Flats Logic #3 [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Flats Logic #3

02-29-2004, 12:32 AM

It's your first trip of the year on Monomoy. You are fishing the famous North Monomoy Island's west side. You've walked about 40 minutes since the first shuttle dropped you off, around the north tip, across the flat and following the edge of the shallow flat along the west/southwest drop off until the flood begins. As many know, this edge is productive when the tide starts to come and is about 200 yards from shore or more.

The tide was very low, a minus tide, just starting to come in when you stepped over the gunwhale of the Rip Ryder. It lulls the wader to venture further on the flat, but after 40 minutes the tide is starting to push with vigor into the myriad of channels twisting in every direction around you.

Then a pea-soup fog rolls in and obliterates everything in sight but another lone angler, walking confused in circles with detectable concern. You forgot to re-charge your batteries in your hand-held GPS - damn you shouldn't have had that last cocktail before going to bed last night. You stopped carrying the trusty compass once you got this new toy for Christmas.

Guess it's down to dead reckoning.

How do you get to safety?

Two members with the highest scores will get a full-day guided trip on Monomoy including shuttle and lunch. Sean McDermott and Dble Haul are in the lead currently but with only 1 point each.

02-29-2004, 08:10 AM
Wow.....another good reason not to fish Monomoy alone unless experieced and possess a GPS!!!
Here are some thoughts:
1. call to the other fisherman who appears to be wandering in circles.....he may in fact, have a GPS and is following it intently!
If not, at least one has company at the time of death!
2. blow my whistle that I alway carry and hope someone hears it
3. look down in the sand and follow my foot steps back to shore (did that once)
4. Check sun position(if visable in the fog).....I believe that walking towards the sun may return one to shore in the position I think you are describing.
5. If all that fails.....take out the pen I carry in my vest and say "I'm sorry" to my wife :-(

02-29-2004, 09:00 AM
1) Try not to panick :eyecrazy: Call the other angler over.

2) Orient myself according to the direction of water flow. If I'm at the south end of North Monomoy facing the crib the flood tide will be coming from my left.

4) If I'm facing the current, dry land will be at my 10:00 - 11:00 o'clcok.

5) Carry a compass as a backup. GPS is cool but batteries do run out

02-29-2004, 09:17 AM
Clarification: You are not on the south end of the island, you are on "the famous North Monomoy Island's west side".

The compass would have really come in handy, as the "tide is starting to push with vigor into the myriad of channels twisting in every direction around you". Unfortunately you removed it from your vest as the fancy new GPS arrived, but the batteries are toast.

Current direction is often useless in determining direction unless (1) you know where you are AND (2) have current knowledge of precise sand structures, neither of which are true on this foggy first day. I have been frequently surprised how deceiving current direction is - for instance the current runs opposite of what you would expect for the majority of the tide on the north channel, which influences this area heavily until the force coming in from the inlet to the southeast has it's say about things when it swaps over hours after the tide has changed (depending on the wind direction and force) and the majority of flood has already occurred, therefore rendering current direction without landmarks deceptive at best. Some tide changes it never does quite change direction before slack, and then ebb speeds it up again in the same direction.

An even more emphatic example - Brewster flats. During peak flood, the most dangerous time, 5 people can stand 100 yards apart and all can observe different current directions at the Blue Hole. Because of the tide levels being twice that of the south side, it's hazardous for waders - don't even walk out there in a fog without navigational tools or better yet stay within constant eye-shot of shore. Get breakfast and sneak into Cold Storage or Sesuit Beaches later in the flood where you don't need to make a 3/4 mile hike to reach the water in bad conditions.

In any case, it's possible that current can help, but in a limited capacity and in some places it will hurt you more than help you. It is not a safe means of dead reckoning on foot on the flats during peak flood in a fog.

02-29-2004, 09:18 AM
Make an arrangement with the other fisherman and hook a life line to him with fly line and backing and reel and one person should proceed as above trying to determine higher ground.


Never use rechargeables in a GPS, too unreliable.

When I marked my way point of return before I left the island I probably would have received a low bat warning.

