(Originally posted in 2011)
I said more details would come out about Day 1 from FIBFest, but I never really put them out there… the Outdooress beat me to it, putting up her version of that first day of fishing… you can read it through the link below, and I’ll give my own account below that.
One single cast, a few panicked strips of my line, one marginal strip set and BAM….I caught a bonefish on my first try. As my line peeled away I distinctly remember Bjorn behind me saying, “clear your line!” followed quickly with, “beginners luck!”
On day 1 of FIBFest I was paired with Rebecca (aka the Outdooress). Rebecca had never been saltwater fly fishing before. It is safe to say that she had some anxiety about the whole business. I tried (for a solid 20 seconds or so) to give her the deck first, but she insisted she needed a little time to calm her nerves.
Her nerves were not promptly calmed when we stopped the boat only to see a 5 foot lemon shark (she’s not totally on board with the whole “sharks are cool” thing). I got up on deck, took line off and stood in the place I most enjoy in the world… the bow of a flats boat. Ahhhhhhh…
Soon, our guide, Ellie, had spotted the first fish. I got a follow and an eat and missed the fish. I missed the second fish. I missed the third fish. I was apologizing to Ellie a lot at this point. Number 4 and I missed it. I think I hooked a couple of these fish, briefly. My strip set had about 20% tout set in it and it was just enough to botch the job.
Number FIVE stayed on. I was on the board, the boat had the skunk off it and we were in business.
It was Rebecca’s turn. She got up and started getting some line out and doing a little practice casting. It was not going well… I couldn’t tell what exactly wasn’t going well, but it, in general, wasn’t going well. I could see Rebecca getting really frustrated. After a few minutes she realized that the help she had received the night before from someone around the Slack Tide Bar in setting up her rig had backfired. In a Kalik haze, someone had missed one of the guides. Rebecca was going to have to re-rig. I was up again.
It didn’t take me that long on the second fish, as I recall, but soon, Rebecca was up on deck again. I told her that I was sure she was going to stick the very first fish she cast to. That’s the way these things work. Beginners Luck is real and I was sure she was going to be dipped in that magical pixie dust to get her first bonefish.
Oddly, I was pretty much spot on. The first fish she had to cast to she stuck. That was a very nice thing.
I was back up and whacked #3 and it was Rebecca’s turn again. This is where things started to kind of come unraveled a bit for the Outdooress. There was some wind and when it came time to make that 40′ cast into the wind the Outdooress hit a wall of frustration and I could see the downward spiral that would take her off the casting deck and install me back up there. Now, it should be noted that I tried to have her keep the deck, to get through it and stick with it, but it was clear to both of us she really needed a little breather to get her head right.
I’m a pretty good cheerleader and reminded her this was her first day in the salt, that casting like this is not a skill set that most trout anglers can really claim and that it takes time and that she needed to be more gentle with herself. Bits and pieces of this made it through, but she was having a tough time.
Confidence is a tricky thing. We build our confidence as anglers by putting in the time and and seeing results. Most of us do that on rivers and lakes before we try to take it to the salt and when we get there, we often find our skills are related, but not totally what is called for. We have defined ourselves as anglers and here is something we can’t do. It is a real “wtf” moment.
The day progressed… Rebecca started cutting herself a little slack and spent more time up on the deck. She landed three bonefish on her first day fishing in the salt. I’d call that a good day.
I managed to get some good follows from some lemon sharks on a gurgler, but no eats. The fish would accelerate on the fly, raise their nose right to it and by that time they would be about 15 feet from the boat and they’d peel off.
One unlucky bonefish became a snack for some of the lemons post release. Poor bastard. We were shadowed by lemons with three sharks visible at one time on occasion.
I had one fly we named the 50/50. I’d cast to one little pod of fish and they’d follow and then bolt. Ellie would say “Maybe we should change that fly… wait… bonefish, 11:00, 40′!” I’d cast and this other group of fish would crush the fly. The fish either loved it or hated it in equal measure. Go figure.
So… that’s the tale of the first day of FIBFest.