I'm writing this right now while looking out the window of Postfly HQ as foot after foot of snow continues to pile up and bury us under another coating of Winter. Just when we thought Spring was around the corner, New England's weather fish blocks us again. If you're lucky enough to live anywhere else, maybe some place warm enough to consider a sweatshirt and jeans "Winter attire" with a marsh full of fish nearby, then we're living vicariously through you.
For those fly anglers taking advantage of the Winter marsh fishing season, chasing down redfish and other muddy water trophies, here are a few tips to take advantage of every minute of Winter's shortened days. Just make sure that once you start hooking up you give us a call and invite us to come spend a few days with you. Please? Pretty please?
Find The Fish
Inlets and entrances of the marsh are a good spot to find cruising fish.
Fishing in the marsh is all about working the tides and putting in some legwork to find out which part of the tide your local fish like the most. For me up here in New England, the striped bass tend to be happiest when the tide is high and is just about to start dumping back out to sea. Once you find fish make a note about what part of the tide you spotted them in and then try and replicate it again and again until you know where they are at all parts of the tide.
Of course actually spotting fish can be tricky sometimes, no matter what the tide is doing, especially if you're just getting started in the marsh. Instead of looking for fish look for signs of fish. That could be anything from birds working bait, seeing baitfish skittering on the surface, nervous water, tails of fish, pushes of water from fish underneath. If you can find fish, look for ideal locations where they could be hiding, paying special attention to water current and pinch points where fish could ambush bait.
Catch The Fish
Know how to catch the fish in the marsh once you find them.
Once you find the fish it comes down to stealth and presentation. No matter if you're wading, in a kayak or on a skiff, make sure to keep the noise to a minimum and make slow, careful movements so you don't spook any fish.
Once you get in position you need to think about your cast. Lead the fish so that your fly is in position before the fish sees it. How far you lead fish depends on the species and the water clarity. For clearer water you need to add a few feet to your lead time, for dirtier water you can get away with closer. For redfish in muddy water you only need to lead a foot or two ahead. For striped bass in crystal clear water you may need to lead up to ten feet ahead. Try out different presentations until you start hooking up or seeing fish react and alter your tactic to match.
Keep Catching The Fish
How far are you leading the fish, what's the weather like, what is the tide doing?
The difference between a decent angler and a good one is being able to adapt to conditions and keep catching fish consistently, not just one here and there at random. Once you hook up to a fish, fight it and release it, take a moment to pause. I know you want to make another cast right away and keep catching fish, but trust me on this one. Take a moment to think about everything that lined up and try to replicate it exactly and see if it works.
Think about which direction your fly was moving in, what fly pattern you used and how far you placed your cast in front of the fish. Think about the retrieve you used, the weather conditions, the time of day, the period in the tide, and anything else you can possibly think of that directly relates to that fish eating. Then, tweak your tactics until each fish is biting your fly, not just at random, but in a calculated way that you can repeat again and again. Pretty soon, you'll be the master of the marsh.
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