Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Guide

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Josie Sands photo by Louis Cahill

Josie Sands photo by Louis Cahill

Scott is almost in tears.

He is doubled over laughing. The drag on his reel is screaming. If he doesn’t get his composure soon he’ll likely loose a nice fish. From the platform Josie Sands is steadily chewing his ass.

“No Scott! That was all wrong,” the disgust in his voice palpable.

“But I caught the fish?”

“I don’t care, it’s still wrong.”

Josie is the head bonefish guide at Andros South and his reputation as a hard ass is world renowned. He is relentless, barking direction, criticism and sarcastic commentary from his perch on the stern. Today he’s ripping my buddy Scott a new one for catching a bonefish. Neither Scott or I remember what it was he did wrong, and apparently neither does the fish, but Josie is pissed.

There are a lot of guests at Andros South who will not fish with Josie. Frequently they are C-level executives who are used to doling out the criticism and don’t like being on the receiving end. Frankly, some of them are racist who don’t like being called out by a black man. Some just have fragile egos that can’t take the pounding. Whatever the reason, I feel sorry for those guys. They have no idea what they are missing.

I love Josie. I consider him a friend. I go out of my way to fish with him and have for years. For this, I get twice the tongue lashing everyone else gets. Josie will chew my ass and I will reply something like, “I love you too Josie,” and he will laugh and say, “you my boy!” I’m not sure which of us enjoys it more but I do know who reaps the reward. Me.

The truth about Josie Sands is not that he’s a grumpy old flats guide. It’s not that he’s a hard ass or bitter in any way. If that’s how he sounds, you’re not listening. Josie is a serious dude, to be sure, but in a good way. He’s proud of his position. He’s proud of his knowledge. He’s proud of the fish he puts his clients on. Josie is a teacher and I’d be half the angler I am today, if not for his tutelage.

Granted, his ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ approach doesn’t work for everyone. It took a little getting used to for me but it worked out. I got to know the man. I talked to him. Learned about his life and his beliefs. I realized that fishing with Josie was not a chore but an opportunity. I learned to respect him and I learned that his riding my ass didn’t mean he didn’t respect me. Quite the opposite. If I went on Josie’s boat now and didn’t get chewed out for something, I’d want to know what I’d done to piss him off.

In truth, the sarcastic stuff that comes out of Josie’s mouth, stuff like, “The fish has got no mouth on his ass man,” is all in fun. Nothing he says to a client is meant to be hurtful. It just takes a minute to get his sense of humor through the thick Bahamian accent. Josie is a great guy with a big heart. He just takes his job very seriously. I know with complete confidence that when I step on Josie’s boat he has two goals. To give me the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime and to be sure I have the skills to not fuck it up. He’ll do whatever he can to see that those goals are met. That’s a guide I’ll fish with any day.

If you make it down to South Andros, I highly recommend that you spend a day on Josie’s boat. I guarantee you will learn something. I’ll not be surprised if you catch the fish of a lifetime. I also recommend that if you your ego is fragile, you leave it at the dock.


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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26 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Guide

  1. Hard ass and sage, combined. Two years ago in May I blew a shot at one of the bigger bonefish I’ve seen after Josie poled us a quarter mile into the back of a dead end creek.

    When my leader crossed it’s back the bonefish turned our way to leave the creek. I said, “Wow, Josie, that was a really good fish.” He watched it swim past and said, “It’s STILL a good fish.”

    Love that guy. And he’s a hell of a boatbuilder too.

  2. Worked 122 hours last week. This week looks worse.

    On the plus side I’ll probably clear 5 figures in bonus pay for this outage. I think I need to rat hole it for next year to chase bone fish, never done it before.

    When do you start taking reservations for G&G Andros 2015?

  3. Louis,

    A provocative article. Josie sounds like a good egg in a hard shell.But I did want to comment on your notion of hard ass guides.

    I get a chance to fish a bit in Montana and Andros most years and average 4-5 guide trip days per year.

