The famous line from the movie “The wizard of Oz” where Dorothy tells her dog Toto “we’re not in Kansas anymore” came to mind as my small skiff settled out over a bright white endless Caribbean flat covered with air clear water. The whole sight was far and away different from my normal upper coast water where clarity is measured in inches rather than feet. From the poling platform I could see a school bonefish milling about in the shallow water in search of small crabs and shrimp, it was classic as they showed their tails and easily gave away their location. It was a no brainer, a gimme, as easy as you could ever expect from one of the most wary fish that swims. All of the good vibes that came from the initial sighting were soon dashed as one awkward move led to another awkward cast which led to two anglers shaking their heads wondering “how did we miss that one?”

Scenes like this play out over and over every day as anglers who enjoy seeing their fish before they cast to them make mistakes that just leave you wondering why am I doing this and not soaking dead shrimp someplace else. The frustration factor for the sight fisherman is high and more often than not outweighs the success ratio, but on the day it all happens just right there is no better feeling. If I had to put it all in perspective I get as much or more enjoyment out of “coaching” an angler to a fish as I do catching one myself. I never thought in a million years I could be in a boat all day long, never pick up a rod, and call the trip a success. I routinely never cast on sight fishing trips because I get such a kick out of watching clients, especially those who have never tried this style of fishing. Hunters have the illness “buck fever” where at the moment of truth when it’s time to make the shot an uncontrollable shaking comes over the hunter and often causes them to miss. Well I have seen “redfish fever” have the same effect on fishermen. You can take an accomplished caster and make them look like they have never held a fishing rod before when they see a big redfish well within range. Fly casters will wrap fly line around themselves, the boat, and anything else in the immediate vicinity thanks to the excitement of the moment. It gets crazy sometimes; I guess that’s why we like it.

As the days on the calendar flip by we begin to approach my favorite time of the year to sight fish. The early summer is so nice because the temps are still moderate and that makes long days on the poling platform much more tolerable. Of course you have a little bit of give and take as well because the water clarity won’t be quite as good as it will be later in the year but I’ll trade that for comfortable conditions any day.  As the grasses in the marsh begin to grow a few things happen that will greatly affect your success. The abundance of grass ushers in the populations of shrimp and also helps clean the water and make the clarity much better than any area that’s void of vegetation. The grass also acts as shade for these fish in deeper ponds; it’s amazing how much cooler that water gets underneath a mat of grass.

Once you locate an area where you intend to fish it’s extremely important to be able to see those fish and without the right glasses you can forget it. Top end sunglasses like Maui Jim, Smith Optics, and Costa Del Mar will not only make it easier for you to see but they will make you feel better at the end of a day spent staring at water and glare. I have been a big fan of the green lenses in my glasses because they seem to work much better in our darker more tanic water situations.  I absolutely never leave the dock without my polarized glasses or a back up pair for that matter. You would be surprised at how many people don’t use them when they fish.

Learning to sight fish is a work in progress because it takes time to understand how fish react at certain times or how you go about approaching fish once you spot them. Learning to be quiet and having a stealthy approach becomes an acquired skill that elevates your success each time out. This style of fishing is certainly not for the impatient or those who lack attention to detail but it will certainly get in your system in a hurry once you have some success.

Seeing a brightly colored redfish crash your lure in clear water is on top the list for many anglers.