“On the Bow: Love, Fear, and Fascination in the Pursuit of Bonefish, Tarpon, and Permit” is a fantastic saltwater fly-fishing book written by Bill Horn and released in 2021. It is in the vein of the also fantastic 2020 release “Lords of the Fly: Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World Record Tarpon” by Monte Burke. While Lords of the Fly is more about competition and setting records in the Gulf of Mexico, On the Bow is more of a naturalist’s take on the thrills of fishing the Florida Keys and Bahamas.
Horn intersperses fishing advice with journal entries and his own photography. His writing is personable and the journal entries familiar – sometimes the fish win the day! Horn himself is a former United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior, an attorney, and current Vice Chairman of the Board of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. He is simultaneously diplomatic, scientific, and assertive in discussing the environment, politics, and challenges of fishing for the big three flats species – bonefish, tarpon, and permit.
On the Bow is published by Stackpole Books (click here for their fishing section), who are arguably the leaders in fly-fishing book publication. Some of their recent 2022 releases are below. If you buy through these links or those above you support BlogFlyFish – all profits donated to charity:
- Out of the Box: Unconventional Fly-Fishing Strategies and Winning Combinations to Catch More Fish by John S. Barr
- Goodnews River: Wild Fish, Wild Waters, and the Stories We Find There by Scott Sadil
- Fly Tying Made Clear and Simple: An Easy-to-Follow All-Color Guide by Skip Morris
- Favorite Flies for Maine: 50 Essential Patterns from Local Experts by Bob Mallard
I’m a mediocre flats angler, and books like On the Bow let me live vicariously through others that are more skilled with more time and experience on the water. No wonder that Horn knows what he’s doing – he splits his time living in the Keys and Idaho, two top fly-fishing destinations. I’m now in the midst of reading his first book, Seasons on the Flats.
Stackpole’s summary of On the Bow enticed me:
“Veteran saltwater angler and Keys resident Bill Horn shares his years of experience pursuing tarpon, permit, and bonefish and captures the magic and mystery of flats fishing around the world. Not only are biology, behavior, and tactics for the fish covered, but Horn also discusses famous destinations and profiles legendary guides. Guide interviews, fly pattern recommendations, and the latest research round out the instructional information.”
The book truly is comprehensive. Horn covers history and policy while interviewing guides working today and also harkening back to the good ol’ days. If you’ve ever hooked up with the gray ghost (bonefish), the silver king (tarpon), or the elusive permit, you’ll identify with Horn. If you’re planning your first saltwater fishing excursion to the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Mexico, or Belize, you’ll pick up plenty of tips and guidance in this book.
I don’t know when I’ll return myself to a tropical paradise with expansive flats, but I can always pick up this book and imagine the sun beating down, the stillness of the mangroves, and the excitement of hunting the big three. It’s good to know that veteran anglers like Horn and his friends, family, and guides are taking care of the resource. Ultimately, the future of these wild ecosystems depends on the involvement and attention of anglers.
Legal professionals and government officials are key players in the process of decision making when it comes to issues like regulations and water policy. After reading this book, you’ll become more educated about the struggles ahead and the rewards of focused conservation efforts. Not only that, you might just learn how to get more hook ups when it’s your turn to take the bow.