Salt Water Fly Fishing in Shallow Waters

Salt Water Fly Fishing in Shallow Waters


(upbeat island music) – Welcome to the Orvis
Guide to Fly Fishing. I’m your host, Tom Rosenbauer, and in this episode I
wanna share something with you that I really
love, and that’s saltwater fly fishing
in shallow water. It’s mostly sight
fishing, which nearly every fly fisher loves. It’s hunting the fish. You see the fish,
you sneak up on ’em, you present a fly
to ’em, and then you’re off to the races. It’s great fun. Hope you enjoy the show. Stay with us. (peaceful upbeat music) – [Man] Now you got him. – [Second Man] Oh, wow. – [Man] Ee-Hee! – [Woman] You’re so tame
when you get caught. – [Tom] ‘Cause this
is the way you cast. (music ends) – [Announcer] This show
has been brought to you by Orvis Rod and Tackle, Ontario, yours to discover, Ontario’s Algoma region,
where Huron and Superior meet. (island drum music) – Saltwater fly fishing
can be long bouts of drifting, looking,
waiting, anticipating. When you finally
get onto the fish, that’s when everything explodes. It’s a big ocean out here. The first thing you have to do is find the kind of
habitat that both the fish and their prey like. In saltwater, shallow
areas predator fish, like bonefish,
redfish, and stripers will congregate to
search for prey. But, like in a freshwater lake, not all shallow water
areas hold fish. What’s critical of
locating fish is finding the right structure or
habitat that the prey prefers. Shallow water holds much
more of the important food sources, such as
crabs, shrimp, and bait fish than deep water. This is what draws
the game fish we seek. Additionally, some
species of game fish come into the shallows to
escape larger predators such as sharks. Anything that juts
into the water and provides a haven for
prey like bait fish or crabs is a likely place. Jetties, rocky
shorelines, and even docks can be places to
find saltwater fish. And even a seemingly
monotonous and barren beach can be read like a trout stream. There are clues that indicate
fish holding structure, both on land and in the water. On beaches, look for
points, sandbars, or little bays where bigger
fish can pen in bait fish. In an otherwise
featureless shoreline, it’s at least a
good place to start. Of course you always look
first for fish feeding on bait fish near the surface, but you don’t always see that. In places we call
flats, or large expanses of shallow water,
first look for signs that fish have been feeding. Bonefish leave depressions
in the mud or sand when they root for
crabs and shrimp, and because the layer
underneath oxidizes really quickly from dark to
light, the darker the marks, the more recently bonefish
have been in the area. Also look for
patches of weeds or depressions on the
flats that hold crabs, shrimp, and bait fish. Mangroves always hide
food for bonefish, tarpon, barracuda, sharks, and redfish. So always search
out places with lots of mangroves in the tropics,
or at least patches of ’em. Besides structure,
there are other ways of locating game
fish in the shallows. Birds diving on bait
fish is one of the best. It’s amazing how
quickly birds will find feeding fish and dive
on the bait fish they push to the surface. Look for bait fish
jumping from the water, fish rising to the surface,
just like trout in a stream, or tails or fins sticking
out of the water. These are the quickest
ways to locate feeding game fish. Inner tidal zones are some
of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They’re packed with shrimp,
and crabs, and bait fish, and all other kinds of life. They’re often too dry, or
the water’s too shallow for game fish at low tide. As the tide rises,
on an incoming tide, the game fish then come in in
search of these prey items. Game fish respond to
the tides and follow a rising tide into the
shallows to get at creatures they can’t get at low tide. The shallow water of
low tide also makes it harder for prey to
escape, because crabs, shrimp, and bait
fish have little room to maneuver in the shallows. Outgoing tides also
flush prey from marshes and creeks, bringing
these food sources to game fish that wait
in slightly deeper water. In general, any amount
of water movement produces good fishing,
and whether the outgoing or the incoming tide is better really varies from
location to location. Okay, now that we
understand what attracts game fish into shallow
water, let’s examine how we fly fish for them. – [Man] Nice bonefish. – [Tom] Yes. If you’ve done any
saltwater fishing, you may have caught
fish with a lure, like I’m doing here. Fly fishing in saltwater
is just another way of fishing, just another
way of getting the lure to the fish. In spin fishing, you
have a weighted lure. This is a lead jig,
and you have skinny monofilament line. The weight of the lure
pulls the skinny line off the reel and
takes it out there. In fly fishing, it’s
not that much different. You’ve got a lure
attached to a piece of monofilament line,
except I can’t get this lure very far by itself. It won’t pull line
off from reel. So instead, I cast
this thick fly line. It has mass, and this
is actually what I cast. I cast the line, not the fly. So the term, casting a
fly, is really a misnomer. You’re casting the
