Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scott's Bonefishing Advice: Part 5... Your Mindset Is All Important!

     I ended the last edition of "tips" with the comment that your mindset is all important. I was referring to a stealthy mindset then, but now, I'd like to expand upon an angler's mindset a bit before getting to some specific technical tips in the next edition. (I apologize if I get too metaphysical here, but I've watched these suggestions play out with bonefishermen for both good and bad for years. I hope you won't think these suggestions are too weird and that you will at least think about them... I think they will help you become a better fisherman!)

     OK, so you've got your game face on by getting in the stealth mode. (That is why I use an old Abel with a silent outgoing drag and why I don't use Sharkskin fly lines. Although I think these noises scare fish, I think any unnecessary noise destroys a stealth mindset. Excessive probably... but I'm sticking with it!). Now to go to the next level, you've got to add to that predator mindset the concept that first, everything works to your advantage and second, it's all up to you.

1.) So you've got no sun or maybe lots of wind, what's new! Let's face it, rarely do you have ideal weather conditions... instead of using it as an excuse for the "poor" fishing or allowing it to frustrate you, use it. Wind, bad weather, low light... these conditions may not be the best for the fish either! Wind and waves especially reduce a bone's ability to see and hear you. Use it!  Learn to love the weather, especially the wind... it is your friend.

2.) Expect to catch a fish instead of telling yourself you won't. I've seen it more than once... the guy that expects to catch fish and behaves accordingly creates opportunities if not actually creating bonefish. As they say "you gotta believe!". Maybe it's hope, or optimism or confidence, Whatever you call it... attitude is everything when it comes to fishing. I'll even go further... I think bonefish (hell, all fish for that matter), smell resignation. Achieving a predatory mindset is a hopeful action. One that is often self fulfilling. Hope/confidence/optimism is as important as the right fly or a new rod or a fine tippet.

3.) On a practical level, use the wind and sun to your advantage. If possible, wade a flat with the wind behind you. If there is little or no wind, have the sun behind you. Take the time, after spotting a fish, to navigate upwind of your fish, but always wade quietly until you are in place. When you are in position, false cast away from the fish, especially with a slow moving or tailing fish. This will keep the fly line from spooking the fish. Cast away at a 45 to 90 degree angle to the direction that the fish are heading. If it is windy, make your false cast holding your rod as parallel as possible to the plane of the water. The wind's friction with the water lessens its velocity in the area 3 to 4 feet above the water's level. This casting technique makes it harder for the fish to see the fly line and allows for a very quiet presentation since the fly does not drop from much height.

4.) Don't blame your equipment. Don't get so involved in the minutiae of equipment that you focus on that and abdicate your role in all this. To look to your equipment for answers actually hinders your ability to learn the skills of the sport. Casting, stalking, presentation and a proper retrieve have to do with you, not your rod... not your leader... not your fly. Of course they are important. That is a given... make your choice, then move on and know your success is literally in your hands.

     Again to be successful, is more a matter of preparation than luck. But since I've been a bit "mental" with these tips, here is one more and it has to do with karma. Build up some good karma by remembering: When you do catch a bonefish, take a few pics, but treat him well. As someone else pointed out. "He is old and possibly embarrassed." Be kind to him... it will pay off for you.


  1. Good list Scott. Can I add a #5?

    #5: And in the end, remember it's just fishing. You're out there to relax, enjoy yourself, and forget about whatever is troubling you for awhile. Spend some time looking around, get down close and study the bottom and all the little critters there, watch the birds feed. Put yourself in the position to make a cast and then make it. Don't study it to death and don't worry so much that the opportunity passes you by. It's just fishing. Make the cast, hope it goes well, and if not, laugh, spend 30 seconds analyzing what might have gone wrong, and then start looking for another opportunity.

    1. Amen Doug, for all the dissection, this is not brain surgery nor are we trying to find a cure for cancer! Part of the fun is acting like all this really matters... it doesn't!

  2. Good stuff. One of my first real bonefishing lessons was from a dude named Skinny (as in skinny water). The guy just believed he was going to catch fish, all the time. It didn't matter that his flies were totally ghettofabulous---bits of yarn lashed sideways to a hook and "trimmed" square, way too heavy lead eyes, and no weedguards so he was always snagging---he caught fishing anyways. Belief.

    Only thing I can't agree with is noises above water scaring fish below. I've tested this with an underwater camera and mic. The sound of a sharkskin line zipping through the guides during a cast or the buzz of a clicker while pulling line off the reel cannot penetrate the water's surface. It bounces off. Talking the the water: yes. The bones in your body act like an amplifier and vibrate the sounds out into the water. Whispering: no. Your bones don't vibrate. Walking along the wet sand: yes. Acts like a drum. Whistling: no. See whispering. Talking while walking along the dry sand of the beach: no. Sound bounces off the water.

    As a guide it bothers me when a client uses a reel that has no outgoing click. That sound is part of the magic for me, a reward for working so hard to get them into fish in the first place. Plus I can hear by the sound if the run is getting erratic (cuda or shark on it's tail and we need to pop it off) or the fish is trying to foul the leader in a coral, etc. Helps save and land fish.

    Of course I think people should fish with whatever they want---even an old coke can with a few yards of mono wrapped around it if they want---but I do love that bonefish song.

    Tight lines and keep the tips coming.

  3. PS Since flyrods are hollow they too act like conductors for sound into the water. Perhaps this is where bones are getting spooked by those Sharkskin lines: when the angler is stripping the fly w/ the rod tip (as it should be) in the water.

    PPS I don't actually like Sharkskin lines. They're loud, cut you, and sink like a lead rope... and cost too much.

  4. Thanks for your comment! I just got back from Los Roques last night and was able to read but not respond to your message while there. If talking etc. is not actually be heard by the fish, it is a distraction and can ruin your "stealth" mindset. I spoke with one of the guides about this after I read your comments and he hated to talk too much with clients (while fishing).
    He finds himself not paying as much attention and of course, the client is not paying attention. He also felt anglers wade more noisily when they are talking.
    Personally, I like a quiet reel... it's that mindset thing again! You made a good case as a guide for the use of one with an outgoing click... thanks for that!
    Love the story about your friends flies and I absolutely agree about Sharkskins lines. I do know many guides though that feel fish can hear a Sharkskin even if the rod tip is not in the water.
    Thanks again for your comments... I hope you make more!