Tag Archives: flats fishing

Summer Son


Summer Son

“Dig there!  Do you see them?  Wait for the next wave.  You’ve got them now.”

He is quick to learn.  I point a finger, cock an eye, and he fully understands what is expected.

The next wave washes the scene and the fleas are exposed to his amazed gaze.  Looking up from his work, his face searching mine for clues, I see joy, curiosity, and a little fear.  His face tells me his future.  I’m sure that he will succeed in all he attempts.

Having understood my quick nod and large smile he attacks the laughable creatures and plops them into the bucket.

“That’s it!  Good job!  Okay, try it again.  Go through the eye, around the line, 1, 2, 3, 4 times.  Now down and through the little hole.  Wet it.  Pull. Clip it. Done!  Very nice!”

Tenderly grabbing a flea he invents his own way to impale it:  mine being “too mean.”  He throws to his own spot, moves too much, smiles continuously, hopes eternally, and meets with no success.

He knows to shuffle his feet but the school of rays convinced him to keep his knees dry.

A big red sun squats on the water.  Puffs of air too warm to matter crawl past.  A trickle of sweat glides down his cheek.  He sighs and yawns, “Should we go home and tell Mom that I caught the bait?”

“Yes, let’s do that.  But first, let’s get some ice cream.”

Hans

There must be
Moments when we see right through.
Although we say we can’t.  I knew
A fisher who could lean and look
Blind into dazzle on the sea
And strike into that fire his hook,
Far under, and lean back and laugh
And let the line run out, and reel
What rod could weigh nor line could feel
The heavy silver of his wish,
And when the reel-spool faltered, kneel
And with a fumbling hand that shook
Boat, all bloody from the gaff,
A shivering fish.
— Archibald McLeish

Hans

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff on the grass flats of the Homosassa and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.  In the last ten days a dog had been with him. (Hemingway)  To an unlucky fisherman, a dog is a great comfort.  The dog had always lived with him but the man had not thought there was room for two in an unlucky skiff.  Now that luck had abandoned him, the dog was invited along.

The dog took the early morning life seriously and each morning woke the man before daylight so as not to miss the sensations of the sunrise:  the scent of dark waters lightly covered with rising mist, the sight of orange flame contained in gray cumulus low over the cedars, and the touch of wind and spray in his gaping mouth and wide open eyes.

This enthusiasm was contagious and the man was eager to share his experiences with someone so interested.  The man would not raise an eyelash to help himself but would move the river channel for a willing pupil.  With a new partner, the man was hopeful that his luck would change; but, if it didn’t, it did not matter.

But the dog did not know this and did not care as long as the man was near and continued to pat the dog’s head and talk to him in reassuring tones.  Many days had past since the man had spoken harshly and the dog, always eager to please but often unknowingly provoking anger, lowered his wagging tail, dropped his head and rubbed it against the man’s leg to make sure the hurtful voice did not return.  This always worked.

On this day, the tide was strong and fast and the man had only an hour of prime fishing time on his favorite flat before the water was so skinny that even his skiff would not be able to float above the sand.  The full moon had just set and had pulled the water off the flat in a torrent that left the grass tips stranded on the surface, bent and twisted and brown and green.  The falling tide also left the fish looking for water in which to feed and in which to hide.

A skiff is a small boat with low sides and an open cockpit that is used by flats fishing guides everywhere.  The flat bottom and light weight of the boat’s hull allows the fisherman to push the boat with a long pole while standing in the stern while floating in four inches of water.  This slow, quiet movement is needed when the tail of a bull redfish has been sighted flagging above the water from within a twelve-inch deep pothole in the middle of a thousand acre field of rocks, sea grass, sand, and gin clear gulf water.

The man never used bait and held in low esteem all who did.  Not that using live or cut bait was really bad it was just easier.  Casting a shrimp or pinfish to a tailing redfish was an art in itself but was less an art than throwing a plastic jerk bait or a Clouser minnow pattern and all agree that the sight and sound of a redfish boiling on a top water plug is only surpassed by the exploding chaos created by a snook on the same lure. This was the technique of the old man and it had not worked for a long time.  With the sun in his face, a redfish tail in the air, and the push pole gently propelling the boat, the man moved within casting distance to try his luck, again.

