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.

Biloxi Marsh

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Having had the best fishing in the world in Louisiana south of New Orleans why would anybody go anywhere else? Well, the rest of Louisiana has some places that rival what I have already seen so I had to look at one more: the part of the delta called the Biloxi Marsh. It was every bit as good as anything I have seen to date, perhaps better in some ways. To fish it takes a little bigger boat at times though.

You get to the "marsh," not from Louisiana, but from Waveland, Mississippi. It makes sense if you look at a map and notice that the tip of the Mississippi river delta is south of Mobile, AL. The marsh is a collection of islands on the west side of the big river and it only takes a nine mile run over a big bay to get there. That can be the problem. Just a little wind from anywhere and that boat ride can feel like you are trying to round Cape Hope. Especially if in a little flats boat.

Brian Carter, a guide out of both Mississippi and Louisiana, called and asked if I would like to "explore" the marsh. He and I had tried to work this up a year ago but that Katrina event really tore up the place and put everybody "off" any plan of any sorts. He also wanted my boat. He has a Hellsbay 16' Waterman 16 and I have a Hellsbay 18' Marquesa. He fished the day before and wanted some more comfort. My boat is made to take some heavy water. His is not.

I couldn't get there that night but left at 0400 the next day and we set off at about eight in a very light west wind. Crossing the bay is a cinch for any boat with conditions like that. Once past the Nine Mile marker south of what was once a real nice part of Mississippi, we were out in a vast area of reed covered flat islands. It is all shallows and fish were just about anywhere we looked.

I say "use to be" a nice part of MS, as the lodge I stayed at was a big house on ten-foot pilings beside a canal three miles inland from the gulf. The water got into the attic, as it was 22 feet deep in that neighborhood. Until you stand and see a watermark on a telephone pole in front of you, the depth and meaning of that wave cannot be understood. The area from the bay to the big freeway six miles inland and beyond was under with the storm surge and still looks like a little bit of hell on earth still. The debris is mostly cleaned up but all houses are in some sort of repair or rebuild process. There are few street signs or landmarks left from before.


The first poling stretch of about a quarter mile of an inside flat and adjoining drains provided about twenty real nice shots at reds. They were not big but I got half to the boat with the largest being thirteen pounds. The smallest was around six. One particular pair of fish we found in a deep section of the drain boggled the mind. They were black drum and one was almost white and probably around four feet long. I hooked that one first and while the fish tried to continue eating the hook fell out. The second cast got scooped up by the smaller fish. It stayed hooked and after a setting of the hook tried to continue its' activities too, until it discovered it was hooked to something. I pulled and it pulled a bit before it saw the boat. Off the fish went with me having little control or stopping power with the nine-weight rod in my hands. I did have 20-pound class tippet so I could put pressure of some magnitude. I think the fish stopped when it realize its' partner was left behind or it got too shallow.

I was allowed to pull the monster back to the boat but only until it saw the other fish and it left again to go over to the white fish about forty feet away. I pulled even harder and finally got him coming to boat at my whim, not his. Once near to the boat he easily left again and we went through this several more times before I got the upper hand and Brian could get the nose of the fish in our net. It took all of ten minutes to get to this point and another few minutes to get a good enough grip on the rest of the fish for both of us to scoop it into the boat.

Unhooking was not a problem as it was just in the lip but hoisting the fish up for a picture was, as I had to take the happy snap leaving only Brian to hold it up. The Boga grip went to 30 pounds so we had to estimate the weight of this brute. I have had a 43-pounder to the boat and Brian has had them up to 49. This fish was not as long as they were. It was thicker than I remember the other one to be and this one sure fought harder than any of the big black drum I have landed. We figured it was "one of the largest" we have ever landed between us. It was probably between thirtyfive and fourty pounds.

Big Black Drum

Once revived and sent back to the pond, he casually swam back to the side of the other fish and started eating again. One was enough and the two of them had plenty to talk about as it was. Our guess was he was telling a story of being abducted by aliens and having a physical exam while being starved of oxygenated water. The poor fish will have to live with the scorn of all those non-believers for the rest of his life. Black drums this size, are probably over fifty years old and can live a lot longer than that. The largest of them are much bigger than these we were playing with.

Back to the red fishing, we almost got caught in a falling tide on a flat making Brian work overtime to get back to deep water. Our next run was off a point and a long bank in the lea of the wind next to deep water. Our first half dozen fish were large and very spooky. They ran instead of eating the fly and this was nothing like the others before. A hundred yards later they were still running away. About that time I saw a fish coming at us head on and it was a monster, if a red. It turned out to be a black-tipped shark making a run down the beach and that probably was the reason the reds were not ready to play. I tried to hook it but would have lost a fly if I had been successful. Just after that the reds started acting like fish again instead of food.

I had started with the first couple fish of the day with poppers and went back after catching a couple more with the crab patterns. A reason for change was the bottom being all covered with clods from the island being ruined in the big storm. Having a hook on the surface was easier and the "takes" are really dramatic that way. Brian fished a little from the platform and he and I got the rest of the reds for the day.

The last couple of runs down shorelines did not produce fish, as the sun angle did not allow early enough pick-ups before spooking them. We declared, "Rule number one." That rule is: "I will not waste your time if you will not waste mine." Twenty reds and a black was good for a day "exploring." We started home.

This is where the problem with this area comes in. After the morning lull in the winds they picked up to 10-15 mph and stayed that way. The west-northwest wind had the run back at a quartering left head wind and the waves at two feet or slightly more but really messed up. It looked like a washing machine looking through the round window in front. Brian was driving and adjusted the trim to run at about 25 mph with little water getting us as we both stood behind the console. It was rough as a cob but only lasted twenty-five minutes or so. He did an expert job of running the bumps like a downhill skier to keep us from slamming around too much. This boat is made for this stuff but the lodge owner, also out fishing with four people in a 20 ft. bay boat, got the customers completely drenched as he could not maneuver to miss the big bumps as well. A lady coming off his boat asked us why we were not wet. I told her we flew back.

The lodge there costs $50 a person and fishing with Mike the owner with the big boat is probably doable most of the time. We both cancelled the next day with the winds forecast at 25 mph. Brian and friends are going to get a big mother boat to tow the flats boats out and back on most days. Instead of getting wet on the way to fish, you can have a nice breakfast and coffee while doing the 45-minute passage. They will be set up by spring next year or perhaps sooner depending on the difficulty finding the correct mother boat. Waveland is only three hours or less from Fort Walton Beach and offers an alternative to fishing south of New Orleans. It takes me 4.5 hours to drive over to the N.O. flats. Brian will fish either place depending on conditions. The far place is good on an east wind and that makes the marsh too full of water. A west wind has the opposite affect on the two places.

A Dandy Redfish

I think I will be able to pass my 200 redfish a season average easily with back ups like the marsh for bad days on the N.O. flats. Oh, the big fish wonder around these flats all winter too. I plan to spend a lot of time chasing them this winter. Ask me for specifics on contacting Brian or Mike. ~ Captain Scud Yates Sept 2006, scudyates@cox.net

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