line, the fly just goes along for the ride. You can cast farther
and cover more water with a lure on a spin
rod, but we can imitate the same prey on a fly rod. Because you can’t
get as much distance with a fly rod, it’s
more of a stalking game, where you try to get
close to the fish and make short, accurate casts. That’s part of the
excitement of fly fishing. It’s a more intimate
and challenging way of catching fish in saltwater. In shallow water fly
fishing, the fish almost always move,
so casts need to be quick and accurate. You often have only one
shot at a feeding fish, so you have to make it count. Look at all those
fish coming at us. There’s bonefish everywhere. Everywhere,
everywhere, everywhere, and they’re all
around us and it’s very, very frustrating
when you have the… (reel clicking) There’s a shark in there too. That fish got off. (energetic bluegrass music) Saltwater rods are
beefier in the butt, so that you can fight big fish, and they also throw
a bigger size line. You need that heavier
line size to cast into the wind, and
throw the bigger flies that you’re throwing
in saltwater. For smaller bonefish,
small striped bass, redfish, and speckled
trout, fish up to about 10 pounds, an eight
weight rod is about right. The same rod you might
use for freshwater bass. When you get into heavier
winds, bigger flies, and bigger fish, like big
striped bass, small tarpon, barracuda, sharks, and
permit from 10 to 50 pounds, a nine weight or a 10 weight
rod is a better choice. For most shallow water
fishing, a floating eye is all you need. But there are times when
you’ll need an intermediate or fast sinking line,
especially in deep channels with lots of current, or
when fishing deep drop-offs. Leaders for shallow water
saltwater fly fishing are pretty simple. For most of the fishing
you do a nine foot 12 pound knotless
leader is all you need. Reels are a lot more
critical in saltwater fly fishing than they are
in freshwater fishing. You need a reel that’ll
handle at least 150 to 200 yards of backing,
so it’s gonna be a bigger reel. It needs to have a
stronger drag to tire those bigger fish down. A large arbor can
take in line quicker. If you have a fish
that runs a long way and then runs back at
you, you wanna be able to gather that line
really quickly. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) – Once you find what
habitat the fish are on, then it’s a matter
of stalking ’em, and that’s the fun part. Whether you’re stalking
fish on foot or from a boat, there
are things you can do to avoid scaring fish,
and to present the fly in the proper manner. Even large game fish
are spooked by boats and by fly lines
landing near them, so always try to
position yourself on the outside of a school. And if you can tell
which direction the fish are moving,
always try to have them moving toward you. So, Jim, we’ve got a bunch
of fish working in here in a fairly tight area,
so what’s the strategy in fishing like this? – Well, you’ve got
fish that are probably taking worms that
are right in this, in this region here. We’re gonna come
in and try to have good casts in here. But I don’t want to get
right in the middle of it. I just wanna stand on,
just on the outside of ’em. – So we’re gonna stay on
the edge of the school that’s feeding in here, not
run right in the middle. – Right, ’cause if we
drive through the middle we’re gonna put these fish down. – [Tom] Sometimes you’ll
see signs on the surface like fish waking, or
sticking their tails and dorsal fins in the
air when in shallow water, but, often, you have to
spot them below the surface. Polarized sunglasses with
amber, copper, or rose tints are best, and it’s
essential to wear a hat to keep bright
light off your eyes. Most fish that you
stalk will be moving, so pay attention to any
movement below the surface. Look for these things: nervous water, where a riffle
runs contrary to the wind, shapes in the water that
move, the flash of a fish turning on its side to
feed, or the glint of a fin sticking above the water. Learn to recognize the
shape and color of the fish you’re looking for. Bonefish can range from
almost white, to blueish-gray, to almost black. Permit and barracuda are the
same shade with a black tail. Redfish look rusty
colored, and striped bass and tarpon are typically
blueish-gray or green. Fish are easiest to spot
on bright, sunny days over light bottoms,
and difficult to spot over mixed bottoms
or grass beds. It sometimes helps to
watch the light spots in between darker patches
for a fish passing through. One of the things you
wanna do when you’re stalking fish in shallow,
flat water like this is to move carefully, move slowly. Shuffle your feet and
try not to push a wake in front of you. Fish can sense that
wake in the water and they know you’re coming. You don’t wanna just stride
right out into the flat, ’cause you will scare the fish. What you hope for
is to have the fish coming at you. That’s the best shot
because you throw the fly in front of them and
then the fly looks like it’s escaping from the fish. If you don’t get that shot,
if you get a crossing shot, that’s not quite as good
but it’s still decent. The worst shot of all
is a going away shot, where the fish are
going away from you, ’cause you have to
pretty much throw over their back and then
