One of my favorite parts about fishing with different guides is that they all teach you something unique. The end goal of catching the fish remains the same, but each guide has a different way of explaining something or a specific point that he feels is worth mentioning. On a recent trip to Bonefishing Paradise, aka Andros South, legendary guide Josie explained to me the importance of keeping the rod pointed at the fish while retrieving the fly.
The circumstances leading up to the event were as follows, first Josie spots a large single bonefish cruising parallel with the mangroves. I cast in front of the fish and start to retrieve my fly on Josie’s command. The fish reacts to the fly and begins to follow it. The fly is getting closer and closer to the boat so Josie instructs me to slow down the speed of the strip. The fish continues to follow but more in a curious way than that of an aggressive eater. Soon the bonefish is so close to the boat that I turned my rod low and to the side in an effort to not spook the fish. He was still following my fly and I figured he would soon see my rod above his head if I continued to point at it. With my rod to the side of the boat, the fish ended up pausing for a quick second. Josie screamed “stick em” but I never felt the eat so I didn’t do anything. The bonefish then noticed the boat and quickly vanished off to the flats.
When a guide like Josie says the fish ate, I know he was correct, I just couldn’t figure out how I did not feel a thing. Josie explained to me what happened. When I turned my rod to the side of the boat, I was no longer directly connected to my fly. There was no slack in my line but the soft rod tip became a shock absorber that caused me to not feel the eat. When you have the rod tip pointed at the fish, you can feel the eat through the line as you retrieve the fly. When I turned the rod to the side of the boat, it was hard for me to feel the subtle take as the rod tip absorbed it. Furthering his point, he explained why the strip set was so important. If you set by pulling the line, it immediately pierces the hook into the fishes mouth. If you set with the rod aka “trout set” the soft rod tip absorbs some of the pressure causing it to take an extra second and some extra effort to secure the hook into the fish’s mouth. The bonefish can feel the fly moving in his mouth as the rod bends before it has a chance to come tight. That added time usually is long enough for the bonefish to spit the fly.
Clearly there are circumstances where moving the rod to the side of the boat is a good thing just like there are times when “trout setting” can still get the job done but I really enjoyed hearing Josie’s explanation as to why the soft rod tip on our fly rods can cause you to miss fish. I am excited to use this new knowledge when fishing streamers from a drift boat and see if it results in more hook ups there as well!
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