Wading vs poling [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Wading vs poling

05-18-2006, 05:45 PM
How well do people adapt from one method to the other? I've been doing a bit of wading lately, feeling pretty smug with myself for not missing too many shots. Then I hired a guide for a day and rather fell apart on the bow of a flats skiff. Line was in the way, guide and I had different ideas which sighted fish to target, his setup for a cast was not the same as what I'd do,... Perhaps it boiled down to me being used to do the whole thing by myself, and had a hard time adapting to the team aspect. I could also tell the guide was used to having someone more passive on the bow, too. We got along great, and caught some fish, but it somehow just didn't work for me.
I need to figure out how to adapt from solitude and stealth of wading to the dynamics and team aspects of skiff fishing. I've been spending time wading lately that I'm not sure whether I actually got worse when poled, or whether I stunk doing both a while back.

So, would anybody have advice on how to adapt from wading to skiffs and/or back again?

05-18-2006, 08:24 PM
Of the hundreds of bones and the dozen years I've fished for them exactly zero casts have been from a boat so I will defer to someone with experience in both.

When fishing stripers, I've sight fished from boats quite a bit and see advantages and disadvantages. Monomoy fish don't like a 25 ft shadow on their flat too much. Bayside fish are best stalked from a boat. But I won't hijack with striper tales... I'll let someone else say with real experience in both...

Jeff Lebowski
05-19-2006, 12:15 AM
Interesting question- and I think a lot has to do with the guide's experience when being poled around. I would say at least 90% of my flats fishing has been wading, and that sounds like something you are the most comfortable with also. Biggest adjustment that I have had to make while fishing from the boat is the distance control- being up higher and also taking into account that you may be drifting some always takes some practice. My first experience bonefishing was with a great guide in Andros and the first thing he did when we got to the first flat of the day was "test" me. He told me to cast 50 feet at 10 o'clock, then 65 feet at 2 o'clock, etc. That would be my suggestion for you- ask the guide to run down some practice drills right off the bat- that way the guide will know what kind of a caster he is dealing with and will know how close/far away he can be and it also gets both guys on the same page as far as what exactly "65 feet" is. It is a team effort- and if you are with a reputable guide always default to what they say- remember that he has better eyes than we do on that poling platform- and has the years of experience to boot. My $0.02- hope it helps- J.L.

05-19-2006, 06:07 AM
Without a doubt you will catch more fish and bigger fish from a boat, your range of vision is greater and you make less noise, you also cover much more ground and are not restricted to one area. I enjoy stalking fish but equally like putting 100 foot casts on big fish when you have seen them coming from a long way away , these fish are unaware of your presence and are likely to eat. I prefer the boat therefore because of the far greater number of shots that you get.

05-19-2006, 06:40 AM
Without a doubt you will catch more fish and bigger fish from a boat, your range of vision is greater and you make less noise, you also cover much more ground and are not restricted to one area. I enjoy stalking fish but equally like putting 100 foot casts on big fish when you have seen them coming from a long way away , these fish are unaware of your presence and are likely to eat. I prefer the boat therefore because of the far greater number of shots that you get.

I agree with 99% of this except the part about less noise. Fish almost hit my legs when wading. I am not grinding a pole into the marl, no engine, no hull slap.

There are times when we have hours of premium sight fishing before the first boat can pole up on a flat especially around the bottom of the tide when fish are energized and tailing madly in potholes crossing over ankle deep water to get from hole to hole. This is the wader's time to shine.

I do agree that the number of shots is generally higher since you can cover much more area.

05-19-2006, 07:01 AM
So, would anybody have advice on how to adapt from wading to skiffs and/or back again?

Simple - spend more time sight fishihng from a skiff. You can't expect to be comfortable the first time. It's all the little things that make a difference; how you place your line, how to hold the line and rod ready, how not to hook the guide on the backcast, etc. Pretty soon it''ll be second nature, just like wading is currently for you.

As other posts have indicated, some areas/conditions are best fished on foot, some are best by boat.

05-23-2006, 02:31 PM
I would say that that overall 75% of my time Bonefishing has been spent on the front of a skiff. However, over the last two years that number has been reversed. I would agree with your observation. On my last trip I spent the first two days wading and had done a four day wading trip the month before that. The first thing that I noted when I got on the front of the boat was damn - I can see a long way, and then it was damn I can throw this line a long distance. I do still enjoy both if for no other reason than it gives me a chance to work as a team and pick the guides brain for 8 hours - I almost always learn something new about bonefish behavior when with a guide.

