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

6 comments / Posted on / by


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

“It’s very rare that any two people, much less a guide and client, will see eye to eye”

My recent trip to the Bahamas, fly fishing for bonefish at the wonderful Andros South Lodge, 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
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

6 thoughts on “Don’t Keep Staring in One Place if You’re Seeing Nada

  1. Louis,

    Just got back from Cat Island on Sunday (to Minneapolis and drove home in a blizzard – that was a cold slap in the face). It was my first time fishing the salt and I wanted to thank you for all the bonefish advice in your posts and personal emails. Rod Hamilton’s book, “DIY Bonefishing” was a huge help too. This was a family trip, so with all the other activities planned, my young son and I focused on fishing one creek on the rising tide for 2-3 hours a day. Going back to the same creek system every day really helped. We just built upon what we learned the previous day and by day 3 we were both catching multiple bones! Damn, what an awesome game fish! I already want to go back. Just wanted to thank you and Kent. Your site is an awesome resource for fly anglers!


  2. Yes. I’ve been there too! Another problem I had at Christmas Island (where you rotate through guides), was that one guide’s 30 feet was another guide’s 50 feet! And both differed from my 30′ fly line mark, plus 10′ leader. My solution first thing in the morning was to ask about something we could both see, coral or something. .. How far is that? I would adjust my scanning to their estimate. Working with the same guide is easy as you can adjust just once. But the multiple guides ….. yes, can be very confusing.

    And very good suggestions on scanning. My approach to fishing anywhere really improved after a few flats trips.

  3. Excellent piece of advice. Roll off the bad shots. I might add, and not perhaps not so easy, same advice for lost fish. I generally curse and then see if I can find a bigger fish, to make up for the one I lost. -:). Confidence is all important and if you haven’t gone to the salt in a while a casting lesson, or practice session, helps tremendously on this one.

    I also try to keep my Zen when I have a guide that’s overly zealous in their instructing. I listen and try and take in the good bits, but zone in on my thing, especially when casting! & I think this was in another similar article. Do some guide/marker shots with the guide and see if you can both calibrate distance, before starting in earnest.

  4. Guy’s…great article and replies! Heading to Abaco in 3 weeks for 8 days of bone fishing. Just me and a guide. This was super helpful as this is only 2nd time Bonefishing. Thankfully, I’ll have the same guide and not have to swap. We’ve spoken over the phone several times and we seemed to hit it off. Will be a great learning experience!

    Thanks boys!

  5. Great advice Louis. Super applicable in fresh water too, especially here in New Zealand. Not seeing him at 30ft? Look at your 20ft and your 15, then your 35 and your 40. He’s probably in there somewhere!

  6. Great report, bottom line is we are out there for fun. Being on the flat in a skiff, with a guide and a buddy….it just doesn’t get much better. Here are two things that I do when on the front of a boat with a new guide. First I make a cast and I ask the guide “how far is that?” You might think it is 50 feet but if he says 40 feet, you know now exactly how far his 40 feet is. The second…..the rod tip always points to the fish. “Is the tip of my rod pointing at the fish” Yes, and now follow out 50 feet. Hope that helps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...