Cold Front on the Flats

For the last several days our weather pattern has been unsettled. Northeast winds, northwest winds, dropping temperatures, clouds, and gusty winds. As you might imagine, a cold front on the flats is the kiss of death. Yeah, flats fishing went to hell in a hand basket. Damn.

December Redfish

December Redfish

I did get out for five hours on Sunday. We had a low tide around midday. I launched around 8:30AM, but I saw zero “tails” in the last hours of the ebb, or the first hours of the flood.  Not good.

Switching gears, I began blind-casting along the sandbar with an 8-weight rod and a weighted fly. A northwest wind was breaking waves along the bar’s outside edge. Looked fishy enough. Working my way down the surf line I eventually found one lone, cooperative redfish. So it wasn’t a total bust. But I sure would like some calm stable weather.

 

 

 

Posted in Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Tailing Redfish | Leave a comment

Fished the Flats with Dave

On Friday, I fished the flats with Dave. I’ve spoke of him in the past; he is the most knowledgeable fly angler in this area. No kidding, this dude is a flats guru. So, an opportunity to fish with him is a opportunity to learn. I’m down with that.

We left the ramp at 6:15 in his john-boat. With a low scheduled around 9, we hoped to find a few “tailing” reds in the ebbing tide. It was a high dawn, quite a bit of cloud cover, and a light northeast breeze. Not perfect conditions, but not bad.

Fishing the Flats with Dave

Fishing the Flats with Dave

At the flat, Dave and I climbed out and waded a mile of water, without seeing much at all. Disappointing. At that point I turned back to try fishing the outer edge of the sandbar. Dave continued wading. Eventually Dave caught two “tailers” roughly another mile to the south. His long trek had paid off.

Later we saw the smoke trail from Cape Canaveral, as project Orion rocketed skyward. Yeah, the journey to Mars has begun. An amazing sight.

By now, the sun was up and the clouds were breaking. Dave said he knew of a spot where we could sight-fish for cruising reds. Fine by me. We took a ride. When we arrived, the tide was flooding, and we had some sunlight to work with. We jumped out and began slowly moving in unison about forty feet apart. Immediate Dave spotted reds. Things were looking up. Within a few minutes, he hooked and landed a nice 28 “incher” on a crab fly. Dave is a force on these flats, believe me. My turn was next. I spied two reds traveling parallel to me. I cast ahead of them and, with luck, landed the lead fish. Yes, I’m learning a little day by day.

Posted in Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Tailing Redfish | Leave a comment

The Flats were Dead Today

On my home flat, some spots are better than others. No surprise there. Where the habitat is best, the fishing is best. Right? That said, on any given day you still can’t predict with 100 percent reliability where the bite will happen. It might be a 150 yards to the north of you. Or it might be 450 yards, or two miles, to the south. Yes, fish swim. And because of it, anglers must be ready to move too.

The Flats were Dead Today

The Flats were Dead Today

There are also days when an entire area lights up. You bail fish in your spot. Figure you have solved today’s puzzle, only to learn back at the boat ramp that other anglers in other locations did equally well. These widespread bites often occur either just before a front; or when environmental conditions suddenly improve after a long spell of bad weather.

Lastly, there are times when the flats go dead for miles. Today I poled about two miles to the north, hoping to see “tailing” reds. Conditions were fair and the tide was right. Zero “tails”. Disappointed, I turned around and slowly worked back south. Still nothing. In fact, during today’s 4 mile journey I never saw a single fish of any kind. Wow.

Back at the ramp, as I was taking out the Adios, a commercial mullet man pulled up. Immediately, he inquired how the fishing was. I said “terrible”. He shook his head. He then told me he had traveled 7 miles to the south, and saw only one small fish the entire distance. The flats were dead today. And I have no idea why.

Posted in Environment, Fly Fishing in Salt Water | Leave a comment

Fishing an Unfamiliar Flat

I started saltwater fly-fishing in the Northeast, over thirty years ago. My focus during much of the time was shore fishing for striped bass. It became quickly apparent that finding the fish was the first, and ultimately the biggest, challenge. Compared to a trout stream, coastal waters are vast, and ever changing. So to be successful you had to learn how to read beaches.

