Thursday, August 4, 2016

Extreme flyfishing, part 2

I have been guiding, or fishing for fun every weekend for the past month, and a few weekdays in between, as well. So what are the headlines? We have been catching most of our reds from 6 pm to sundown. It's the most reliable action that I've found in years, and it's the least popular time of the day to fish.

I don't keep this a secret, because the only people who are going to capitalize on it are the hardcore flyfishers. The fish are in extremely shallow water, so you can't take your boat there. Anyone with a standard boat won't be able to get within a mile of the fish. Even on my Stilt, I often have to stake the boat 200 yards from the fish. And then, they aren't there in numbers. It's very reliable flyfishing, but it's more like hunting than fishing. Are the reds hard to see? If they go shallow enough, as they often do, they are easy to see. That is, if they are in 4-5 inches of water, they're easy to spot; but if they stay in 6-8 inches of water, which is deep (believe it or not), they are more difficult to see once the sun is too low to help you see beneath the surface.

Here's the second video I've done of this action. Henry Bone (from Austin) and I fished two evenings together three weeks ago, and got into major redfish action each evening. You may have seen the first video that I did of Henry and me last year, which I posted on Youtube, and provided a link in a previous blog post. The late-feeding redfish are wildly aggressive at this time of day, and will come from three feet away in low light to grab the fly. You have to be ready for the strike, because it's fierce.

More recently--this past weekend--I guided Doug and Steven Gaunt from Dallas. They are old clients, and rank among the most successful clients in sheer numbers of fish caught year after year. We landed 19 reds and 2 trout (one 26")on Sunday, and for the Gaunts this was about average. Monday was pretty poor, but we caught 19 reds on Tuesday. Most of our success was on the sand after midday, but we had a pretty good morning on the west side at daybreak on Tuesday, finding aggressively feeding reds in thick grass. It wasn't easy fishing at any point during the three days, but the Gaunts did pretty well for two reasons: They cast well, and they prefer to wade.

I came in after our Sunday outing and spoke to another guide. He was stunned that we'd done so well. I didn't tell him why I thought we'd done so well, but I am convinced that the key to doing well with intermediate to advanced fly fishers is getting off the boat just as soon as you see the fish are turning away 40 yards out. They do this when they are cruising with their heads up, rather than feeding with their heads down, and thus able to spot the boat from 50 yards out, or more. Many guides will continue to pole, even though in my opinion it's a cruel and fruitless approach when the fish are seeing boat so far away. But that's always been my opinion, after guiding for 15 years. I may be narrow minded, having grown up stalking trout and reds on foot, but I believe that unless the fish are actively feeding with their heads down, wading is always preferable to poling, as long as the bottom is firm enough to support the angler. Unfortunately, once clients see so many fish from the boat, and believe that they cannot see fish while wading, they will prefer to remain on the boat and cast again and again to retreating fish.

Recently, I got two newcomers to wade after poling them for a couple of hours, and getting dozens of shots (without hookups). Within minutes, one of them had landed his first red on a fly rod. He exclaimed, "The reds behave so differently when I'm wading!!" I smiled because a lot of clients believe that the reds are often "not biting," when really they're simply uninterested in large objects barreling down on them.

Doug and Steve once caught over 60 reds on a single day, and they caught them all wading. Keep that in mind the next time you're on the front of a skiff and seeing the tail end of redfish, and not catching many. You might want to step off the boat and experience what redfish act like when they're not offended.

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