the fly comes back at ’em. Once in a while they’ll
take it that way. You take the shot anyway. Poling a flats boat
is a superb skill and the best guides
can sneak up on a fish with barely a sound. But fishing with a
guide is a team effort. You have to do your part,
not only with casting and presenting the fly,
but also by keeping noise to a minimum. And if you’re
fishing with a buddy, make sure you not only
help look for fish, but keep track of
his or her line to make sure there
are no tangles if a big fish
decides to take line. (energetic bluegrass music) When you’re fishing in
a boat with a guide, whether it’s a flats boat
or a big off-shore boat, you always wanna be
able to communicate both distance and direction. So, direction, you use
the points of the clock. Straight off the
bow is always 12:00. This way is always 9:00. This way is always 3:00,
with the other points in between. So you both can communicate. You’ve got a relative
frame of reference. The other thing
you need to be able to communicate with
your guide is distance. So what you do is
you make a cast. How long was that cast? – [Greg] 35 feet. – 35 feet. Okay, it looks
like 35 feet to me, so we’re both in agreement. Now, when Greg says,
“Bonefish at 11:00, 35 feet,” I know it’s gonna be
that length of line in that direction. One of the problems
some anglers have is they forget
the boat’s moving. The fly won’t move
until all the slack in the line has been removed. So make sure that
if the boat’s moving toward the fish when
you present the fly, that you immediately take up
all the slack in the line. Now that you’re in position,
let’s talk about ways that you, on your own,
or you and your guide can work together as a
team to place the fly as naturally as possible. Once you see a moving
fish, where should you put the fly in
relation to that fish? In shallow water
you wanna lead it by just a little bit. You sometimes even
wanna put the fly right on the fish’s head, or
right in front of his head. The fly’s gonna sink
quickly to the fish’s level. When you get in deeper
water it’s more like a game of chess, where
you’re strategic, or it’s more like
shooting a bird in that you’ve gotta let that fly
sink to the fish’s level. It’s gonna take longer, so
you have to lead that fish. Try to figure out
where it’s gonna be. Let the fly sink to the
fish so that you can begin stripping
right when the fly’s at the fish’s level. Once you get the fly
close to the fish your next decision is
how to retrieve it. Some fish will rush right
over and grab the fly when it lands, which
makes your job simple. But most times,
that doesn’t happen. Where you present the fly,
and how you retrieve it is usually a lot more important than the fly
pattern you have on. So you need to experiment
with retrieves. Sometimes a little bit of
slow, steady bump, bump, bump, sometimes a very slow retrieve,
sometimes a very fast, aggressive strip works better. You never know what’s
gonna work, so you have to keep experimenting until
you crack the code. In saltwater, instead
of imitating insects we imitate prey like
crustaceans and bait fish. They might range from
tiny shrimp imitations for bonefish,
permit, and redfish to large bait fish flies
that imitate such fish as herring and mullet. Crab flies are especially
effective in shallow waters, as most game fish find it
very hard to resist a crab. When we return we’ll learn
some of the basic casts you need to get to the
fish, and how to handle them once they take the fly. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) – Casting in saltwater
is so important. It’s more important than in
any other kind of fishing. Not only does the double
haul help you with distance, it also helps you
cast into the wind. Let’s go to my friend,
Pete Kutzer, for some solid tips on the double haul. – There are times when
we do have to gain a little bit more line speed. Let’s say we’re dealing
with windy conditions, casting larger flies,
maybe a little bit more distance, and that’s
when the double haul is gonna come in play. A lot of people think it’s
just a saltwater cast. Believe it or not, I
use the double haul whenever I cast,
say, over 30 feet. It actually takes
a lot of strain off of our casting hand. It makes that cast easier
when you’re dealing with those longer distances. Before you start the double
haul you wanna make sure that you can get that
pick up and lay down cast consistently, nice,
smooth, tight loops, and your shooting line
consistently as well. Once you start to shoot
line then we can think about that double haul, but
first we need to understand how this cast works. When we make a basic
back cast, we’re starting with that forearm,
bringing that rod back, then applying that
little pop to a stop, or that little flick. Then when we come forward
we’re doing the same thing, just in the opposite direction. Think pop to a
stop, pop to a stop with a smooth
acceleration in between. When I start to haul,
the haul actually does the same thing as
that flick to a stop. I’m gonna lock out
my wrist and just tug on the line and you’re
gonna notice that that line starts to jump
behind me and in front of me. There’s one key part, though,
we have to think about with this double haul, and
that’s the re-position. After we tug on this line
