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 Seven: Reading the Flats

By Capt. Douglas Sinclair

Congratulation Doug - You Made It!

You'll discover this isn't rocket science. Reading a flat is a method of scouting for game fish, some species are easier to read than others. What we want to learn to do is understand the habitat, learn what is constant and what is different. We also have to understand the fish we are stalking and their predatory actions. In Florida, everyday is like being in paradise. Take a moment when you are out on the water and just look around, listen to the sounds of the birds, feel the breeze and watch how it moves the grasses around. Look into the water and see what swims, walks or crawls on the bottom. Notice the bottom material. Are there oysters on the bottom, is it muddy, are there grass, reeds, or plants there? All of these observations are clues to what habitat fish encounter to stay alive.

When you run at high speed across a lagoon you won't see anything up close. Look out 20 to 30 feet at an angle and a whole new world will open up to you. There are as many ways to read a flat as there are opinion's on the subject. In North Florida our flats are different from the Keys, but the basics of reading water are the same. Let's take this boat and run along a slough in the flats.

First you'll notice a slough is darker water. Darker water is usually deeper water and that's where you want to run. (Unless the bottom is dark from vegetation, then you want to ask a guide or someone who knows the water.) Usually its depth varies from about 18 inches to more than 3 feet. Lighter water on the edges is really shallow and you can see bottom. At high speed, 25 to 30 miles per hour, it is difficult to focus on the bottom near the boat, it just whizzes by. The bottom is moving fast, but you can see changes in the color of the bottom structure (sand or mud), vegetation colorations (greens to yellow to tan) and some of the plants that grow there. Just don't run where you see birds walking. This is an indication of shallow water. The presence of birds is a good sign that bait fish are abundant!

Also pay attention to the wind and currents. Sometimes the wind will blow water across a drop off. The wave action will move bait fish in the same direction and into the waiting mouths of hungry fish. Check out what is happening with the current. When a small channel empties into a flat it usually brings bait fish onto the flat and the delta around this area will hold predators waiting for an easy meal.

Remember predatory fish need cover so they can ambush their prey. In North Florida prey nets out to pilchards, silversides, finger mullet, pig fish or pin fish, crabs, shrimp and sea worms. Except for pig and pin fish, the others swim in small, tightly grouped pods and sometimes larger schools. They move as a pack because there is bigness and safety in numbers. The predator fish will be hiding in the grass or near a drop off on an oyster bed, or where there is fast moving water, and usually when there is bait fish available for an easy meal.

Most fish will swim in pairs or groups of six to eight fish. Sometimes you'll find them in pods of 20 to 30 fish and occasionally will come upon a school of 100 to 200 fish. These are usually Red fish or Blackdrum (e.g., Red Drum, Red Channel Bass). Trout don't usually travel in pods, but small groups are common. Trout tend to be more solitary than red fish. However, the exception is for trout caught in a pod of reds. Sometimes jacks will take cover beneath a school of reds.

Tailing Redfish

When scouting the flat, a guide usually will look for signs of tailing reds or rollovers. Tailing reds are common when reds are feeding on crabs. Their noses are down and the tails are up. In shallow water the tails will protrude above the water. Rollovers might be trout or baby tarpon. This usually happens when predator fish push bait fish up on a flat and get stuck on a falling tide. The fish literally rollover. Rollovers are also evident when fishing a back-country creek. The fish will rollover and expose its underside.

Trout usually hang off a white spot, an area that is bare of weeds or grass. They will hang back just off the white spot and wait for bait fish to come in range. You can see trout and pick them up. You'll notice that a stationary trout is nose into a current or tide. He will lie motionless and look like a fat, dark log. Trout will position themselves just into the white spot, a quarter in the white spot and the rest of their body in the grass. In shallow water he stands out because his shape is different from the grass around him.

The types of actions by these fish will also give away the bottom conditions. Tailing reds usually near or on an oyster bed indicates a harder bottom including hard packed sand. Trout and reds that move through the grasses are in areas of soft, muck bottoms.

By studying the flat you will sharpen your senses and learn what is fish and what is cover. Once you start recognizing the signs of activity you'll catch a lot more fish. ~ Doug

Next time: What's for Dinner!

Previous Fly Fishing The Salt Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice