By Jason Y. Wood
So continues my education in getting closer to nature by welcoming fish aboard. Captains Jon Duffie and Abe Kuhn have their system down and even minor miscues can result in teachable moments:
Know how you’re fishing. A good skipper will give anglers the information they need to perform before the fish show up. Because we had spoken about the goggle-eyes being rigged with circle hooks, I knew that no hookset would be necessary. Instead, slowly reeling the line tight is the best way to let the circle hook do its work. Fortunately, I do pretty much everything slowly, so this wasn’t a challenge.
Pay attention. When Duffie asked me “Did you see that?” he was asking because I hadn’t seen anything up to that point—I was looking for my water bottle, or inspecting my shoe, or pushing buttons on my camera. Basically I was looking at anything but what I should have been. I rediscovered that it’s okay not to make eye contact in conversation while fishing, and that all eyes should be trained on the baits. There’s a corollary, too: I noticed in those confused seas that I did succumb to a touch of “buck fever” as the deer hunters call it, where you see what you want to see—i.e., fish around the baits—rather than what’s actually there, which was, at the time, nothing.
Listen. In my experience, most anglers are good guys and want you to have a good time, so they don’t want to overinstruct or tell you what to do. Duffie held back on the first bite of the day, since we had never fished together before. Afterwards, he and I talked about my reeling and rod-handling techniques. He told me what he liked about what I did, and made suggestions on what to improve. The bottom line: Everyone on the boat wants to catch more. Stow your ego and learn something.
Managing the boat. On our first drift we used the sea anchor and let the boat scud along, covering plenty of water. When we repositioned for our next drift, Duffie decided to stem the current with the triple 300-horsepower Yamaha outboards. The results shook down like this: There were plenty of fish on the Garmin GPSMAP 7212 screen on that second drift. And Duffie did not make his decision lightly. Because he was at the helm, that left Kuhn to do all the rigging, and the spread took longer to deploy. But finding the fish was the larger challenge on this day. Unless of course, you want to count making them eat …
Come prepared. Duffie took one look at my boat shoes and said, “You want some boots?” I declined the boots, but took him up on the loaner pair of Grundéns. I had come dressed for the flats when we were headed offshore on a windy day. This could have been headed off with a simple question: “How should I dress? What will I need to bring?” Sounds simple, but the more comfortable you are, the better able you are to react and perform when the fish—and the day’s success—are on the line.