Welcome to Salt Water Fly Fishing

Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

Cabin Fever

By Capt. Doug Sinclair, Grantsboro, NC.

Skowhegan, ME: Winter Storm Warning continues through Thursday Morning…Winter Advisory through Thursday night... Heavy snow in the mountains with rain and snow in the valleys this evening…changing to all snow by midnight. ...snow accumulation 6 to 10 inches with highs in the 30s.

I can't begin to tell you how difficult it is for me to appreciate these weather conditions. Having lived the better part of my life in Florida and recently in Eastern North Carolina, it is hard to conceive of the obvious brutal conditions of sub-freezing temperatures let alone dealing with snow. It is no wonder the birds, snow birds, go south in the winter.

I remember the last time I visited Maine. It was July of 2000. I thought it cold then, and was reminded by Bill that the winters in Maine are white, as well. And, they last a longer. I called Bill in February. North Carolina was experiencing record lows and a dash of snow. Of course the fishing was off. We were still catching specs in 38-degree water, but it wasn't a pleasant experience, shivering in the boat or having your fly rod guides freeze. I had my trapper hat and gloves outfit on most of the winter. Yes, we all complained about how cold it was. But nothing like what the population in Maine had to endure.

Bill's trip was first scheduled for the end of February. I called one morning to reschedule his trip for mid-March. I was surprised when his wife answered the phone and said he couldn't stand it any more. "He left for North Carolina this morning," she said. I was mortified. "Hope he's dressing warm. Is he heading to New Bern?" I asked. "No, he is going to the Outer Banks and Nags Head for surf fishing." I gulped. And, thought he must be one hardy guy. I don't think I would have gone and I'm at least 20 years his junior.

"Please have him call me after you talk with him next." Later that night I got a call from Bill.

"You won't believe this but there is snow on the outer banks and it is freezing here, but I had to get out of Maine." I completely understood and thought immediately of leaving North Carolina and heading back to Florida. I actually had seven layers of clothing on one day I was on the water. If I had fallen over board I could have just rolled across the water to shore.

New Bern, NC: Expect record highs today in the mid 70s with clear skies and a light breeze. NIRVANA! It is the second week of March and fabulous weather.

Bill arrived in New Bern on a US Air flight from Charlotte, early on a Thursday afternoon for 3 days of fishing. Thursday was a reasonably mild day and Bill's adrenalin started as he anticipated the activities of the coming days. We had this well planned. We would target Striper (Rock) on the first day around the Trent River Bridge. Saturday was set for Specs and puppy drum in South River and then Albies on Sunday in the Newport Turning Basin. The weather was forecast for three days of beautiful sunny weather in the low 70s and light winds 5 to 10.

On Thursday night everything changed. Winds blew hard out of the southeast at 20 with gusts to 35. A band of severe thunder and rainstorms moved up the coast from Wilmington.

I awoke at 4 am on Friday morning and could hear the wind howling in the trees. The rain was coming in sheets and I prayed that it would stop before everyone in North Carolina became amphibious. At 5 am, I called the Howard House where Bill was staying.

Kim, the innkeeper answered my call.

"Hello Kim, I'm calling for Bill Townsend. How's the weather in New Bern?" I asked. "Not good," came her reply. I figured as much, seeing the doppler radar and studying locations as far south as Myrtle Beach and north to Albemarle Sound. There was ground to sky lightning and thunder ripping across the sky. Violent weather is no time to fool with Mother Nature.

"Good Morning Bill," I started, "...Let's wait until 9:30 am and see how the weather shapes up."

He agreed that it was better to play it safe. Plus if he couldn't go fishing on Friday there was always Saturday and Sunday, forecast for sunny weather.

I watched the front as it moved up the coast. Checking several of the NOAA radar sites on the web, I could receive live radar loops of the area. Every ten minutes I got a loop update. At 9 am the weather starting clearing in Grantsboro, 12 miles north of New Bern. I noticed a break in the cloud and cell activity just south of New Bern. It looked like a 4-hour window could open up before the next batch of weather and I decided to call Bill and see if he would go out for a couple of hours. He was ready to go on my word and he met me at Lawson Creek.