Sensing the man’s excitement the dog worried that the harsh tones would return.  To prevent this the dog slowly walked, nails clicking on the hard deck, back to the stern where the man had taken a knee and was pushing the boat with one hand and holding his fishing rod in the other.  Licking his lips, a soft whine escaped, and the dog pressed his flank to the man’s thigh.  Tender words where spoken but the dog did not dare leave as the man’s tension was still high.

The old man knew the fish was feeding and would not see him; but, fish have senses humans can not fathom.  Very sensitive to sound and water pressure, the fish does not rely on its eyes for defense.  Instead, the fish knows that the dull clunk of a heavy foot fall on the deck of a boat, or the sharp clank of a push pole on a rock, or the crisp slap of small waves on the side of a boat’s hull means predators are near.  Sometimes even the silent, hulking, presence of the boat displacing water is somehow detected by wary fish – no shadow, no sound, just fish plowing the surface into furrows as they bolt in panic from an unseen, but definitely sensed, menace.

Almost within casting distance, the man calculated the wind and water movement, stopped pushing, and let the skiff drift the final few feet to within casting distance of the big fish.  Clipping the push pole onto its bungee leash, it trailed silently in the boat’s wake; the man dropped down to both knees and quickly loaded his rod tip and fired his lure toward the tailing fish.

Not yet experienced in catching fish, the dog had only known the man to make these casts and then utter harsh tones and then slowly relax and then rapidly get tense again.  The dog was confused as this behavior only happened on the boat and not when in the house where they lived in quiet and comfort and peace.  Why the man was tense when on the boat, the dog did not know.  But this time something happened even more frightening than the harsh tones.

The lure landed six feet beyond the fish and three feet to the right.  The man saw the fish stop feeding and drop his tail back into the water but it did not run.  Instead, the fish darted at the floating plug and smacked it with the side of its head.  The plug bounced into the air a few inches and settled back down.  The man did not panic nor did he even move until the ripples the fish and plug had made settled down.  With a steady set of quick snaps of the rod tip, the man worked the plug toward the boat.  The fish again noticed the plug and cruised rapidly toward the lure, water flowed over its back pushing a bulge of water that forced the man to focus more on his rod tip and less on the actions of the fish in order to maintain the rhythm needed to correctly walk the lure.

Pacing the deck in confusion, the dog whined and rubbed the man’s leg and hoped that the tension would end without anger.  Not knowing how to help the man, the dog started to slobber and whimper and shake his head while bouncing on this front feet and staring intently at the disturbance in the water that so consumed the man’s attention.

Striking the lure the fish caused the water to boil and foam before turning and swimming away with its new prize only to be surprised that the morsel was not what was expected.  Panicked, the fish stroked its powerful tail driving forward to the deep water and safety.  But the hooks had done their job and were deeply imbedded into the fish’s jaw.

Reeling as fast as possible the man rose from the deck and removed the slack from the line.  The feeling of pressure from the fish through the line, into the rod and into the man’s hands, was wonderful.  Line began to scream from the reel and further attempts to reel in more line were impossible as the fish muscled its way toward safe water.  Redfish are not fast but they are strong.  The man did not pressure the fish but knew if he could keep the line tight the fish was his.

Seeing the water boil, the man stand, and the rod bend, the dog was confused and concerned.  He knew that the disturbance in the water was causing his master pain.  The dog felt it necessary to end the man’s pain and return them both to their normal quiet existence.  Finally, the dog could see the problem.  In the water, a creature was slowly moving toward the boat. Action was required and the dog leaped into the water and loped  through the sea grass to within striking distance of the horrible creature.  The dog lunged keeping his head underwater for several seconds.  When his head reemerged, the dog had clamped in his powerful teeth the shivering, dripping, bulk of a twelve-pound redfish.

The man slowly lowered his rod. Laughing until his side hurt, he watched as the dog calmly walked back to the boat and dropped the now dead fish onto the deck.  Eighty-four days of bad luck had purchased, for the man, a little luck.  Good fishing partners are hard to find and the man would not let this one get away.

Salt River (Homosassa to St. Martin’s) Boat Trail

Disclaimer

Each BoatTrail is thoroughly tested by Wetsocks team members and the route is selected to provide the boater with the safest and fastest path to the selected destination.  However, safe use of any BoatTrail in this guide requires practice and good sense.   Rocks are everywhere!

