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!