Fishing the Flats

I spent the day on the flats yesterday, fishing for Redfish and Permit. I came home feeling like a failure. Scratch that, I was a failure. I’m a pretty decent angler.. but Saltwater fishing with a fly or spinning rod brings out EVERY flaw in my game.

Many of my FB friends are accomplished Saltwater Anglers… to you, I have much respect. But most of my FB friends are like me, fish mostly trout or steelhead, and fishing the flats is a new arena and game.

If you consider yourself a pretty decent caster for trout, consider yourself a newbie at casting in Saltwater. Casting a 10 wt. rod with a 14 ft. leader, and a heavy little crab fly, is crazy hard.

My issue was that I kept having the leader collapse into a pile at the end of my cast, and the easily spooked fish would go bye bye. Before I come back to the Keys, I’m buying my own 10 wt. and practicing casting the leader and flies that they use here.

Another new aspect to this game.. Communicating with the guide. “STRIP!! STRIP!! SRTRRRIIIPPPP!!!” To me it means strip the fly fast and hard. In hindsight the actual meaning is to strip 1″ taps on the fly, while getting ready to nail the fish with a long hard strip set from my left hand… to know that’s what I need to do, and to actually do it, are two very different things!

As for fishing with a spinning rod, it is the easier tool to accomplish landing a flats fish… but it is still VERY difficult at times. This isn’t just blind casting a Rapala for hungry browns.

In spin fishing for Permit, you have to cast a live crab… which doesn’t cast very well, and land it five feet in front of the path of a crusing permit, not to far past it, and definitely not too short.

Then you have to account for the wind… which is always blowing, and the current, which can push your crab right out of the zone the second it lands.

Once that part is executed with perfection, if the wind or current is heavy, you have to open your bail, and stick your rod tip in the water, to avoid the crab being pulled from the Permit’s zone of sight. At the same time you are doing that, you have to keep your eye on the fish, and figure out if it has eaten yet or not… if it has eaten, you have roughly 1 second to reel in the slack and tighten down on the fish…

All the techniques I’m describing are intangibles that take years to gain the feel for. I think this is what brings good anglers to the Florida keys.. They want to fish in a place that humbles them. After years and years of guiding these flats, the guides I fished with in the past month, say they still learn new things everyday they spend on out there. I feel honored just to be here, learning from some very fishy guys, and to become part of the fraternity of anglers who have set their will against these wary fish.