Nov 16

Master Guide of Biscayne Bay passes at 91

Bill Curtis was a guide and pivotal figure in bonefishing and the development of salt water fly fishing. He passed at 91. Here’s a story about his passing from the Miami paper.

“Man was born to hunt, fight and make love. Anything else is just a complication,” he once said.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article112149762.html#storylink=cpy

Jun 16

Interview with Tom Karrow

Tom Karrow is gathering up guide stories, histories and knowledge all for a pretty cool project.  I asked him to share some information about this project and to lend some of his insights gained thus far.

Check it out.

Tom interviewing Bahamian guide Jeffrey Ferguson, photo by Dan Decibel.

Tell me a little about the project you’ve been working on. What was the inspiration and where are you in the process?

The project I am working on is funded through the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust as well as a series of other industry supporters including Nautilus Reels, RL Winston Fly Rods, FishPond, 12 Weight, Costa, the Fisheries Conservation Foundation and World Angling. I have also had great on-island support from lodges like, North Riding Point Club, H2O Bonefishing, Deep Water Cay, Bairs Lodge, Swains Cay Lodge and industry associations like the Abaco FlyFishing Guides Association.. not too mention the dozens of participating guides including amazing Bahamian elders like Ansil Saunders, David Pinder Sr. O’Donald McIntosh, Basil Minns, and Maitland Lowe. My primary goal for BTT is generating fisheries habitat maps in collaboration with local Bahamian angling guides on Bimini, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Andros. These islands were selected because of the size of their angling tourism sector and the longevity of their fisheries… Bimini became a popular angling destination as early as 1923 with the establishment of the Bimini rod and gun club. While I am working with guides to generate habitat maps, I am also examining fisheries population dynamics for Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit (and more). These populations have changed over time, and it is critical to establish some sort of “baseline” in the absence of commercial fisheries catch rates. Without a baseline, it is difficult as a resource manager to assess increases or declines in populations, the effects of conservation measures, climate change impacts or source point pollution issues like dredging, oil spills, or waste water discharges. Many Bahamian guides have been guiding for decades; their experiences on the water are vital for better understanding ecosystems and the changes that have occurred in these systems. I am also trying to give these Bahamian icons recognition for their tireless efforts in working to learn about the fishery, and establish a world-class fisheries-based tourism destination. Their stories and experiences are being documented both in print and on film for release of a book entitled “Ghost Stories” and an accompanying documentary film. Film shorts and a trailer will be released through the International FlyFishing Film Tour (among other media sources) and will highlight not just bonefishing/fish porn, but the Bahamian culture, its history, food, customs and more. Ghost Stories will tell the story of the Bahamian bonefishing through the eyes of local Bahamian guides. I am grateful for support from Capt. Will Benson and World Angling who bring a wealth of professionalism and expertise to this vital effort. The challenge lies in funding for filming which is very costly.

Tom interviewing Ronnie at Bair’s Lodge in Andros while Dan Decibel films.

What is something that has surprised you about your project thus far?

A couple of things come to mind. Firstly the sheer magnitude of Bahamian generosity, courtesy and willingness to accommodate me needs mention. I have not found more polite, friendly people and I love returning to the islands. Beyond that, I think the beauty of the islands is stunning. Each time I land in a new destination, I say to myself… “this is the most beautiful place I have been”…. it makes me appreciate travelling throughout the islands and reminds me to encourage anglers to try new Bahamian destinations…. there are 700 Bahamian islands after all! I too am guilty of returning to familiar grounds when travelling but I can say, angling diversity throughout the Bahamas is worth seeing and you will become a better angler having had more experiences in a variety of locations with the teachings from local guides. Each destination I travel to holds a place in my heart whether it is because of local people, the geography, the food etc. and I hope some day to return to each place. I am fortunate to have met and interviewed, some of the Bahamian legends that I have; I cherish the time I have had with each of these finest of people.

You have been doing a LOT of traveling around the Bahamas recently. Any tips or tricks for helping get “there” with your sanity intact?

Remember you are on ” island time”, relax, go with the flow and enjoy the journey…. some of the most interesting people and contacts I have made were during “travel days”. Travel with the locals, embrace Bahamian people and their culture. More practically, leave lots of time, carry essentials with you (in case luggage arrives later) and fly direct if possible to avoid transfers, weather delays etc.

