The Flats, Light Bottom vs. Dark Bottom

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Water temperatures and seasons play an important role for fly fishermen fishing the saltwater flats.

Saltwater fish prefer to utilize different types of flats throughout the year to maximize their comfort and food intake. When I was new to the saltwater side of the sport, I never gave it much thought on why my guide was choosing to take me fishing on a light colored sandy flat, versus a grassy or dark bottom flat. It wasn’t my expertise, so I just went along with everything. Quite a few years have past since my rookie fishing days in saltwater. I’ve logged many more trips on the saltwater flats, and I’ve taken the time to pick the brains of the saltwater guides, so I could better understand why they choose one type of flat over the other during the year. Below is a quick recap of information on what I’ve gathered from numerous saltwater guides on this subject.

Fly fishing on saltwater flats is very similar to bass fishing on large reservoirs, in the fact that water temperature is critical in both for consistently locating fish and productive water. Both freshwater and saltwater fish strive to maintain stable underwater enviornments. When water conditions change, so does the habits and behavior of the game fish we’re targeting, as well as, the food sources they prey upon. Fly fisherman that understand this, are quick to match their fishing tactics with the present conditions on the water, because they know it’s critical for staying on top of the fish and in the action.

Light bottomed flats reflect a large portion of the sunlight. When water temperatures are at the extreme end of the comfort zone of saltwater fish, generally during the months of July, August and September, fish will often prefer to frequent light bottomed or sandy coral flats because the water temperatures will be a little cooler. When fly anglers have the option, it can be best to scout and fish these light bottom flats first, over other dark and grassy bottom flats.

On the other hand, when a strong cold front comes through, drastically dropping water temperatures or during the winter months of the year, when water temperatures are consistently colder, saltwater anglers should begin turning their attention more towards scouting and fishing the dark bottomed flats. These dark bottomed, grassy flats,

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10 Tips to Keep You Catching Fish During Your Fly Fishing Travels

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It’s easy to get out of your game when you’re traveling and fly fishing a new piece of water.

It has happened to me plenty of times, where I find myself fly fishing and going against all my fishing catching principles. Stick to what works for you on your home water and keep your confidence, and you’ll be landing beautiful fish in no time. Below are ten principles that I always make sure I live by when I’m fly fishing abroad on unfamiliar waters.

1. Spend your time fishing productive water, don’t waist your time fishing subpar water.

2. Look for the 3 C’s (Cover, Current, Cusine) to locate the hotspots.

3. Always position yourself where you can get your best presentation and drift.

4. Have your fly rig setup correctly for the water you’re fishing (nymph rig set correctly, long enough leader for spooky risers, correct tippet size, ect).

5. Take the time to figure out the food source the fish are keying in on. Take regular bug samplings throughout the day and keep an eye out for aquatic insects on the water.

6. Always fish with confidence and fish hard. Persistence usually pays off.

7. Don’t be afraid to move on if the water your fishing is slow. Even pack up and

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Two Anglers Are Often Better Than One

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You can’t enjoy camaraderie on the water by yourself.

There’s no high-fives, no passing the victory flask around, and worst of all, it’s awfully hard to snap a quality photograph of you and a prized catch. Wait a minute, I take the latter back. It is possible to get a good photo by yourself if you’ve figured out a way to strap a tri-pod to your back and you’re also willing to lug it around all day. That being said, the main reason I think two anglers are often better than one, is because it allows you to work as a team, and that generally makes it much easier to find success on the water.

Louis and I have had pretty consistent success fishing together over the years. Even during really tough fishing conditions we generally find a way to put enough fish in the net during the day to call it a win. The biggest reason for this is because we’re always working together to decipher the fish code. Fishing as a team, we figure out what the fish are feeding on, where they’re primarily located, and what are the hot fly patterns. We make a point to never tie on the same patterns first thing in the morning, and quite often,

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Organizing Your Bonefish Fly Box Makes For A Better Day Of Fishing

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I’ve found myself, more than once, staring into my fly box as if I’d wandered to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, with no idea why I was there. That’s fine, unless you’re surrounded by feeding bonefish and your guide is wailing in tongues. Even if your not under pressure to make a quick fly choice, having your flies organized in a logical fashion will help you choose the right fly for the conditions and that means catching more fish. Here are some tips on how I organize my bonefish box and how I use that organization to make better fly choices.

