012;
This book should have a warning label from the surgeon general: If you’re not already a bonefish addict, it’s guaranteed to make you one.
Randall Kaufmann, guru of Kaufmann’s Streamborn Flies in Tigard, Oregon, has taken his 1992 book, Bonefishing with a Fly, and turned it into something completely different — a revised, greatly expanded, far more comprehensive and elaborate work. The 1992 version had 172 pages, 24 chapters (including six on bonefish destinations) and lots of black-and-white photos and illustrations by Mike Stidham. This one has 390 pages, 34 chapters (including 12 on destinations), a wealth of color illustrations by Stidham and a treasury of stunning color photos, mostly by Brian O’Keefe.
The changes are so great, in fact, that it would be a mistake to call this sumptuous, large-format book a new edition; it’s really an entirely new book, even if it does include a lot of the text from the old one. Kaufmann also has lots of company in this version; it includes contributions from Gordon Nash, Paul Bruun, John Randolph, Ralph Cutter, Doug Jorgensen, Jim Covich, Buck Buchenroth, Yvon Chouinard, Lance Kaufmann (Randall’s brother), John Ecklund, Tim Borski, R. Valentine Atkinson, Jerry Swanson, Ed Opler and Kevin Erickson. Brian O’Keefe contributes text as well as photos.
There are chapters dealing with bonefish distribution, natural history, fly-fishing history, flats habitat, the effects of weather, temperature and tide, bonefish food, choosing the right fly, locating and stalking fish, presentation and retrieve, fighting and releasing fish, proper tackle and other gear, choosing a guide, how to get started bonefishing, safety and how to get the most enjoyment from the sport. The fly-pattern dictionary from the 1992 version has been replaced with color photos of bonefish fly selections and a list of references where you can find the dressings. A new chapter called “Other Flats Visitors” provides lots of information about permit, snapper, sharks, snook, tarpon, trevally and other species you may encounter while searching for bones.
But the 12 destination chapters are the centerpiece. Chapters on Christmas Island, the Florida Keys, Yucat!n, Belize, Los Roques and the Bahamas from the ’92 version have been updated and in some cases expanded. (The Christmas Island segment, for example, now includes an account of a side trip to neighboring Fanning Island.) New chapters describe bonefishing opportunities at such far-flung places as Bikini, Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Kanton Island and the Seychelles.
All that in itself would make this a compelling book, but what really sets it apart from all others is its wonderful photography, mostly by O’Keefe. Kaufmann writes: “Sorting through Brian’s one-of-a-kind [photo] collection was as exciting as spotting tailing bonefish. Hundreds of his images begged, ‘Pick me!’ I couldn’t decide so I picked them all.” That was the right choice. These dynamite photos first invite you into the book, then grab you, hold you and finally leave you absolutely salivating and wishing for more. You can’t look at them without experiencing an uncontrollable urge to rush out and go bonefishing.
It’s probably fair to say that most people consider Dick Brown’s 1993 book, Fly Fishing for Bonefish, the definitive work on the sport because of its thoughtful, thorough and well-organized approach to the sport. Kaufmann’s book doesn’t supersede Brown’s but rather complements it because it comes at the subject from a whole different direction. Kaufmann’s approach is more free-spirited, with much greater emphasis on destinations, and he offers a view of the sport through many different sets of eyes. His overall message is that bonefishing is a sport whose limits you define for yourself, one with endless opportunities for adventure.
Not many books have the ability to make readers excited; this one does. Sure, $79.95 is a stiff price for a book — but it’s not much to start an addiction.