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mtnbum

questions - flats

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I never fished the flats, but I had a chance to be near them this week -- I searched the archives the last few weeks and tried to figure out as much as I could without posting 20 questions.

 

I was in Boston and had one day off so I headed out to the Cape (yesterday). I spotted 5 fish and had good casting to 4/5, had some fish turn to look at the fly and two solid follows. As a total rookie, that was all pretty darned exciting!

 

Questions: how much should I lead a fish with my cast and should I have been letting the fly sink down first then strip (that's part of how far in front of the fish do I cast I guess) or start striping as soon as the cast is made and how fast should I strip?

 

I know these are basic questions, but I was least comfortable with this aspect of my approach.

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If fish are finicky/shy in clear water, like on the Brewster flats, 6-10' depending on fly. Crabs need time to settle to the bottom - so 10' for them. Let sit and DO NOT MOVE IT.

If fishing baitfish patterns then just get it there in time to settle a little - 6' in front of fish.

In other areas - down Cape - fish seem to be more aggressive. I have casted "Hail-Marys" to keeper-fish going away from me - casted right over their backs - and they took as soon as fly hit the water.

 

Stripping is a personal thing. I like long fast strips - not hell-bent-for-leather fast - just comfortably fast. I hold my rod out in front of me as far as possible to make the longest strip possible. Other fly fishermen like to let the fly "soak" and move with the current. If I can see the fish but they just won't take then I turn on the heat and strip as fast as I can so they can't get a real good look and see that it is realy a bit of fluff and not a real meal.

 

Bottom line - if thery are eating then they will take your fly.

Herb

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Sometimes everything or anything works...and sometimes nothing works. Fish can be so spooky that they flush from fly dropping 30 feet away, and other times you can bonk them right on the head (tho not often). Water, wind, and depth conditions can change that safe zone, just as the weight and size of the fly and "PLOP" factor also matter. Start by dropping 6-8 feet ahead (watch the fish for reaction), start your retreive when the fish is within 2-4 feet of the fly. And the fly type dictates different tactics, crabs versus clousers, for example.

 

One generality about stripers (and there are exceptions to all generalities) is that you most commonly need 10-20 feet minimum of "working" space (most true with streamer-type flies) for the fish to trail the fly, catch up, and finally make a decision to eat. If they catch up nose-to-the-fly and don't eat, I will try speeding up with faster, jerkier strips trying to take the fly away from the fish.. If that doesn't get an eat but the fish keeps following I will stop a few seconds, fast strip, pause again. By then you are usually so close to the fish that they are seconds away from spooking so you have to try anything/everything without bringing them closer.

 

Some might try the reverse sequence, trying the pause to draw the eat before trying the faster-escape sequence. With a head-weighted fly like a clouser, stopping the retreive can cause the fly to drop head down into the sand, imitating a sand eel diving into the sand to escape. That head-down drop into the sand can trigger an aggressive eat. Having the room to try all the possibilities is important.

 

The reason that "working space" needs mentioning is that close fish or very short casts just don't often work because there just isn't enough "working room" to get through that sequence before the fish is too close. But then again, you never know. Conditions and fish temperment vary widely hour to hour. It helps to have lots of shots to get feel for what works best right there at that time. That is the fun of it.

 

Peter Patricelli

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Glad to hear you had some some shots. This is only my opinion;

I spend a LOT of time on the flats sight fishing for striped bass. Even after spending countless tides watching and interacting with stripers in less than 3' of water, I still can't offer a blanket approach. I respect Herb and Peter's view but as far as I'm concerned the internet isn't going to help you. It's fishing. REAL fishing. You've got to get out there keep at. Observe. Develop a theory. Test the theory. Revise the theory. Repeat the process until you've got it wired and every fish you see ends up on the hook.

 

That all said, I agree that crabs fish best off the bottom and that 9/10 you need working space to sell the fly.

 

Enjoy it.

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Great responses -- thanks, I was fishing clousers and had enough working room for sure, but I think I was putting it too close and I had a pretty good plop at that (I'm used to throwing to rising trout so 6 - 10 feet in front of a fish is something I'll need to recondition for). Also good advice to just be on the water and keep trying. I know I was late for flats fishing (July), but I'll be back next June as I have a lot of free time then. I went into a fly shop and was pretty surprised at the range of flies -- not sure if a different pattern would have made the difference or not, but all in all a worthwhile outing to try and figure some things out and do some exploring.

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There's a lot of great advice in this thread. I just want to add don't ignore large patterns. I find that when the bass in the shallows aren't responding or just nosing a small realistic fly (my 1st approach) I'll change to a larger flashy obnoxious pattern that they just don't see up there in the skinny. I have enjoyed great sucess with this approach. There have been times where i have had fish dart out from the deep near ledges up 10 to 20 feet onto a flat to inhale the irresistible meal. Yeah thats not really the point of sight fishing Im only saying this proved to me how deadly a big fly is in the shallows.

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View PostThere's a lot of great advice in this thread. I just want to add don't ignore large patterns. I find that when the bass in the shallows aren't responding or just nosing a small realistic fly (my 1st approach) I'll change to a larger flashy obnoxious pattern that they just don't see up there in the skinny.

 

To add to that it never seems to fail that no matter what fly I start out with they always want the second or third offering. If I have a small crab on they want a big eel looking thing or if I'm fishing a big herring they want a super sparse clouser tied with 6 hairs... I've only caught a few on the flats so my experience here is limited but I've seen and watched quite a few and even when chasing down the real thing they seem quite fickle in the thin clear water.

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