Day One – Bonefish

By Bob Rich

Photos by JImmy Jacobs

May 2021

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Bob Rich’s novel, Looking Through Water. William McKay is a harried New York businessman and novice fly caster, who visits his father Leo in the Florida Keys. Once there he discovers his dad has entered them in a father-son bonefish and tarpon tournament with their guide, Cole. It is day one and they are looking for bonefish. William gets introduced to both the vagaries of the  fish and a crusty, saltwater captain.

Proceeds from the sale of Looking Through Water, which is available through, go to support Project Healing Waters.

From the poling platform Cole called down, “Two bonefish at 12 o’clock, 50 feet moving right to left.”

Leo said, “Intercept them, throw toward 10 o’clock.”

William tried. The fly landed at approximately 7 o’clock.

“Jeez,” his father whispered, “can’t you tell time? That’s not even close>”

Cole said, “That’s okay, they’re turning. Put your rod tip down and strip in line as fast as you can till I say stop.”

William stripped line in until Cole whispered, “Stop . . . bump it. If you feel him bite, don’t lift the rod, just keep on stripping till he pulls line out of your hand.”

As he bumped the line, he watched a silvery shadow of a fish stick its tail up and pounce down on the fly. The line grew tight and then started flying off the reel and out of the boat fast.

“I’ve got one,” William said, giving his companions a glimpse of the glaringly obvious.

Suddenly, his mobile phone rang and William dug it out of his shorts pocket and put it to his ear. “Hello?”

“Lionel,” William said to Lionel Johnson from his public relations department. “Yes, I’m out of town. They want a comment before they go to press? Well, tell them –“

Plink. He felt a stab at the other end of the fishing line, then everything went limp.

Cole jumped down from the poling platform and grabbed the mobile phone from William and threw it as far as he could into the ocean.

William looked at him as if he ‘d gone mad. “What the hell are you doing?”

“You can do one thing or the other, but you can’t do both. Not in my boat.”

William looked him in the eye and said, “That was an important call.”

Cole said, “That was an important fish.”

After a moment of deadlock, Leo shooed Cole back to the stern of the boat and said to William, “Bad form, kid. You flunked concentration, so you’re benched. Sit your ass down on the cooler.”

William knew that they were both right. As Leo stepped to the bow, William settled in on the cooler top.