On a recent bonefishing trip, during the few off
moments when I was not yanking the slippery things
from their watery homes, the guide, myself and the
LF got to chatting about some of the important
things we could collect for those of you who are
new to this sacred recreation. We agreed that the
written-word was sorely lacking in really, really
Now, I am not against those well meaning souls, who
in their mis-guided attempts to help out have simply
gotten it all wrong. They just didn't know any better.
Probably influenced by a lot of things they themselves
have read. Writers do a lot of that, read and then swipe
the ideas for their own use. With that firmly in cheek,
I will elucidate forthwith.
Stanley, he was our guide on this insightful day, has
seen it all and when he found out we wrote a little,
laid it on us, so to speak. Take for instance, the
possibility of getting sun-burned, or worse, fried
to a freekin' crisp. How do most of you protect
against such an inevitable actuality? Slobbering on
lots of gooey stuff, that's how. Or, maintaining macho,
just dab dribs and drabs here and there. Both of these
methods suck, and are also just wrong. For you, the
newby, we collectively arrived at this priceless
suggestion, remembering, of course, that one gets
what one pays for.
Nothing, nothing at all for the first day. Hell, you
are not going to get all that badly burned in one day
and it might just might be your first step toward
becoming a bronze god, or goddess. Now, and this is
important, the very next morning after you have had
enough coffee to get all your icons lined up and
functioning, look directly into your bathroom mirror.
Look especially for those areas that are now turning
bright red. They will stand out clearly now and give
you a perfect map as to where you should apply some
SPF goo. This will keep you from wasting the stuff
by anointing areas which don't really need it. Simple?
Of course, this is just pure academic thought, not
heretofore really explained in depth. "Red skin in
the morning, fisher take warning," I always say.
Much along the same path is the use, or not, of bug-dope.
Leave it off the first day. The next day just dope up the
big blotchy areas and scabs. Simplicity in action.
Economy of both motion and money.
Be sure to explain to your guide that you have been
fly-fishing for a long time and have never needed
the double-haul and sure aren't about to learn it
now. You have always been able to get close to your
fish and he will just have to make sure they are
not too far away. He will immediately understand
and make a note of your abilities.
Professional, that what those guides are, real pro's.
And darn proud of it. Do not insult them in any way or
you will pay dearly for such transgressions. Like when
your guide helps you land a nice fish and all of a
sudden it is swimming off toward the horizon before
you could get a picture of it, these things are not
always accidents, my friends.
One fun thing that often happens is this. Especially
if your guide stands on a platform high above the
outboard motor. When you are up front, shift your
weight sharply every so often. Not too far as to
be noticeable, but just enough tho "keep him on
his toes," so to speak. If he should actually fall
off, be sure to offer him your hand to get back in.
He will probably refuse it, but, it is a courtesy
anyway. He may really enjoy the event as it gets
awfully hot up there sometimes.
There is the silly rumor that you should give them
a tip. Ridiculous, I say. How could you possibly be
in any position to offer them any tips or advise on
anything. Good-grief, these guys know it all, and
you do not. Nope, no advise or tips at any time.
I have no idea where that ugly rumor ever got
When you have been wobbling for several hours in
the blistering sun on the forward poop-deck of a
pregnant pram and you gotta go, don't worry if
you dribble some on the boat, hell, these things
are washable and the guide won't mind at all. He
might even stop the boat if he really likes you.
And when your back feels like it's in a vise, your
toes are fried to the deck, and the sun is a swirling
ball of fire in the sky and it's only noon, just suggest,
" Hey, when in hell do we eat lunch?" It is his duty
to find a delightful shady place immediately, and
prepare a gourmet spread, usually without buzzards
looking on, but not always. If you have a few lurking
in the bush tops, do not bitch. Tacky to do so, they
are a symbol of luck or something. Speaking of luck,
make sure in the morning they put a few nice big fat
bananas in the lunch basket, I think it's a kind of
superstition thing too.
