Flats Logic #6 [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Flats Logic #6

04-08-2004, 12:56 PM
The previous question established that at least in this track of thinking, the presence of fish (more importantly understanding the behavior of stripers to maximize your encounters with fish) is the most important factor. All the presentation, pattern, and ambient light, favorable wind, breakfast in the world will not get you a fish in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

Next question:

Of all the factors for success on the flats, what is the second most important factor after "presence of fish"?

04-08-2004, 01:22 PM
Presence of hungry fish....

04-08-2004, 01:54 PM
The stage of the tide.

04-08-2004, 01:56 PM
Fish's preferred route to the breakfast table.

04-08-2004, 01:58 PM
Stage of the tide . From the previous question we have established that the presence of fish was number one so the next thing would be the stage of the tide. Fishhawk

Dble Haul
04-08-2004, 02:11 PM
I'd say the activity level of the fish that are present...or in more specific terms, the attitude of the fish. Tight-lipped bass aren't impossible to catch, but hungry and active fish will make for a better outing.

04-08-2004, 02:18 PM
Not to be redundant, but it would have to be the tide if the fish are already there.

04-08-2004, 02:24 PM
O.K. Lets say "Being in the right place at the right time".

Stage of tide alone is meaningless. I've caught fish at all stages of the tide - but never all in the same LOCATION.

p.s. I think "Presence of fish" is a stretch since that is the prime factor in ANY fishing situation - not just on the flatz :devil:

04-08-2004, 02:43 PM

04-08-2004, 02:54 PM
flats bass seem to me to be the pickiest so I would say choice of fly comes second after presence of fish. I'm assuming that I am not standing in the path of the fish either so if that assumption is incorrect then I would make that the second most important.

04-08-2004, 02:57 PM
Sorry if I have not been clear.

Please let me explain...

By saying that the "presence of fish" is most important, I was trying to say three things:

1) It's most important that the angler's actions relate to fish behavior to put himself in front of fish

e.g. Many anglers will randomly pick a spot at a convenient time of day while meticulously picking a fly. Yet such fly will do nothing unless the fish will be at that spot. Yet later that same day, every fly in his box could catch a fish.

Indeed presence of fish is important in any fishing venue but that does not make it untrue on the flats :devil:

2) If the angler's thinking does not start with "where are the fish going to be right now?" then all the presentation, pattern in the world will do no good, or at least it will be left to pure luck.

Everything is perfect. The wind, the sun, your casting, your fly... but where are the fish? Somewhere at this very moment a horde of angrily feeding submarine bass are tearing up a flat... where might that be? What leads you there?

3) The biggest return on your investment of study time comes from knowing where the fish are going to be based on:

- time of year
- time of day
- bait situation
- environmental conditions (temperature, oxygen, etc)
- predatory threats
- habitual behavior based on above
- combinations of the above
- vested knowledge from study of these factors

So to be clear, the phase of tide is just one of the key elements in maximizing the "presence of fish".

Once again, when I say "presence of fish" it does not just mean dumb luck has fallen in your favor (although it could :p ). What I meant by this is that an angler is best off studying and understanding how to put himself in the most likely place and time to be where the fish are going to be.

The best presentation, fly in the universe can not catch a fish on a barren flat.

Once again, IMHO - what is the second most important thing to prioritize out there?

04-08-2004, 03:28 PM
O.K. - lack of 'crowds'.

Its a personal thing, but I don't have much interest in sight casting to fish that have run the guantlet of fifteen, twenty or more rods before they get to me. I may miss out on those 'biblical' schools of fish, but knowing that mine will be the first fly a fish sees that day is a nice thought. :smokin:

04-08-2004, 03:53 PM
If I see fish are present then the next thing would be 'what are they eating' (so I can choose the fly for their next meal).

04-08-2004, 03:59 PM
It’s like real estate...location, location, location. Knowing where the fish are going to be so you can put yourself the correct spot to present the fly in a natural manner.

04-08-2004, 04:00 PM
Originally posted by Paxton

Given you've put yourself in front of fish successfully, or by pure luck (which is just as good) - consider this:

A sloppy presentation works great under certain conditions, while perfect presentations fail in other situations. Therefore this mystery factor must be more important than even the ever-critical "presentation".

So Sean, you missed one. There is no trinity. ;)

I started to play this mystery card heavily recently and it has made a big difference in success for time spent.

04-08-2004, 04:02 PM
Originally posted by CSJ60
It’s like real estate...location, location, location. Knowing where the fish are going to be so you can put yourself the correct spot to present the fly in a natural manner.

As explained, this is a factor in Rule #1 - Presence of fish, otherwise known as "putting oneself in front of fish (or lucking out)".

The question is once this is accomplished, what's the next most influential factor for success?

04-08-2004, 04:07 PM
How about presence of bait - or is that part of presence of fish? Being able to present to feeding fish rather than fish travelling elsewhere with a purpose.