Batteries may not be dead. Take them out clean and replace.

02-29-2004, 11:31 AM
Hmmmm, the West side......Current is out so that leaves....

Sun: I've been out there on days when you never see it. Worst case scenario is no visual clues at all.

Sounds: Stage Harbor and Morris Island channel are to the North- boat traffic may provide a general clue but sound direction can be hard to pin down in a fog.

Voices do travel a long way across water - especially in a fog - but would the clammers still be out there at this stage of the flood - they seem to pack up pretty quickly once the flood starts?

So, keeping boat traffic sounds to the left should bring me eventually to the line of "No Access" signs. From memory these are placed a ways out on the flats on North Monomoy

02-29-2004, 01:40 PM
I have only been on Monomoy a couple times, but the one thing I remember is the gulls. The birds make more noise than most anything I've ever encountered, and they are usually flying to land. So I would head straight towards where the gulls are making the noise and flying.

Had this happen to us. I was the only one without GPS, and my trusty compass got us back and closer than any of the GPS units. Never take your compass out of you gear.

02-29-2004, 01:53 PM
Take your pliers and cut a short piece of the thinnest steel (iron) wire you can. Could be from a zinger or a piece of leader wire for bluefish, or a straightened light wire steel hook ( non stainless.) Rub the wire over the Morell magnets that hold your fly box together and get a light magnetic capability established in the wire. Then rub the wire with the piece of candle you carry to wax the ferrules on your fly rod. Finally fill up the top of your bottle of drinking water with a little fresh water and float the lightly magnetic needle in the water so that it can freely turn and hope like hell you chose North and South right so you can walk East

Dble Haul
02-29-2004, 02:02 PM
I have no good answer for this one....I don't have as much experience in the area, and look forward to the revealing and informative answer.

One thing I do know is that you shouldn't be too married to the idea of following the noises or flight patterns of birds. For all you know, the noise may be gulls and terns over a blitz in a channel, and following that noise could potentially put you in even deeper trouble.

02-29-2004, 02:03 PM
I am with Stephon and JF on this one. I would use all the available noises to figure out direction. Boats should be behind me, birds in front. Then I would have one angler walking forward with the other angler remaining still as a reference point. The walking angler should be counting of paces and direction to the standing angler in order to navigate the channels you will need to pass through. Last ditch effort if the tide is really moving in. One angler takes off his waders and swims toward shore with the lifeline. The other will follow suit once the first reaches solid ground.


02-29-2004, 02:53 PM
1. Sand tends to have ripples parallel to shore. Move behind you perpendicular to the ripples to reach shore.
2. The sun tends to have a halo in the fog. Head to the left of the halo to reach shore.
3. Contact the other guy to see if he has a GPS or compass. If you have a whistle, use it.


02-29-2004, 03:24 PM
Sean is right....JF said that. One angler can work radials form the other fixed angler that maintains a fixed orientation as well as a fixed position.

02-29-2004, 04:11 PM
Originally posted by striblue
This is now getting confusing... I meant Noise...sound. Forget it.


I meant I would use both theories. Like Stephon I would use noise to get the general direction. But as we all know a few feet to the left or right with the channels can make a huge difference out there. In that regard, I thought JF was spot on to use the line and fixed positioning to find the route into shore. No offense to Juro, but in this situation there would be a lot more at stake than a trip with him, our egos I mean lives would be at stake!:chuckle:


02-29-2004, 06:51 PM
I thought I would let this one go longer being the weekend but with the quality of the responses and considerations people have put forth it warrants a quick reply!

The objective is to find a safe place to be until the tide recedes or you need to leave, preferably dry land. That will certainly be our quest, but I wanted to remind that it's not necessarily the only solution since the 4.x ft tides here are much more accomodating than the 10.x ft tides on the bayside, where it would be an urgent matter to find dry land indeed. No need to panic on the south side. On many parts of the west common flats you can be far from the actual island and unthreatened through the whole tide, but you will not be able to return to land until the tide recedes. There are often options other than the directive "find land". For instance, the humps are located on the top half of the west common flats about where we described. If you can get on them and the tide level is too advanced for further options they're dry shoals through most high tides on Monomoy (barring storms and extremes). A little frazzling sitting on Gilligan's Island through the tide, but you should see the fish that come by! In a fog, that can be quite un-nerving and no one wants to fish a single spot for several hours anyway.

