Headed to the Beach this Summer? Don't Leave Your Fly Rod at Home!
Your family's summer vacation may be the last place you thought that pulling out a fly rod was a good idea. Not because you are blind to the fishy water that surrounds you for the entire week (or longer if you're lucky), but because you may only have a hour or two a day where you can get away. I'm happy to tell you that saltwater fly fishing doesn't always need to be an all day adventure, and that willing fish are available any time you are free to fish!
Get Up with the Sun.
As with many types of fishing we like to do, the early fisherman gets the bite. Fluke (or Summer Flounder), striped bass, and bluefish are all active in the morning when the sun is low in the sky and boat (and tourist) traffic is at a minimum. Grab your sandals, some swim trunks, and a 6, 7, or 8wt rod and hit the sand. I suggest a moderate sinking leader, fluorocarbon tippet, and a few clouser minnows in different colors - there is certainly no reason to pack heavy or wear waders.
I like to pick a section of beach in the morning that has a shallow flat or sandbar surrounded by some deeper water. Look for inlets, protected beaches, and bays. All three species mentioned above will use these areas on the moving tides. Be mindful not to wade too deep or move too abruptly, as fish can often come in very shallow in the early mornings. Work your clousers by making multiple casts at varying speeds while covering a section of beach. It is not uncommon to hook a half-dozen fish, pick up some breakfast, and be headed back to the house before your family is even out of bed.
Bring the Family Along.
Mid-day fishing at the shore means beach chairs, frisbees, boat traffic, and swimmers. However, I've found two species of fish still biting through it all - bluefish and fluke. So, bring the family along with all of your beach gear in tow! Two summers ago, I was fishing along a popular beach, where beach-goers are allowed to anchor their boats and set-up chairs, food, and drinks on the sand. To the surprise of many sun-bathers, I fished right around their boats, jet skies, and float tubes and landed several fluke and snapper bluefish in about an hour. Would the fishing have been better without the boats and people? Yes, I'm sure of it. But, I took what I could get and made a successful fishing session out of it.
Fish After Everyone is in Bed.
The night bite isn't for everyone, but it can be very productive during the summer at the beach. My goal for the night shift is to find actively feeding fish (mostly bluefish and the occasional striper) under a full moon, bridge lights, or around docks. On occasion, you'll stumble across a feeding frenzy so intense the water will look like someone is dropping bucket after bucket of gravel from high above. In these situations, specifically during the summer, the ruckus is usually caused by snapper bluefish. Luckily for you, every single one of them will be more than willing to tear into your flies. I suggest increasing your tippet's strength, to prevent getting bitten off, and leaving your beautiful, hand-tied, masterpiece flies in your bag. These fish will eat just about any streamer! Also, if you are able to get down below the feeding bluefish (which is easier said than done), some nicer striped bass may be waiting in the shadows.
So, be sure to pack your fly rod on your summer beach vacation this year. An hour or two here and there will surely add up to a few fish over the week. Fluke will be your most likely encounter, followed by bluefish, and striped bass. See you on the water!