Fishing the Signs, Not the Spot
I T’S HALF-PAST SIX in the morning, and you’re already behind schedule. You’re just idling-up to your first choice of a wading spot for the day, but you should’ve already been in the water for some time now.
You’re kind of glad you arrived as late as you did, however. It has given you a chance to actually see the area before spending a whole lot of time there if it looks like you might not need to do so. You’ve been catching moderate numbers of trout in this very spot for going on a week now, but this morning things seem different.
The first noticeable difference is that it was already light when you arrived this morning. On previous days it had always been dark when you entered the water. You had basically been running on intuition from prior days.
Another difference today is the clarity of the water. A thunderstorm rolled through last night, and now you can’t make out the bottom of the sand flat you’re idling across until the depth on your GPS indicates less than 1.5 feet.
Up until this morning this place had held some pretty green water, but it has been stained by last night’s bad weather. To add even more change to the pattern of the past week, today there is absolutely no wind blowing across the water. It was glass-smooth on your ride across the bay this morning.
Additionally, before leaving home this morning, you heard someone on TV say there would only be one tide today. That means there would be less water movement today over that of the past week.
Yet, the one thing that probably stuck out the most in your mind as being a major difference is the fact that you didn’t see or hear any bait activity upon your approach this morning—no jumping mullet, no pods scurrying quickly as birds flew over, no sounds of the common “slurp” that trout make as they snatch prey from the surface.
Today, this place seemed completely void of any productive signs of fish activity, whatsoever.
You don’t even get out of the boat. Instead, you turn around and head for another favorite area of yours in order to investigate its signs. It’s an area that should’ve been protected from last night’s storm and that historically has produced for you under similar circumstances.
You travel about 20 minutes back across the bay to your new destination when you notice a slight wind blowing across the water’s surface. You’re glad to see this because some wind is often a good thing from a fishing perspective.
As you approach your landing-place, you can already tell that the water is in good shape. This location happens to be enclosed on both the north and the south sides by small barrier-type pieces of land, thereby protecting it from any water or wind turbulence from last night’s storm.
You pull the boat to within a hundred yards of where you want to start wading, then you drop the power pole. You exit the boat into waist-deep, green water over a soft-shell bottom. The two friends with you are throwing soft-plastics, but you are tossing a small top water lure.
You’re still several yards from where you want the three of you to be, but the soft-plastics crew has already scored two nice trout. You’ve seen a couple of small bursts of interest around your top water, but no takers yet.
As you wade to within casting distance of your target area, you tell the other two to line up shoulder-to-shoulder in a straight line. As they get into place, you suggest they work their baits over the dark water out in front of you.
The water isn’t stained or off-colored, but is simply where the mud and shell on the bottom makes an immediate transition to that of soft sand and lots of grass.
You see rafts of surface mullet floating atop the huge grass flat, and you’re watching disruptions among the pods. The mullet obviously are fleeing for their lives as they’re chased from below.
It’s just a matter of minutes, and a few minor readjustments, when you all begin catching some of the most beautiful and broad-shouldered red fish that you have seen all summer long. Y’all catch reds until your arms and legs hurt.
As it turns out, you each keep one fish for a home cooked meal tonight, but release all the rest for another day. It has truly become a memorable day for all of you, but only because you chose early on to fish the signs, and not the spot.
Email Chris Martin at email@example.com
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