Again, the goal of this exersice is to return to dry land so let's assume that is our only option...

Answer: Follow the sun.

But first a few questions to ask oneself:

Q1 - What time is it in this scenario?

Q2 - Looking at the photographic proof, what remains visible in even a thick fog at this time of day?

Q3 - What are the tides doing this day?

Q4 - What time of year is it, most likely?

#1 - It's approximately 9am. As clearly stated above, you've been dropped off at 8:20 "on the first shuttle" and walked for 40 minutes. Even if you don't have a watch, that's an easy dead reckoning' with a safe margin of error if you're not spot-on with the time. But unless you're a real dimwit if you're taking the shuttle you or the other guy has a watch - because you need to know when to get picked up, everyone brings one. This will matter later.

#2 - Even in the thickest fog, you can determine the location of the sun, in fact the fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife the day I took the above photo, and the sun is easy to see. The possibility exists that the sun's position can not be determined but the likelihood is so low that it would not render this exercise useless by any means. I can not recall a day ever on the flats where the sun's position could not be determined.

#3 - Tides are incoming at approx 9am, obviously. These by the way are often associated with the highest high tides in May and June. By afternoon the tide will be done flooding and begin to ebb with plenty of time before the last shuttle off the island at 4:30p.

#4 - It's "the first trip of the year", so for some it would be April (myself included), many May, others June. In any case it's daylight savings time so the sun position is still quite low on the horizon at 9am (true time 8am sans DST), rising over the eastward horizon and tilted to the south. Of course the time of year is not critical, but for most the first shuttle on the first outing will have the sun angle nice and low on the horizon.

BTW - In April or May, you will see nor hear very few birds and boats until late May. I would not consider sound to be a valid approach for my "first trip of the year". Even the shuttles run on a once out and once back basis on these early days.

Cardinal direction using the sun (Northern Hemisphere / DST)

On the northern hemisphere, the further from the equator you go the more accurately the sun's position portrays true south at mid-day. If you can hang out until the shadows are vertical, look at the sun and go left.

If you need to get the heck off pronto at 9am, then make the shape of an analog watch or clock to reflect the time, in this case 8am because you need to deduct an hour for daylight savings time, and point the hour hand in the direction of the sun. It's best to hold the watch (or virtual watch using sticks or the halves of your fly rod) parrallel to the ground.

The imaginary line that bisects the hour hand and minute hand is the North-South Line.

Of course you will know which is north because it's morning so the sun has to be in the eastern sky.

Another trick is to poke a stick in to the sand and place a stone at the end of the shadow cast by the tip of the stick. In 15 or so minutes, more if you have time, place another stone at the new location of the shadow's tip. Now draw a line in the sand that passes through both of these stones postions and you have the east-west line.

Combined with the fact that we see the sun at true south at mid-day, there is no reason why we can't determine cardinal direction from the sun.

What if you can't determine the position of the sun? What the heck are you doing sight fishing then? :devil:

Seriously, I have not seen a day on the flats where I could not determine the position of the sun.

Simple answer: BRING A COMPASS!

Congratulations, the winner of this round is Paxton. Ron, even though you put the option at the futile end of your list once you got done playing with your whistle and trying to find flood-washed footsteps, you would have made hay in the easterly direction based on the only icon available, the sun. ;) :devil:

Oh and don't forget to help the lost guy ahead. Tell him you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. :smokin:

Dble Haul
02-29-2004, 07:25 PM
Thank you for such a detailed and informative answer.

02-29-2004, 07:37 PM
A couple of notes:

1) I have three sets of batteries for the GPS - a vacuum sealed pair of emergency batteries, a spare set of batteries freshly charged (NmH) and a set of batteries inside it.