Salt River (Homosassa River to St. Martin River) Map

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Salt River (Homosassa River to St. Martin River) Data Files

Salt River (Homosassa River to St. Martin River) Google Earth KML file
Load this file to Google Earth to view the best boat position while on your computer.

Salt River (Homosassa River to St. Martin River) GPX file
Load this file to your GPS receiver to help correctly position your boat while on the water.

Salt River (Homosassa River to St. Martin River) Description

The Salt River runs from the Homosassa River to the Crystal River.  The section between the Homosassa River and the St. Martins River is easy to travel and only has a single dangerous spot (see map note #2).

This section of the Salt River is an excellent route choice when putting a boat in at the Homosassa but wanting to enjoy the excellent rivers to the north such as the Little Homosassa, St. Martin’s, and Fish Creek.

Salt River (Homosassa River to St. Martin River) Map Notes

Match the note number to the number on the map for navigation warnings on a particular area.

1.  This is the entrance to the Salt River.  Watch for the island
on the east side of the entrance.  It is sometimes submerged
and could cause a navigation hazard.

2.  This is a tricky, shallow, and narrow spot.  The channel is
mostly located along the east bank of the river.  However
a couple tight turns are required to skirt between two oyster
bars.  Look for the private channel markers.

3.  The Salt River meets the St. Martins River and the channel
is a bit twisty.  Slow down and follow the private navigation
aids.

4.  This is the John Brown Park boat ramp.

Petty Creek Boat Trail

Disclaimer

Each BoatTrail is thoroughly tested by Wetsocks team members and the route is selected to provide the boater with the safest and fastest path to the selected destination.  However, safe use of any BoatTrail in this guide requires practice and good sense.   Rocks are everywhere!

Petty Creek Map

pettycreek

Petty Creek Data Files

Petty Creek Google Earth KML file
Load this file to Google Earth to view the best boat position while on your computer.

Petty Creek GPX file
Load this file to your GPS receiver to help correctly position your boat while on the water.

Petty Creek Description

Petty Creek is the best route for traveling between the Homosassa River and Mason Creek.  This creek is easily traveled by small boats during most tide levels but does have several shallow bars and rocks that can cause navigation problems during low tides.

Read the map notes to locate these areas

Petty Creek Map Notes

Match the note number to the number on the map for navigation warnings on a particular area.

1.  Breakwater entrance is on the north side of the creek.
2.  Shallow bar before the Chass NWR sign.  Channel on south side.
3.  Dangerous bars across creek.  Look for private markers.
Stay centered between island and markers.
4.  North Channel is rocky and narrow but deeper than Mason Creek.
Look for the many bars that dot this area.
5.  Parallel bars run mostly north and south and have narrow cuts that allow boats to pass.
6.  Big rock directly in the channel.  It is flat topped and is only a problem at low tide.
7.  The south side of Porpoise Bay seems to have some rocks scattered about.
8.  The west end of Blue Bay is shallow and rocky.
9.  The entrance to Petty Creek has a long bar across 2/3rd of the creek.  Stay to the southwest next to the dock.
10. A bar completely crosses the creek.  Private markers show the channel but the deepest part seems to be on the east side of the channel within 8 feet of the marker.  The best channel is extremely shallow and may be impassable during a low tide.
11. A big and nasty rock sets in the middle of the creek.  Stay to the west side and do not go east of the creek’s centerline.
12. The entrance to Seven Cabbage Creek is shallow, rocky, narrow, and should be traversed very slowly.
13. The cut that leads to Blue Bay and the pass to the north that leads back to Mason Creek is very shallow and can not be traveled during extremely low tide.
14. This is the entrance to the Salt River.  Watch out for the small island on the east side of the entrance.  It is usually just barely above the water and has some grass growing on it.

Mason Creek Boat Trail

Disclaimer

Each BoatTrail is thoroughly tested by Wetsocks team members and the route is selected to provide the boater with the safest and fastest path to the selected destination.  However, safe use of any BoatTrail in this guide requires practice and good sense.   Rocks are everywhere!

Mason Creek Map

masoncreek

Mason Creek Data Files

Mason Creek Google Earth KML file
Load this file to Google Earth to view the best boat position while on your computer.

Mason Creek GPX file
Load this file to your GPS receiver to help correctly position your boat while on the water.

