Last week I was, fortunately, in the Bahamas on a fishing trip. That’s the good news. The even better news is that on my first day of the trip I was paired up with Josie Sands—the most notorious fishing guide at Andros South.
Josie is, quite frankly, a heck of a fishing guide. He works hard, he teaches throughout the day and you feel like a better angler after fishing with Josie. All of those are must haves for a fishing guide, in my opinion. A fishing guide’s role isn’t to affirm you are a good angler—he or she exist to motivate you to be a better one. And to push you just enough to be better than before.
Much has been written about Josie Sands. His demeanor is that of a loving father–who wants you to take the task at hand seriously. He doesn’t pander…he doesn’t care about your ego. He cares about catching fish. Much like my own father, he is quiet, but smart–and he wants you to conquer bonefishing.
The lists of things learned from hanging out with Josie are numerous, but here are a few universal principles the mad guide of Andros taught me.
- Slow down when faced with your opportunity. When the time came to cast to the biggest fish of the day (and what could have been my biggest bonefish ever), I rushed to cast to the fish. Get the line out faster…cast now! Instead, as Josie told me after I completely ruined my opportunity, what I needed to do was slow down and let the action come to me. In fact, the fish was doing what I hoped—he was lumbering down the flats right towards my sweet spot (60 feet off the port side of the boat). By panicking I ruined the best shot of the day (and the trip, it turned out).
- Try first to do what your guide says, not what you think it means. Sometimes we think we know the situation. However, when you are dealing with an expert at something, don’t always try to second-guess what you think they mean. Do what they say. They have seen nearly every situation and have experience much more vast they you.
- Expect (and harness) negative feedback. Josie is a great guy, but he doesn’t sugarcoat. He doesn’t say, “you did so many things right in that instance, except a few.” He says, instead, “you needed to cast that further.” Negative feedback challenges your ego, but you can learn from what you did wrong in an instance. Negative feedback is so challenging to hear, but it is the most useful information you will ever hear. Listen for it, swallow it hard, and learn from it.
- Your guide is (usually) right. I have written about being the expert and harnessing that power. Similarly, accept that your guide is right nearly every time. Now, there are always instances where you might have seen something or heard something they did not, but don’t count on it. Accept you aren’t the expert in their boat.
I wish I would have written these words prior to going on my trip, because I would have been a better angler. But that’s part of the process as well. Fishing with a guy like Josie Sands taught me more and fishing and life than even he knows. And for that I am thankful…but still smarting over that lost fish.