04-08-2004, 04:31 PM
How about personal skill? I would include in this stealth, position and accuracy of cast.

04-08-2004, 04:49 PM
dumb fish, new arrivals, color is the indicator.


04-08-2004, 05:51 PM
OK.........now that my "presentation" failed to get a hook up. I'll try again if that is allowed.
Next try: what I try to focus on and salivate over are 3 things:
1. birds actively feeding on bait
2. bass behavior that indicates that they are in the feeding mood ie. flashes and or erradic swimming (changes of direction), purposeful swiming as opposed to just cruising by.
3. at SB...actively feeding seals....that tells me there is bait or at least stripers (if they are feeding on them).


PS: Hopefully you will inform us of the "mystery" by day break:)

04-08-2004, 07:30 PM
Once again, thanks for the patience. As I stated earlier, this is just one man's opinion and all perspectives are important and valuable.

Sean stated earlier:

- presence of fish
- presentation
- fly

In my experiences one thing that ranks even higher than presentation is the mood of the fish, rule #2. You need to take decisive action to get in front of the most willing fish available for any given time / situation.

An angler is very well served to study what turns fish on based on season, tide, time of day, forage opportunities, conditions, etc. There will be several groups of fish in a territory at any given time and people think all fish are either "on" or "off". I have found that some fish are "on" even while others are really "off" right around the corner, or even in the same spot at a different tide. The "off" fish might even go absolutely bonkers themselves when they are triggered. Learn these things and it will not matter so much how you present or what fly you use.

Let me try to explain the importance of mood:

- If the fish are in the feeding mood (#2), they won't care about no schinkin' presentation (#3) and will hit any fly (#4) in your box. Likewise if they are not in the mood to feed, your best presentation may be rejected and every fly in your box might get rejected as well. Sound familiar?

By mid-summer, loads of fish are present but they're sort of in the mood, sort of not. Some fish are totally not in the mood, others are surprisingly willing - often at the same exact time in different spots within walking distance. Do you know which of these spots are the right ones in which to invest the hours of your precious fishing day? If you do you will not have a long face on the Rip Ryder at 4pm.

Take the example of bonefish on flats adjacent to mangroves... do you like them coming out of shark infested mangroves as they drain or coming onto the fresh baked flats from deep channels as they flood? Mood is very important to success and often overlooked for the sake of presentation or fly.

Of course presentation and fly are still absolutely critical but not nearly as much. You can dramatically increase your success by knowing where willing fish hang out verses where any fish hang out in a given tide, time, location, season, etc. It takes an investment of time to learn these situations, but it will yield much higher results than jumping over this important factor and going straight to presentation and/or fly.

And as a reminder, even if the fish are in an all-out frenzy somewhere, if you are not in front of them you get zilch - rule #1.

So to recap, here are my 'big 4':

1) presence of fish - study patterns and behaviors
2) mood of fish - know which situations produce despite others
3) presentation - make it palatable
4) fly - close the deal

Yet most place the order of importance as:

1) fly - close the deal
2) presentation - make it palatable
3) presence of fish - study patterns and behaviors
4) mood - know which situations produce despite others

Although many posts hit upon this aspect, I have a hard time picking a winner on this one, most likely because no one mentioned the need to take action to control one's own destiny.

In fact there are actions that can be taken to maximize all of these 4 factors. Presence of fish is only as good as the angler makes it, choosing the places where the fish are in the most willing frame of mind is far more productive than mastering presentation or choosing the fly to put in front of unwilling fish.

I'll have to give this one to flydoc, who made the first indication of the importance of mood although he did not mention that it is entirely up to us to find fish in that frame of mind, not up to chance.

04-08-2004, 09:52 PM
Juro- I figure you'll teach me the "how to find 'em" part at some point...in the meantime I'll see what I can glean from Lou Tabory's book...
Thanks again,

04-08-2004, 10:55 PM
Lou is totally on another level when it comes to catching giant bass, and he's an incredible caster as well - a true icon to the pursuit of stripers on the fly.

04-08-2004, 11:15 PM
Did I ever tell you the story of the two flyfishermen who came up to me at the refuge causeway and asked me if I was Lou Tabory... about 4 years ago.... and I stopped and was going to say no.... but something came over me and I said...."AaaaaHhhh..... Ya.... ya... I am"... So one of the guys asked if I could autograph the book that Shep has mentioned... and I said "sure". True story! I remember signing it something like this.."Flyfishing has been very, very good to me.... I hope it is as well to you...your pal, Lou Tabory"... I don't know ,the Saturday night skit about the black comedian who used to say that about baseball.....It just came to me... I did this all with a straight face.