    I have a demanding job and a very loving but sometimes er, ah, “demanding “wife. Under no circumstances do I want to pay someone $500 to bitch at me from the back of the boat on one of my few days off. Under no circumstances, never, no way, no how, nada. I’m not on scholarship or being paid, so don’t give me the Bobby Knight treatment.

    Too many pleasant, professional guides have corrected my casting, fly selection, hook set and drift. They have taught me numerous new techniques. They smile, laugh and point out my screw ups. They are a great pleasure to be around. I try to give them my business and introduce them to friends just getting into the sport. My buddy in the boat may give me a load of crap when I break off a fish, but I am not paying him.

    I hope it doesn’t make me a racist that every asshole guide I have fired in Montana is white.I’ve looked hard for ethic diversity and inclusion in Montana but as hard as I look, every guide I have every seen there is white.

    So, a “dick in the back” for $500? All yours, I’m sure he is free most days. usually, his profession is “former guide”.

    • Exactly. I’m a racist or have a fragile ego because I don’t want to get berated on my day off? Can’t agree with that.

      The best guide I’ve ever gone with (and continue to go with) is hard working, motivated, and knowledgeable but he keeps it fun and light-hearted. When I screw up, he explains how and why I screwed up but doesn’t make me feel like an inept buffoon who has just bought his first rod and reel cause he watched A River Runs Through It.

      Fishing is about having fun. Don’t get me wrong, I really like catching the big fish too getting those “trophy photos” that you can show off to your jealous buddies. And it sounds like this guy is great at putting clients on those big fish, but I still think I’ll go with one of the other guides.

      • I had the pleasure of fishing with Josie a while back. He is easily one of my favorite guides down there along with a few others. I’ve fished with about 15 guides down there, all locals. They have a different sense of humor for sure. There are some guides that are just extremely passionate about sharing the best experience of fishing they can give you. Because they love catching fish they assume you do to and won’t take the tongue lashing to seriously

        I think there are a lot of different fishermen, man. When i pay the money to go to Andros it’s all business. I have a good time by taking it seriously because the rush of hearing the line zip out is worth more to me than small talk and joking around. Not saying i don’t mess with the guides i have fished with a few times but a lot of time I’m zoned in. Guides like Josie push you hard but it’s worth it to me.

        But different strokes for different folks, right?

    • I don’t care who you are, if you go fish with Josie, he’ll tell you, you can’t cast. And he’s probably right. When he’s busy (and he always is), try Norman. I’m sure he’ll be on your ass, too. Leave your ego at the door and get ready for a new game, my friend.

  4. I have to disagree with you on this one Louis. Not that you have gotten past the bitching and criticism to find the heart of the man underneath … but that any person paying a professional should have to put up with that nonsense. If I make friends with a crusty fellow fisherman on my own time (and dime), so be it. But I am going to find a guide who is willing to treat me with respect, in spite of my very modest fly fishing gifts. I hope that no aspiring guide reads your post and concludes that he or she can or should try to get away with what is bad behavior by any measure.

    • Right on Matt! I read G&G everyday. Love these guys perspective. This was not one of Louis’ best efforts in my opinion.
      Threw the race card, the class envy card and the “it’s OK to be an Ahole” card all in the same article.

      Being an Ahole did not make Bobby Knight a better coach. It just makes him an Ahole. Many races, creeds, religions and economic backgrounds concur that Bobby Knight is a Ahole. It does not make them a racist that they would walk to the other side of the street if they saw him coming down the sidewalk.

  5. Thanks for the post Louis. I am not a fisherman who can pay for guided trips, and never have, but I have heard the stories – both bad and, predominently, good. I do, however, find it striking how many of the tellers of bad stories have the most money and the biggest egos.
    Quick heads-up, hiring a guide doesn’t buy you a servant.