Mason Creek Description

Just to the south of the Homosassa River can be found the black waters of Mason Creek. This small creek flows out of a tidal swamp and quickly makes its way to the open Gulf of Mexico. Because the freshwater springs in this creek are of little note and because the salt marsh extends almost to the source, the waters near and upstream from the boat ramp are nearly black from mud and tannins. However, as the creek flows to the Gulf the waters quickly turn clear.

Fortunately, this creek is more lightly used than the better known rivers of the area and it is a favorite of birdwatchers and those seeking solace. Relatively easy to travel by small boat and with connecting creeks to the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers, Mason Creek provides access to the entire Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Mason Creek Map Notes

Match the note number to the number on the map for navigation warnings on a particular area.

1.  Breakwater entrance is on the north side of the creek.
2.  Shallow bar before the Chass NWR sign.  Channel on south side.
3.  Dangerous bars across creek.  Look for private markers.
Stay centered between island and markers.
4.  North Channel is rocky and narrow but deeper than Mason Creek.
Look for the many bars that dot this area.
5.  Parallel bars run mostly north and south and have narrow cuts that allow
boats to pass.
6.  Big rock directly in the channel.  It is flat topped and is only a problem at low tide.
7.  The south side of Porpoise Bay seems to have some rocks scattered about.
8.  The west end of Blue Bay is shallow and rocky.
9.  The entrance to Petty Creek has a long bar across 2/3rd of the creek.  Stay to
the southwest next to the dock.
10. A bar completely crosses the creek.  Private markers show the channel but the
deepest part seems to be on the east side of the channel within 8 feet of the
marker.  The best channel is extremely shallow and can be passed even during
a normal low tide.
11. A big and nasty rock sets in the middle of the creek.  Stay to the west side
and do not go east of the creek’s centerline.
12. The entrance to Seven Cabbage Creek is shallow, rocky, narrow, and should be
traversed very slowly.
13. The cut that leads to Blue Bay and the pass to the north that leads back to Mason
Creek is very shallow and can not be traveled during extremely low tide.

No-Nonsense Flats Fishing

Crystal River, Florida November 16, 2007

flatssunset.jpg

In fishing, as with most sports, it is easy to get carried away when buying equipment, learning new skills, and practicing with both. This post hopes to remove the mystery behind flats fishing in Florida and provide you with a simple and hopefully short list of the truly necessary, bare-bones, set of skills and equipment needed to be a successful flats fisherman in Florida.

Put down all the over-blown fishing strategies, casting techniques, and lure selection hype that you have ever used or read about and pick up the no-nonsense professional advice presented below.

Your Boat

Boat? Who needs a boat? All you need is a good pair of wading boots or old sneakers Sure, a boat can get you to many more fishing locations than can be fished from the combination of your car and your feet, but never think that the spot you can wade from the parking lot of the boat ramp is not a prime fishing location. Many times the good fish holding structures around boat launching areas are overlooked by boaters in their hurry to power over the water to find their favorite and probably over-fished spot.

Here are three of my favorite spots in the Ozello/Crystal River, Florida area that I often wade during an incoming tide and often catch Redfish and Speckled Trout.

Your Equipment

No-nonsense equipment doesn’t mean junky equipment and it doesn’t mean expensive equipment. No-nonsense equipment is high-quality, rugged, affordable, and functional beyond the fishing skills of all but the most demanding professional tournament anglers. For a day of wade fishing the flats of Florida you need the following equipment and only the following equipment. The only thing you could possibly need to add to this list is your personal medications. Of course, there are many different equipment lists that I could present to you but this is the exact equipment that has been proven to catch fish year after year.

The List

  • Shimano Carbomax 7′ one piece spinning rod
  • Shimano Sedona 4000FB spinning reel
  • Trilene XL 10 lb test clear monofilament
  • Trilene XL 20 lb test clear monofilament (leader)
  • Fingernail clippers on a retractible lanyard
  • Quick drying polyester shirt with chest pockets
  • Quick drying polyester shorts with pockets
  • Hard billed Sunhat
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Wading boots or old sneakers
  • Micro flashlight
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Bug spray
  • Small drybox for tackle, ID, and fishing license
  • Small Leatherman tool with scissors
  • Tackle selection
  • Snack food

Fishing Rod

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A graphite/glass composite rod is what you need. It is much more rugged than pure graphite and outlasts rods four times more expensive and casts and fights fish as well as any on the market. My all-time favorite flats fishing rod is the Shimano Carbomax 7′ medium action one piece spinning rod. Shimano’s part number is CMS70M.

