Understanding sight fishing more and more...
Although I've been fishing the Cape since I was a young kid, it's always a learning experience. Perhaps that's why I love flyfishing so much.
I've been determined to put the mystery of striper fishing on the flats into writing (Stripers101) this season, and this would require more "research". The string of Monomoy trips I've been making this year have been much more informative than my usual spring / fall flings.
The majority of my sight fishing thus far has been on the bayside flats. This I have done extensively, and the most common situations there are cruising / tailing fish, actively feeding on sand eels, crabs and other flats snacks - and flashing fish (usually much bigger) on the leading edge of bars on the incoming when sand eels pop out of their buried hiding places. Both of these situations are easy fishing provided you do not disrupt the feeding (they're spooky in shallows). There is another sight fishing scenario common to the bayside flats from a boat - shoals of bass laying in a trench or depression waiting for the tide change or digesting food or something. Mostly small fish after early June but there are often a few big fish in that mix. Once again, they might not all rush to eat the fly but you are bound to hook up before you move away from the shadows over the sand. In any case, these situations are relatively simple to fish.
But the hardest type of sight fishing is for those cruising over a flat in transition between one area and another. They are usually seen moving with beeline intent, often quickly. It is critical to be in a postion where you can see the fish and present to them before they can see you. Once they see you, they scram. One hundred fish will come, and they will all behave the same (with very few exceptions). They come from one direction, swim at a given speed, see you and scram.
I have an underwater camera and took a bunch of photos from below. The surface of the water can sometimes be as reflective from below as it is to us. The fish can see the stalks of our legs from far away but once they get close enough, they can look up and see the rest of us. I believe this is why they approach at a given speed and then scram when they get to a certain distance.
The position of the sun with respect to the flat you are fishing is critical. Yesterday, I was standing where the visibility lane co-incided directly with where the fish were coming from. They were traveling (as opposed to feeding) on the flat and would come right at us before getting frightened at a certain distance. The only way to fish them was to drop the fly ahead of them with a cast placed before the zone where they could see your upper body and threatening form.
You had to (a) see them early (b) place the fly (c) entice them to eat before the got close to you. This was very limited in it's success. It would be far better to have a certain angle (other than straight on) to sight and present to these fish.
This introduces a few factors to consider: position of the flat relative to the sun, direction of the fish travel (right to left, left to right), position of the angler relative the both of the above... not to mention shadows, flies, lines, tippets, retrieves, etc, etc.
I have not decided exactly which angles are best for dropping the fly before the paths of fish, what angle the light source should be at, where the fly line should go, etc. I have a good idea of this, and will be testing certain theories on the flats throughout the remainder of the year.
I'd imagine that these things are what makes names like Benson and Jones the Monomoy shore guides they are, and I am determined to learn these 'angles' the hard way - earn them myself. Much more than just the fish themselves, my love of fishing is the conquest of these intricacies that nature puts in our backyard. Funny how obvious these things are to animals, and how oblivious 99% of the human population are to the same natural signals like the mixing of tidal waters, sun and moon positions, barometric pressures, and how these and countless other things play together.
The quest continues...