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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.

Sight-Fishing Waters
Inshore Flats, part 2

By Alan Caolo, Rhode Island

These are protected waters that have distinct advantage and disadvantages relative to offshore and surf areas. They are immune to surf condition and much less prone to the high winds common on offshore flats. When a source of clear, clean ocean water for tidal flushing is nearby, their water clarity will be consistently good. On the other hand, too much isolation can make insore flats prone to high water temperatures in midsummer, especially in the southern part of the sight-fishing range where warm ocean water may not cool the flats sufficiently to sustain striper activity.

The sand or mud flats associated with many inshore waters become fully exposed at low tide (this occurs on some flats only during full and new moon lunar phases when tidal range is maximal). Here, the timing of tides, the availability of sunlight and water temperatures must be juggled to define windows of opportunity when everything comes together to produce good fishing; much like bonefishing. For example, a morning outgoing tide at the height of summer usually flows cool with good water depth, and generally yields good fishing. During the day the water warms and fishing tapers off somewhat. The afternoon incoming tide again floods the flats with cool ocean water producing good fishing later in the day. On the other hand, a morning incoming tide produces good water depth and moderate water temperature for only a few hours around mid-day. The warm water and diminishing depths associated with the afternoon outgoing tide often produces week results.

The best time for fishing inshore waters occurs within the striper's non-migration period where the fish you spot are often members of large, resident schools. Here lies the main difference between inshore and offshore areas. Inshore flats experience their best sight-fishing during the non-migration period from June through August with resident fish that remain for the abundance of prey found there in the summer. Offshore flats, on the other hand, experience their best sight-fishing during the peaks of spring and fall runs, with a lull period in midsummer.

Proximity to Deep Water and Tidal Flushing

Inshore waters are protected from the direct effects of ocean winds and waves making them placid and consistently fishable, but they still must have good contact with the sea. Productive flats are situated relatively near the ocean and experience a healthy exchange of seawater during each tide cycle. Inlet, harbor entrances and river mouths in direct contact with sounds and the ocean itself all provide good sources of water for nearby flats with every incoming tide. Tidal flushing regulates temperature, flushes biological waste, replenishes oxygen levels, and preserves high water clarity. All of these factors are vital to maintaining a large biomass of forage that attracts stripers to feed.

Inshore areas too isolated from the sea, such as the reach of coastal rivers or complex estuary systems, do not receive adequate tidal flushing and offer suffer from excessive water temperatures. Brackish water river systems tend to be tannic or tea-colored and seldom have the light sand bottom required for spotting. The flats found throughout well-flushed estuaries and which line the edges of harbors and deep-water bays are generally good bets.

Sight-fishing on inshore flats is regulated by tides. Much like bonefishing, many flats are simply too shallow at low tide for the fish to embark the flat and feed; others become fully high and dry. Some flats are fishable during any stage of the tide, but they are less common. The fishing must be planned around the tides to ensure that the conditions will be right. Some areas fish best with an incoming tide while others during the outgoing. This must be determined through time spent on the water, or by fishing with a local guide. Either way, knowledge of the tide schedule, based on either a local tide table or moon phase, is imperative when planning a trip.

Tides influence water temperature during the course of the day. Fishing is often planned around optimum water temperature, which is controlled by sunlight, tides and overnight cooling effects - especially late in the season when the waters have warmed considerably. Surface waters cool considerably during clear nights (radiant cooling). Shallow flats are cooled substantially overnight with clear skies, sometimes as much as 10 degrees F, which often produces good fishing in the morning when the tide is up. However, if the tide is high at mid-day, the outgoing water in the afternoon may have warmed too much during the day and fishing may be slow until the next incoming tide cools the sun-baked flats. No computer program has yet to be devised that can precisely predict these day-to-day phenomena with much consistency (nor would such a tool be much fun anyway) so anglers must analyze conditions as they unfold. Knowing the basic effects of tides, sun and radiant cooling on water temperature is valuable when fishing inshore flats. A water thermometer is helpful for assessing these issues. In general, striper activity drops off progressively as the water temperature moves beyond the 72-degree mark. ~ Alan Caolo

Credits: Excerpt and photo from Sight-Fishing for Striped Bass Fly-Fishing Strategies for Inshore, Offshore and the Surf, by Alan Caolo, Published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use premission.

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