We launched out of Lawson Creek, a beautiful public boat launch area in downtown New Bern. I had never seen a facility as nice as this in Florida. So it was a real treat to launch in this historic city. The clouds abated but there was sufficient overcast to block the sun. The water was fairly flat and as my wife would say, "it is just the calm before the storm". I was hoping this wouldn't be the case. After all, Bill was suffering from severe cabin fever and it was my obligation to get him out on the water, fishing rod in hand.

I motored out of the creek into Trent River then east to the railroad bridge and the old swing bridge near the convention center and Sheraton Grand. We motored out into the Neuse River and under the large concrete span bridge, the most costly in the State of North Carolina. Cabin fever finally dissolved as we sped on plane and headed east towards Parker Creek. Six miles down we past Fairfield Harbor and headed for a small creek near Minnesott.

The creek has a tricky entry to the south with large shoals guarding the entrance. Once in, the beauty was captivating. No noise, no fumes and no people, just nature all around. Aromatic trees and shrubs line the banks, along with pampas grass and crape myrtle.

I worked the boat to the far back of the creek, away from houses, docks and the high pine trees. Around a bend of the creek I shut down the engine and lowered the Lenco Trolling Tabs into the water. Lencos are quiet because they are off the transom and they won't spook fish. We silently moved to a cut in the creek where a feeder creek emptied into a small flat. Here the water was about 2 to 3 feet deep. This was perfect for Poling, and activity foreign to many guides in North Carolina, but not this lad from Florida. Don't know what I would do if I couldn't find a flat somewhere.

The water clarity was poor and it looked like someone had poured chocolate milk into the creek. Murky water was caused by the large amounts of silt carried by all the rain that flushed the creeks. As a fly-fishing guide you need to resort to some crafty tactics to find and catch fish.

I carefully observed the grass line and the patterns on the water. Looking for subtle changes in the patterns of water texture can help you spot fish. I poled for about 30 minutes and rounding the mouth of this feeder creek, I noticed what looked like a small mullet swimming near the surface. I watched as this bait moved away from me in very deliberate side to side motion. I thought this strange and really studied the activity. Then came a lunging push by the bait, which was not bait but a predator. I could tell by the push that the fish was in shallow water and that this was a big red - or so I thought. And, just as quickly as I saw this fish it disappeared.

Soon it started to sprinkle and I looked up at the ominous clouds. But the sprinkle stopped and the sun even poked out of the clouds for a short period. I polled again back to the spot where I had first seen the fish. This time we sat and waited. I looked up and down the grass line, waiting for this fish to return - because I knew he would.

Suddenly I saw a small push.

"Bill I think he is on the grass line at about 2 O'clock". Sure enough the predator started making a cruising run along the hard, firm, grass flat about 100 yards away from where my first sighting had been. Know that when you chase redfish away from a hole they have been sitting all day they will return. So we waited.

Then came a huge push and I said, " Bill cast at 11 and wait for my signal. Sure enough here comes this monster redfish. It occurred to me at this moment that maybe Bill's rod was too light for the situation. The 7-weight, 4 piece Old Florida Rod would be a test to the demands put on equipment by a strong running fish.

The strip was deliberate and timed perfectly. Bill kept an undulating rhythm to the movement of the fly. This action turned the redfish, which also surprised me. No sooner had Bill turned to say something that the fly was engulfed. The rod bent over in a radical arc and pulsated with the run out of line as the fish barreled down the creek. Bill did everything he could to brake the fish. The 6SA non-slip drag helped to slow the fish and get him moving back towards us. Two rolls and one porpoise and I knew what had taken the fly.

"It's a trout," Bill yelled.

"No," I replied. "It's a huge Striper!"

When the striper saw the side of my boat he turned and took another run down the creek. This time on his way back, I asked Bill to just bring him along side the boat where I could grab him, and flip him upside down. This is a good trick for anyone who doesn't like using a net. When you turn a fish over upside down he is paralyzed for a brief moment making him easier to handle.

Bill played the striper for about 20 minutes before we were able to get him to the boat, take the photo and then release him. This fish was stuffed and had a bulging tummy to prove it. It weighed 8-1/2 pounds and was caught using WF7F line with a sinking shooting head with 12# tippet. We helped ourselves to a much-needed break, and enjoyed a hand-made lunch and a nice Florida Orange prepared by Kimberly Wynn. The day turned out really well considering how it started.

Please don't teach your trash to swim. ~ Doug Sinclair

About Doug:

Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters. Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental. Catch him on the web at www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500. Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.

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