rafolo

Stripers in the flats

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I am a proficient caster and catch my share of stripers blind casting into current and in the surf. 
 

Having trouble getting fish to eat on the flats while sight fishing in shallow water

 

Any suggestion on fly pattern to use and presentation? Crab patterns? Just cast in the vicinity and twitch? Slow retrieve?

 

i hear lobster patterns work well. I don’t tie anything that complicated. Where can you get lobster pattern flies? Has anyone used freshwater crawfish soft baits? Seems they are similar in size and would be very lifelike. 
 

Lots of questions!! Thx for any help. Just want to get a couple of fish to turn and take instead of darting away from my fly!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, rafolo said:

I am a proficient caster and catch my share of stripers blind casting into current and in the surf. 
 

Having trouble getting fish to eat on the flats while sight fishing in shallow water

 

Any suggestion on fly pattern to use and presentation? Crab patterns? Just cast in the vicinity and twitch? Slow retrieve?

 

i hear lobster patterns work well. I don’t tie anything that complicated. Where can you get lobster pattern flies? Has anyone used freshwater crawfish soft baits? Seems they are similar in size and would be very lifelike. 
 

Lots of questions!! Thx for any help. Just want to get a couple of fish to turn and take instead of darting away from my fly!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highly recommend getting Alan Caolos book on Sight Fishing for striped bass.  it answers all these questions way better than this forum ever will

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Sight casting Clousers I have not found very effective on skinny water sand flats for decent sized fish.

 

Crab flies are way better.

 

Even in skinny water it can take an age for the fly to hit bottom. Fast sink lines work well as they  will pin your fly to the sand much faster.

 

It is not easy to lead fish as they  can move very quickly  but if you can and your crab and fly line is sitting on the bottom you are in great shape.

 

You just have to keep plugging away there is a knack to sight fishing.

 

Mike

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13 hours ago, rafolo said:

Having trouble getting fish to eat on the flats while sight fishing in shallow water.

Any suggestion on fly pattern to use and presentation? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is going to sound insane......

What you need is a full sink fly line attached to a olive Clouser in shallow water.

The full sink fly line does two important tricks. It keeps the fly line on the bottom in a straight line.

This focuses the fish attention and vision along the bottom and prevents him from looking up seeing you. 

The Clouser will touch bottom between pauses in a strip. That good since the hook is inverted.

It will make little puff of dirt, every time it hits bottom. This is what gets them interested and seems natural for sand eels.

Every once in a while stir up the sand walking or moving your feet. That has helped on occasion.

 

Over thirty years ago I watch this guy catching sand eels in Barnstable Harbor. He was dragging this wire line in a few feet of water.

What's he doing dragging wire in only a few feet of water, I thought. That's nuts? Completely going against logic. He was successful.

So now I've shared my secret for over 30 years. I must be getting easy in my old age.

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I have found that dropping a sinking line on a flat will more often than not spook any fish in the neighborhood. In flat light and blind casting it is a good strategy. If targeting individual fish I have found floating lines with long leaders and a crab, sparse shrimp, or sparse sand eel pattern effective. Probably something with lead eyes to keep the fish's eyes down not at you. Lead fish - let it hit bottom couple quick strips to puff the sand and attract attention - then once fish is interested speed it up until it hits. Simple as that :)

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Simple part - definitely a joke - is not easy. Also you do not want the fly to approach the fish. If it does it will almost always spook them. I would let it sit on the bottom and let the fish swim by if that is going to happen - then try again on the next cast. If you lead the target far enough you can quickly retrieve to in front of it before the fly is in its line of sight - then stop and re-start when the fish is in range.

Edited by aland

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Bottom line, you have to know the area and learn/see what the fish are reacting to. The most difficult thing about this is your first and only shot may be a fish of a lifetime. If you've got on the right fly, you'll feel like a master. The wrong fly and blah...they'll give you a long, slow middle finger of a turn.

 

There is no one size fits all. Flies that work like crack on a flat in CT will appear to scare the **** out of a fish on a flat in MA. An ocean facing beach/flat fish will eat differently then virtually the same fish in a salt pond, on the same day. A fish cruising tight to a beach may eat a crustacean, but the exact same fish may only eat a sandeel when the flat is 20 yards off the beach, and the same crustacean will again, scare the **** out of it.

