Captains David and Elliott Peralta Working a Tripletail On the Fly
The essence of fishing is not catching fish. It is about spending time with your friends and family. Some of my more memorable fishing trips are when fishing was hard and catches were few. Saturday was one of them. Given busy schedules, it had been a couple of weeks since Elliott (my son), David (my brother) and I had fished together. For us, this was an unusually long time between fishing trips together. Our plan was to launch an hour before high tide and target Trout then switch to tailing Redfish at the top of the tide. The plan went south almost immediately. A strong breeze made for choppy conditions in the Wando River. This made for poor water clarity and the Trout bite was slow. Dave and Elliott managed to catch a few on Z-Man MinnowZ (Houdini) lures. I caught zero. A fact pointed out (often) by Elliott and David.
At the top of tide, we left the Trout (they were not biting that well anyway) and moved to an area of the marsh that was supposed to be submerged by the high tide. Unfortunately, the tide was not high enough to allow Redfish access to the area. Historically, per the moon phase and tide cycle, this was the ideal location. We checked a few more areas with the same results (not enough of a tide to flood the marsh). With Plan A (Trout) and Plan B (tailing Redfish) a total bust, we drifted along the marsh edge discussing Plan C. About then, I spotted a small Tripletail hanging around a marsh point. Elliott has never caught a Tripletail on the fly, so this became our Plan C. Elliott jumped up on the poling platform, Dave handed him his fly rod and I positioned the skiff for a good downwind fly presentation. With nothing left for me to do, I settled in to watch Elliott and David work the fish. The Tripletail refused the first fly (a Clouser minnow). So, David selected a shrimp pattern for Elliott to try next. We held our breath as the Tripletail slowly tracked the fly. Only to turn away at the last second. Elliott, David and I exchanged “did you see that” looks. We repeated this sequence until the falling tide forced the Tripletail into deeper water. Elliott did not catch his first Tripletail on the fly.
From a fish catching perspective, it was an awful day. From a family experience perspective, it was unforgettable.
Sometimes, a fishing trip does not go as planned. This was certainly the case on Friday evening. Elliott and I decided (at the last minute) to target Redfish on the fly. It was breezy but the wind was forecast to subside, making for challenging but fly fishable conditions. The wind did not subside. Elliott thought I was bringing my 8-weight flyrod and I thought he was bringing his. We ended up fishing with an inexpensive 6-weight flyrod that I keep on the skiff (for just such emergencies). It was way under-powered for the size fly (a chartreuse bead chain Clouser Minnow) and wind conditions (15 knots) but it was all we had.
Upon arrival at our designated fishing area (a shallow area with a slight channel), we immediately saw a small school of Redfish chasing shrimp. Elliott volunteered to pole the skiff and I took the bow with 6-weight fly rod in hand. My first, second and third casts were simply awful. The wind kept knocking my presentation off line or short. In such conditions, an 8-weight fly rod would have been a great help. For the next hour, we cast to several fish but it was more of the same. I resolved to buy an 8-weight fly rod and keep it on the skiff.
Just as I was about to give up, Elliott spotted a single Redfish tailing beside an oyster bar. It was a short downwind cast and my first accurate fly presentation of the evening. On the first strip, I felt weight and thought the fly had gotten hung up on the oyster bar. Very frustrated, I began cussing and tried to break the fly off. Then I realized, it was actually a Redfish. Elliott made a comment about “the worst hook up on the fly” he had ever seen. He was laughing so hard, I thought he would fall off the poling platform. I began laughing too.
We eventually caught, photographed and released the fish. Fly fishing can be a challenging endeavor. Especially, when you forget to bring your fly rod.
Between bad weather, skiff maintenance and my daughter (Maddie) graduating from college, I did not get to fish much last week. However, when I did manage to get out, fishing was quite good. Especially for big Redfish on the falling tide.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Elliott and I decided to fish the Cooper River and Clouter Creek. We launched the skiff at the newly renovated boat landing near Bellinger Island. Which, by the way, looks and functions great! After a quick run into the Cooper River, we began casting Z-Man MinnowZ (Pinfish) lures on quarter ounce Trout Eye jigs to creeks that were draining into the main river. It took a while to find the right drain but when we did it was game on with big Reds. Most of the fish were over the slot (of 23 inches). A few were way over the slot. Elliott caught the biggest one of the trip, a 30+ inch bruiser. As a bonus, Trout were also feeding in creek mouths. So, Elliott and I had steady action well into the evening.
