Don’t Keep Staring in One Place if You’re Seeing Nada

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Scanning for the bonefish heading my way. Photo: Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

My recent trip to the Bahamas, fly fishing for bonefish, I got a chance to work out a bunch of kinks in my flats fishing.

From the help of my buddies, the helpful staff on hand and the fantastic bahamian guides, I eventually got to the point where I could respectfully hold my own on the flats. Despite me being in paradise there were a few times during the trip when I found myself hanging my head. The first problem I had was letting my mind get in the way of my fishing. That was to be expected though, since I’m most comfortable on the cold water streams and rivers, and it had been several years since I’d last chased the grey ghost on the flats. When I trout fish, I don’t have to think about my casts much these days and my confidence is through the roof. This is because I do it day in and day out. Take me to saltwater though, where I only make a few trips a year, and my confidence drops and the first couple days I find myself constantly battling my inner thoughts and nerves. I’m sure many of you out there no where I’m coming from. Anytime you’re lacking confidence and dealing with nerves you’re going to fish at half your potential. And there’s no place this holds true more than standing on the bow of a skiff on the saltwater flats. Lesson learned, if you want to fish more effectively and maximize your success when fishing locations that aren’t your norm, you have to stay relaxed, keep your confidence no matter what, and learn to let the bad casts roll off your back.

My next problem I had during the trip, and the point for writing this post, was learning how to quickly spot the bonefish my guide was calling out to me. I missed countless shots during the week because of one flaw in my fly fishing game. That flaw was getting sucked into all the excitement and locking in and staring at one spot (where the guide called out the location of the bonefish) for too long. The guides were quick to point it out and tell me to continue to scan back and forth if I didn’t see the fish, but just like a lot of bad habits in fly fishing, this one in particular, proved to be tough habit for me to kick.

It’s very rare that any two people, much less a guide and client, will see eye to eye when it comes to gauging distance and direction.

That was the problem I had with my recent trip to the Bahamas. The guide would say 50 feet and I would see 30 feet. Did we break out a tape measure or rangefinder? No, but that’s not what’s important. It doesn’t matter who was seeing more accurately. All that matters, is that it was up to me to see the fish called out when I was on the bow, and also up to me to catch them. Here’s where I was screwing up and what the guides finally drilled into my head by the end of the trip. Let’s say your guide calls out a fish at 45 feet at 10 o’clock. The first thing you want to do is look where you think that is, however, if you don’t see the fish or the school, the next thing you should start doing is scanning left or right in the direction your guides is calling, and then looking closer and farther. By doing so, you’ll be canceling out the differences in judgement between you and your guide. Keep in mind also, that in most cases, the bonefish are constantly on the move. So even if you’re guide was dead on with 45 feet and 10 o’clock, by the time you spin around and get your eyes in the area your guide just called out, the bonefish may have already moved 10 to 15 feet, and may now be at 11 o’clcok. Never continue to stare at a spot in the water after a guide calls out a fish if you aren’t seeing any life. Keep your calm and continue to scan back and forth until you pick up your target. Once you train yourself to avoid the fault of staring in one place, you’ll be amazed how many more bonefish you catch, but even more, how many times you turn a spotted fish into a caught fish. Another tip that can help you find the bonefish quicker is to point with your rod tip and let your guide talk you to the fish by telling you, more right, or more left.

That’s just a couple tips I learned on my recent bonefishing trip to Andros South. I’ll be sharing many more in the upcoming months. Everyone on the trip caught multiple bonefish every day. Andros South Lodge is an amazing place.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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3 thoughts on “Don’t Keep Staring in One Place if You’re Seeing Nada

  1. Here is another great tip i picked up, as you are loading up on the skiff, before fishing gets going, pick out an object on the water (large rock, piling, what ever) and ask your guide how far away it it. This will help you calibrate what his 45 foot (or what ever he says) is. Not everyone’s gauge of distance is the same. Doesn’t matter how far away you think that piling is, what matters is how far away the guide’s estimation is! This helps the angler better gauge the guide’s distances when they are spotting fish.

  2. “Don’t keep staring at one place….” brought back a conversation with my guide. I asked him to do two things when he spotted a bonefish. First, keep calm. A excited guide giving quick fire instructions is not good. We are talking about a fish and not the future of the world. Second, telling me distance and position is good, but incomplete information. I also need to know, in a calm voice, the direction the fish is travelling and where I should cast. If the fish is at 10 o’clock, do I cast to 9, 10, or 11 o’clock. Or is it at 10 and swimming away, or maybe towards the boat? The catch rate went up once my guide and I were able to communicate.

  3. Great article. I wish I had read it 2 weeks ago. Had a great time in Bermuda. But having been fly casting for little more than a year, and usaually to fresh water panfish, there was definitely a lack of experience. I found it difficult to see the fish. And if you can’t see them then you can’t cast to them. However I had a great guide. And my objective was to stand on the bow of a skiff and cast to bonefish. Never did that before. Catching would be gravy.

    But in failure you find opportunity. I will continue practicing my casts. I will continue to aim for accuracy. – no pun intended. And next year it will be different. The Japanese have an expression “first bitterness then sweetness”. Next year is going to be seeet as honey. M

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