Q: As we get older, many of us become hard of hearing. Although hearing aids help, understanding what guides say is often difficult, particularly so if you're facing into the wind and away from the platform. Many guides refuse to raise their voices for fear of spooking fish. Is this the case? I know noise on the boat hull spooks fish, but isn't all sound lost at the air-water convergence?
A: I'm not sure everyone will agree on this, John, but many years ago on a calm flat, I tried yelling loudly at nearby sharks, redfish, tarpon and bonefish to see if it affected them. I did this several days and could not see that it made a difference, often catching the fish afterward.
It's common knowledge that any boat noise alerts fish. Dropping a locker lid will certainly spook them, but this knowledge is used to advantage when a tarpon swims directly toward an angler, takes the fly and doesn't swerve to the side, making a hook-set difficult. If this happens, an experienced fly-fisherman knows to stomp hard on the boat deck as soon as the tarpon's mouth closes on the fly. This causes the tarpon to immediately swerve sideways and come tight to the line.