I know what you are saying, “If this guy is such a good fisherman, why is he recommending a freshwater fishing rod for saltwater flats fishing?” Well, this is your first lesson in no-nonsense fishing and its equipment. Don’t believe the marketing hype of the equipment manufacturers. They almost all make excellent equipment but, without exception, they push the uneducated buyer into spending too much. A comparable rod from shimano that is categorized as “saltwater” will truly be an exceptional fishing rod but it costs three times as much as the Carbomax and it is not as rugged over the long haul because it is made of 100% graphite instead of the more reliable graphite/glass composite. The Carbomax rod is completely usable in saltwater and nothing, not even the reel seat, will corrode.

Fishing Reel

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A good quality properly cared for fishing rod usually lasts much longer than your fishing reel. I know it seems that it should be the opposite but it is not. Unless you intend to spend time having an expensive reel regularly serviced, do not waste your money by purchasing a spinning reel that costs more than the rod. The best no-nonsense spinning reel for flats fishing in Florida is the Shimano Sedona B Series SE4000FB with front drag.

When you are done fishing, gently hose off the reel with freshwater, let it dry, spray it with WD-40, and wipe off the excess. The life of your rod and reel is extended dramatically by this little bit of care.

The Line

Now add some good ten pound test monofilament fishing line and your rod and reel combination is ready to fish. Trilene XL clear is my favorite as it is very limp an rolls off the reel smoothly and is slow to twist up as is very common with line fished from a spinning reel. The new braided lines such as PowerPro are excellent but I do not recommend them for spinning reels because the line is held by the finger during a cast and the small diameter and low stretch characteristics abrade the skin from your finger tip after just a few casts. You also need a spool of twenty pound test monofilament fishing line to use for making leaders (we talk about leaders later). Although the flourocarbon monofilaments are very popular for making leaders and do work very well, I am not convinced that they have the “invisible in water” property that they claim. Since they are triple the cost of regular monofilament and have only marginal, if any, added benefit, they do not qualify as no-nonsense equipment.

The Clothing

Your clothing is needed to protect skin from sun exposure and to regulate your body temperature. In the summer select light-weight, long-sleeved polyester shirts preferably with large chest pockets and light weight polyester shorts with a built-in synthetic mesh liner and large pockets that can close with velcro. In the winter, simply add an additional layer underneath the light weight shirt. Some polyester thermal underwear is always nice when the north wind blows. Of course, wading in the cold winter time water is only enjoyed by the hardiest of individuals and I recommend switching from wade fishing to kayak or boat fishing during the colder months of the years.

Columbia has a large selection of inexpensive and functional models. But any brand works as long as it is light weight, loose fitting, and made from a synthetic, fast drying material. You can fish in a raggedy cotton tee shirt if you wish but for all-day trips on the water the superior comfort provided by a loose fitting, polyester shirt and short makes them no-nonsense choices.

Your wading boots need not be fancy armored anti-stingray boots or even chi-chi stylish bonefish boots. Just buy a pair of sturdy scuba-diver booties and fear nothing except oyster shells.

A hat is a must have accessory and I recommend a hard billed version instead of a floppy bill. In windy conditions the soft bill is annoyingly flippy-flappy. The hard bill provides stable sun protection and even doubles as a face saving rain shield in times of need. Again, Columbia has good models that are reasonably priced.

Never leave the house without your high-quality polarized sunglasses. Sunglasses are so important that you need to make sure you never forget them. If you do forget them, go home and get them or stop at a store and buy some new ones. I am not kidding! Polarized sunglasses are so important mainly because they allow you to see under the water even when the sun is producing significant glare on the water’s surface. But sunglasses also provide protection for the eyes just as your clothing is protecting your skin. Fishing all day in bright sunlight without sunglasses can cause headaches, fatigue, and irritability. Fishing all day in bright sunlight with good polarized sunglasses prevents all these maladies. My favorite glasses have always been ActionOptics with brown glass lens. The glass lenses are extremely durable and the brown color is useful in both the bright light of a summer day and the overcast gloom of a winter morning.