Tom with guide Dex Rolle in Exuma. Photo by Dan Decibel.

What do you think the state of Bahamian guiding is in at this point?

The quality of guides I have found throughout the islands is unparalleled. The best in my opinion, recognize the importance of the industry to Bahamians, they acknowledge their important role in that industry, they are well versed in local ecological processes and they are tourism and hospitality experts… largely self trained by the way, although there is a ‘tradition’ of guiding in some Bahamian families. In a few cases, the 3rd or 4th generation of family guides are now carrying on this tradition having learned from Bahamian greats.. a perfect example of this is the Pinder family of Grand Bahama who were, and are, lead by phenomenal Bahamian great, David Pinder Sr. Other families like the Smiths, Leadons, and Lowes follow suit. Beyond this, there are some issues with other aspects of the “state of guiding” in the islands. On many islands, new young guides are hard to find. Elder guides tell me, the younger generation finds guiding too hard, too much work and they see jobs in medicine or law as more credible. This will be an issue in the future of the Bahamas. We all have to address this problem as technology takes a greater role in the lives of our children and time in the outdoors is reduced.

Describe one of your favorite flats.

Personally, I prefer angling from a boat. I like diversity in a flat, I like a mixed shoreline and beach, coral and mangroves… I find it more challenging. I also like some access to deep water where species like Permit and Tarpon may travel through on their way to the flat so there is potentially a surprise on every flat. I love the flats of Northern Grand Bahama because they provide such diversity in terms of species and habitats, and I thank both H2O Bonefishing and Grand Bahama Bonefishing for showing me this incredible habitat. Sandy areas mixed with grass flats and everything in between allow for just about anything to happen. If wading, I much prefer a hard consistently white sandy flat so I can get beautiful Bahamian sand between my toes … I think of Exuma for this type of flat and I am on my way there today!

When you are on the water a lot you see some weird things. What’s something you’ve seen on the water that fits that bill?

Last time I was in the field, I had some down time to actually fish… a rarity rest assured! Research and interviewing are the focus of my time in the Bahamas… that is sometimes tough because I do love to throw a line and fly! However, two things come to mind with that question. On a flat on Great Exuma in January, I was wading when I heard and then saw a 5-6 foot black tip shark beach itself while chasing its prey. Right out of the water and well up the beach, it frantically thrashed about as it tried to return to the water which it did. Before that, I had never seen something like that. I also remember being with Androsian great, Charlie Neymour on a strong outgoing tide in about 10 feet of water looking for Permit in June. The water was so hot, that large off-shore permit up to 60 or 70 lbs. came right in on the boat, taking refuge under the boat in the shade it provided… that was crazy and pretty amazing to see. I might have gone in to swim with them had the current not been so strong the fact that some large Bull Sharks had followed the permit!

Where are you headed next?

My research efforts began in 2014 and I am approaching the end of official field work. While there will always be more guides to interview (and I would love to), from a research and funding standpoint I am close to having enough interviews from each of the study islands to accurately represent the local fisheries. Currently, I am en route to Exuma to interview a few more guides and will then travel to Andros for several weeks of travel and interviews from the south end all the way to the north end. I try to interview 50% of the guides on each island so I may return to Abaco in the fall for a few days. I would love to continue this study on Acklins, Long Island, Eleuthera and other Bahamian islands, but those are not in the cards at this time!

Thanks Tom. Can’t wait to see this thing!



Jan 15

G & G and the guide list

Gink and Gasoline… they just keep putting out quality. They had the bit a while back about do’s and don’ts for your guided trip. That was a popular one. They just put out a list of do’s and don’ts for the guide. It is worth a read.

Of course… the obligatory disclaimer. I love fishing with a good guide. A guide who is tuned in is such an amazing way to spend the day on the water. You learn so much, about the fish, the water, the country. Every trip with a good guide leaves you a better angler.

Dwayne, calling out a fish to Jason Bourne (photo from Aaron Vanderwall)

Dwayne, calling out a fish to Jason Bourne (photo from Aaron Vanderwall) (Dwayne was a good guide, by the way)

Still… I’ve had at least a couple trips I was less than thrilled with, so I have a few pointers for the guides to add…

  • Don’t talk religion.

