When you’re new to the flats, spotting bonefish is hard – which is why we’ve passed on some handy tips on the topic in the past.
Tips aside, it takes many hours on the water to become great at locating fish under all weather and visibility conditions. This is where a great guide standing high up on the platform calling out the distance and location of a fish is invaluable. This is most commonly done by calling out a direction based on an imaginary clock face followed by a distance, such as, “bonefish 10’oclock, fifty feet.”
But – with the angler and the guide at different ends of the boat, there is often variation between what the guide and angler consider 10 o’clock (or whatever time/direction it may be). We have also found that many people have conflicting opinions on distances as well.
The next time you find yourself on the bow of the flats boat, try this simple exercise. Before you reach your first flat, make a few practice casts from the bow. After each cast, ask your guide what clock position that is. You may be surprised that what you thought was 9 o’clock from the bow of the boat looks more like 10 o’clock to the boss on the poling platform.
It doesn’t matter where it is really, just as long as you are both on the same page. Also make sure to make a few casts at varying distances to get a feel for how long a specific distance is as well.
Sure, you can measure out distances on your fly line for exact measurements, but the important thing is being on the same page as your guide. That way, when your guide says “bonefish, 10 o’clock, fifty feet” to that fifteen pound bonefish cruising by, you know right where to put it!
A technique I’ve used in the past is to use the rod as a pointer. I’ve ” pointed” and asked here? That way the guide can agree or even say something like, “yes that’s the fish but lead him by 5 feet” The key is the open conversation just like you said. Thanks great post!
Great point, David – and likely inspiration for a future blog post. Thanks!
earle waters,captain says
Having the customer (angler) point the rod right or left works for me.
After having my angler make a few cast, I now know what his average cast is. When I need him to cast. I call out how many of HIS CAST the fish are at. If I say the fish are five cast away he knows to get ready. If I tell him the fish are one and a half cast away, he will know he need to look hard and get his fly in the air. This system has worked for me and my anglers for many years. The only time it has been a challenge is when Steve Rajeff has been on the bow of my shiff. Three of his cast away is further than I can see!
eric partin says
This happened to me last week. My guide says “fish at 9 o’clock”. I don’t see anything. Turns out his 9 o’clock on the polling platform is my 7 o’clock from the bow platform.
Wayne Walts says
The bow is always 12:00 , no matter how far back the guide is.
I find starting the day off with a new guide to you, is to make a couple
cast so you can find out if your 40 ft is the same as the guides 40ft. If
your line head length and add the leader length you will know distance and about how much line to shoot for.. any given distance
wayne walts says
The upside to making a couple casts to agree on distance, is the guide now knows what he has to work with that day. He may try to get closer to the fish and risk spooking them, if the angler can’t cast 30-40 ft. The guide
may change his plans and fish different water, as well as making sure the flats he fishes have the wind coming over the left shoulder for a right hand caster. This will put the client’s line down wind allowing much easier casting.
Kyle Shea says
Great points Wayne!
Thanks for the input, and as always, great to hear from you!
Best guide I ever had would simply say, “I got fish. Point your rod… ok, a little right… more right. Ok. 80 feet. See it?” And so on. The only time the clock face came into play was when we had poor vis and bones appearing out of the gloom 30 feet off the skiff. Then it was: “Fish! 9 o’clock. Cast.” After that it was fish on or fish spooked.
Being a wading guide this is the technique I adopted. No boat. No clock.
Kyle Shea says
Very cool WindKnot. Thanks for sharing!