It happens. The guide wants you to have a good day on the water. He wants you to brag a little, to feel good about your angling abilities. Maybe he just wants you to have fun, maybe he’s also a little bit interested in how your fun level translates into a tip (if you take a cynical view of things). Either way, it is not uncommon for bonefish to suddenly add pounds when brought to hand. A four pound fish becomes a seven pound fish. A five pounder is suddenly nine.
Who doesn’t prefer an 8 pounder over a 4 pounder?
The bad thing, though, is when Mr. Angler shows the pictures of his 8 pound bonefish to his buddies. His friends who have been bonefishing before know what an 8 pounder looks like and they also know Mr. Angler didn’t catch an 8 pounder.
The lie doesn’t do anyone any favors. The guide might profit in the short term, but a client who knows he was lied to might not rebook. The angler might feel good about himself for a while, until he sees what a really big bonefish looks like and then has to admit to himself that his big fish really wasn’t a big fish.
Bonefish are awesome. We don’t need to do this. We don’t need a fish to add 50% of its weight to be a good fish. A four pound bonefish is a terrific fish. A four pounder will put you in your backing in a matter of seconds and will look lovely, held just under the water, with a broad and strong back, green and silver.
I’ll illustrate bonefish inflation with one of the first bonefish I ever caught. Now, I wasn’t really handling the fish well, but i didn’t know better, so, please forgive me that. This isn’t a particularly egregious example, but it is my own, so I don’t have to call anyone out to make my point.
The guide wanted me to be happy. He called the fish 7 pounds. It isn’t, and I’ll prove it.
If we use my knuckles as a scale we can figure out how long it was and from there we can put that into one of the calculators available for us to estimate fish weight (I’m using the table in Dick Brow’s Fly Fishing for Bonefish (a fine book, by the way). The fish, nose to fork is about 6.3 knuckle lengths. If my knuckles are about 3.5 inches across, that means the fish is about 22.05″. That translates to 5 pounds, 12 ounces. I may have been a little conservative, so it might have been slightly longer, pushing it to 6 pounds. This wasn’t too bad, in terms of inflation, but I think there are plenty of guides who would have called it 8… or more.
Be happy with the fish you get. Don’t make them into something else.
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