Sure, don’t talk politics. Don’t want to get into a debate with someone on the other side of the isle. While the US has two political parties, there are an estimated 4,200 different religions in the world. Time on the water is not time to tell me about your personal brand of salvation.

  • Don’t break out the homophobia or sexims

Maybe you go around talking about how women need to be put in their place or you want to share your strong beliefs that all gay people are going to hell. While those ideas make you kind of an a-hole (something you are likely proud of if you hold those views), you should totally not share your awesome ideas with your clients. If you get that one wrong and, let’s say, talk about how gays are going to hell to the guy who has a gay son… well… he’s not going to have a good time.

  • Don’t get baked, unless you get the green light

Could be your client isn’t down with the 420 lifestyle. Could be he doesn’t mind at all. Make sure you know before you break out the blunt.


  • Don’t poach someone else’s water

I’ve been on both ends of this. I’ve had a guide get way too close to another boat. That boat happened to be from the lodge we were staying at and I apologized to the anglers from that boat at dinner. It isn’t the position you want to put your clients in. I’ve also been on the receiving side and had a guide motor up and put his client on fish I was working. That did not make me happy. In the Keys we had a guide come over and ask us if he was going to be in our way. Since we were just out for kicks and he had paying clients, Capt. Derek Rust told him to go ahead and go ahead of us. It was class all the way around. That is what you want people to experience.

A good guide cuts years off your learning curve. A good guide makes the trip, maybe even your year. A good guide is priceless. A bad guide can suck the joy out of one of the most joyful things humankind has yet come up with.

Jul 14

What is a day worth?

I have a friend heading to Grand Bahama for his honeymoon. He a guide here in CA, so he’s looking to get a day of fishing in and is shopping the indie guide scene.

He found one “Captain,” who I have it on good authority doesn’t himself guide and sends hapless Americans out with local lobstermen who have no idea how to guide on the flats for bonefish. He reached out to a lodge who offered a day rate and got a quote of $650.

Now… $650 sounds a bit high for me. I know guide days vary a lot from location to location and still the most expensive guide day I’ve heard of in the Caribbean is about $850 (Turks & Caicos), but this still seems about $100 too much to me.

I think we paid Sam Taylor either $500 or $550. When I first went with Captain Perry I think he was $450, but that was a few years ago.

What are you paying for a day of guiding (not a lodge day, just an indie guide) on which islands?

Dad and Sam on the flats of Grand Bahama

Dad and Sam on the flats of Grand Bahama

Feb 12

Kiribati guide goes after trout

It is a story you want to read… guides from Kiribati entering a fishing competition in Tasmania.

“It might be our first time catching this fish — there’s no trout and no rivers in Kiribati — but I’ve seen pictures before,” Bataeru says as he practises his casting from a small wooden boat on Tasmania’s Arthurs Lake.

“And we all have grown up fly fishing for bonefish in our coral lagoons, although this is different. The trout are a little harder to catch, they’re on the surface, and you use dry flies, so we do have a bit to learn.”

Read the article here.

Nov 11

Guides making it look easy

Well… guides can really make this look easy.  Here we have a guide in Andros make a backhand cast in some decent wind and hookup pretty much instantly.

Sure made that look easy.

Jul 11

Interview with Derek Rust

Derek Rust is a guy I’ve actually fished with, which isn’t a common theme in terms of interviews I’ve done.  Derek and I fished for surf perch and were largely unsuccessful in doing so.  Derek is pretty big in social media, which is how I got to know him in the first place.  He picked up and moved from the mountains of Northern CA to the flats of Southern Florida.  It is a move I think many of us have at least toyed with in some fantasy world.  Derek actually did it.  That got me thinking that he might make a pretty interesting interview.

You moved from Tahoe to the flats of Florida… a big move. What was the pull?

The pull….Permit,Tarpon and Bonefish!  It was an easy decision.  I was lucky enough to get an opportunity of a lifetime to work in the Keys as a guide, and since I was spending all of my free time and $ to go to the Keys to fish, it was a no brainer.  I love Tahoe, but guiding there was part time at best.  Florida offered a year round job on the water, and the opportunity to fish all I want on my days off 🙂

Nice bonefish there Derek

I think a lot of folks have part of them with a bit of a dream to go be a flats guide. What is one of the highlights and lowlights from your journey?

