By Capt. Pat Damico Fly Fishing Editor
Success on our last few outings would have been mediocre if we stayed in my flats boat. Fishing with fellow guide Bryon Chamberlain a few days ago resulted in fly rod slams for both of us. The morning was blessed with many nice trout that we dredged from a deeper cut surrounded by water that was at times only ankle deep. This pattern will be repeated more frequently during the winter weather when clear, skinny water will dictate a change in tactics.
Wade fishermen take advantage of the many opportunities afforded the person who uses a car getting to his favorite spot. Think about the many great places you could wade that are only accessible with a boat. It could be a canoe, kayak, or motorized craft. More fishermen with less water make this option very viable.
Knowledge of the area you plan to fish is essential. We saw more than a few boats hung up on very shallow mud flats while the tide was still going out. Remember that tide charts are a good starting place, but wind and barometric pressure also contribute to how the tide will behave. The best fishermen I know are very keen observers. Constant attention will reward you with many new places to explore. If present conditions are favorable for one type of fishing, think about how the area would produce during another time of the year, or how you would fish there at a different tide. Have you ever been fishing in the summer when you found a spot that would be best fished during the winter? If you haven’t, it’s only because you didn’t know what to look for. Apply the habits of your prey to the varying conditions. The area Bryon and I were fishing at a higher tide would have been unproductive. The fish that were concentrated and confined to a small deep hole at very low tide would disperse over the adjacent large grass flat later as the tide came in making them harder to find. Fish that are concentrated are easier to catch.
Several days before this outing, I was there with a client and the higher water allowed the fish to vacate the deep hole. Most of the fish were now cruising close to the mangrove shoreline. The clear water and sun drenched day made for great sight fishing opportunities as I polled the boat with the sun at my back. In this case, ability to see fish and long casts that land softly were the key to catching spooky snook and reds.
Having two fly rods ready contributed to our success. My two seven weights were rigged differently. One had a clear sink tip with a weighted size one chartreuse/white clouser minnow. A short five foot twenty pound fluorocarbon leader connected the fly line to the fly with a loop knot. Bryon opted for the same setup with a six weight. This combination allowed us to dead drift our flies close to the bottom. Our rewards were subtle soft takes. Floating weight forward lines on our other rods had nine foot leaders with bendback patterns that were also darker minnow imitations. A short, thirty pound shock tippet was also necessary to prevent snook from cutting off. We switched to these rods to catch snook that were busting small finger mullet on the edge of the flat adjacent to deeper water. Several times I saw the backs of snook as they chased baitfish. Our nearby flats boat held our other gear and had to be repositioned several times as the tide continued to leave.
Put waders in your boat for your next fishing adventure. Use them to fish water that previously was inaccessible. This technique will provide you with another excellent tool in your fish-fooling arsenal.