 

What you've got to do is get in their path and learn, learn, learn...but that is so hard when light, wind, waves, and tides all so rarely play in tune. And that is why you can be as cool as the early summer water...until that one fish comes and you dump a fly on its tail with your line landing right in its face, with a tangle in the second guide and you recall the "wind" knot in your 15lb leader...as it eats your ugly fly like it hasn't seen a meal in weeks and POP. That's the game.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

"Sight casting Clousers I have not found very effective on skinny water sand flats for decent sized fish.

Crab flies are way better."

 

I would agree with this.....to a point.   And especially true with the bigger, more finicky fish. Except fishing crab flies visually is harder.....on the nerves.  And more fish simply don't see an UN-moving fly....acting like a real....terrified....crab.  Let it sink and sit?  Twitch it?  Move it slowly?  Strip it?  In my experience, clousers work about as well when the main menu is sand eels.  

 

Also agree with the good Capt. as well.  The rest of the information offered is excellent. 

 

My only offering is that a well weighted clouser on a long leader will sink to the bottom in 5-6' of water within 2 seconds.  With a slower sinking line each strip will hop the fly up from the sand and then dive back down.  Gets seen more consistently.

 

The primo clouser technique is to lead the fish/school by 10-15 feet (and hope they keep on course), let the clouser sit on the bottom until the fish are 3-4 feet approaching, and then strip like hell.  The bonus points move, and the fish is big, is THEN to, as the fish gets within a foot of the fly, stop stripping entirely.  The now mid-column weighted-head clouser (on a long leader) will dive head first into the sand......exactly as a real sand eel would.....to drive UNDER the sand to escape.  The bass will charge and stand on its head pinning the fly before it can wiggle under.  Making a 15-20# fish do a headstand with tail flopping in the air as it grinds down on a pinned clouser in shallow water is a very special memory.....and what comes next.

 

 

Edited by Peter Patricelli

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I suggest a long leader and a fly that lands softly.  From your post, it sounds more like a issue with getting the bite than with spooking them.  If so, you've done the hard part already - getting them to see it and chase it.  From my experience, I don't think stripers key into one bait on the flats like they do on a bait ball.  They'll eat what they find.

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If you want to consistently hook up give up on the "sight" part of sight fishing.

 

Cast as far as you can with the heavy sinker and work it back like Ray described - painfully slow

 

I prefer a soft hackle with dumbbell eyes that closely matches the color of the bottom.  If you can see your fly as it rests on the bottom by your feet - might need to rethink the color.

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3 hours ago, Beomurf said:

If you want to consistently hook up give up on the "sight" part of sight fishing.

 

Cast as far as you can with the heavy sinker and work it back like Ray described - painfully slow

 

I prefer a soft hackle with dumbbell eyes that closely matches the color of the bottom.  If you can see your fly as it rests on the bottom by your feet - might need to rethink the color.

Thirty years ago watching that guy troll with wire in a few feet of water was mind boggling. He was catching stripers on every troll, one right after another. His wire was dragging up so much sand, especially when he changed direction, lost some speed. stripers were following along the trail. His prop help too, moving water, moving sand. He completely awaken the place. I'll never forget that.

Lot's of time lures, plugs, and their way of actions find new niches in fly tying and fly fishing. That was a break threw for me finding a full sink line worked in the barren sand.      

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Are we talking about site casting from a boat or on foot here?  Now while I understand the concept of the sinking line, I can’t imagine doing this myself. I love watching a bass inhale s fly in 2’ of water. I use floating or intermediate clear lines. Crab and closures in neutral colors with little flash. It’s certainly not easy to get them to eat, but satisfying as heck when it does happen

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Most of the flats fishing I do is in much less less than 2' of water.  I am targeting tailing fish for the most part.  My best times are the coincidence of sunrise and big negative tides- lots of water movement.  The flats I fish are also muddier bottoms so my water is not super clear.  As I am fishing low light and dirty water, I tend to use darker colored flies- olive and black, olive and purple.  No weight, 10 or 15 lb fluoro - 6-7 feet tied to a furled leader with a swivel.  Most of the time, I use a floating line on my 8 weight.  My flats are small and easily disrupted- a typical (good) morning will be three fish before the flat is boogered.  I do love it.

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