Humor is big down there. Always happy and looking for
anything funny. Try to use it often. Like when your
guide works for hours to position you for a great
shot at a huge bonefish, "at ten o'clock, mon, 'bout
thirty feet. Cast now, mon! Let it go!" Try this,
pitch a sloppy shot at three o'clock, ten feet. He
will bust a gut. Explain that with his funny accent
you miss-understood him and that he really should
speak louder in the first place. And by the way,
"where in hell is ten o'clock anyway?" These things
will let him know you are truly one of a kind.
It's an 'out-islands' custom to lose your hat on
the first day. Be sure to wear on old one with out
any strings on it and when you are zooming along
at about forty per, let the thing fly off. Laugh a
lot here, it goes along with the humor thing I was
mentioning above. He may make a furtive glance back
at it as it sinks in the swallowing wake, but remember
it's a custom and expected. Go with it. He may offer
to try for it, explain you are very rich and not to
worry, you have a lot of them.
Sighting bonefish. Wow, that is a big one and you
can really screw up here. You see, your guide is
in the back of the boat and you are up front. There
is no way he could possibly see any fish before you
do. If he points and says there is one at 'such-and-such,'
say, "right, I've had my eye on that one for a long
time now." This is of course a lie, but, he will
never know. Unless you cast of course, but that
is another matter all together.
Speaking of casting, remember, bonefish do not swim
in a straight line. So when the guide says to cast
at a certain place, hell, just let it go anywhere
really. Chances are, with a little luck, the fish
will find it on it's own. Try to place your fly
behind the fish as often as possible too, they
have their eyes on the sides of their heads and
can reverse direction instantly, you will show
the guide that you are a seasoned veteran of the
Since you will be there for a few days, actually
spend some time targeting the fish directly, aim
right for the things. By the time your fly gets
there they will have moved anyhow and your chances
are just as good as anyone's.
You got to look classy. For sure, and one way is
to aggressively thrust your fly rod to the left
and the right when playing a fish. It does not
matter that the thing might be two-hundred yards
out, he will know you are a sharp guy, have watched
a lot of T.V. and will be very impressed. This also
will impress your guide, about the same amount.
Fear. Right, have no fear at all of hitting the
guide with your fly. Also try not to hit him with
the rod if possible, but do not worry about your
back cast at any time. Hey, these guys are real
pro's and can duck anything you might be able to
pitch at them. They can be bouncing around on a
dipping deck, trying to point you to a good fish,
keep the boat in the right position for a cast and
can play dodge-ball with a fly traveling at the
speed-of-sound with ease.
And remember to keep lots of tension on the fly
line when the guide is trying to remove a fly
from your fish too. It might get stuck in his
thumb as it comes out, but these guys are tough,
they're used to it, happens a lot and is considered
an 'occupational hazzard.'
It is well known that tropical game fish are attracted
to sound and if possible make a few clunking/thumping
sounds from time to time. The end of your fly rod, a
soda can, almost anything will do the trick.
Sometimes it is needed to wake them up as the
warm water tends to make them a bit lethargic
Swearing is certainly acceptable language. The
average Bahamian does not go to church more than
five times a week and if you feel the urgent need
to let loose a blast, such phrases as;
"Oh golly-gee, Wow-ee, Boy-oh-boy and Whoopie
are well within good usage form. "Yee-haw," is
alright but is will mark you regionally.
When all is done and said and your trip is over,
offer some of your flies to the guide. Not any of
the good ones of course, just the odd-ball and
chewed-all-to-heck ones. Pick out at least three
or four, let him know how you really feel about
him busting his ass shoving you all over the
A final thing. Hit your local fly shop and pick
up a few items before you go. A check list might
look a little like this. Four rods, (three new ones),
three reels, (two new ones), extra fly lines (three
colors), a dozen flies of each size and pattern your
fly-shop-guru recommends, sun-dope, bug-dope,
alligator-dope, shark repellant and lots of money.
You are now well equipped to represent the average
North American first time bonefisher.
Until next time, "Yo Mon!" ~ James Castwell