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.

Weathermen Always Lie

By Captain Scud Yates, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A lot of the reason we seem to get in on such wonderful fishing, no matter what we go after, is because we "cherry pick" the weather, the tides and anything else we can to insure the fishing should be perfect. Being retired from most structured endeavors makes that possible. We rely on many sources for making good decisions. At least three weather web sites, the TV, countless calls to guides and the tide charts all come into play. Then, sometimes you just have to fish when things are not perfect. This fishing trip was just one of the times you had to suck it up as one of the fishermen is still working. Ron, the working stiff, has a money burn rate that might make him work forever. Unk, my guide partner, and I do like to fish with Ron… so we sucked it up.

The big bull reds have just come on the flats of Louisiana and the three of us really wanted to fish them. There were no guides available and no matter how you looked at the weather sources, it just did not look like success was going to happen, but we went anyway. If you closed one eye when checking the weather it looked only half as bad; Cloudy with 50 percent thunderstorm chance the first day and the second day was going to be worse. Off we went to stay at The Woodlands Plantation guiding ourselves with my boat.

Ron drove eight hours and arrived after Unk and I had already consumed two bottles of wine lamenting problems to be faced the next day. Ron helped with the third bottle and then Foster, the lodge owner, passed a bottle of some super new kind of rum over the bar for us to try. We did a good test of that before leaving for bed. The rum testing was not a good idea. Walking to the sleeping quarters it was noted the stars were twinkling brightly but we knew it was going to turn to crap in the next few hours. Few was the operative word as there were only a couple of hours until 0600.

Not a cloud in the sky at sun-up. "Whoopee," I shouted but noted immediately that noise was not going to help my throbbing head. A nice breakfast was followed by a crystal clear low wind thirty minute run to the fishing venue. Thousands of white pelicans whirled around us as we set up for our first hunt for the big boys. With me Unk poling and Ron in the front end the boat it took all of four minutes before Ron had his eyes watered by a four foot long redfish twenty feet away rushing at the boat. Ron has never caught a "bull" before and the combination of the size and speed of the cruising fish had all three of his shots landing too close to the nose of the fish and not getting down to the eye level in time. We were in two feet of clear water and a fish with a head six to eight inches thick can appear to be right on the top when he is really down on the bottom. I tied a heavier fly on his line after that one so it would sink faster for his next shot. It was not long and a second bull appeared again coming straight out of the glare. It was still pretty early and the low sun was making for late pickups. Ron missed this one too. The third one he got the fish to take the fly but it came unbuttoned in a few headshakes. "Might have been a poor strip set," 'fessed up Ron. The fourth one he hooked but it was not a monster. It was just a standard little eight pound fish some how sandwiched in among the big guys.

Ron offered me the front tower and I accepted before he took back the offer. We were ready to let him stay up until he got a bull, our only objective of the trip. I was not up for a minute and out of the gloom charged a nice nine pounder that ate my first cast. As it got released a big one showed up twenty feet off the nose and I nailed him in one cast too. I was using both eyes too. But, like Ron's third shot, this one came loose too. I am perfect…it must have been the fish's fault. That was the last good shot we had for twenty more minutes of this spot and we moved on.

We moved about a mile and started down another run that should have been dynamite but a dredge was clanging along about a half mile away and I think that chased the fish off. The flags indicating where this monster digging machine was heading indicated it was going to really screw up the fishing in this area for along time. The oil companies have all this area leased and they work like beavers full time screwing up our fishing to make it possible to do their job of running around in crew boats full time.

That run abandoned, I pushed along a wall where little fish played, the five to seven pound ones, but it was too shallow for the big guys until later in the run. Unk got the front and almost immediately got a fish and then another. Ron got back up and missed a couple but finally got one near the end of the run. They put me back up front and I hooked up three nice five pound sheepsheads in three casts and then a monster was sighted out of range leaving a spot at an end of an island in front of us. When we got near that spot Ron, sitting down, spotted a big tail the other side of the island. Easing up, a leviathan slid past the nose and I got a shot out in front of him, but not far enough for the speed my fly would sink. I recast as he was sliding deeper and was just about right but felt I might get one more shot so started to pull the fly out of the water just as the monster tried to suck it in. I managed to get it out of the way in time and lost sight of the bull. Big fish like that don't move much to eat, they just open their cave like mouths and suck in all the water within a foot of their nose with the target food in it. If my fly had not had a line on it so I could save it, I think this 30 plus pound fish would have made my day.

I cried a little and let Ron back up as we turned into some more of the flat near this deep water. He fussed with a couple of sheepsheads and was looking at another when I, sitting down, caught sight of a big water movement right in front of the boat. I pointed this out and Ron did not say a word, just manically cast to the big fish passing the nose twenty feet out. One strip and all hell broke loose. It was a nice big fresh bull red. Ron got reminded to really set this one good so it did not get away and the fish dragged line out about fifty feet toward a really shallow area. Ron huffed and puffed for about five minutes to get it near the boat while I got the camera ready. My net was not big enough but with the nose in the net and a grip on the tail the fish got landed and high fives were preformed all around. Ron's first bull was just a little over twenty pounds but it was a long skinny fish that would easily add ten more pounds on that frame with this season's feasting. Ron put so much pressure on this one that the hook, a big 3/0, was bent almost straight. The barb was in a tough boney area of the jaw or the fish would have been lost. I had tied that fly on this new hook brand and will not use it again.

We managed a few more fish as the tide rushed in making it too deep for the area. We tried to work inland to keep up with the rising water. Shallow is always better when sight fishing. The tide beat us to the closer in spots and we did not get any more fish. This surprisingly pretty day ended with us a happy crew. The weatherman had blown the call. The front that was supposed to come over us and sit there stopped fifty miles north of us.

