Sunday Classic / 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.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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4 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Don’t Keep Staring in One Place if You’re Seeing Nada

  1. A lot of us old blokes learnt a trick many years ago. Tie a Nail knot on the fly line 30ft from the tip. Then if you have the knot between your thumb and forefinger you know how far away the fly is. That is 30ft plus the length of the leader.

    These days I still tie a nail knot and I secure it with some knot sense.

    I also practice with targets at 40ft, 50ft, 60ft and 70ft so I have a good idea of the distances. So if the guide calls the distances differently I just adjust. BM

  2. Pointing the rod tip is the greatest help for both the angler and the guide. When I am on the poling platform and my sport on the deck points the rod I can tell immediately where they are looking…love that tip!

  3. When wade fishing on Christmas Island I was fishing with a different guide each day, each with his own idea of 30 feet, 40 feet, etc. Sometimes that differed greatly from my idea of the same distance! I quickly learned to discuss distance with each guide first thing in the morning and then adapt my distances to theirs because it was easier for me to change – than them.

  4. Kent, although you wrote about fishing in the salt, you hit my fly fishing for trout right on the proverbial head. I got into fly fishing late in life (early 40’s; I’m now in my late 50’s), and so am way behind in the learning curve. So the following statements really hit home: “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… my confidence drops and the first couple days I find myself constantly battling my inner thoughts and nerves… Anytime you’re lacking confidence and dealing with nerves you’re going to fish at half your potential… Lesson learned, if you want to fish more effectively and maximize your success… you have to stay relaxed, keep your confidence no matter what, and learn to let the bad casts roll off your back.”
    So how DOES one relax, maintain their confidence and let the bad casts roll of their back? Working two jobs, I don’t get out near as much as I need to in order to get that all-important time on the water and build experience, so am at a loss as to what to do… Thanks!

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