The Tackle

Choosing tackle is where most fisherman make the most mistakes. The number one reason they make these mistakes is because the tackle manufacturers know that fisherman are attracted to bits of plastic with flashing glitter and bold colors. Never expect the lure you like to be equally attractive to a fish. Sorry but fish the world over don’t care about the latest and greatest flashing chunk of plastic. However, years of trial and error by millions of fun seeking fisherman have found certain lure shapes, lure movement patterns, and lure colors that consistently attract fish. Just stay with these basics, learn to be confident in their time-tested effectiveness. Don’t be persuaded by your buddy’s constant talk about his mail-order super lure. Here is a list of lures your tackle box should not be without along with the several color patterns that always work when fished with confidence.

Lure Selection

  • Heddon Zara Spook
    • Saltwater super spook in “redhead” color
  • Mirrolure 52M
    • Classic Black Back/Silver
  • Culprit 6″ Jerk Worm
    • Albino Shad
    • Watermellon Pepper
  • BassAssassin 4″ Curly Shad
    • Chartreuse silver glitter
    • Candy corn
  • Owner Offset WideGap Worm Hook 3/0
  • Offshore Angler 1/4 and 1/8 oz. jig heads
    • Red deluxe shad head
    • Glow deluxe shad head

A Small Box

Let us put all this into a small box and see if it fits into your pocket. I recommend a Flambeau 3003 Tuff Tainer. It is big enough to hold your leader material, hard lures, jig heads and a few of each type of soft lure. It does fit in your pocket but I agree that it is not very comfortable or secure so I would advise a small waist pack that can be used to store your tackle as well as your snacks, water, sunscreen, micro-light, personal identification, fishing license, and bug spray. Choose a inexpensive model such as the High Sierra Passport Lumbar Waist Pack. Don’t spend big money on a waterproof pack. It is not possible to make it waterproof. Instead, spend time making everything in the pack waterproof by using plastic bags and small waterproof containers.

A Small Light

Quite often while wade fishing early in the morning or late in the evening, there is just not enough sunlight to properly tie a knot or find that last chartreuse curly shad. The answer is to bring with you a small flashlight that can clip onto the bill of your hat thus freeing your hands for more important duties. I have used a many different types but my current favorite is the Bil-Lite from Q-Lite, Inc. This light is sturdy and bright and has a lens that focuses the light into a clean circle with very little light wasted around the edges. The batteries are easy to replace but the light is not waterproof so be careful.

Your Skills

Now we have all the the equipment needed to make you a first class flats fisherman. But this equipment is of no use unless you know how to use it. The skills you must acquire and practice are as follows:

  • Cast accurately in both distance and direction
  • Tie strong small knots when attaching hooks and creating leaders
  • See fish under the water using your polarized glasses
  • Know the tide and how it effects the location you are fishing
  • Know the weather and how it effects the location you are fishing

Accurate casting is achieve no other way than with practice and the best way to practice is to go fishing. Don’t worry about your poor casts but do learn from them. Notice how the wind effects your casts. Notice how the lure type and weight effects your casts. Fish and learn and enjoy your lessons.

Seeing fish underwater is only possible when you have very good eye sight and have spent many days on the water. Even the best fisherman seldom actually see the entire fish but can tell you from just the way the water is moving over a swimming fish or the shape of a shadow on the hard bottom exactly what species of fish is being seen. After you have spent years fishing you also will have this skill. Until then, look movement in the water; look for water moving in a way inconsistent with the surrounding water. Cast in front of every movement and you soon learn from your trial and error.

Knowing the tide is as easy as looking up the high and low tides in a local tide chart. But knowing how the tide effects your chosen fishing location requires you to go fish that location. The most important thing to learn is that fish like moving water. They use that moving water to wash bait into an ambush or they use that moving water to signal that they can now swim up onto a previously dry mud flat or a previously too shallow grass flat. Once the water stops moving, the fish know to stop what they are doing and start to do something else. It is your job to know what the fish will do next.

A good rule of thumb is to fish a grass flat or mangrove shoreline during the incoming tide. As the water floods the flat or shoreline, the fish move further and further onto the once shallow area in order to find food. As the tide begins to move out, you can reposition yourself so you can cast into the deeper channels that drain the flat or shoreline. As the water moves off the flat, the fish begin to retreat to deeper water and use the channels on the flat to help ambush bait that is being washed out with the tide.