The Plantation's dinner was five courses of epic quality. Foster outdid himself again but the party ended early. I think we were asleep before 9 PM. There was a bunch of neat folks from Texas staying with us in the big house but their party did not cause us any problem with dropping off.

Before 5 AM all three of us had slept all we could and started rummaging around ending up on the front porch as the day brightened. The weatherman had both days as really crappy and this one might really be that way. The day kept on brightening, but the sun did not rise. With the light and a few other hints we could see it was overcast and humid. Perhaps "cloudy" would really mean cloudy this day. We bothered Amanda, the lady cooking breakfast for us until she fed us early. As we finished up the "brightening" continued but all we could see what the how bright the stained glass windows in the Spirit House was glowing. We thought "sun" but walking out was zero-zero with fog. The sun was showing through in the east and the moon was showing through in the west. It was not overcast, just foggy…and there was a breeze kicking in. Along a river out in the ocean this means the fog was caused by the river and it was going to blow away if we were lucky. "Launch," was the order of the day and we got to it.

Navigation through the maze in this marsh is not easy in clear weather and with a few yards of visibility, completely impossible except for the fact that our routes through the marsh are all on the boat's GPS. Mariners know how to do this as well as pilots. We had two coast guard captains of the three pilots on board so using this magic is not all that hard. Besides, the rules say to go slow, honk your fog horn or ring your ship's bell at certain intervals and listen for others. Of course, we did not use the whistle (no horns or bells) and ran in few shipping lanes (main canals) leaving only a few moments when we were at risk. These we handled by going fast and closing our eyes. It was better to wait on the flats for the fog to burn off than on the beach wondering if is was clear fifteen miles away where the fish were.

We picked a flat that was supposed to be good with an outgoing tide and low water. The fog made seeing fish possible out to twenty feet. The fish were supposed to be big and the water clear as gin, so off we polled very quietly in our own white balloon of misty silence. I kept the boat within twenty yards of shore so we did not get lost and it took about five minutes before a big fish made Ron jump and miss it three times from ten feet in front of the boat until it reached twenty feet aft. It was not hard to see as its' back was almost out of the one foot deep water. It happened again shortly thereafter and he missed again. The third one was passing off the left and his first cast stopped the fish and gave him a side shot. He got it right in front of the nose and the fish ate it. Ron thought it was going to take off and go around the rear of the boat so he tried to get the line over me on the tower instead of getting good strip set. The fish did the head shake thing and came unbuttoned. All of these fish were really big ones. Ron stayed up for another ten minutes and finally found and solidly hooked a nice red. After a short battle he had a fourteen pounder weighed, flash burned, revived and released. Unk took the nose.

Keeping the averages the same, Unk missed the first two fish that appeared. The darkness and the size of the fish somehow made both of the guys throw too close to the fish and the fly got down too late to be seen by the fish. If they were really unlucky the fly would touch the fish on the back and scare them off making the last cast a long over the shoulder panic shot. None of those worked today. The tide had stopped and was starting back in without delaying at all. The sky cleared and showed clear blue with just a few small clouds flailing along. The dreaded front that was supposed to be over us for the both of these days was lying north of us where it had stalled. Unk picked up a couple of big black hulks out front of us and hooked up a big black drum on the first cast. He fought it to the boat and landed a thirty pound plus gray/black drum. They get whiter as they get older and this one might have been as old as forty years. The "plus" part of the weight was because my Boga scale only goes to thirty pounds. It topped out the scale but just barely.

That fish done we moved and started to look for big fish in a place we found them yesterday. Turning the corner to blast out there, we spotted another boat sliding through the flat. In all the times I have been on the water out in this area, this is the second boat I have ever seen…and that is over almost eight years of fishing here. And, this one is the only one on a spot I wanted to use. We turned and went to another nearby flat and I finally got to the front end. It was about noon already and the cloud bank of the front was moving down from the north, finally. I had about fifteen minutes of light with a bright cloud background which does not help with the glare hiding the fish. We pushed along looking for fish as the sun slipped away behind big dark clouds. Unk spotted two fish and I tossed and caught a sheepsheads. Unhooking him, Unk said the red that was with that fish was still sitting there waiting and I got him hooked in the second cast. All of us had a fish for the day as the prospects dimmed for much more fun.

The clouds got funny bumps on their bottom side and we discussed making this day short as the rain started plinking down on the water. We bundled up and ran for home. We did drive out from under the rain and tried two more spots with the little sun showing between passing clouds. The only thing we had worth mentioning was the poling lesson Ron got. Unk talked to him about how to do it during the run and we gave him the pole and rear tower position for a turn around a short side canal with a oil platform at the end of it. The trip down to the platform was with a slight breeze behind us. No problems noted; no fish but good poling. Ron was even looking around for fish while working the propulsion system. At the end of the canal I casually mentioned we needed to miss the platform on the upwind side. Ron had hoped to slip behind and this small change required him to turn up wind. The forces working for him turned the casual lesson to a white knuckled effort. He missed the tower, barely, and then we got blown into the bank when he tried to go upwind, all ten MPH of it. Unk suggested the fishing was not all that compelling here, in the grass, and he would start the motor if Ron would get us clear of the bank. Much effort ensued and finally we moved to deeper water. When Ron gave up the pole it was hot to the touch and had clear finger indentions in it. The first lesson was in the can and Ron now knows for certain that the simple sliding down a flat upwind is completely impossible.

The day might have been short but we all caught fish and experienced the surreal period with large fish passing in the fog. The weatherman's predictions of bad weather for the whole two days only happened in the last two hours of the stay. In this case, we were really happy the science of weather prediction is just an art form. Perhaps they should call it the "practice of weather prediction" like doctors call their art.
Nov 2008 ~ Captain Scud Yates

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