The most productive technique was a long cast into the mouth of the creeks. We imparted an erratic jigging and wiggling retrieve as the tide swept the lure into the main river. Most of our strikes occurred in the current seam where the creek and river met. Trout were holding deeper and the Reds were feeding tight to the creek mouth. So, if a Redfish did not eat the lure, a few seconds later (in deeper water), a Trout usually did.
While I typically fish in the Wando River, Clouter Creek and the Cooper River system are full of Trout, Flounder and Redfish. So much so, that I believe I will be spending a bit more time there!
Recently, a few people have been asking questions about how the tide influences my approach to fishing. In the Lowcountry, we have a tidal range of 5 to 6 feet. Subsequently, we have a consistent 2 to 3 knot current as the tide rises and falls. Tidal range and current are helpful factors for anglers that plan accordingly.
As the tide begins to fall, shrimp and baitfish funnel out of the marsh through small drains and creek mouths. Trout, Flounder and Redfish have this figured out and position themselves accordingly. So I tend to fish this pattern early in the falling tide.
When the water flow from small drains and creek mouths begins to slow down (and food is no longer being funneled), I move to larger creek mouths or marsh points that are still being swept by a good current. These areas are predator feeding stations and should be productive until slack tide.
At the bottom of the tide, I focus on Redfish in shallow water. Not just any shallow area but areas with oyster bars and a depth transition (like a channel). Bait gets concentrated in these areas and Redfish can often be seen chasing it around. They are literally fishing in a barrel. Anglers with shallow draft skiffs can fish in the same barrel.
Three patterns for three stages of the tide. I hope this helps.
As Summer approaches, the waterways will become increasingly more crowded. Being on the water (even if you are not fishing) is great fun. However, heavy boat traffic can negatively impact fishing. So, in the Summer, I tend to fish very early in the morning or late in the evening. This keeps me out of the heat of the day and in optimal fishing conditions.
Recently, Elliott (my son) and David (my brother) joined me for an early morning fishing trip. We launched the skiff well before the sun cleared the tree line. The air was crisp and a bit cool. It made for a chilly run to our first fishing location (a large submerged oyster bar). The tide was falling and formed a current seam as it passed over the bar. As I positioned the skiff (using the trolling motor), we saw Trout busting baitfish in the seam. Elliott and David cast Chug Bug poppers into the current seam and were rewarded with crushing strikes from hungry Trout. As they were fighting their fish, I cast a Lucky Craft Sammy into the current seam. After a few iterations of a twitch and pause retrieve, my lure was inhaled but a slot-size Redfish. The sunrise was magnificent. The top water bite was even better.
After photographing and releasing the fish, the three of us took a moment to appreciate the new day. We exchanged no words. We simply looked at one another, nodded and smiled. Over the years, I have come to realize that fishing is not about catching fish. It is about the experience you share with your family and friends. Summer is almost here. So, gather your family and friends and go fishing. You will be rewarded with a lifetime of memories and that is the best catch of all.
My skiff drafts about 7 inches of water. Today, the Redfish were tailing in 5. So we had to take them on foot. Great day On The Fly.
The past few days have been very windy. So windy, that I abandoned my favorite finesse techniques and switched to power fishing mode with a quarter ounce Trout Eye Jig and Z-Man MinnowZ (Pearl Blue Glimmer) body. This combination casts well into the wind and stays in the strike zone despite the gale. Oh yeah, big Trout like it to too!
Most of the big fish were found around shallow ledges directly adjacent to deeper water. Water clarity in these areas improves on the incoming tide. The Trout bite does as well.
Larger and heavier lures require slightly heavier tackle. So I put away my favorite 7′ St. Croix Legend Elite (Light) in favor of the Medium Light version. If you match your tackle and techniques to the conditions, you will more than likely catch fish. Even in a gale.