Keep It Simple
Bonefishing is not generally a match-the-hatch situation. Bonefish are highly opportunistic and presentation usually trumps pattern. I know guys that carry a thousand flies on the flats boat. They might fish three of them in a day. I keep it to one box. I probably cram a hundred flies into it but that one box has everything I need.

Making Smart Choices
When paring down your fly selection it’s important to understand

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The Importance of Changing Flies on the Water

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I’ll usually fish for about thirty minutes with my first rig of the day, and if I’m not getting any hookups, I’ll begin regularly changing my flies out until I find a pattern that works. The willingness to change your flies on the water when your not getting bites, is often the key factor in determining whether you have a good or bad day of fishing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone walk up to me in the parking lot at the end of the day and complain about how the fish weren’t biting. While I, on the other hand, had caught and released dozens of fish in the same section of water. Most of the time that discouraged angler stuck with a few patterns during the day, and didn’t change flies enough times to find out what patterns were really working. How do I know this? I know this because I was that discouraged angler many times early on, in my career.

It can be very obvious to us that changing flies is the answer when we’re able to sight-fish and see fish rejecting our flies. But many times you’ll find yourself fishing in conditions where sight-fishing isn’t an option. A few examples is when your fishing fast moving choppy water, water with significant glare, and stained water conditions. None of these will provide anglers the opportunity to get visual feedback. In these conditions, anglers should change their flies when they’re not getting bites for extended periods of time. If you know your rig is set up correctly (correct tippet size, fly size, split-shot amount, or indicator placement) for the specific water your fishing, and your making good presentations, a light bulb should be going off in your head telling you to change fly patterns if your not getting bites.

Sometimes you’ll find a single pattern will

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5 Reasons Why Turbulent Water Can Provide Great Trout Fishing

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Many of my beginner level clients, struggle when it comes to reading trout water. More specifically, they find it difficult when they have to compare two different sections or types of water, and quickly decide which one of them should yield them a higher percentage for success. In turn, I get asked the question often, “What’s the type of water I like to target first, when I have the opportunity.” I usually respond with “If I have a choice, and I’m looking for consistent fishing locations year round, I prefer to target turbulent water (faster moving) over calm water (slow moving).” It’s the riffles, pocket water and main current seams that fly anglers will generally find the turbulent water, and that’s the kind of places that not only will provide everything a trout needs to survive, but furthermore, the trout will usually be less picky as well (easier to catch), since the water is moving more swiftly. Below are five reasons why fly anglers should search out and fly fish turbulent water when they’re fly fishing for trout.

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The Eat

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Fly fishing is all about the eat.

I remember a day floating the Snake River, about two decades ago. There was a freshly fallen tree jutting out at ninety degrees to the bank. Deep in the safe confines of its branches was a nice cutthroat, rising steadily. 

“It’s an impossible fish,” my guide told me but I can’t resist a rising fish.

It took a couple of tries but I made a beautiful curve cast that fed the fly in through the branches and the big cuttie ate. Of course, the guide was right, it was an impossible fish. At least it was impossible to land but I got him to eat and that’s all I cared about.

I still feel that way. I never cry over a fish I don’t land and I don’t count the ones I do. I just like to make them eat. For me that’s a win. I know it, the fish knows it. Everything else is secondary. As rewarding as the eat is, not all eats are equal. I like feeding tough fish and I like a savage eat.

At the point where those two things intersect, you will find my favorite freshwater fish. The Golden Dorado.

I was hooked before I ever got started with dorado. I’ll never forget the first dorado that ate my fly. It scared the pants off me. I’d never seen anything like it. Not even a barracuda eat compared. Pure, unchecked aggression. It was fabulous. Factor in that the dorado is a truly difficult fish to fool, and by far the most physically demanding I’ve fished for, and you have an eat of epic proportions. I never thought I’d best that first dorado eat, until last week.

I was fishing the Upper Parana river

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Beating The Seasick Blues

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I get seasick looking a pictures of the ocean. That might surprise you, seeing as I spend a lot of time on boats fly fishing in saltwater. I have significant damage to my inner ear as a result of a serious sinus infection and I can barely walk a straight line on dry land. It’s something I’ve learned to deal with and if you are prone to seasickness, so can you. Don’t let a little queasiness keep you from an epic fishing adventure.

