Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Birding--more challenging than it looks

Birding is "on" right now, as it always is this time of year. Randy and his son Truett went out yesterday and got into birding, but didn't land a single red. Why's that, you might ask? The reasons that most people fail to catch fish under birds are all related to a single problem
--getting the redfish to see your fly. There are variations on this theme:
1) They start casting too soon, and the fish have time to move or disperse;
2) By casting too soon, they catch grass, catfish, small trout, or ladyfish––all of which accompany the redfish, and encircle them––which gives the reds even more time to move on or disperse;
3) They cast a fly that sinks so slowly that the reds, which have their heads down, never see it.

Randy and Truett are expert Laguna Madre anglers, so I had to wonder how they, of all people, came up empty-handed (not that I have :). Sometimes it's simply the weight of the fly. Indeed, Randy admitted that they had used ultra-lightweight Kingfisher spoons, which are usually a very fine redfish fly. But in deeper water (meaning calf-to-knee-deep), a lightweight spoon like the KF Spoon will flutter slowly to the bottom, giving opportunistic ladyfish and trout time to snatch the fly before the reds (which have their heads in the sand) from seeing the fly.

So, to succeed...Cast a fly that will get to the level of the redfish immediately. A Clouser works best in more than a foot of relatively grass-free water. Also, cast slightly beyond the pod. The fly typically swings toward the angler on the drop, so to get the fly in front of the fish, you need to overcast the pod by a foot or so.

Also, you need to assess where the redfish are going. Typically, they move in the same direction, sweeping the grass as a group. If you cast behind them, they'll never see it. So look at the direction the tail is pointing, and you'll be able to discern the direction of the pod's movement (the other direction). Or if you can't see the tails clearly, look at the birds, and see which way they are moving against the horizon. The birds are always oriented upwind, but the fish may be going in the opposite direction, or sideways.

And above all, get there quickly! Observe the principle of early arrival, for otherwise, the fish will move away, or explode in a cloud of mud, leaving you wishing you hadn't allowed yourself to be mesmerized by the sight of dozens of waving tails in the early morning sunlight.

On one occasion, I guided two experienced fly fishers who were stalking large pods of redfish surrounded by small trout. I said, "Don't cast before you can reach the tails. Otherwise you will catch a small trout." Well, eight trout later, the guys hadn't been patient, and every cast fell short. They walked back to boat with that hangdog look, knowing what they'd done.

Remember Omar Kyam's words, Tis many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, and maybe you will exercise the patience and discipline to make an easy play an easy play.

I am guiding three days this weekend, and hope to get some good video of birding. I will let you know.

Good luck!

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