One thing I discovered to be very helpful back then was this: start by learning your home waters well. Pick a beach, and then work hard to unravel its secrets. Once you do, you can use that information to fish unfamiliar locations.

Fishing an Unfamiliar Flat

Fishing an Unfamiliar Flat

Here in Florida I spent the last two seasons mainly on my local flats. Figuring them out has been a slow process and I’m still learning. But now I feel more confident in my angling ability. And I’m ready to branch out.

Yesterday I did just that, fished a new spot. As you can see in the photo, I have a chart with me. I’m studying the shape of the shoreline, looking for creek mouths, watching the varying depths, and varying types of bottom habitat. It was exciting to exploring, fun to be fishing an unfamiliar flat.

Posted in Diablo Adios & Chupacabra, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Looking Downward | Leave a comment

Fog and Wind on the Flats

Fog on the Flats

Fog and Wind on the Flats

A few mornings back, there was both fog and wind on the flats. Unusual. The fog eliminated any chance of sight-fishing, at least in the usual sense. But reds “tail” better in a fog, so there is a trade off. Although the wind was no help in that department.

This was advection fog, arriving on a south-southeast breeze. A wind from this direction brought the necessary warmth and moisture to create the situation in the first place. But that south-southeast wind did something else that took me by surprise.

A north wind in Charlotte Harbor speeds up an ebbing tide, and can produce extremely shallow conditions. This is a common occurrence during the winter months. And greatly increases the likelihood of boaters running aground. But I now know that a strong south wind can do the reverse, stalling an ebbing tide in its tracks. On the morning in question the tide never dropped very far. And that reduced my chances at finding “tailing” reds. Oh well.

 

Posted in Environment, Fly Fishing in Salt Water | Leave a comment

Our Planet is an Amazing Place

Dawn on the North Atlantic

Dawn on the North Atlantic

Love this world, my friend.  Our planet is an amazing place, filled day and night with both beauty and mystery. Its also the only home we have. Cherish it, always.

Posted in Environment, Wild Things | Leave a comment

7 Pound Redfish on a 6-Weight Fly Rod

Well, the bite continues. Sunday held a high tide around 10:30AM, and it promised to ebb until almost 5PM. That meant a long day of moving water. Good news. On the other hand, the wind was 10-15 southeast. An odd wind for this time of year. But at least it was keeping things warm.

By 11:30 AM, I was working the shoreline. Poling the Adios along the mangroves, from spot to spot, I found plenty of reds and snook. And they were in an aggressive mood. No big fish, mind you. But it made for steady action into early afternoon.

7 pound Red on a 6-weight

7 pound Red on a 6-weight

As the ebb progressed, eventually the sandbar started coming up. I poled the Adios there and staked out on the bar. Over the grass beds inside the bar, the water was just knee deep, ripe for “tailing” reds. The only problem was the southeast breeze. Reds around here only “tail” in calm conditions.

I kept my fingers crossed the breeze would drop as the sun lowered into the west. And thankfully it did. Now conditions were perfect. When the first “tail” popped up, I got buck fever and rushed my cast. Welcome to failure. Damn. Then another “tail” appeared several yards away. I waded into position and made a better cast. Wham. This time I connected. Right off, I could tell it was a fair size red by the way he steamed across the flats, stripping line off the reel.

After two more good runs, I started backing him up towards the Adios, which was sitting in shin deep water about 50 feet away. Slowly the red followed along, but in a clever effort to bust me off, he suddenly shot forward, around my stakeout pole, and then went back under the kayak. Man. With the rod held high, I circled the Adios on the run; believe me. After that trick, he gave up. It was a fine angling adventure, a 7 pound “tailing” redfish on a 6-weight fly rod.

Released Redfish

Released Redfish

 

 

Posted in Diablo Adios & Chupacabra, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Fly Rods, Kayak / SUP Fishing, Tailing Redfish | Leave a comment

Why do Redfish have Blue Tails?

Yesterday afternoon, I poled down the flat, once again seeking “tailing” reds. Unlike last winter, there is plenty of driftweed around this year. Its stacking up pretty thick on the flat, and that is a excellent sign. Driftweed carries food with it, mainly crabs. And that food is needed. Because at this time of year the main meal – baitfish- are beginning to leave.

