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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.

Fishing Fever - Part IV
Staging to Marker 11

By Capt. Doug Sinclair

2# Spec on 6-weight Rod
February and March were such phenomenal months. We fished those creeks just south and east of the big bridge and the trout just kept getting hooked up. I wondered how there could be any water left in the river. Between the stripers and the specs, limiting out every day was just too good to be true, especially on fly. My friend Greg said that eventually they would move and we would know this soon enough.

It was on a bright sunny day in early May that this revelation became evident. To me the water looked Cobalt Blue, but I could have my hues mixed up. The water was kind of dark blue but it was bright at the same time. It was a picture perfect sky with a few high white clouds.

Dave's 4# Spec

We fished a creek just south of Upper Broad Creek and we didn't get a hit in three hours. "Well", I thought, "they were here yesterday and every day before. Could we have fished them out?" Frantically, with the prospects of getting skunked, I phoned Greg. "Hey man, where the hell did all the trout go," I remarked. "Try two creeks down", he replied. So the salinity in the river changed that much, overnight almost. The early spring rains in Raleigh and Durham finally had reached our part of the river. The amount of fresh water was good and bad. Good in the sense that it flushed the creeks and started a natural cleansing process. Bad because the fresh water depletes the level of oxygen in the water and forces the fish towards the sound, called "staging."

North Carolina, under the leadership of Governor Easley started on the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP) in 1997. CHPP is responsible for about 2.5 million acres of coastal and marine waters that are prime spawning and nursery grounds for most of the State's important fish species and many that migrate along the East Coast, including Tarpon.

The underwater garden in our creeks is vital to the coastal ecosystem. Aquatic plants are natural recyclers. They take nutrients from the sediment and release them into the water when they die. Decomposed plant matter and its associated bacteria are actually more important food for fish that the living plant leaves. The decomposed plants are food for shrimp, bacteria and fungi, which in turn are eaten by larger animals. Geese and many kinds of ducks depend on the living leaves, roots and other parts of the plants.

More than 40 different species of fish and invertebrates have been collected from grass beds, which are busy nurseries for young croaker, spot, mullet, red drum, flounder, blue crabs and pink shrimp. Grass shrimp, spotted sea trout (specs) and gray trout (weakfish) spawn in the grass, and bay scallops need grass meadows to survive. The plants and oysters cleanse the water and filter oxygen back into the water. They also help reduce erosion by sheltering the land from waves. High salinity also means that the water holds more oxygen, important for game fish. As the salinity drops the fish move towards areas of high salinity to maintain their comfort level.

Well, Greg was right, the fish were moving down the Neuse near Marker 11. Around Slocum and Hancock Creek, the bite was back on. We fished creeks on both sides of the river just above the Minnesott Ferry Terminal. The speckled trout were now staging about half way between New Bern and Oriental. The other surprise was catching redfish or puppy drum. We caught a few here and there but didn't see any schools. The water inside Slocum Creek was clean and reminded me a lot of fishing the Lagoon back in Florida.

4# Redfish Using a DS Junior Fly

We were using Fire Tiger and Junior flies that resembled some L&S Bait Patterns. The flies work well when fished as subsurface flies with a steady retrieve. One of the local guides and I tie these "big-eye bait fish flies" and they work 95% of the time.

DS Fire Tiger SS

Actually I got the pattern ideas from Nicky Adams and Fred, both native New Bernians. These flies are extremely effective when fished with clear intermediate line. I like the Cortland 555 Little Tunny Intermediate Rocket Taper (Camo), but Orvis Wonderline Advantage and SA Ultra 4 work well too.

Eight weight rods seem to provide the best action, although I prefer my T3 6-weight Saltwater rod. One other fly that is really effective is a DS Junior SS big eye fly. Worked slowly this fly looks and acts like a fingerling mullet. It is especially good in backwater creeks that have a tannic coloration to the bottom.

DS Junior SS #1 (Swims as shown)

Paul Olsen and his son from Oriental were out with me in one of these creeks. We were having a really terrific morning. His son hooked up 2 trout and then came a loud crack, and unmistakable sound of graphite shattering. Paul had broken his new fly rod. So he switched to an 8-weight Old Florida and landed his first speckled trout on fly rod after having his first fly-casting lesson only the week before.

At the end of May the river gets crowded. River Fever is on the rise as schools let out for the summer, families start thinking about vacation and executives start calling in sick only to be seen in their favorite creeks. The regulars like Greg, Nicky, Fred, Chip and Dave are always on the river, 3 or 4 times a week on average, 12 months a year. They grew up on the Neuse and know every blade of grass and every stump in its waters. They know instinctively which species to fish and where they will be at any given time of the year. It's great having them as friends.

The summer season is tremendous fishing. As the trout move towards the sound, the redfish, bluefish, flounder and croaker become more abundant. As the rains come in late spring the salinity becomes freshwater and that brings large mouth bass, blue gill, chain pickerel, pumpkin seed, cypress trout, spot, rock and gar. Farther down the river the first signs of summer approach with migrating red drum (primarily nocturnal feeders) and tarpon start to show up in time for the Rotary Club Tournament on the Neuse in July. This year 15 tarpon were taken and released, each weighing in at a little over 100 pounds.

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

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.

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