So by now we’ve all heard about the new proposed flats fishing regulations that seem to make DIY angling and foreign-owned lodges illegal. We’ve all had our little respective meltdowns and (some of us) are wondering how the heck we’re ever going to afford that next bonefish.
Personally, I think this smacks of classic politics and the triumph of so-called “common sense” over cold, hard data. In a 2010 Economic Report Bonefish & Tarpon Trust discovered that flats fishing brings over 140 million dollars into the Bahamian economy. No surprise there. The surprising part is that over two-thirds of that (over 100 million dollars) was from Non-Guided (DIY) Anglers. I was shocked to read that, but after a bit of reading and consideration it made sense. It seems that DIY anglers spend more days in the Bahamas. I mean, if you can afford two days at a lodge for $1,500 USD or a full week for $2,000, which are you going to choose? You’ll drop the extra $500 every time! And, while you’re there for those extra days, you’ll likely drink a little more than you should, drive a little farther to find fish than you were expecting and buy a few more orders of conch fritters than you’d budgeted for.
I mean, this is business 101, right? People will spend more IF they think they’re getting a deal. Witness the iPhone, or Abel reels, or YETI coolers.
This, it seems is why the DIY angler is such a massive contributor to the Bahamian economy. And, it must be mentioned that he spreads his money around: car rental, accommodations, groceries, taxi, drinks, restaurants, tackle shops, and, yes, guides. Everyone gets a little slice.
In light of this I have written the follow letter to the Bahamas Fisheries Dept. Make your feelings known here: firstname.lastname@example.org. YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015!
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing with concern for the new Draft Regulations for the Bahamas Fisheries, particularly Flats Fishing. I am worried that the move to limit (or outright ban) Do It Yourself anglers (DIY) would severely damage the Bahamas’ economy. My concern is based on research data collect by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (which can be read in it’s entirety here: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/images/stories/Bahamas_Flats_Economic_Impact_Report.pdf, and I’ve also attached a copy for your reference).
In this report they note that “Direct expenditures for both guided and non-guided anglers were nearly $70 million (Table 7). Guided anglers accounted for 21% of this total while non-guided angler spending comprised 79% of flats angler’s direct spending in the Bahamian economy.”
So, the impact to the Bahamian economy by Non-Guided anglers (DIY) is 3 times that of Guided anglers. This is surprising but is because non-guided anglers are clearly spending more time in your lovely, hospitable islands (as Table 7 in the report clearly shows).
I am an independent guide myself in the Cayman Islands, and I’ve also been tempted to push back against Non-Guided anglers, because “common sense” says they’re harming my business. However, the data does not show this to be true. In fact, DIY anglers contribute tremendously to our economy, renting cars, buying petrol, renting accommodations, buying food and drinks, visiting restaurants, frequenting tackle shops, purchasing souvenirs, etc. These moneys do benefit me in the long run because they enrich my island, my homeland and my people. Also, many of these anglers do end up booking me for at least 1 day, and often refer friends and family to me as well. In fact, more anglers in my waters can only mean more business in the long run… IF the proper conservation measures are in place to prevent over-fishing and destruction of habitat.
Of course, I have fished many times in Bahamian waters and do not wish to lose the option of doing a little fishing on my own while visiting. I will point out that I have fished out of lodges (Big Charlie & Fatihas on Andros), with DIY Lodges (Fedel’s on Acklins), and with Independent Guides, including J.J. Dames on Great Exuma. However, on all of these trips I enjoyed grabbing my fishing rod and a Kalik and walking the flats at sunset, looking for just a few more tailing bonefish. Sometimes I caught fish and sometimes I did not, but I always enjoyed myself. It would be a shame for something like that to be impossible.
To be clear, I fully support immediate implementation of a Fishing License requirement (as Florida has required for many years), but it should be reasonable. $20/day is not reasonable. That would add $120 to every week-long stay at a fishing lodge, whose average prices are already barely competitive with other flats fishing destinations like Belize, Honduras and Mexico. A fishing license in Florida (which also has bonefish, tarpon and permit) is only $30 USD PER WEEK! Why would someone pay for a plane ticket, book an expensive lodge AND pay nearly $100 in addition to these expenses when they could simply stop in Miami and be done with it? It think this is something that should be seriously thought through.
I hope that my letter (and the letter of the countless other anglers out there) will provide some perspective on how this Draft Legislation, IF turned into law AS IS, would harm rather than help the Bahamian people.
As promised here is our SKIFF EPISODE, where we REVup our Double Haul for casting in the wind, getting extra distance, and throwing big flies. Skiff fishing provides its own challenges, especially where distance is concerned. Because a boat is bigger, makes more noise and throws a bigger shadow, fish can see/sense/feel it and us from farther away. That often means longer casts are essential just to get the fly away from the boat into a zone where the fish are not yet alerted to our presence.