2) I always bring a compass too, as well as a whistle, watch, cell phone. I haven't had to use the compass since obtaining the GPS. The problem with the compass is that it does not know where you are like the GPS. It will however give you cardinal direction without running out of juice.

3) I start scouting the structures in mid-April and do not book trips until mid-May to provide ample time to memorize things. I find the program GPS Tracker (recommended to me by Nick Svencer) to be of extremely high value in year to year comparisons and annotations.

Things to watch out for:

There are deep channels that the water enters and exits the flats through on every flat structure anywhere. Just to the south of where I was describing is a distinct channel that runs west to east from the sound to the edge of the island and turns south to feed a very deep slot up against the island near the south end. None of this is crossable during the flood and you would have to know that this channel stands between you and dry land in order to avoid it, even with a compass telling you where land is. Therefore a GPS is far superior in that it knows where you are and the lay of the land once you program waypoints.

Another problem with dead reckoning iteratively from your position is missing dry land. Let's say you were not as far south as you though on west common and made a beeline east looking for the island. It's entirely possible that you would hit the main channel .5-.75 miles to the north of the island in a fog and get really confused at why you are a step away from water over your head all of a sudden. A GPS would indicate your position is too far north absolutely verses relatively e.g. compass. Yet a compass is an invaluable backup.

There is no electronic substitute for common sense - if there is a threat of fog or worse yet lightning, it's best to choose another venue besides flats fishing out on expansive flats like this one.


02-29-2004, 07:38 PM
What a surprise!!!!! Thanks Juro! Am looking forward to a day on the flats of learning and fishing :D

02-29-2004, 08:16 PM
...looking west across the "drop off" towards N Monomoy...

02-29-2004, 08:20 PM
This shot renders a good look at the "event"...
You can still see the guy wandering around in circles!:hehe:

02-29-2004, 08:35 PM
You've scored a point to tie with Sean McDermott and Dble Haul, one point each. Two high scores get the free lunch and shuttle (and guided trip thrown in). Plenty more chances coming up between now and prime time on the flats.

Originally posted by Paxton
What a surprise!!!!! Thanks Juro! Am looking forward to a day on the flats of learning and fishing :D

03-01-2004, 05:51 AM
OK Juro.....I will place my excitement on hold and wait for Flats Logic #4 etc :) Another good reason to enjoy this site.

03-01-2004, 06:14 AM
I have had a Garmin GPS 12 XL ever since it came out in 1996, I have checked it, and checked it against my son's DGPS on his boat, and it is within a meter of his extremely accurate large unit. I have about 300 waypoints in its memory. They include offshore, close in reefs, and rocks, breechway mouths, what ever, and hunting sites, and trails. It requires 4 AA batteries to operate, and a set last for about 12 hours. In my opinion it cannot be beat, and I have yet to have to install new batteries in the field, and if I did I carry one set of spares. :D I have also had Magellan which I gave away could not rely on it.

03-01-2004, 07:02 AM
By the way I found a detailed description of this method on a survival website, good one to keep in mind if you are a sportsman...


Jay's mention of constructing a magnetic compass ad hoc deserves an honorable mention and although not the most expedient or practical solution the many ways to build a compass mentioned in this text are testament to the usefulness of making one with what you have available.

03-01-2004, 09:46 PM
Having watched #1 son, and a buddy, crest the top of their waders on an incoming tide, in broad daylight, while 7 of us were eating lunch on the N. end of Monomoy it became quite obvious to me that...., a calm head is your best tool in dealing with tides. And while a GPS ,with working batteries, is your best ally, if you know how to use it..., there are very few places on the N side of N Monomy where a compass would not get you back to terra firma with a south/south east bearing and very few places on the W side of the island where an easterly bearing would not work. With that said, you might get wet in the process of getting back to the dry sand, however the incoming tide is not one that could not be overcome,normally. I have been "caught" on the W side of the island, but I had a pretty good idea of where I needed to get to. The goal is to know your abilities and observe what is happening with the weather/tides and to prevent being put in precarious situations. As they say in the Alaska bush country, "there are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no, old bold pilots". I carry two compasses and a "sonic whistle". As with rock climbing..., plan your exit strategy..,