Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 41 No 3 - Page 29

The Fly Guy I by Pete Cooper, Jr. SIGHT FISHING Sans Skiff t’s no secret that most folks who fly fish in saltwater prefer to see their targets before they make a cast. That’s understandable, though the practice is more dependent on favorable weather and water conditions than speculative blind-casting – which allows you to experience the unannounced “Thump!” But that aside, in recent years sight-fishing – for redfish especially – has become closely associated with flats skiffs, and flats skiffs leave a lot to be desired when it comes to other types of fishing. Those “other types” are a primary reason why you see so many “bay-boats” along much of the northern Gulf Coast. They open a lot of doors, inshore and offshore alike, but even folks who own one of these versatile craft enjoy occasional sight- fishing trips, and every now and then they must charter a skipper and his flats skiff in order to get themselves a good dose of it. There are other ways. The first is to select an area that is both suitable for the bay boat and conducive to the exercise. I was graced with various 20-foot demo boats from OMC for several years some time back, and while they served several purposes very nicely, they were a long way from flats skiffs! However, much of the bays around my part of the lower Mississippi River Delta were characterized by ample water just a short cast from the grass shorelines. By moving along those with the bow mounted trolling motor set at as slow and steady a speed as possible, I could get within reasonable casting range of a red that was showing me some bootie in the shoreline shallows. There are some special con- siderations here. First, select a stretch of shoreline that is sheltered from the wind. Besides having better visibility there, hull-slap will be much less than it would be along a shoreline that is receiving even smallish waves. Also, a big boat fairly close to the fish can alert it by the “push” being made as it moves along under even a “slow” trolling motor setting, though that seems to be lessened somewhat when the boat is in the deeper water outside of the shoreline “flats”. Whatever the case, I again avow that you should prospect at the slowest speed possible, and do not vary that speed a bit! Reds don’t especially like sudden changes of rpm’s. And set your lower unit so that the TM’s prop will neither cavitate nor “tic” on any benthic “structure” that you might come upon! The main concern here is to be as stealthy as possible – “sneaky” as in “Sneakypete” being a good description of the exercise and a very appropriate VHF call-sign that my buddies at the marina gave me many years ago. Eventually, you will come across a lovely looking inlet or pond away from the edge of the bay that is too shallow for your boat to gain. That’s when you need that pirogue/canoe/yak that you have back at the house, and “piggy- backing” such a craft in my skiffs and bass-boats was one of the main reasons for much of my early success in such water. Take heed, even if it does require a little extra effort. Let’s see… “piggy-backed paddle- craft” were responsible for a red that was the largest I was to catch on a fly in inshore waters for over 35 years, as well as my first fly-caught specks. My pirogue was also the main reason for my best catch of reds in one day – which I do not intend to relate, since although I did release most of them, the total number was almost obscene. Those were not sight-fished, nor were they taken on fly, but the point is there – lots of fish can be found in areas that larger craft cannot access, especially on low tides. The practice also resulted in a number of pretty fine duck hunts, though, that may not be especially relevant here. It also opens up a lot of area that is too distant for you, if you are so much a purist as to choose to paddle all the way from your put-in spot and back again. Wading is another good option for sneaking along a grass shoreline. On the other hand, in many areas where bottom is made up of soft mud, it can become pretty tiring really quick. Walking along the edge of that grass can be much easier on the ol’ bod, IF you don’t have to concentrate as much on where you should put your feet while looking for fish, since some areas literally demand that you put your feet directly onto a clump of grass. Miss one, and you can quickly go knee-deep into the goop! Still, around bays with extensive reaches of soft bottoms, walking along the grass can be a much better option than wading. In both of these cases, however, should you get bogged down, removing the stuck foot can create a fairly loud “Slurp!” That can spook a nearby fish, so be aware. And NEVER wade barefooted! One thing you should be astutely aware of if you decide to bail out of your 22-foot bay boat and go wadefishing, is the tide. It can bite you when it’s both coming and going, and in areas where there’s a fair degree of range between the lows and the highs, you should know what it’s doing at all times. A really good and well-seasoned guide and I didn’t pay enough attention one morning after we got into a gang of very visible reds that were craving our flies and making fine footage for an upcoming TV show. We ended up having to dig a 28-foot Pro-Line out of the sand by hand. Not fun! Pay attention. (The TV show turned out to be great, though, if that matters.). So there are options to flats skiffs, should you get an itch to sight-fish. Try G C F ‘em – they are all time-proven. JULY • AUGUST • SEPTEMBER 2 0 1 7 29