A place of resource, information & opportunity for the saltwater flats fisher
Carlos Temistocles Cortez
This fishing is addictive when we decide to fish for them exclusively because the difficulty consists of an enormous amount of details.
Trying to catch them on some trips, dedicating only a little of our time to them is very different, as we tend to only take advantage of the situations and opportunities that come along. Listening to the guide we make our best shot at the time and strip or leave static, often listening and doing exactly what the guide says. Only sometimes do we see clearly enough ourselves.
When we fish places holding exclusively Permit, it is then we become obsessive. Some days we may get 15 shots, other days only 2 or 3, but often 7 or 8 good shots per day. So, with such few chances, we try our best to take advantage of each situation and be extremely prepared, paying attention to every detail.
The Equipment: Reels and Lines that allow us to cast well in a variety of conditions; with strong winds, making relatively short casts and with little wind, making much longer casts, giving greater importance to our presentations. I usually have different equipment and line types, depending on the strength of the wind, as well as the weight of the fly.
The longer the leader we use the better. But it must be the optimum length to enable us to turn it over and present the fly well. A straight leader turned over means we are in direct contact with the fly as quickly as possible. This means we can react to a fast take as the fly sinks, or we can move the fly to give it life and attract the fish attention if need be. We never want the fish to see the fly line, so a long leader is always best.
The reel must have adequate backing capacity and a good, smooth drag system, which allows us to vary the pressure on the fish during a fight and shorten the fight time, to allow best chance of fast release and fish survival after return. High quality polarized lenses help a lot too.
Gaining referrals or having some prior knowledge of the place to fish helps us to improve our chance of success. However, we often have to take a risk and pay the price when making our first visit to a destination. The question I ask myself is what to expect the fish may eat as well as how they eat and where? The goal as with other types of fly fishing is to provide what they are looking for and in the way they expect to find it. This kind of knowledge and consideration helps us to decide what flies to try, based on the importance of weight, size, shape and colour to help us to imitate well.
That same knowledge also helps us to know what to look for and where to find it. Signs at the surface like tails and fins, nervous water as well as signals below the surface such as silhouettes, dark fins and flashes. Also signs on or close to the bottom such as muds, flashes and shadows. When we are inexperienced, 99% of the time, the guide sees it first and it can be very stressful when trying to quickly spot according to their instructions. To improve, it takes time and a peaceful mind. We must train the brain to recognise those signals we use to help form the image of a fish. That ability eventually means our relaxed peaceful state of mind when we see the fish before our guide or quickly when he points it out to us. This means we are ready for the cast and presentation in a relaxed status.
The more accustomed we become to casting in the wind, with speed and precision, the more chances we have. There are situations that call for a quick decision and judge when to make the cast. The aim is to let the fish see the fly as quickly as possible and take it by surprise. Hence we try to present the fly between 1 and 3 feet of his head, depending on wind, water clarity, current and speed of fish movement.
Once the fly has been presented, we quickly judge whether it has been seen, sometimes this is very obvious and yet other times the fish movements are very subtle. And other times, if we are very lucky and have made a good cast, the fish will charge without hesitation! Then we only need to know when to set the hook.
To make shots with a high percentage of accuracy which help us to witness a fish reaction, we must reduce the casting range. But, if we can and we throw the whole fly line, our shots become less effective. And of course, the closer we get the higher the chance of fish getting spooked. The conditions dictate how near or far we should try. I think that most often what scares the fish are shadows and noises. For me, the ideal range is between 50ft - 60ft. At that distance I can be quite accurate and have good visibility to see exactly what happens. In very clam conditions however, we must throw in the range of 60 – 80ft.
Assuming we have the ability to land the fly in the “zone”, we must understand the conditions to determine how and why we do what we do? Sometimes large tides generate strong currents and we see fish facing into it, waiting for food to be pushed towards them. Other times we see them swimming erratically, stopping and tailing or mudding, looking for the food on the bottom. Also we can find them on the back of a ray, hoping the food is visible around it. Sometimes they swim right under the surface to take the food only centimetres below or they can go to the bottom for more food and so it goes on.
Once we determine the kind of situation we have, we should then be able to imagine how the food should be presented and taken. Sometimes they take food while going to the bottom slowly, or when it’s on the bottom without movement and others when it seems that is fleeing. Often a fish will lose interest in a non moving crab, yet other times it is the only way the crab looks real and hence gets taken. Sometimes they grab a fly that moving at high speed and others they are scared using this movement. There are many variables to consider and “reading” the situation will always help us determine how to give movement to the fly, or if we even move it at all.
If we can make accurate shots and tempt them, we should be able to perceive when the moment our fly is eaten. Often the opportunity is missed and our fly is eaten and rejected by the time we can strip set. Only in recent times, perhaps in the last two years have I managed to set about 50% of each take. This is all done visually, and depends on depth and speed of the action and re action. Sometimes we see them raise their tail, often we witness a body contortion, and other times we only see the mouth open. At times, we see a gleam of the body, like a flash and unfortunately, while we process this information, our reaction is often very late. Yet, if we hurry we risk taking fly away from the “zone” and scare the fish away.
Then comes the fight; the most simple part of the process and for me it is simply time spent waiting for the release and hence no further details are required on this aspect.
“Other than a celebration of course”