A re you a tough mudder? British commandos devised an event combining distance, typically ten or more miles, with a muddy obstacle course to test the mettle, strength, and stamina of participants. Recreation runners adopted the concept and competitive mud runs are now held all over the country.
You don’t don’t have to be in the military or pay an entry fee to be a tough mudder though, just head to the coast. Many coastal flats, especially those that don’t undergo significant tidal movement on a regular basis, are covered with a foot, or more, of alluvial goo. Wading in the mud is, well, tough.
Savvy coastal anglers know that redfish have a love affair with muddy bottoms. Learning to navigate in the mud and muck will increase your chances of success.
Kayaks are a great aid if you regularly fish on muddy flats. I prefer to paddle to my destination, then stalk tailing and waking fish on foot, rather than afloat. A simple twist of the waist and my legs slip quietly overboard. A stakeout stick driven into the mud keeps the kayak from drifting off while you are concentrating on fish.
If I am fishing from my center console, I will shut down the engine a good distance from the intended flat, then use my trolling motor or push pole to work my way stealthily onto the flat.
The biggest mistake wading anglers make when they encounter deep mud is to “bicycle.” When they hit the soft stuff, wade fishermen often increase their pace thinking the quickness of their steps will help them get better traction. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As you churn the goo on the bottom with your wading booties, you heart rate goes up and after 30 seconds of shear panic, you come to a stop, your chest heaving.
Wading in deep mud is a specialized drill, and a little knowledge can turn a nightmare into a dream. When you get to the soft stuff, the first rule is to stop and assess your situation. How deep is the mud? Will my footwear stay on my feet? How far do I have to wade before I can make a cast to a tailing fish? Am I in good enough physical shape to do some moderate exercise?
Once you have sized-up the situation and decide to continue your quest, each step should be carefully considered and measured. You aren’t sauntering along anymore, casually looking at roseate spoonbills. You need to focus on each step.
Shin- to knee-deep mud can be traversed with slow, deliberate steps. With each new step, your leg will sink down into the mud until the resistance is great enough to support your weight. When you are ready for your next step, point your toes of your rear leg and then lean forward. Leaning breaks the suction of the mud around your calf, making it much easier to retrieve from the mud. Pointing your toes like a ballerina straightens your foot and minimizes the friction as your wading bootie is hauled up from the depths.
Once you get the hang of wading in mud, it opens up a lot of areas that were previously off-limits. One of my brother Bill’s favorite wading spots is affectionately referred to as “The Mud Hole.” Without fail, a school of marauding redfish can be found here when the tide is moving. Rarely do we see other fishermen, the deep, sucking mud an obvious deterrent.
Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to cover a football field at a time, but rather a handful of yards.
When fishing a mud flat, I will often wade to strategic area and then stop for an extended period. Standing in the same spot for 30 minutes to an hour may seem strange to many costal anglers but it is a great technique—especially if you are wading in deep mud.
Staying put has a number of benefits. First, there is little or no noise. When you are moving, each step sends out shock waves through the water. Fish sense this disturbance through their lateral lines.
Coming to a halt avoids spooking the fish. Standing still also maximizes the water clarity. When you’re moving, each trudging step dredges up mud and clouds the water. The sedentary angler minimizes turbidity in the surrounding water.
Standing scarecrow still is the ultimate act of stealth on a coastal flat. In much the same manner that bow hunters sit in a tree stand and wait for their prey to come within range, the same approach is highly profitable on a coastal flat.
Technique and tactics makes wading in the mud a lot easier and will help you conquer your apprehension.
Are you a tough mudder? You won’t get a T-shirt, but you will catch more fish.
Email Greg Berlocher at [email protected]