  6. Having been both the angler and the guide a good bit over the years, my two-cents is that every guide/angler relationship of any length is different. Some folks like to flog, some like to be flogged, and everyone likes to catch fish. Personally, I don’t like grumpy guides, but I don’t mind direct feedback with flair at all. Anglers with oversized egos are a challenge, but very few people really want to pay to be a whipping boy for the day, that is a great way to lose a customer.
    To each there own, and no angler should feel remorse at choosing to not fish with a guide because they did not ‘connect’.

  7. I have fished with a bunch of flats guides in my day… Josie Sands is no doubt the most demanding one I’ve ever fished with. That said, one thing everyone should understand about the man is that he doesn’t ride everyones ass. I’ve been in the boat with him with new saltwater anglers and he was was a very patient, thoughtful coach. However, if he knows that you are a good angler/caster, he expects your best effort. He simply calls it when you don’t live up to your potential.

    I will say this about Josie… The guy has put me in more situations to catch truly big bonefish than any other guide. More so, he has taught me a ton about bonefishing. In the end, his tough love has made me a way better saltwater angler.

  8. As someone who gets one week a year on the water…I can tell you after three trips and about seven days on the water with Josie, I am a way better angler because of him. He is tough, but he cares. He wants you to catch a big, big fish.

    If your worried about people not kissing your ass, don’t go with Josie. However, if you open up and show him respect and have fun. I don’t think you’ll find a better guide. Period.

  9. I have been hosting trips to the Amazon for 12 years now and I love my guides down there. A guide that will work hard and want his angler to get the best experience he can offer him is my kind of guide. I have some guide like Josie but since they don’t know all the English lingo and speak basic English guest don’t get it that rough. But if you make a mistake or don’t follow the guide to get your Big Peacock Bass that he waited to come out, the guide will go crazy.
    “Set the Hook, Set the Hook,, Set the Hook Monster,, Monster!”
    If you didn’t get the rod ripped out of your hands and have the hook set, fish on!
    “Good,,, Good,,, No Slack,, No Slack,, Tip Down,, Tip Down”
    You feel the pull and the power as you think to yourself “I hope this 80-lb braid holds up” or “I hope my Gamakatzu Hook don’t fail”.
    The reel starts to scree-em, the fish dashes towards the structure at the edge,, and your guide yells “no horse fish,, no horse fish,, keep light tight,, keep light tight” your guide is looking at the fish and waiting for the right moment to turn him away.. He says “now,, reel,, turn fish,, turn fish” and he turns into the srubbs, but still on the hook.. The fish goes into the bush,, and guide tell you “Release line”,, he knows he is hooked real good but if the monster rubs against an underwater log or stump he will rip out the lure.

    The guide gets the boat close to the fish, and prepares to go into the pitch black waters of the Rio Negro (Visibility is at 4″ to 8″ once you dive 3′ below the surface). As the guide dives down following the line, he tells you “No pull” as he goes under. He disappears into the depths after the fish in hopes that he is still hooked.
    This is very dangerous, the fish is hooked, and just waiting for the chance to dash out, if the runs towards the guide, there’s a good chance he will get hooked with barbs, if he dashes forward and they guide doesn’t feel the line, the fish can hook the guide and pull him into an underwater structure and get him stuck underwater.

    The fish is deep in the underwater brush, all you see is the bubbles coming up, its almost a minute gone by now, and you start to wander, what’s going on down there since you don’t know if he is in front of you, to the right or to the left. If the guide gets hooked underwater, there’s now way back up. Are you going in there in after him with no visibility? By now, you think out loud to your partner, “Let the fish go, we’ll catch another one, if you get stuck down there, it’s not worth it, who is going to get us back to the mothership?”
    As you think your last thought, the guide appears and you don’t see anything. He tells you,, “Balance, Balance” to give him the Boga-Grip.. then he reaches down underwater very slowly.
    Soon, he gives you a smile, and brings up that Monster Peacock Bass, your Trophy Fish,, it could be an 18-lb, up to 20-lbs plus. Your eye and adrenaline rushes again as the your guide come back to the boat with your Trophy for the day.
    Knowing that tomorrow could bring a bigger monster for the trip.