04-08-2004, 11:31 PM
I would have fell for Jimmy Buffet but Lou??? :devil:

04-09-2004, 01:18 AM
I disagree…Mood of the fish (predator) will eat (prey) when the opprotunity presents itself. Fish can be off (not feeding)but will eat when presented with the right opportunity/ target(prey). Fish feed during some/all stages of the tide. Fish don’t think in a higher order… striped bass will eat their own, on the other hand a Red Tail Hawk will not. If they did there would be no Red Tail Hawk

04-09-2004, 07:58 AM
CSJ60 -

I appreciate and respect your opinion. My point as I explained had more to do with the angler than the fish, although it does indeed insist that fish do have behavioral patterns that I generalize as 'moods' in a low-order sense. I do not mean to give the fish a higher order psychology per se. But it's obvious they have moments when their peanut sized brain is lit up for the kill and other moments when they could take or leave a tidbit.

My point is that knowing where and when there will be willing eaters (i.e.: "in the mood") gets you more fish than ignoring this aspect and this is an area worthy of much study on the flats.

For instance:

Several pods are within walking distance of your current position. Some are grubbing actively for sand eels and crabs, some are filter-feeding clouds of minute grass shrimp, one pod is in transition from one area to another where they feed daily at this tide, others are resting after feeding heavily on the previous tide phase a couple of hours ago, still others are hiding from seal pursuit, another is in a noctural feeding cycle and just lounging in a comfortable eddy. One very mature pod (38"=10+ yrs old) works the flat a few steps from the boat landing every day at this tide. By July, they are savvy to almost everything an angler puts in front of them. Many anglers pick away at them every day. They get more savvy each day.

The key point I am trying to make is how an angler chooses which fish to spend his time on directly influences success rate on the flats.

One may even become confident enough to leave the fish he sees for others that he knows will be grabby. I do it all the time, and rarely regret the move. In fact I compare notes with those who lingered around with dour fish and I've have consistently done much better for my troubles.

But let's discuss your point: do fish have moods?

To your point, I would have to say that "moods" are simply behavioral reactions to stimuli. For instance if fish feel threatened, perhaps less than 1% of the fish in a pod will eat even if the opportunity presents itself. This is based on one hookup out of approx 400 fish one day last July. Gray seals drove these stripers into a corner where I had a client waiting for fish to arrive. We were literally surrounded in striper bodies huddled like frightened herring. They would move around in a big mass with their sides touching each other trying to avoid the seals less than a cast away from us as they got picked off one at a time in an explosion of water on this shallow flat. Even after the massacre, for a good 30 minutes the fish hung around in that corner to cool down but were uninterested in eating anything. No presentation, fly mattered. Finally a fish took my clients fly. During the battle, a seal zoomed in from the pod and charged the fish and nearly got it. I stomped into the water to keep the seal from advancing further. His comment was "there was a stupid one in the school". It was certainly not as smart as the others, natural selection almost had it's way.

I had been advising him during all this that a better spot was reaching it's prime time. But with hundreds of fish at your feet he wasn't too excited about taking a leap of faith. Finally, he gave in and we moved to where willing fish often occur at a given tide, and he hooked fish after fish as they buzzed over the shallow flat. They raced each other for his fly. The same fly, presented the same way to 25% of the fish numbers and not 200 yards away. We lost count of the fish he hooked.

I have other spots where the likelihood of hooking up is very slim despite a big showing of fish on almost every tide. You can spend hours trying for them and might hook one, three on a great day. But just up the flat a ways... :devil:

Call them moods, call them what you will - but fish definitely have levels of willingness to eat and different groups have different tendencies even within walking distance of each other. Nowhere does this become more apparent than in 20 inches of water in the mid-day sun.

Simply put, some spots tend to attract fish that for whatever reason are more willing to take a fly. Other spots tend to attract fish that are much harder to trick. I have theories on why this is the case, but they are just pet theories and other than their reliability I have no scientific rationale to support it.

You can spend the whole day trying for fish that are not "in the mood" or you can spend time studying the "big picture" and get to know things well enough to make a milk run through the best spots at the best tides and have a very active outing, even during the dog days.

I'd be more than happy to observe your techniques on the flats in late July. If your presentation and fly convinces the fish I have come to know without worrying about which situations are more productive, I can sure learn from you!

04-09-2004, 08:55 AM
I would have fell for Jimmy Buffet but Lou???

Oh come on Juro!....... They were not SEEING me fishing. Hey, if had been Buffett.... I would have said yes also. .... and broken into a song.:devil:

04-09-2004, 09:18 AM

Good bit of info... agree on the behavioral reactions. My disagreeing with you has nothing to do with my ability or lack there of as a fisherman. The word "mood" thru me off your point.

04-09-2004, 09:28 AM
Bad choice of words on my part!