This is a more advanced tip, but still comes back to basic principles of casting, namely: Slack is the Enemy! Many anglers who have learned to double-haul don’t take it far enough. Specifically, they don’t get their “hauling hand” back to their casting hand before they start their forward cast. If there is a lot of space between your hands, there’s a tendency for the casting hand to MOVE TOWARD the hauling hand at the beginning of the casting stroke. This puts slack in the system, reducing bend in the rod and stealing energy from the cast.
The difference between a good caster and an expert fly caster is that the latter will end their haul with their hands nearly together. This makes it impossible for the hands to move toward each other during the casting stroke. It also provides more distance for the haul on the forward cast.
Work on getting the hauling hand back to the casting hand BEFORE you begin your forward stroke. The line will tell you how fast. Too fast and you’ll put slack in the line. Too slow and you won’t make it all the way back. It should feel as if the line is PULLING YOUR HAND back toward the rod, after you make the haul for the backcast.
Good movement equals good results.
That’s our basic premise for this series.
This week we focus on “Casting Longevity”: using good movement (proper form) to reduce the risk of shoulder injury from fly casting. Yes! It’s a real thing. “Casting Elbow” and rotator cuff injuries are fairly common among those who cast a fly rod for hours.
The good news is you can help avoid injury through the practice of good movement. You could say that “good movement equals safe movement.”
We’ve talked about keeping the elbow low—not raising it too high during the cast. Let’s build on that concept and also keep the elbow INSIDE of our hand as we make our casting stroke. Keeping your elbow close is basically external rotation, which is proper form for any “pushing” motion, whether it be a pushup, a bench press, or a fly cast!
Work on keeping your elbow close as you cast and your hand OUTSIDE of your elbow. To borrow from Lefty Kreh, KEEP THE ELBOW ON THE SHELF. This makes it easy to go straight back, and straight forward, which is the most efficient way of casting.
Next week we talk about special issues for casting from a skiff. Stay tuned!
Does your back-cast hit the water? Wish you could have your fly land a little softer and spook less fish? Use your thumb!
Your thumb can be used to direct your backcast… and the fly. If your thumb stops going down, the line will go down. If you point your thumb up, the line goes up. Simple.
The same is true on the forward cast. If you’re fishing for spooky bones in calm water, try a sidearm cast and turn your thumb “up” at the end. This will direct the fly line (and fly) up a the end of the cast and allow the fly to flutter down, as opposed to flipping over and splashing down.
HOMEWORK: Try directing your fly cast (and fly line) 1) down, 2) straight out and 3) up…. by focusing on where you point your thumb at the end of the cast. Practice until you can direct your flyline (and fly) at will.
Stay tuned as we pick apart some of the most basic fly casting errors, one at a time!
This week we follow up on Episode #3 by clarifying an important aspect of good casting form: keeping the elbow down and resisting the urge to “throw” the flyline. At it’s core, fly casting is basically unrolling the fly line. We aren’t throwing it. However, raising the elbow up triggers that throwing instinct—it’s how we throw a baseball, after all—and prevents us from performing good casting mechanics because it’s very difficult to go straight back and straight forward when you raise your elbow.
In this video we demonstrate what good casting bio-mechanics look like, versus the poor mechanics of raising the elbow and trying to throw the fly line. And, we do it into the wind for good measure!
There is a fundamental principal at work here: only performing the movements that create a fly cast will produce a fly cast. If you perform some other movement—like throwing—you are expecting the impossible: that a good cast will come from a motion that has nothing to do with casting. It’s like going on the flat and performing the motions of flipping an omelet and hoping we miraculously get a fly cast.
However, a fly casting motion will always produce a fly cast. When we fail to make the cast, very often that is because we have ceased fly casting and performed another movement. Go back to fly casting, and all of a sudden we can again make the cast. It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious. It’s physics, and it’s reproducible. 2+2 always equals 4.
HOMEWORK: Practice keeping your elbow low. Make every casting stroke a photocopy of the previous one, especially the final, presentation cast! Nothing changes on the final cast.
I saw 3 or 4 swimming straight at me. It was almost surreal. I did exactly as you had described in the book and without a hitch dropped the tan Crazy Charlie about 2 feet in front of the lead fish. I watched astonished as he just kept coming with intent and then tipped…
Loved this story over on diybonefishing.com. It realistically depicts the challenge (and rewards) of catching the Grey Ghost of the flats on fly by yourself. It also demonstrates why some instruction—in this case Rod’s very useful book—is better than trying to figure the whole thing out from scratch.
Bonefish are pretty much 180 degrees from the species most anglers target on fly. Everything, from the presentation to the hook-set is wildly different from what we’re used to. I see it every day I guide. If you cast past the fish and pull the fly towards them: game over. If you “trout set”: game over. If you roll-cast and rip the water: game over. If you use tippet with the letter X anywhere in it: game over. Walk the flats and blind cast: game over.
Rod’s book contains the fundamentals of targeting bonefish on the fly and helps clarify all these issues. After that, it’s just up to you get out there and do it!
If you haven’t already subscribed to Rod Hamilton’s blog on that site, you should. Weekly stories, fishing reports and tips to get you fired up (and more prepared) for that next flats fishing venture.
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