I stood there, thigh-deep in the green waters of Long Island in the Bahamas, staring intently through polarized lenses at the pod of bonefish working way happily my way. I’d never caught a bonefish, and this was clearly my best chance. Standing beside me was Rod Hamilton of DIY Bonefishing fame—he’d taken pity on the “new guy” who’d never chased fish on the flats before.
The sharp tails broke the water’s surface every few seconds and caught the sunlight in a way that made my heart speed up—it seemed to me that there might be half a dozen fish working toward us. And, of course, the wind was in my face.
“Can you kind of cast side-arm at them,” Rod asked me, clearly considering my handicap. A small-stream creek freak from the Rockies, I rarely needed a cast longer than 20 or 30 feet. And a double-haul? Never.
I gave it my best shot, contorted my body in all sorts of odd positions and knocked my water bottle out of my sling on my forward cast, which was still 10 feet too short. The bottle hit the drink with an audible “plunk,” and the fish scattered, spooked by my ham-handed casting.
Rod, bless his heart, just smiled and patted my back.
“Everything has to come together,” he said. “But if you work on the little things, you’ll catch fish.”
The little things, for me, started with the cast. I needed to be able to this that 40-foot mark. In the video above, my buddy Kirk Deeter pretty much covers my first and most important lesson when it comes to sight-fishing, whether it’s for brown trout in a cold, clear spring creek or bonefish on a Yucatan flat. As he explains, if you can cast 40 feet in four seconds, there’s not a fish on this planet you can’t catch.
And he’s right. Since that first flats-fishing outing all those years ago, I’ve managed to catch bonefish, tarpon and permit on the flats, in addition to catching less-heralded fish like redfish and sheepshead by improving my distance and being ready to launch longer casts in short order.
And the old addage still holds true. Practice makes perfect.
Words to live by.
— Chris Hunt