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.

Saltwater Fly Fishing For Inshore Game Fish:
Part Sixteen: Stormy Weather

By Capt. Douglas Sinclair

Congratulation Doug - You Made It!

Rain fell in a steady downpour. The windshield wipers pushed the water off with each side-to-side swipe. Annie and Rob were asleep in their seats. Annie's head was tilted into the headrest. Her mouth was slightly open, taking in shallow breaths. Dark sunglasses drooped off her nose. Rob was asleep with his paws stretched out on the back seat, face settled onto his legs. His left ear half draped over one paw.

The local radio station announced road closings and bad weather ahead. A low-pressure system was moving through the Shenandoah Valley that was bringing thunder, lightning, rain, fog, hail, and strong winds. I was trying to beat the storm, and so far succeeding. Our wheels made a low whistling noise on the wet pavement followed by regular slapping from the patches in the road surface. The trailer I was towing was bouncing from all the irregularities in the road. It reminded me off the worst days in the lagoon. A guide's nightmare. When conditions get really bad a guide has to work harder. The intensity can be overwhelming because you have to be in the 'zone.' Your concentration level is at its highest. Your first concern is for the safety of your clients.

I listened for unusual sounds, watched the road intently, and concentrated on the traffic and rain that was coming more heavily. A few hundred miles more and we would be away from the storm. We just crossed the Mason-Dixon Line on our way to Annie's dad's house. He wasn't well and she was going to spend the summer with him. The trailer, loaded with some creature comforts, slowed us down. But, we weren't in any rush and the driving was horrible. The rain came down harder. I don't mind the rain so much, but do hate fog.

Mustang Sally was playing softly on the radio. It was hard to hear over the rain, so I reached over and turned it off. All was quiet inside, except for the noise outside. My mind wandered, but still very alert to the driving. I was getting some needed time for myself. I thought about fly-fishing and some of the great fishing you can have in rainy weather. I wondered about fishing in freshwater, which I hadn't done for some time.

Overcast, watch carefully!

Naturally, I thought of you. I couldn't help it. Just two days ago, I tried beating the storm in the lagoon. Rain pelted my party. There is no place to hide from bad weather in a flats boat. We huddled together on the bench seat. Scrunched down like rabbits in a borough, we tried to stay dry. It didn't work, saltwater stings in the wind. The waves built to 4-feet at short intervals, making running a challenge. We had to be on plane. It was a wet, rough ride. For most of six miles we endured white caps and over-spray. It can really get uncomfortable in a flats boat. But we needed to maintain stability and control. I needed to get away from the storm.

So, here I am throwing you a lifeline. The rain brought this revelation to me. Anglers who hire guides don't consider weather, wind, rain, fog, or waves. They are almost never prepared. All you need is the basics: nylon rain jacket and pants, hat, and sunglasses. Have them even if they aren't needed. They don't take up much space, but come in handy. After all, if you fish in Florida, the Sunshine State, everything should be perfect. Always trust Murphy's Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The reality is, you will experience wet conditions, rough going in a flats boat at some time when you least expect it. Given the situations that you might encounter, rare as they are, be prepared. It doesn't even have to rain for the flats to get nasty. Shallow water can turn rough in a matter of minutes. If you are 10 miles from the ramp, it's a long way to take a beating. I know. Ok, you came here for the fly-fishing. You are on vacation or on a business trip and here is this candy-jar called water drawing you to take a handful. I'm not trying to be a red herring. Let me help set your expectations for your next trip. Here's the scoop on Flats Boats.

My Flats Boat Flats boats are low profile, mustangs, designed to skim over the grasses in very shallow water at high speed. To do this they must be on plane, running 25 mph or faster. They have very little freeboard. Freeboard is a term used in measuring the distance between the gunnel and the water. In a bow-rider type of boat the freeboard could be 18-inches or more. In a flats boat the freeboard will be 12-inches or less. You'll also notice that a flats boat has very few places to sit. That's because a flats boat has more deck area for fishing. After all it's a fishing boat. So creature comforts are absent, although some have better seating than others with cushions on the console seat and padded bench seats.

Flats boats are similar to bass boats. They have big engines so you can get to a fishing spot quickly. Sometimes you have to cover a lot of area to find fish, 30 miles is not uncommon. The reason these boats have poling platforms is because when they do shut down, the water is usually too shallow to motor back up on plane. You'll see the guides stand on an elevated platform to pole through the shallow water (12-inches deep or less). Guides pole their boats for hours. Think about it next time you are on the flats. That's a lot of aerobic exercise to put you on fish. Pushing a 1500-pound boat around is exhausting. If you've ever wondered why guides wear long sleeves and long pants it is because they are exposed to the sun's direct rays for hours. Be sure you are protected too.

Typical Flats Boat

The poling platform provides the guide with a high vantage point to spot fish. Because the flats are so shallow, he can see a hundred yards ahead and spot fish you can't see. That's why they point in a direction where you see no fish. Trust them. The fish are there. A lot of fly-fishing guides prefer their anglers to wait and cast to fish they sight. The reason is, the motion of the cast transmits to the boat through waves on the water. The slightest ripple will scare fish. That's another reason they pole in the flats. It is a stealth factor, to sneak up on the fish.

Some flats boats have 'jack plates.' Jack plates help elevate the engine so that the prop is higher allowing boats to power out. When there is no wind, or very little, and calm water, the flats boat glides across giving a smooth, fast ride. If conditions deteriorate you will find the ride bumpy and uncomfortable. This is because the boat has to stay on plane, riding the tops of the waves. Some flats boats ride the waves better than others. Boats with a 'v' hull, will take the waves with less bounce. Flat-bottomed boats will be very rough, because they will just slap each wave, and can't cut through like the 'v-bottom.'

Fishing in the rain

So there it is. Everything you always wanted to know about flats boats but were afraid to ask. Be realistic about your next fly-fishing trip. Pay attention to the conditions, and take the basic steps to be prepared. I guarantee you'll have a much more pleasurable trip. When your guide says he is sorry for the ride just remember he feels it too, and he feels guilty about the conditions. The guide has no control over Mother Nature. Make the best of your time on the water. Just be street smart about it. Oops, here's my exit. We did beat the storm.

Until next time ~ 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. Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.

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