Knowing the weather is not easy. Wind can completely alter the tide prediction. Sudden changes in temperature seems to slow down the fishing action but Sudden decreases in barometric pressure seems to speed up the fishing action. It is just not possible to know all that the weather does to your favorite fishing spot.

The best rule to follow is to fish the morning and evening during the summer as the cooler temperatures and absence of direct sunlight make the fish hungrier and your presence less noticeable. In the winter, fish the few days before a cold front brings its high winds, cold temperatures, and bright blue skies. Once the harsh winter weather passes through, stay at home and clean up your tackle and wait for the next cold front.

Tying strong small knots is a must and next to casting is the easiest skill to acquire. No-nonsense fishermen need only to learn three knots: the Uni-Knot, the Spider Hitch, and the Surgeon’s Knot. There are many useful and wonderful knots that a fisherman can use but learning to tie these three perfectly, quickly, and in all weather is all you need to know.

The Uni-Knot – Attaching hook to leaderUniknotThe Uni-Knot is a knot tying system! If you learn the uni-knot you have learned the single most useful knot on the planet.
First, run the line through the eye of the hook for about six inches. Turn the end back toward the eye to form a circle as shown in illustration #1. With thumb and finger of the left hand, grasp both strands of line and the crossing strand in a single grip at the point marked just forward of the hook. Now, make six turns with the end around both strands of line and through the circle, as in illustration #2.

Maintaining the same grip with the left hand, pull on the end of the line in the direction shown by the arrow until all the wraps are snugged tight and close together. Snugging down tightly at this stage is essential for maximum knot strength.

Finally, slide the finished knot tight against the eye of the hook by dropping the tag end and pulling solely on the standing part of the line as shown by the arrow in illustration #3. The excess end can be trimmed flush with the knot after final positioning, as shown in illustration #4.

It takes just one slight variation to transform the hook tie into a loop arrangement, which provides more lure movement. When you get to the position specified in illustration #3, simply grab the tag end with pliers and tighten the knot without allowing the loop to slide through the eye of the hook.

The Spider Hitch – Creating a double line
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It is important to create a double line before tying your leader to your standing line. The reason is that your knot is much stronger when the line is doubled.

This knot is not as good as a Bimini Twist. But it is much easier to tie and just as strong for the short duration battles typical of flats fishing with light spinning tackle.

A. Double back the end of the line until you have about three feet of double line and grip the two strands with thumb and finger near the tag end, make a two inch diameter loop near the tag end and take the base of this loop in the same thumb-finger grip.

B. Wrap the doubled line around your thumb (and around the small loop too) for five turns.

C. Slip the end of the long loop through the little loop. Pull the entire long loop through, allowing the wraps to slide, one by one, from your thumb.

D. At first, tighten the knot by slowly and gently pulling the double line as one unit. If you detect that one of the lines in the knot are not tightening evenly, then just pull the single line that is causing the problem. Pull each line separately very gently until the knot is nice and smooth. Then, once again, pull all lines as a unit until the knot is as tight as you can make it with hand pressure and trim the tag end close to the knot.

Surgeon’s Knot – Connecting leader to double line

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The Surgeon’s Knot makes a fast, easy and reliable connection for tying a heavy monofilament leader, or double line, directly to either monofilament or braided fishing line.

1. First, lay out the leader parallel to the double line made using the Spider Hitch, letting the end of the line and the end of the leader overlap for six or eight inches.

2. Tie a simple overhand knot in the doubled section, making sure that both the short end (line) and long end (leader) are pulled completely through. Do not tighten the knot at this point.

3. Next, simply go through the same opening a second time, with both strands exactly as before, again making certain both ends are pulled through.

4. Finally, draw the knot tight by gripping both strand on either side of the knot, and drawing down with steady pressure. As with the Spider Hitch gently tighten each line separately until the knot is smooth and tight. The ends of this knot may be trimmed flush with the wraps.

Go Fishing

That is all a no-nonsense fisherman needs to own and needs to know. Now you must practice. Work on your knots while watching the television. Don’t be satisfied until you can tie them with your eyes closed. Work on your casting by going fishing or if you are completely bored, go in the backyard and cast a jig into a bucket of water from 100 feet away. Read the tide chart for the area you wish to fish and take note of the difference between the high/low tide published and the actual tide at your fishing spot. This difference is going to be about the same every time and can be used to plan your trip. Keep your hooks sharp and change your fishing line as often as you can afford. Have fun.