I do not agree with the comment on bigger and more from a skiff (absolutes don’t work with Bonefish). I think the wade/poling debate depends more on the location – For instance, if you are fishing a bottom commonly found in the Marls or the Bight that is composed of a bottom made of coral, mud, and grass – the boat has a clear advantage. As stated you can see better, and on those types of flats fish are orientating themselves to grass patches and rock. In my experience this means that they could be scattered over a much larger area. In my opinion, a boat has a clear advantage in this situation. On that same flat on either side of the low, then the angler wading has an advantage since he can get to those fishing leaving wakes and tailing. A skiff cannot reach these areas unless the shallow water butts up to a channel (or the angler gets out of the boat).

If those same anglers switch to a white, hard packed flat, that is laced with shallow depressions, and cuts - I would take the wading angler over the poling angler 9 out of 10 times. Tide matters here just like in the other scenario, but ¾ on either side of the low are productive) Spotting is not an issue – you can see them coming 300 feet down the sand, and even the largest and wariest of all Bones seem oblivious to the stealth that a wading angler usually brings with them (unless its my Daughter doing the Elephant walk).

Covering as much water as possible has its upsides and downsides. Bonefish seem to move, and many times slowly working an area allows one to see just as many fish (since they are moving towards you over a longer period of time) I have seen numerous guides take twenty minutes to pole down a flat that takes me three hours to work one way and two hours back depending on the tide. I usually see equal numbers of fish working the flats both on the wade up and back.

A good example of this would be my last trip. I met a pair of anglers in a Bar and then ran into them with a guide on the flat. I gave wide berth and watched them pole down the flat without taking a shot. I then fell in line and fished the area that they had just come from and landed another 5 fish over the next two hours. When I met up with them again at the bar that evening they told me that beers were on them as they had been thinking about me, walking that barren flat all day with no fish. I told them I appreciated their kindness.

06-03-2006, 12:51 PM
I find that when I wade, I only stalk as fast as I can see. When fishing with a guide (even very good ones) the situation unfolds more rapidly. The guide knows the flat and the currents. Even if you have the best eyes, he can see better. Obviously, the best advice for fishing with a guide is to listen to him and do what he says (not second guess him or try to figure out what he is "really saying"). Many anglers try to anticipate the next step and figure wrong. A good guide has a plan. Follow it and learn something.
I am not suggesting that this is Josko's issue, but many anglers have trouble with this. Communication is the most important thing.

06-03-2006, 03:36 PM
I prefer the wading because you can get into skinny water. Love stalking when their backs are out of the water. Most of the bonefishing I have done has been in the Southern Bahamas, Crooked, Acklins and Inagua. There it is almost all wading anyway. The only time you get poled is when the tide it up and the sharks are in. The fishing drops off then also with the bones schooling up in deeper water. The guide can usually find a few spots or find a mud to cast into which can't compare to tails.
The only other bonefishing I have done is in the Keys and Biscayne Bay and it was all poling except for what I did on my own. Usually the guide moved from one flat to another, covering it quickly then moving on to the next. Its hard to compare the two areas. You see so many more fish in the Bahamas.

06-03-2006, 05:25 PM
I think Eddie is right-on as far as my experience is concerned. It's tough to switch from the solitude and self-dependence of wading to the team aspect of skiff fishing. They are very different sports, and seem to diverge the more I get into it.

Bob Pauli
06-03-2006, 10:15 PM
When fishing from a boat mark your fly line every 10-feet. It takes all the argument out of guides that dispute distance.

06-07-2006, 03:32 PM
i like the boat over wading. You can cover more water and i feel that i get more shots this way and the beer is alot closer.

06-07-2006, 04:20 PM
I think both ways are lot of fun. It's not really a question of which you prefer, rather, is the water deep enough and the botton firm enough to require wading. You can't cast to tailing fish from the deck of a skiff, you could never get shallow enough, but you can sure cover a lot more area with a boat on deeper flat.

