It’s day four of fishing with a guide here in Belize. This morning I feel like I’m finally “on the step,” ready to go out and show that I have quickly mastered bonefishing. My guide shows up wearing a bright yellow-orange shirt. I don’t immediately react to his wardrobe, but as the morning wears on and I find that this bonefish endeavor is not as successful as I had anticipated, I start searching for excuses. I begin to examine the particulars. In recent readings on the subject of bonefishing, I have come to understand that this prey, that you must sight-fish, is equally suited in detecting its potential predators. This is apparently due to the fish’s exceptional visual acuity, combined with a very unfishlike ability to see a full range of colors and shadings. For that reason, I crouch when I’m casting to bones and deliberately constrain my casts to sidearm technique with minimal false-casts to avoid spooking them. Additionally, I wear neutral colors with light khaki pants, a light blue-grey shirt, and light grey cap.
I can’t help but come back to thinking that my poor results on the flats today are due to my guide’s blaze orange shirt. But on reflection, he still maintains that cat-like, cautious approach to the fish, advancing in a semi-crouch, lifting, not shuffling his feet, while continuously scanning ahead with the occasional glance in different directions to ensure he hasn’t missed something. Perhaps he thinks the fish ambivalent toward such things as color, as long as all other considerations are observed. Or maybe, he is testing my mettle? Or possibly, he is deliberately spoiling the fishing as a means of conservation of this unique fishery. Or alternatively, he is using this as a way to keep my appetite whetted for a return trip. The last is not as likely since he, like most guides, would seek to end on a high note to positively affect the customary tip on the final day tomorrow. I wonder if I should suggest a more neutral dress for tomorrow. I don’t think I’m in a position to do so based on my few days with this guide and my limited experience with guides in general and bonefishing in particular. After excessive contemplation, in the end, I choose to accept this apparent handicap and treat it as one of the many challenges to be overcome, much like the constant trade winds that blow across the flats of Turneffe Atoll. Through these challenges, I persevere and manage to land a couple of nice bones. It was a good day on the water. But could it have been Better? Hmmm?