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.


Redfish for Tarpon Swap

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Two years running, the tarpon season has had weather change plans. Maxi, a great friend from Air Force days, was set up with his first chance at the giant fish just after the fourth of July only to have massive rain storms wash out the flats of Carabelle, FL. Never a quitter, he hounded me to find a place to fish as he had the days off and just would not go back to work, no how. He suggested other south Florida destinations and I suggested we go to Colorado to fish the big carp. The rain wiped out most all of the Florida waters and Colorado was too far for us to fly his new fancy little plane in the time remaining. Both of us had little room of adjustments to previous commitments.

New Orleans was the best option as it can survive rain like no other place. When the rest of the Gulf Coast has water all mucked up this place is able to take the rain and remain normal, mucked up. A quick call to my guide buddy Kirby LaCour found him grounded with a bad knee but his partner, Rich Waldner, had a day open. A day was all we could salvage but we set it in motion and pressed. I was assigned getting the guide, gear, timing and arriving to pick up Maxi at his plane. Maxi was to find a place to stay the night and arrive on time for pick up. Maxi needed to fly home at the end of the fishing day and I had to leave on a business trip up north that started the following morning, so we both were leaving from the same place at the same time. This chance to fish was really wedged in the only time slot we had.

I drove over from Florida and Maxi flew in from Atlanta. He was only 24 minutes late for our six PM meet-up at the international airport. He did have a six-pack of cold beer on hand so was forgiven. We jumped in my truck and joined the NASCAR scene that passes for traffic heading for downtown New Orleans. I first tried a back way but got lost. Maxi got me going the correct direction. I asked him where we were spending the night and he pulled out his phone. He said to keep on track toward the town as he dialed. The conversation started with, "Hey Spike, it's Maxi. There are two of us driving toward your house for a "no notice hospitality check. Got room for us on the rug for the night?" Preplanning be damned in the world of old friends from the flying business, we got told to, "come on."

Now in a low speed traffic jam, I had him call the guide, Rich, to ask for timing and directions to the morning venue. After about half an hour of writing and blabbing he hung up announcing his brain was fried. He was not even into the beer yet. I did get chided for not having one with him but I was worried about open bottle rules and cops. He informed me that they did have an open bottle rule down here and it was, "you had to have one."

Spike's place (palace really) ended up one most excellent B&B. A brand new house on a lake and golf course, it was fully equipped with a beautiful wife, Leslie, a full bar with a 1000 bottle wine cellar, fresh German beer on tap and a kitchen that would make Emeril jealous. It was already about 8 PM but trying out the bar and seeing the rest of the palace went on like we were invited guests. Our "rugs" were two full suites upstairs.

Dinner with Maxi is always a treat. Spike took us to the same restaurant we ate in last year where the patrons of dubious persuasion ogled Maxi. Of course, this time it ended up being a hang out for all the out of work airline pilots who were flying with the local National Guard F-15 unit. Spike is one of these pilots. The party got big and loud and I took a pounding for ordering a martini made from French vodka. The ribbing was mostly from the wine partisans who had earlier been cradling rare Frog wine back at the house with 'oohs and ahhs.' Very rare stuff is not on the embargo list I guess. The dinner ended with far too much money squandered and then the party moved back to Spike and Leslie's palace. It seemed nobody was flying until afternoon the next day. I asked Maxi what time we were supposed to get up in the morning and he informed me it was going to be 0415. That is military time for "damn early."

I fell in bed about midnight after kidding Spike about his failure to demonstrate the million-dollar kitchen. The rest of the party and Maxi went on for some time more but I could not even hear them for more than seven seconds from head to pillow contact. Spike and Leslie passed the 'check' with flying colors.

The fishing day started with a way too early wake up but there was a strange smell coming down the hallway. Spike was up and had the kitchen going with rare coffee and a full ham and egg breakfast on the table. He elevated his 'hospitality check' rating from 'outstanding' to 'overboard.' Even Leslie got up. Of the four of us at the table, we had a total of about 12 hours sleep last night so I guess we were in crew rest for about anything. It seemed very "Southern" to have the hosts standing in the middle of the night waving as we left.

We launched from the palace and started the trip down the Mississippi River to meet at Captain Rich's new house along the levy. It was a 45-minute drive and went 30 years back in time. Of course, Maxi needed to get his license for fishing and managed to spend another 75% of the ride on the phone. He was not as crystal clear as with last night's calls but did manage to do the trick. Too bad we were out of beer for the drive.

