Gimme Three Steps
Well, it’s the time of year that we’ve been waiting for. The water has been steadily warming up and the fish are getting happy! The cacophony of techno beats, scooter horns and hormonal mating calls of Spring Break are a mere memory now. Three weeks into daylight savings time and we are getting more and more time to stay on the flats hunting our most challenging targets. We need to make the most of our time in the shallows so we can make the most of our opportunities. There are a few things that I do to maximize my chances for success. Basically it comes down to three steps; preparation, planning and adaptation.
In preparation for each day I begin with a thorough check of all my gear. Line, leader and connections are all checked and changed. The weak link is always line leader connection. Repeated times back-and-forth through the guides will weaken even the best of knots. Whether you use a double line, no-name or Albright knot, or the super skinny FG connection, make sure they are tied correctly and strong. On a recent wintertime barracuda trip I had, a knot came loose after a few hours of repeated casting. There was that magical moment between me and my client as we both stared at a parted line after the lure sailed way past any normal casting distance, and we both knew what just happened. So... Check your connections and check them often!
Next I check my flies and lures. I keep a separate waterproof box filled with treble hooks, double hooks, split rings and split ring pliers. I make sure that all of the hooks on the lures are rust free and sharp. I will also twist wire onto lures and flies that I use for sharks and cudas. That way, if a bait change needs to happen, a quick Albright or swivel knot gets it done and we are back to fishing in a snap. Take care to make sure all your gear is in good shape to make the most of your opportunities.
The next step I take is planning my approach for the day. Tides, wind and angler experience will all factor in when getting ready for a day on the water. I look at the solunar calendar as well to see the major and minor feeding times. It’s not something I live by, but any information is good information.
I start out at sunrise looking for that early-morning tarpon bite. It’s a beautiful site on a calm morning just as the sun is coming up, hearing tarpon roll and getting a fly in front of one. It is a great way to start the day for sure.
Then as the sun gets higher it’s time to get shallow. I like to work in a direction in which I am following a tide whether I am going east or west. Fishing out of Key West, if you go east there is a greater variance in the tides. Going west, there isn’t much difference in the timing of the tides. As I approach a flat that I know well, I take into consideration the way the water and the wind are moving. This allows me to plan my path and hopefully be able to give my client the best angle for a cast. I try to stop way short of the flat before I begin. One thing I personally excel at is the ability to stop the boat right in front of a school permit before I have a flyrod out of the rod holder. So the earlier you stop the better.
Now it’s time to get up top and get to work. I like to follow contour edges and sand holes on certain flats looking for anything that might be a single fish or a school. If one flat doesn’t produce, move to the next. Stick and move is the name of the game. Put in the time and you will be rewarded.
The next step, and many times the most important, is adaptation. Very rarely does the original plan for the day and up being what happens. Mother nature will always throw curveballs at us.
Sometimes a decision to go one direction turns out to be exactly what you should not have done. If I pull up on the flat and it just does not feel right, I may fish it for a few minutes to see if there is any hope at all. Use your instincts, you know when something just doesn’t feel right.
So get out there and make the best of it. Prepare yourself, make a plan, and use what you know You will have a successful day!
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