    My guides all work very hard with their Anglers, they will teach any angler and help them to be prepared for when the big one hits and to improve the chance of the Angler landing his trophy.

    I’ve had Professional Bass Anglers come down for the first time and after a few misses of Big Fish, they have come to me for pointers on landing his trophy. This brings a funny memory from one of my trips with a Pro Bass Master Champion.

    After the first day of fishing, all they guides give me updates on each angler and how they are fishing. I want all my anglers to be fine tuned in the techniques of Peacock Bass Fishing by their 2nd day. It’s something that is not difficult to learn with some simple learning tricks.

    Now, back to the story, the guides came back to the boat and told me “Mr Marc, this guy is not working the lure correct and doesn’t want to listen, he keeps loosing big fish”. So I go talk to him and ask him how he is doing, and tell him he should work with the guide. First thing from him is “You know who I am, I’m a professional Bass Master Angler, and I know how to fish!”. I said, Ok, but you have to understand, there are some different techniques here so catch your fish and the guides say you lost too many. If you want, I’ll be more than happy to go out with you for 10-min and see what you’re doing wrong, just let me know.

    Two days more go by, now its 4 days into the trip and there are only 2 days left for this guy to catch his trophy fish and guide is going crazy with the amount of fish that come after his lure and he looses them. That night after dinner he comes up and asks, “Can you go out with me tomorrow and see what I’m doing wrong” I say ok, tomorrow morning give me 10 minutes and I’ll get you going right.
    Sure enough, we all know he knows how to fish, but the only problem was his rhythm, twitch and setting the hook and didn’t follow the guides instructions.
    The next two days were his trail days for the week. To end this story, he landed his 20-lb plus fish and the guide commented, “He doesn’t miss a hit now”!..
    This is just a small story about Peacock Bass Fishing and my adventures. Feel free to contact me for hosted trip dates coming up in October 2014.

  10. Since when does a guide’s verbal abuse skills equate to the client catching more fish? Not to mention, there’s more to fishing than the fish.
    And humorous banter is not the only alternate to an intense, debilitating day on the water. There’s also the entire ecosystem, and a guide’s ability to explain it, point out the species present, the geology, and the local history. If all the client wants to do is cahch a big trophy at any cost, buy worms and get a spinnig rod.

  11. I would not fish with Josie. I have only ONE rule in my relationships with folks no matter who they are – treat EVERYONE with respect. In return, I expect the same from them. No matter how you spin it, abuse is NOT respect.

  12. I don’t know Josie personally, but it seems to me that he’s one dimensional; he has one game he’s really good at. For those fishermen who enjoy his style… it seems like a good fit. It’s not for me.

    It’s not about buying a “servant” to kiss my ass for the day, or paying someone to make me feel good about myself.

    I save my ego for things more important than fishing, and I’m not a racist. I enjoy fishing with friends (often guides) who I can connect with, who are fun to be around, and have something positive (in my judgement) to offer.

    In my experience a good guide is passionate, and will produce a lot of fish for his clients… a great guide can make a memorable day with surprisingly few.

    It sounds like Josie is a good guide.

  13. Josie Sands is a prince of a man and salt of the earth, none better at his craft of hunting big fish. I consider myself fortunate to be able to call him a friend.
    I have had the privilege of fishing with him for 10 years, if you are a decent human being he will teach you if you.
    If your hide is onion skin thin don’t bother to fish with Josie, respect has to be earned on his boat.
    I hope the next time I am at Andros that many of you decline to fish with Josie allowing me more opportunities to fish with him……..Pete Syracuse,NY

  14. Josie sounds like the exact guide I would have a great time with.
    Being on the water hundreds of days a year guides see the picture in slow motion. They adapt there personality to there profession and to the anglers just a little every time they fish together. As anglers the real deal is immersing ourselves in the situation and that includes the culture and personalities of the guides. Josie sounds like a mountain of a guide in a team of great anglers at Andros South, it’s there loss when anglers don’t understand him and his coaching style.

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