If you don’t get seasick, I’m happy for you, but don’t stop reading yet. I have a little tip for you too. Don’t be an asshole! Seasickness flat out sucks. I can only compare it to food poisoning in misery. So if your buddy starts feeling bad on the boat, don’t give him a load of shit. He’s a man! Because he knows how bad it’s going to be and he’s out there anyway. Know this with absolute certainty, if you rip me when I’m sick I will make it my personal mission to cover every inch of you with my vomit. We’ll see who gets the last laugh.

I had the pleasure of fishing with Captain Ron Doerr out of Jupiter, FL the other day. Capt. Ron has been running blue water trips for about thirty years and for twenty of them he battled seasickness. He eventually beat it, but I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be sick every day for twenty years. That’s tough. Real man tough!

I did pretty well on my day with Capt. Ron and much of it was thanks to him. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to fish with a captain who understands. How you handle the boat makes a huge difference and Capt. Ron understands that from personal experience.

Before I get into tips that will help you beat seasickness it’s good to understand why it happens. Seasickness is literally in your head. It’s a result of your brain receiving conflicting sensory input. When your eyes see the relatively still world of the boat and your inner ear senses the rocking of the ocean, the brain is confused. This confusion leads to an unconscious mismanagement of the digestive system. The stomach over produces acid while the rest of the digestive system is shut down, and voila! You’re puking.


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Familiar Waters, New Predators

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“The last thing I expected to see was this big male brown trout becoming food.”

By this time, in any normal year, I am done with trout fishing. Not that I don’t enjoy it but water temperatures here in the South reach near-lethal levels in the summer and it doesn’t feel responsible to target trout under those conditions. Fortunately, a couple of my local rivers offer me a stellar alternative.

As local lakes heat up, striped bass move into the rivers for cooler water and, I suppose, to satisfy their anadromous instincts. These fish are big, strong fighters, and difficult to target with a fly. Pretty much everything I like in a fish. Once June rolls around, I spend most of my local fishing time focusing on them.

The problem is, this has been anything but a normal year. My local river, the Chattahoochee, has been a raging torrent of mud since early spring. Heavy rains, nearly every day, have kept the river un-fishable for almost the entire season. By last week, I desperately needed some time in my drift boat so I planned a quick trip to a favorite Tennessee tailwater. My buddies Geoff Murphy and S.C.O.F. editor Dave Grossman joined me for a two-day float.

Repair work on the downstream dam have the river on a low flow and rain has colored the water. Conditions are far from perfect but I’m excited to target some of the big brown trout that inhabit these waters. I showed up with a pretty anemic selection of dry flies and nymphs and two boxes full of big streamers. I’m ready for a challenge.

Geoff and Dave have been picking up some fish on beetle patterns and suffers but I haven’t had so much as a look at my streamer. Geoff gets a rainbow in the head of a big deep pool and quickly releases it. As soon as the fish hits the water a commotion starts.

A large dark form comes up out of the deep hole and runs the little rainbow down.

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Taming Your Buck Fever

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You’ve stumbled upon a sexy piece of water to find a big ‘ol trout feeding in the tail of the run.

It’s one of the biggest trout you have ever seen. The one that sends chills down your spine. Without a second’s hesitation you rip line from your reel and begin your back cast as you stare intently at this fish moving side to side in the current. You judge your distance as best as you can in the moment and you fling your flies behind you… And this is where things typically start to go wrong. Did you get tangled in a tree limb behind you? Or worse, did you catch some of the Rhodo creeping over the water on the far bank? Or maybe you just made a bad cast and piled your line up, right on top of the trout that is now hunkered back under the undercut bank? If not, then that’s great! But, the vast majority of us tend to get ourselves into trouble when we are faced with such a situation.

Buck fever is the damnedest thing. It still happens to me, and will probably continue to plague me. It happens to all of us. We’re having a great day, fishing away, casting smoothly, and we’re aware of what’s going on around us. Then we catch sight of the fish that haunts our dreams, and that adrenaline immediately hits our bloodstream. Suddenly, it’s as if we’ve morphed into a raging monkey swinging a football bat. We forget where we are, flies sling wildly through the air, and we stumble over every little pebble. We even bury 3/0 hooks into our backs. It’s a wonder that we don’t completely drown ourselves sometimes. As insane as this can get sometimes, it’s also completely normal.

Normal as it may be, here are a few tips to keep you grounded and put together so you can make your best presentations when they really count:

Stop! : Slow down grasshoppa! You feel that tingly feeling rushing over your body? That’s called adrenaline and it’s a monster. It will ruin the best of casters. Now is not the time

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