We met Rich and got a coffee refill and in the gray morning light got a short tour of his new house with a view of the great river from his bedroom window. He took us another 40 miles south, to a little town called Venice. It is about the same as the one in Italy but there are not as many Italians or canals. We were now back to the 1950s or thereabouts.

It was still early and the sun was coming through the haze. Maxi did not include rigging into last night's activities so we were slow from the dock in Rich's Dolphin Skiff. The water where we launched was completely mucked up with mud and dead mullet floating but as we idled out we slowly came to 'just' muddy and then up on plane down a river of silt and alligators to come to 'just' murky waters. We turned down a couple of side canals and we came to where we could see the bottom if you had a good imagination. The Captain shut down after ten minutes of driving and announced "I got to tell you, we are sitting among so many redfish we could not count them in a week of Sundays." It looked like a boggy lake to me but the Marine's (Rich was and IS still one) enthusiasm was contagious and we got Maxi up front to start the quest.

Rich on platform, Author 
 Scud Yates with beard

For the first time ever in these waters, we were fishing with not a breath of wind. Some thunderclouds were building as forecasted, but so was the promised 90 plus heat and 80 percent humidity. Oddly, there were no bugs at all. I had put enough booze in me the night before to kill all sorts of mosquitoes. The effort was to be wasted, the bugs never showed up. The heat did.

Rich started poling and the fish started to show in the foot deep water. Weeds and scum compounded with white clouds and low sun angle made for some short visual pickups. It took only five minutes and a couple of missed hooking-ups for the Rich and Maxi team to hook a nice red of four pounds. Heck of a start! It was so quick I let Maxi stay up front as I readied myself behind him to toss after he got another one on. We both took shots and Maxi got a second fish about the same size. Getting behind, I took the nose position but the fish seemed to quit eating although there were plenty of them of all sizes and we both put many of the little epoxy spoons rich makes right in the basket. We changed colors several times until we got to the chartreuse and gold spoon. We toured the lake, about a hundred-acre pond with islands for about an hour with little action and then the tide started to move. Boy was that the signal for the fish to start eating.

Maxi Big Sheepshead

Maxi was up when we worked along a bank that had sheepshead cruising along. Rich insisted we could catch them with sight fishing but I had only seen them bite Unk's flies blind casting. Rich said the spoons would do the trick if we would drop the fly to the bottom as soon as the fish started to track the fly. He said the fish would tip over tail up and bite it on the bottom. Sounded funny to me but Maxi did it on the next fish and had a heck of a fight with a nice three-pound black and white stripped 'Coonass permit.' Rich came down from the tower to show how to unhook and release this kind as they have a finned back with sharp spikes and teeth like a piranha. Next we looked out and a big red was flowing right at us and Maxi launched a perfect cast right on his nose resulting in an immediate hit and hook up. This was a monster, estimated eight to ten pounds, and the gobble and run was snapped off when Maxi failed to let the fish run. His first two he had stopped with hand pressure on the line. We had a discussion on fighting big fish while I tried without luck to get one of the many sheepsheads flowing by.

While he and Rich re-rigged his rod I got shots at passing sheepshead and finally got the trick and bagged one. I also had a rat red take the fly from between two large reds. I shook him off the line as Maxi bagged another fair sized red.

Rich motored us back to the starting flat where we found ourselves in the middle of so many reds we both kept busy for the next two hours. I managed to hit my rod with a spoon and the next fish broke the tip. This only allowed Maxi to reclaim the front of the boat but it did not matter as both of us were fighting fish continually. I switched from my eight-weight rod to a nine.

The next hours blur with the activity of one of the best two hours of my short fishing career. Not only were the fish all over and coming from every direction but all casts were visual and had to be right on the nose. Rich almost lost his voice calling out incoming fish, we often had two on at once, and sometimes talking about different fish at the same time. The confusion was delightful and humorous moments many. The learning curve for Maxi was steep and he went from hook up losses to line breaks to solid hook ups at every good cast. I got in a zone and went about six for six casts to fish on one run. I have no idea how many fish we caught but at one point in a lull under a passing cloud, Maxi said he lost count when he had hooked fifteen and landed thirteen. My ratio was better for hooked to landed but I had no idea of the numbers of fish I had landed. We got to where we would not throw at small fish so most were between five to eight pounds. We were using eight weights mainly to be able to launch the heavy spoon flies. These special little spoons are works of art Rich makes and were best for their sink capability and weed free characteristics. At about two PM, (the 'bite' started at about ten thirty) it slowed. We had forgotten about time or even stopping for lunch. There was still no wind and hot as the devils bedroom on a good Saturday night, but other than water intake going on, we just kept on tossing at the fish appearing at all clock positions. They were getting less hungry as the tide slowed but still there. Clouds were occasionally covering the sun and stopping the burn-felt good but made seeing the fish tougher.

