More Than Just A Cast

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Owen Plair

When throwing flies at redfish, many pieces of the puzzle have to come together to make a successful day.

You may be able to throw a fly line 100 feet, but that doesn’t always mean you’re gonna have a killer day on the water. The most important thing when hunting redfish in the shallows is communicating with the guy on the platform. He’s not only poling you around on the skiff, but also spotting, and putting you on fish. The chemistry between the guy on the poling platform and the angler on the bow is the most important part of the day because you have to work together for the best results.

Communication is key and that’s why the bow clock was invented. If you are not familiar with the bow clock, it’s a simple idea. Picture the deck of the boat from above. Now overlay the face of a clock with noon at the very point of the bow. Nine o’clock will be ninety degrees to the left and three o’clock ninety degrees to the right. A fish located at twelve o’clock will be straight ahead of the boat and a fish at nine o’clock will be directly to the left.

If you’re new to saltwater, then you should always go over the bow clock with your guide or fishing partner before fishing. Make sure you both have the same understanding from 9 o’clock all the way to 3 o’clock and can adjust quickly while sight casting to fish.

This clock is not only good for casting direction but can also be very important for situations when spotting moving fish on the flats. I like to have my angler point his rod when I call out a clock direction. It helps us stay together and helps him see the fish. Getting the hang of the bow clock isn’t hard and will help dramatically in sight casting to fish from the skiff.

The next key factor is gauging distance. If the angler cannot see the fish, accurately judging distance is key to a good presentation. It can be hard, at first, to judge a forty foot cast compared to a sixty foot cast. When getting used to sight casting, there are visual guides that can help.

One of the best ways to judge distance is to use the length of the your leader as a guide. In most redfish situations you are using a 9-10 foot leader. The leader is a handy visual aid for judging your casting distance. Four times your leader is forty feet.

Another good way to judge distance is the length of your shooting head, which in most saltwater lines is around thirty feet. Some newer lines even change color throughout the weight forward portion of the line, showing you where the head ends and the running line begins.

Communication about fish you’re seeing and getting on the same page is crucial. Your best shot is always at a fish you can see. Plenty can go wrong when you’re casting blind. Some days fish are crushing bait, tailing, floating, or creating a push while cruising the flats. These are all visual clues which the guide, and angler, must both see to work together. Open your eyes to your surroundings. Scan the water and look for something, especially shadows.

When all else fails, and the angler cannot see the fish, use the bow clock and distance to hone in on the fish. Point your rod and work together until you can see the fish or at least are certain where to put the fly.

People ask me all the time, how far they need to cast to catch redfish. My answer is always sixty feet. In most situations, sixty feet is an effective cast. Of course there are times where 80 feet comes in handy and also many times where a 30 foot cast gets it done just as well. A good double haul is always necessary for wind

Moving the fly also takes some teamwork. The guy on the platform can see the fly better than the angler on the bow. Whether it’s a slow strip, fast strip, or a twitch, listen to your partner. I use the word strip a couple of hundred times during the day. I’m always directing the angler to vary the speed of their retrieve to suit the conditions.

When you step on the bow remember to work with your guide or fishing partner and, most of all, communicate to the fullest extent. Just being able to cast well does not mean you’re going to fish well, especially when sight casting. It’s a two person game when you’re on a flats skiff and that makes it even more rewarding landing a fish that you both worked hard for.

Owen Plair
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “More Than Just A Cast

  1. A little trick I learnt 40 years ago was to tie a small nail knot on the line 30ft from the tip. You know what is going on with distance as the knot comes through the runners and goes through your fingers.

    I don’t bother with the knot these days as I now use a drop of Loon Knot Sense

  2. I like to throw out a cast and have the man on the platform tell me how far they think it is. I have had guide call out 40 feet on a thirty foot cast where a different guide may call it out as 25. Get on the same page with distance before the action starts and have a better day.

  3. Great job, Owen. I agree with everything you said. For some years I lived next to a Florida redfish flat and I had tons more experience fishing for redfish wading, on kayaks, and on flats boats than bonefishing. People are surprised when I tell them that in my opinion redfish are a tougher quarry than bonefish, especially when redfish are cruising or hunting in singles or small numbers rather than a school. For me it took greater casting accuracy and stealth with redfish, though I admit some of that may have been a result of the pressure the fish got in lower Tampa Bay or even east coast in the Cape Kennedy area. Fishing over thick structure in the form of a grassy bottom or reedy habitat and narrow focus of feeding redfish seems to be a hallmark that is quite different from sand or marls or muddy areas where bones usually hunt.

    With most saltwater denizen, listening to the guide and doing what you are told will pay off. Your advice in this column is a great primer. I would only add: practice your casting accuracy before getting on the water with a redfish guide. There scant leeway in putting the fly where a redfish can see it and eat it for the reasons I mentioned above.

  4. This blog post is an invaluable resource for anyone keen on flats fishing, especially when hunting redfish. Your detailed breakdown of the critical elements of communication and coordination between the angler and the guide is enlightening. It underscores the fact that successful fishing is not just about individual skill but also about effective teamwork.

    The introduction of the bow clock concept is particularly fascinating. It’s a simple yet brilliant way to ensure both the guide and the angler are on the same page, particularly when spotting and casting to fish. This system seems like an essential tool for enhancing mutual understanding and precision in casting directions.

    Your tips on gauging distance and moving the fly are also incredibly helpful. Understanding how to use the length of the leader and the shooting head as visual guides for judging distance can be a game-changer in making accurate casts. The emphasis on varying the speed of the retrieve based on the guide’s feedback shows the depth of strategy involved in flats fishing.

    I also appreciate the realistic approach to casting distances and the emphasis on the double haul technique for dealing with wind conditions. This practical advice gives a clear picture of what to expect and how to prepare for a day on the flats.

    Thank you for sharing such comprehensive and practical insights into flats fishing. The emphasis on teamwork, communication, and keen observation makes this post not just informative but also inspiring for both novice and experienced anglers. I look forward to applying these techniques and strategies on my next fishing adventure!

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