I think you're experiencing more frustration from boat fishing because when there are more things that can go wrong they usually do. Clearing line is big one. Not too hard when you're wading but when you're in the boat, suddenly line is getting caught on everything. Fishing from a boat also requires more casting versatility. When the water is deeper fish are harder to spot. Sometimes you need long casts to reach them and sometimes you don't spot them until they're right on top of you.

Working with your guide could be toughest challenge. Here, I think you need to find a guide that is operating on your wavelength. Kind of like when a quarterback and wide receiver work so well together that they can almost read each other's minds. Also, most guides call out the fish location based on their clock face, not yours. That means that what they think is 9 o'clock is probably more like 7 to someone on the deck. I find their distances can be a little off too. I once had a guide say to me, Bonefish at 11 o'clock, 20ft. I had to to turn to him and ask... 20ft .?.?.? What do you want me to do, throw the rod at him? That's the length of the rod and the leader, I think we just ran over him.

Sometimes a fishing partner can help out when your fishing from a skiff by helping to organize your line for you and to keep it away from your feet...sometimes they can hurt by butting in with too much advice of their own.

06-08-2006, 09:01 AM
I fish mexico and we fish to tailing fish from the boat, it just depends on where you are fishing. If you are having trouble with tangles on the boat try using a stripping basket on the floor of the boat this should help out with that.

07-02-2006, 03:54 PM
From a guide's perspective I'd have to say that the preferability of wading vs. poling boils down to the angler's experience level. More experienced anglers do better from the deck, being able to spot fish better and cast farther. Beginners, on the other hand, do very poorly from a skiff, but on foot they'll take fish. Personally, I love both, especially with a good guide behind me, but even a day of taking double-digit bones from a skiff leaves something lacking to stalking a few 5-pound tailers on foot.

A few thoughts: Overall you get more shots wading, because you get more shots at the same fish. The drift of the boat, it's shadow and noise signature all make for fewer shots from skiff, particulary fewer shots at the same fish. Even with a great guide and good weather you're looking at maybe half-dozen shots, tops, more likely 2-3. However, from foot we regularly get that many and more, even if the weather's crap. If you miss you simply wade out in front of the fish and cast again... unless you spook them, of course, then it's usually over.

Also, most beginners to the salt started flyfishing on freshwater streams. Mostly wading. Their whole cast and presentation is oriented to having their feet on the ground. Put them on a rocking, drifting deck, about 2-4 feet higher than usual, and it starts to fall apart. Add to that how fish from a skiff usually require longer casts, and percentages fall rapidly. My clients definitely catch more fish from foot than skiff.

Finally, I find that the toughest anglers to put into fish are usually those with the most experience. It boils down to trust, and the more experienced clients start to second guess. Beginners just listen. If you trust the guide, listen to him. Now, there are bad guides out there, and there are just bad guides for you. Not all people click. Still, all things being equal the guide simply does it more often that the average angler, and should be that much better at it. (Like I said, usually.) I can't think of a time I didn't catch more and bigger fish with a guide than on my own.

As for tips adjusting from one to the other, make some practice casts from deck and definitely take the advice above and get your distances in synch with the guide. Could be that the adjustment you're having is more to do with the mechanics of presenting a fly from skiff than actually getting on with the guide (which just added to your frustration). I know I usally need a few hours to adjust whenever I'm on deck after doing a lot of wading. I can't use the water to feather my casts (I end up doing 1 too many false casts when I should shoot farther). The fish look closer from the elevation of the bow and my accuracy for distance is a little off. My fly also tends to land harder (until I remember to cast sidearm, low to the water). It also takes me a while to remember to strip to keep in contact with the fly as the boat is drifting. I usually miss a couple fish that way to start off.

Finally, be firm with the guide, but not confrontational or condescending. If you feel you do better having fish set up a certain way, say so. Also, most guides ask folks to cast from the farthest distance possible, that way you'll have the chance for a second or third shot if needed. However, I've had to tell the guide, "No, I can't make it from here, just a little closer, please." I knew my accuracy at that distance was not adequate and I'd rather get a good shot than have the line fall 10 feet off target and have to strip in a pile of line to get another shot.

Good luck next time out.


07-02-2006, 05:48 PM
Barefoot in the boat so you can feel the line if you step on it. If worried about sunburn, lotion up good, or wear light socks so you can still feel the line.
I prefer wading over the boat.