I guess some of the highlights so far would be catching my first Permit and first double digit Bone on fly, guiding people into the fish of a lifetime, meeting new people, exploring new water all over Southern Florida, and getting to fish just about every day!  I am lucky to say that the highlights are still coming.  The lowlights…..hmm.  I guess the biggest one was leaving Tahoe itself and all of the incredible people I spent so much time with.  I miss the guys I use to guide with out there, and I also miss the beautiful Northern Sierras, the pristine water, the evening Caddis hatches and Steelhead, and summer time sight fishing for Carp.

I’ve heard a lot about how rough the guide culture in Florida can be. What’s your experience with that?

The guide culture in FL….wow.  That is a tough one.  It can be extremely rough down here fitting in.  I am the new guy in a place that is full of guides.  Newcomers are not always welcome.  I have taken a few licks from some of the older salty Captains down here,but, it is all part of being accepted.  I never knew that fishing had so much politics! Tarpon season is the worst.  Learning what is acceptable, and what is not takes a bit of time.  But, it seems like courtesy will get you a long way down here.

Poonage... nice.

Favorite rod and reel?

My favorite rod and reel down here would have to go to my Scott S4S 9 wt with a Galvan Torque T-10 on it.  It is a versatile rod and can get the job done.

Have you hopped over to the Bahamas? Some cheap flights that way.

I can sadly say that I have not made it to the Bahamas yet.  Hopefully I can get over there really soon.  BUt, you know how it is, too many fish to chase, too little time and $ to do it.

What advice would you give to an angler heading to Florida for the first time?

My best advice I can give to someone heading down here for the first time is practice your casting.  Accuracy is key on the flats. A guy who can cast 100 feet of line and is wild as hell will not do as good as a guy who can only cast 50 feet and can put it on a dinner plate almost all of the time.  It is almost always windy down here, so you MUST learn to cast into the wind.  It can make or break a day on the water.  Learn to cast straight into the wind, with the wind over each of your shoulders, with it at your back and from left to right. If you can do this it will greatly improve your odds of hooking up.   Another thing to practice is shooting line.  Minimalizing false casts is crucial.  The water is clear down here, and waving a fly line around 25 times to deliver is cast of 40 feet is no good and will scare the hell out of these fish.    Learn to shoot line on your backcast as well as your forward cast will give you better shots and getting a spooky fish to eat a fly.  And lastly, I would highly recommend learning how to backcast, and, learning how to do it with accuracy.  Not every shot down here is head on, and these fish can appear out of nowhere sometimes making turning the boat impossible.  You will get more shots if you can backcast because frequently you just don’t have time to adjust the skiff for a perfect shot every time.

Apr 11

The Best Fishing Guide Alive – Steve Huff

Then he guns the engine. As the boat planes quickly and easily, Huff lifts up his bandanna, revealing a wide smile. “Do you feel that?” he yells to me over the engine’s whine. “We’re free.”

via The Best Fishing Guide Alive.

A little piece in Garden & Gun about uber guide, Steve Huff.




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Apr 11

Moldy Chum and Norman, the South Andros Guide

A post from Eric of Moldy Chum about Andros South Guide Norman.  I fished with Norman one of the days I was there… he’s good at what he does.

If I were to guess, Norman is probably in his mid-thirties. It’s hard to tell though, as most guides on the island are in pretty g’damn good shape. When he’s not hunting Walter on the Westside, he owns and operates a nightclub just south of Congotown.

via Fly Fishing | Blog | Photos | Podcasts | Travel | Gear | and More – Moldy Chum – Bonefish, 7 o’clock – 20 feet.


Norman picking out a fly. Photo - Shadow River Media, Cameron Miller

Photo – Shadow River Media, Cameron Miller


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Feb 11

Sparkles – Andros South

The truth is that when I look at the picture, I see the person that made the catch possible and the stories he shared with me…

via Deneki Outdoors.

I’m looking forward to meeting Sparkles myself and hearing some stories.

Andros… I’m coming for ya.