we have to drift back to set up for that haul
on the forward cast. So we come back,
haul, and then drift, set up, you know, maybe a
haul of 18 to 24 inches, then haul and drift
on the forward cast. Haul and drift, come
forward, haul and drift. When practicing hauling,
I like to practice one side at a time. I like to make that haul
and that re-position and let that line
set on the ground, then haul and re-position
in front of me, working with that same
consistent length of line. When you’re casting,
or actually fishing, you’re gonna do the same
thing, just you’re not gonna let it touch. You make a couple hauls
and false casts in between. It’s a little bit more
of an aggressive haul, not too much more. So we haul, re-position,
haul, re-position, then when I deliver
that cast I’m gonna make that nice haul
down by my pocket. Remember to feather
that line back up underneath that finger,
closing that bail, and then we can start to
strip that line back in. Once you’ve learned the
basics of the double haul, now we have to begin
to try and fine tune that double haul. Remember, when we’re
saltwater fishing speed and accuracy
is of the essence. We wanna get that fly
to that fish right away, so we don’t wanna
false cast a lot. So there’s a couple
things that we can do. Haul, shoot a
little bit of line, haul, shoot that line, now back underneath that finger,
closing that bail. That’s gonna help get
that long cast quickly. Remember, get that
fly to the fish. Okay, you don’t have
it up in the air. As we progress with
this double haul, let’s say we’re dealing
with windy conditions and we gotta make
that nice, tight loop and deal with that wind,
what we wanna start to do is make this haul
a nice, smooth transition from one haul to the
next, and our hauling hand actually starts to move in
a little bit of a circle. We’re gonna haul, re-position,
haul, re-position, haul, re-position. We’re gonna keep
that hand moving. So, nice and
smooth, re-position, nice and smooth, re-position,
keeping that hand continuously moving,
and that can help us deliver that fly out
quickly to that fish. When dealing with
quick moving fish we wanna get that fly
in front of that fish as soon as possible. If that fish is, let’s
say, at a 90 degree angle, directly off my
right-hand shoulder and I was just casting
straight out in front of me, I can cut that angle in
half, maybe make a cast at a 45, then
quickly to that 90. So I pick this line up,
cut that angle in half, then turn and deliver
that fly out to that fish as quickly as possible. If that fish was, let’s
say, beyond 90 degrees, what I could do is make a
false cast in front of me and make a back cast, delivering
that fly to that fish. Pick it up, cast in this
direction, then deliver that fly out behind
me to that fish. And that’s how you can
get that fly quickly in front of those targets. – [Tom] In saltwater
it’s important to avoid raising the rod tip to strike. This gives you a
bad hooking angle, plus if the fish misses the fly, you don’t wanna launch
your fly into the air. Instead, try to
always strip strike, which is basically just
making a long strip. If you miss the fish it
might jump on the fly again, and if you hook the
fish, once it’s tight to the fly, then you
can raise your rod tip. A good rule of thumb
is to never strike until you feel the
weight of the fish. Give it a long strip,
then raise the rod tip. Let’s hear how my friend,
veteran bonefish guide, Jason Franklin of H2O
Outfitters describes it. – One of the key
things with presenting to saltwater fish,
specifically bonefish, is that when you strip,
what a lot of people do, and in saltwater we
call this trousing, is that when they feel
the fish they lift. In saltwater you
don’t wanna do that. It pretty much guarantees
that you’re not gonna catch the fish. What you need to do in
saltwater is what we call a strip strike. So you present at the fish, strip, strip, notice the
rod tip’s in the water, strip, feel the fish. Once you feel the
fish, then you lift. And by the strip, you’re
normally setting the hook. (upbeat music) (energetic bluegrass music) – [Tom] Fly fishing in
saltwater in-shore shallows is a lot of fun. You have to stalk the game fish, you have to make precise casts
so you don’t spook the fish, and you have to fight
the fish properly so you don’t lose ’em. Best of all, this type of
fishing is very visual. You’ll usually see the
fish take your fly. For most anglers, that’s
the ultimate thrill and challenge of this
kind of fly fishing. In-shore fly
fishing can be found almost anywhere in the world. Usually you do it from a
boat, but in many places you can do it from
shore, wading. It’s relatively
inexpensive to get started and it’s really easy to do. I hope you’ve enjoyed
this week’s show on shallow water fly
fishing in saltwater. Thanks very much
for letting me share my passion with you. Hope you enjoyed it,
and if you’ve never treated yourself to
shallow water fly fishing in saltwater, you
really should try it because it’s a lot of fun. – [Announcer] This show
has been brought to you by Orvis Rod and Tackle, Ontario, yours to discover, Ontario’s Algoma region,
where Huron and Superior meet. (relaxing upbeat music)

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