Bonefish Barehanded!


Steve Farrelly with Stuart Cleare

  • Original color and black-and-white illustrations by C. D. Clarke
  • 127 pages
  • 9 x 6 laminated hardcover
  • $39.95

This delightful little book about bonefishing is a keeper, the result of hours New Yorker Steve Farrelly spent on and off the water with Stuart Cleare, a highly skilled second-generation bonefishing guide on Harbour Island, Bahamas.


Conversations with a Guide: “Bonefish Stuart”

Bonefish Barehanded! is packed with a lifetime of practical experience and lessons that Cleare learned on his own and from his father, the famous “Bonefish Joe” featured in Stanley M. Babson’s 1965 classic book, Bonefishing.

The new book includes basics about how bonefish move and feed. The author shares what the angler should be thinking about while fishing, the guide’s job in getting you into fish, and overall about the intriguing process of tracking “The Ghost of the Flats.”

The idea for this book dawned on Farrelly after spending days and weeks pursuing bonefish with Cleare. Flying home from each trip in the tropics, Steve realized he had not stopped the whole time from asking his guide questions about what the fish were doing and why. But he had not been writing any of it down. Finally, standing on the bow, fly rod at the ready, Steve turned to Stuart and said, “Stuart, you ought to write a book.” And then he thought, why not me?

That is the pulse of Bonefish Barehanded! It’s a light-hearted and humorous beginner’s Who, What, When, Where and Why of bonefishing, exploring topics ranging from the guide’s role in handling both the boat and the client, to weather conditions and reading the evidence of feeding fish as they forage across a saltwater flat.

“Some of the more interesting observations of Stuart’s were to questions about why on one day we might fish in one area versus another, how bonefish feed and his reasons for fly selection,” the author says. “Most fascinating to me are how he reads the water and the signs of fish below.” More than once on the boat, Cleare would point out the fish “right over there” and all Farrelly could see was what he thought were holes, rocks and sticks below the water’s surface. “Then I realized that some of those sticks had moved.”

 The highest compliment the author says he received about the book before publication was from someone who grew up with Stuart, who read the manuscript and came back and said that she could hear his voice in the pages. As you read this book before your next trip to the Bahamas—and likely re-read in the air—Stuart’s words and stories of the flats will educate and entertain. And you’ll be right there asking him another question.

Steve Farrellys Bonefish Barehanded! is a love letter to both the how” and the why” of the sport of bonefishing. His decision to take on the legendary bonefish guide, Stuart Cleare, as a conversation partner in the book is as wise as the advice Cleare offers within it.

Monte Burke, author of Lords of the Fly and Saban

This book sets the reader ankle-deep in the vivid saltwater flats, where lessons that transcend bonefishing how-to can be gleaned and where the angler can, upon occasion, hook a fish that pulls him out of himself.

Chris Dombrowski, author of The River You Touch and Body of Water


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