About this time Rich called out a tugboat-sized wake coming at us from about 100 yards. Maxi was up front so had the shot. At thirty yards we could see a monster red shape in front of the wake and Maxi's first shot was just off to the right and about ten feet in front of the fish. The fish stopped and started looking for the cause of the splash. The second shot was right beside him but he looked the wrong direction and the third shot was right on his nose. He ate.

Maxi set the hook and the fish moved about ten feet to the left of the bite spot and stopped. This guy was about a yard long and just sat there. Maxi thought he might have gotten off but I called out that he was still hooked but just had not figured out what happened. A little pressure and off the beauty went and Maxi was maxed out trying to get to the reel and keep the weeds from building up on the line. This fish would let Maxi get him to twenty feet from the boat and then see us and leave again for another 40-foot run away. We adjusted the drag a couple of times so Maxi would not have to hold the line with his right hand so hard. He was getting burned on the runs. This fight went along for about 10 minutes until Rich decided he would take over the netting act. As soon as the fish would see the net hit the water he would go back out to the 20-foot range or under the boat. Maxi was alternately stopping a run and keeping from breaking the tip by thrusting the rod under the boat. I got out of the way and laughed at the whole act but Maxi and Rich worked well as a team and Rich finally got the net down and snatched the monster up. High fives and then some pictures and weighing, followed by a long recessitation, had the beauty headed back to the safety of the flat. This fish would have been tough in clear water but was harder yet in all the soft weeds of this flat. It was well over a yard long and weighed just over 12 pounds. That is a rare fish for the shallow flats and we figured this was probably a seven-year-old fish. They leave the safety of the flats about this size and start reproducing. This one will have a story to tell its' grand kids.

Maxi's Big Red

It was slowing down some in redfish sighting as the tide slacked but there were more sheepsheads showing up. Maxi threw at a big one and had a heck of a fight with a five-pounder. It was a classic Rich style hook up. I got serious and managed to get another myself to hold up my honor. We both had two of them for the day to add to our conservative estimate of twenty redfish each. Maxi surely won in both fish size wise and perhaps in numbers but we just could not keep up with the count. We fished until the time we figured there would be enough time to make my flight. Asking several local folks, in the know on such matters, had derived the time. We were on the road about four PM after fond farewells to Rich and buying a bunch of his spoons to try on other parts of the redfish world.

The glow of the day was coming over us as we drove north through the years back to the 21st century. The glow was diminished slightly when we were a half hour behind schedule as we arrived at the 1990s with years and miles to go. In traffic up to our ears and in the early 2000s it was evident I was not going to make my flight. The roads are a mess down here with no traffic but this was quitting time. The roads are built on water so what can you expect. Both of us went to the cell phones but it was not going to hurt our navigating or driving at the speeds we were going. I got on another flight that would get me to my destination at two in the morning if I made the flight. I had to drop Maxi on one side of the airport and he tried to get me to drive to his plane as he had a load of gear. With several calls he thought he had the gate opened but when it was still locked, I just dropped him on the roadway and left him standing among his stuff as I peeled off. I managed to make my flight at the door closing time. I was sitting in a pile of sweat waiting for the plane to taxi as Maxi took off for his two-hour flight home. It was then I had time to reflect on the great time we had just had. I was wedged between two elderly ladies who took some exception to my fish slime deco and fish fighting essence.

Rick's Spoon Flies

If there is a moral to the story it might be to never give up a chance to fish or never underestimate an old Marine Colonel, now fishing Captain. Whatever, we had to make this happen and a planned event anticipated for months could not have been better. The two guides down there, Captains Kirby LaCour (prior Army special forces) and Rich Waldner, can be reached at 504-464-1697 for Kirby and 504-656-7337 for Rich. They cannot guarantee that Nature will give you a day of no wind or good visibility but they sure can put you over the fish. Either one will have you in stitches. Both have secret flies but contacting Rich and ordering some of his spoon flies may insure your success for most any species along this coast and I'd bet inland for most species too. They are works of art he sells for $5 plus shipping. Orvis once sold them for about twice that, when he would sell them some. I am trying to get him to sell me a hundred but we are still negotiating. He will give you the ones you fish with and that is, by far, the best way to get them. Say 'hi' from me when you contact these guides. ~ Capt Scud Yates


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