I meant no reflection on your skills, only that I am open to learning - in fact I am frequently getting "schooled" not only by fish but by other anglers out there :p

04-09-2004, 09:37 AM
I'm with Juro on "moods" or however you want to describe this behavioral characteristic. I had it brought home to me in a big way last season. I had made the walk from the drop-off point to the very tip of South Beach, arriving at around dead low. Just up the channel I started seeing small pods of LARGE fish just circulating in the clear slack water. Without exception, every cast resulted in a hook up - and I was completely alone. As the tide started to push, the local pod dispersed and I started to make my way slowly North.

There was someone else fishing way up in the distance at around the "H" buoy position. Small pods of good sized fish continued to push South against the increasing flow and I continued to enjoy one of the best days fishing ever. I eventually caught up to the guy in front and he was hooking up too. As I rounded the corner looking North up past "J" buoy there was a solid line of anglers all the back to the pick-up point and beyond - I think Outermost must have been running a 'special' that day! What was interesting was that whilst the size of the schools coming by actually got larger, my hook-up ratio decreased - as did the guy in front. In fact no-one was hooking up. Guys that I'd seen on the first ferry out were telling me how tough it had been and how the fish "won't eat". I think I managed one more fish out of about twenty shots to finish off the day.

Coincidence? Time of Day? - I don't think so! The instinct to feed seems to get overridden by the instinct to survive.

04-09-2004, 12:00 PM
The great Guido Hibdon, noted for his largemouth sight fishing skills, actually claimed that he could determine a fishes mood by looking at them as he passed them going along a bank on hi-bypass (max trolling motor power). When he saw one that he thought would eat only then would he present his tube bait. He rarely deviated from throwing the tube. Mood much more important than lure (fly).

04-09-2004, 03:16 PM
To add to this discussion I think the stage of the tide is of great importance. Perhaps it's what might enhance a "mood'" of a fish to eat or not. I believe that fish can sense the changing of the tide and act accordingly. The reason why I like this sport is that the fish are the masters not the humans. I have seen them humble the most experienced of anglers. They level the playing field. Just my .02 . :D

04-09-2004, 05:32 PM
Good point Fishhawk!

As previously mentioned, I put the stage of tide as being one of the many factors that an angler uses to maximize the presence of fish (rule #1). In other words, an angler should place his feet based on what the day's tide will do for that spot in terms of urging fish to show up. It certainly influences the fish's mood (#2) as well. Very very important indeed. Stage of tide is not something you find out about when you get there, it's something that is well anticipated and your spot selection is almost completely defined by it. Hence to me, it's a factor in rule #1.

List from earlier post:

To maximize the presence of fish consider:

- time of year
- time of day
- bait situation
- environmental conditions (temperature, oxygen, etc)
- predatory threats
- habitual behavior based on above
- combinations of the above
- vested knowledge from study of these factors

... in your spot selection.

Despite how important it is, during the fall migration the tide matters little (time of year).

At o'dark thirty (time of day) the fish are practically on the shore regardless of tide.

When the bait situation is thick from the arrival of a massive shoal of sand eels that took a wrong turn in to the tub, the fish could care less about the tide.

Oxygen depletion? Frigid water? Tide makes no difference.

Seals on the cattle drive up the flat? (predatory threat)

So IMHO, the tide is a factor but not in and of itself a rule.

04-12-2004, 11:04 AM
Wel I read all of that and it was interesting but, I didn't read anything about how the fish sees your fly, considering that the light, illumination in the ocean, around beaches for example is dependent on the time of day, atmospheric conditions, wave action and sun angle. For example the light changes by 1 million times from dawn to high noon, and back again from noon to dusk.
Then there is the fishes visual background at the time, and whether the fly in under the water or on top, which will effect the visual distance. The might be the right time of the year, the right season, the right time of the tide, the fish might be moody or not, it might be hungry or not, it might be a bit skittish about predators or not, but if it can't see the fly it will definitely not eat it.
Has there been any research done in the USA on the cone pigments, and rod pigments, in the Strped bass retina.
Be interesting to read any such papers. max

04-12-2004, 12:26 PM
Well it looks like a repeat of your other reply, but a few thoughts come to mind...

We can tell when a fish sees the fly very easily when sight fishing as Sean points out. The fish reacts distinctly by either negative or positive body language. In some cases the fish will flee like it's been poked. In others the fish will continue but distance itself from the offering. Still other times it will investigate but not commit. The worst is the 30 foot follow to your boots when it turns away.

On the positive side, the fish may flare it's gills and inhale the fly just like a saturday morning tv show. Other times it needs a little coercing with your best feeble wounded bait imitation (strip) and finally succumbs. Still other times the fish fight each other to eat your fly. Somehow the little one always wins.

In any case, it's rare on the flats that the fish don't see your fly. It's rare that they don't see you, your line, your shadow, your legs, everything. As Sean points out, we are more concerned with less visibility than more out there.

But that in and of itself is a consideration for visibility, and your point is taken.