[For more from this series, please see Part I—from January 23]
Because guides possess wisdoms acquired during a lifetime on the water, it pays for us to listen. Here’s what the good ones have to say.
“MANAGE YOUR MESS.”
In the grand scheme of flats fishing, mismanaged line leads to a lot of blown fish. When your guide powers the skiff down and steps onto the platform, it’s time for you to ready your line—properly. Start by stripping a comfortable amount off the reel and onto the deck at your feet—no more than what you can cast accurately. Fifty to seventy-five feet should do it. Next step, clear the line by casting it all ahead of the skiff. Now, retrieve the line and deposit it at your feet (or onto a stripping mat/into a basket). It’ll be coiled from the bottom up, making it less likely to tangle on the way back out.
“RESPECT THE RESOURCE, DUDE.”
Whether we like it or not, there is a mortality statistic attached to our saltwater angling. As stewards of these habitats, good guides do not want to see the resource suffer via your moronic fish-handling practices. Aid a fish’s survival with these simple catch-and-release maxims: Play the fish quickly, and not to exhaustion. Limit its time out of the water (photograph the fish in the water). And revive a fish long enough so it can swim away upright and happy. Fishing barbless hooks helps expedite the release process.
“ENJOY BEER TIME.”
For green saltwater anglers, the time between the guide spotting an incoming fish—“10 o’clock, 70 feet ”—and the moment you make your cast can be a shitshow. The best piece of advice I ever received from the dude bellowing orders from the stern was to just… “Relax, man.” Heed your guide’s instruction, mark the fish in your mind, breathe, and make your first cast count. Eventually. It. Will. Happen.
When it does, those indigenous beers swimming in the cooler—Kaliks, Belikins, Hinanos, Tecates—are anxiously awaiting your affirmation of their existence. Traveling to a foreign country is all about sampling cultural flavors. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. And if you’re having a blast, always tip your guide. (As a general rule, plan on $40-50 for a day of bonefishing in the Bahamas or in and around the Caribbean.)
More from Bahamas here.