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Sight Fishing on the Flats

by Charlie Peay on July 14th, 2009

Sight casting for permit and bonefish on the flats in the Florida Keys is like no other fishing experience you’ll ever have. The fishing guide is paid to expertly maneuver one or two anglers across the flats in a specially designed shallow water skiff. Standing on a raised platform so that he can spot tailing bonefish from greater distances, the guide uses a long pole to push the boat into position so that the angler can make the perfect cast to the fish.

Most guides use the clock system to help direct the angler to the fish. Twelve o’clock means the fish has been spotted in front of the boat, ten o’clock means the fish is on the left side of the boat, and two o’clock means the fish is on the right of the boat. Normally, the guide will also try to let the angler know approximately how many boat lengths the fish is from the boat.

Sometimes the angler will see the fish but often the guide is the only one who is able to spot the fish. It’s truly amazing sometimes how the silvery sides of a bonefish or permit can be concealed against the bottom even in the slightest wake. It’s up to the guide at this point to instruct the angler exactly where to cast and how to retrieve his bait or fly, depending on how the fish reacts. More often than not, the fish gets away but if the conditions are just right and the bonefish takes the bait, the angler knows that he is getting ready to be in for the fight of his life!

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