There's no such thing as a bad day's fishing....or is there?

There's no such thing as a bad day's fishing....or is there?

Tracy&James | Thursday, 20 October 2016

After my FP a few weeks back about DiY fishing in the Bahamas a question was asked on the board about what makes a good guide. I very much agree with one of the answers given that the best guides make their client’s day enjoyable. Tracy and I have had many excellent days guided flats fishing, but we’ve also had some stinkers. We can look back on these now with a hint of a smile, but at the time they were less than enjoyable.
The first day, and probably the worst, involved a very well known guide who will remain nameless. Tracy and I were ready at the dock at the agreed time as was the guide, however he’s a sociable kind of guy so had to speak to everyone and their dog prior to setting off, plus updating his social media status etc. Eventually we motored out about an hour late and he opened the throttle for a long run to the first flat of the day. [Being ‘battered’ in a skiff is one aspect of guided fishing that I definitely don’t enjoy, however I accept it’s unavoidable if you want to fish far off flats]. After nearly an hour’s travel, the guide spotted an impressively large hammerhead shark. At this point, and without discussing things with us, he threw the skiff into a circle around the shark using the prop to kick up a sand and silt curtain to contain it for a few moments. Now Tracy and I love seeing wildlife while we’re fishing and we’re especially fond of sharks (this one was not catchable on a fly rod). However we’ve seen plenty of them previously, so pointing it out and perhaps easing the throttle so we could take a brief look and a photo would have been more than adequate. As it was, in his efforts to ‘show off’ by trying to pen the shark in the boats wake, he managed to break the steering. Realising this he moored the skiff to the pole and set about radioing the lodge for help.

After some considerable time the lodge answered his calls and agreed to send a back-up.  Unfortunately they also told us that all their boats were out with clients so they’d have to find one elsewhere with someone prepared to drive it – and this would take some time.  [Looking back now I don’t know why he didn’t jury-rig the outboard so it could be manually steered – I’m pretty sure we could have roped the pole alongside it to use as a tiller].  Anyway, after a fair few hours a replacement boat was delivered, and we were told that due to the lateness in the day we’d get to fish one flat only before having to head back (there was a strict rule in place that all boats had to be back in the dock before a certain time, irrespective of the tides or the fishing!).  Having changed skiff the flat we were taken to was no more than half a mile from where we’d been moored up for most of the day.  On arrival Tracy and I shared a glance that, without words, we both understood to mean ‘why the f*** didn’t he pole us here!’

Upon arrival back at the dock the guide acted as though we’d had a normal day, perhaps thinking we viewed it as an adventure.  He had no hesitation in accepting the usual tip either, pocketing it with the speed of a mantis shrimp impaling its prey.

Our second worst trip was the same week at the same lodge, but with a different guide.  This wasn’t on the same scale as the day described above as the fishing was very difficult.  The water on the inside flats (I suspect some may guess which destination I’m talking about by this) was very stirred up.  This was caused by huge schools of bonefish feeding on silty ground, kicking up the mud which just hung there reducing the visibility to just a few inches.  These muds were so large that it was virtually impossible to say where the fish actually were or which direction they were travelling in.   Sight fishing was therefore out of the question.  We spoke to the guide about maybe going to the off-shore drop-off, but this idea was dismissed as he felt the skiff was not up to facing the open ocean (despite it being a very calm day and the distance to the drop-off was less than a mile).  This was slightly odd because a couple from the same lodge were enjoying showing us photos in the evenings of the fish they’d caught from there, such as tuna, jacks and barracuda, whilst fishing from the same model of skiff.  Instead he took us to a very small mangrove creek where he tied up and instructed us to blind cast for small snappers and banana bones.  He spent this time eating, smoking and sunbathing on the deck of the boat.  When asked about moving, he just said all the flats were coloured up and he didn’t know where else to try.

I have no problems in accepting tough days like this, however, what happened on the way home was the bit that jarred.  Motoring back to the lodge, ridiculously early in the afternoon to make sure we were back before the allotted time, we were passing by some ocean side flats when we spotted a large school of tailing bonefish.  Both Tracy and I pointed at them, however the guide had other ideas.  He tapped his watch a couple of times, shrugged and pointed in the direction of the lodge.  As we neared we asked whether we could be dropped off to fish the flats immediately in-front (these were part of the very large flat where the fish were tailing), and again there was a shrug and a shake of the head.  We would have made our own way back if it wasn’t for a deep channel about 25 metres in front of the dock – this was easily swimmable apart from the fact we’d seen big bull sharks in it every day (and hooked them at night).  We both figured that by the time we’d got to the fish and back it would be heading towards dusk and that swim would be decidedly dodgy.

Needless to say we haven’t been back to that lodge.  I should point out that our usual experiences with guides are overwhelmingly positive and the days described are completely atypical.  We’ve had awesome guided days that have ended fishless on many occasions, as a guide with the right approach can make even a tough day thoroughly enjoyable.  

Enjoy your weekend, James.

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