Eventually I stop poling, scanning an area where I had seen reds the day before. Bingo. On cue, a redfish stuck up its tail. Man, you got to love it. And this fish was only 25 feet away. Silently exiting the Adios, I reached for my six-weight fly rod, trying not to make a sound. By now the tail had slipped below the water, but I could see a disturbance marking the fish’s location. Dropping the fly nearby, I began a slow retrieve. No response. The second cast, however, brought an instant strike. This red was aggressive. Fish on.

20141113_Blue tail Red_0136It was a small red, of about 18 inches – still a fun fish on a six-weight fly rod. Upon landing the fish, I noticed its blue tail. Wow, it was bright.

Why do redfish have blue tails? I’m not a sure. You don’t see it all the time; that I know. And it seems more prevalent during the cooler months. Some say it has to do with the fish’s diet; that makes sense. And in particularly it is due to a certain type of algae in the water. The forage feeds on the algae, absorbing its color. Then the reds eat the forage. And, in turn, the color bio-accumulates in the red, showing up in the extreme end of the tail. Whatever the reason, its sure adds a nice touch.

 

 

Posted in Diablo Adios & Chupacabra, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Kayak / SUP Fishing, Tailing Redfish | Leave a comment

Tailing Reds Can be Down-right Fussy

Sometimes “tailing” reds are aggressive; as soon as the fly lands, they nail it. Other times reds are ultra spooky; the least bit of noise, a fleeting shadow, the fly line overhead and man, they are gone. And sometimes “tailing” reds are down-right fussy. They will follow a fly forever. And you never know which type of red you’ll run it.

Yesterday I got on the flat in the morning, ready to find “tailers” during the last of the ebb. Net result? Zero. Nada. Zip. I had waited around for hours without a single tail. Damn. Very disappointing.

As the flood started, I headed back home, traveling along the inside of the sandbar, hoping to see a tail. About a half mile down the flat, I spied one. There was a redfish working the grassy edge of the bar. Eureka. I stopped, got out of the kayak and made a cast.  But something unexpected happened. My cast caused an explosion behind me?

I whirled around in time to see a fish zoom off.  Apparently my back cast had spooked a big red sitting right behind me. Worse yet, the red I had been aiming at was now gone too. Oh well. But rather than split, I decided to hang out for a minute, to see if the big fish would return.

Eight Pound Redfish

Eight Pound Redfish

A bit later I spotted a small swirl, and a hint of a tail. So I dropped the fly nearby. Strip, strip – bump? Strip, strip-bump? Something was lightly touching the fly without really grabbing it. Typically that means a small needlefish is in pursuit. On the next strip, however, I saw the real culprit. It was a big red.

He was slowly following the fly, nipping at it. Crazy. And in a second he would be close enough to see me too. I stopped the retrieve. He swam forward, ate the fly, and turned to the left, setting the hook. Great fight. Good runs. The boga reported eight pounds. Yes sir, “tailing” reds can be damn fussy.

Posted in Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Kayak / SUP Fishing, Tailing Redfish | Leave a comment

“Tailing” Redfish

Two days back we had a morning low tide. Perfect for finding a tailing red. But we also had a cold front coming. And that would kill the fishing for sure. So I decided to get out early in the hopes of finding fish before the front arrived.

Tailing Red

Tailing Red

I left the ramp before 7AM, paddled out to the Harbor, and then poled down the flats searching for tails. It was a good long way before I found any. Three “tails” to be exact. At that point the tide was in its final hours, and I could see the front bearing down from the northwest.

I carefully climbed off the board and waded slowly toward the nearest tail. Luckily for me that red didn’t hear me coming, and didn’t spook when I cast to him. Then my luck kicked up another notch. This red was in an aggressive mood.  Instantly he grabbed the fly – a small orange crab creation. Bang, the fish turned, and shot across the knee deep flat. Good fight. Not a huge fish, but it felt super to get a “tailing” redfish before the front arrived.

 Orange Crab Fly


Orange Crab Fly

Posted in Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Kayak / SUP Fishing, Tailing Redfish | Leave a comment