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Lowcountry Degen
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Discussion Starter #1
I'm sure this answer is different depending on water clarity, but how perfect does your cast need to be for a fish to show some interest?

I have been fishing a crab pattern, so I haven't been giving much action to the fly, and I have had a really tough time getting the fish to notice it. I had a fish cruise by really slowly yesterday, and I got several casts before he passed me and went out of range. These were some of the best casts I've gotten at a fish since I've started chasing tailers -- many landed less than a foot from his head. I was a little worried he would spook, since I was throwing a fly with large dumbbell eyes (that was landing like a jig head), but it didn't seem to phase him.

He didn't spook, but also didn't pay my fly any mind. He wasn't actively tailing, but he was moving really slowly through some grass so I don't think he was just cruising. Is it really a game of inches, and I need to drop the fly literally in his mouth, or was this a fish that just wasn't interested in eating?

I've seen lots of fish this year, and caught zero. Lots of times it's my fault because I can't get to them before they have moved on, or I line the fish or something, but I've had at least 1-2 fish that I feel like should have gone for it! I'm trying not to get discouraged, but I can't believe it's this tough to catch one fish on the fly -- there's got to be a piece to the puzzle I'm missing.

Thanks for any advice you guys can give!
 

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be the crab or fly! Presentation is key. Are you working the fly away from the fish or towards the fish?
 

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There are a lot of variables here that come to mind.
I have to ask, what was the water clarity like? What size and color of crab were you fishing? What depth of water were you fishing in? All these factors will effect the fishes ability to recognize a fly as prey and commit to eating. From what you described, the fish didn't know your fly was there.
I my winter time red fishery, with clear water, fishing in 18-24" of water most casts placed inside of 3' get a reaction, a negative one. Fish will blow out. FAST. I lead my fish up to 5' sometimes and immediately start my retrieve on the bottom, puffing sand to get attention of the fish. This technique works great with fish traveling in small groups (3-6 fish) because the competitive instinct kicks in and they race, fully committed, headlong to the fly.
In dirtier water, casts have to be more accurate, with flies that they can see or feel. Something that pushes water, with dark dark colors.
Good luck--- tight lines!
 
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You might switch to a pattern that has more movement to it, something with marabou or zonker strip. Also the cleaner the water is I will switch up to lighter color patterns, the darker the water I go to darker patterns. I usually try to put it in a spot where they are going to have to swim over it at some point. The cleaner the water is you might have to go to a 10 or 12 ft leader with fluro and land further away. When the water is dirty I will usually see how they tolerate flies landing on their head and adjust accordingly depending on how they act.

Something else that will help you is reading the fish. If they have their face buried in the grass put the fly in their face, they probably won't notice. Let it sink down to eye level and them give it a small twitch to see if it will get their attention. If they are laid up or kind of just finning in place switch to a small pattern that doesn't have a noticable splash or slap when it lands. Small seaducers are perfect for this scenario. If they are cruising and busting bait I will switch to something close to what they are looking for and keep it out in front of them. You might have to get your fly in place and let it sit while they move to intersect it.

Once they show interest I try to keep it moving, enough to keep them in chase mode without yanking it out of their face at warp speed. Just pay attention to how far your fly moves with your strip. You don't want a crab pattern jumping 5 ft at a time.
 

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Just to clarify this isn't for sc redfish but I'm willing to bet they behave similar to the ones we have in FL. From the videos I have seen they are way easier to catch just about everywhere. The ones we have in the lagoon and irl here in Central Florida might as well be bonefish at times.
 

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Absolutely. If you can catch redfish on fly in Tampa, you can catch anything on fly! Tampa Bay bonefish for sure.
 
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@bryson - what size fish? What type of environment was the fish at? Over sand, sea grass, mud? What color was the water and the fly? Matching the hatch is key, but also matching the size and fly to size of the fish is important.

I don't throw exact crab patterns. I throw something that could be mistaken for a crab or it could be a baitfish. Sinking it looks crabby, stripped looks fishy.
 

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A lot of times the fish will figure something is up and become very cautious. Look for subtle changes in their behavior after you close in and make your first presentation. Once that change occurs, even if they haven't bolted for the nearest exit, the game is usually over and it's time to move on to your next target (unless there isn't one).
 

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Mostly Harmless
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I don't know about the rest of the fish that aren't biting for you, but the fish you describe just didn't want to eat what you were throwing. He didn't spook and he didn't bite. He didn't even investigate it. It landed a foot from his head, so he should have sensed it unless the water was zero visibility and the tide was flowing fast. I generally don't like crabs because they don't cover enough water. They are good for tailing reds where you want to drag it right under their noses and keep the lure in front of the fish as long as possible, but cruisers need more action and flash to get their attention and interest. Switch what you are throwing. Although hard feeding reds may prefer a particular pattern/lure over others, it will usually be one of a handful of reliable patterns/lures. Cruising fish are much more finicky and you may have to work through your tackle box until you find something that works.

Nate
 

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Lowcountry Degen
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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all of the insight! Most of the fish I'm seeing on the flats are tailing hard, as in the fish is vertical. They dig crabs up from the mud (also I see lots of fish with tails out of the water cruising, but I don't usually call those "tailers" for some reason). The fish mostly look to be in the 20"-30" range, with a few fish probably pushing low 30's. These are pluff mud flats with patches of spartina grass. Some of it is walkable, but you'll sink waist-deep in a lot of areas if you try. In the summer, I see the fish because of a disturbance on the surface probably 90% of the time -- either tailing or pushing a wake, or swimming with their backs out of the water. In the winter it gets a bit clearer, and I'm more likely to spot schools of fish underwater.

I tend to agree with y'all that the same cast would have probably gotten a bite if I had been throwing it at a tailing fish. This fish was cruising by, and I'm not sure if it was a rejection or if he didn't notice. I am seeing a ton of mullet on the flats right now, so I might switch to a pattern that lets me cover a little ground and also pushes some water. The general consensus here is that they'll hit pretty much anything if they are feeding, and pretty much nothing if they aren't. I think that matching a particular marsh critter is less important than just getting them to notice the fly.

Thank y'all again for all of the advice and insight -- my fishing buddies are pretty new to the fly game as well, so it's the blind leading the blind out here on these flats :D
 

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I know a couple guys up your way, so I reached out to them, and according to their advice, when the fish are picky and the water is dirty, they fish topwater like gurglers or deer hair floating flies. Sometimes they will fish those same deer hair flies subsurface, they push a ton of water and attract a lot of attention. Low Country fly shop would be the place to start for advice. Good Luck
 

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Lowcountry Degen
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Discussion Starter #12
@Capt. TJ Saunders thanks for the advice! I definitely need to add some deer hair flies to my box. I have a few gurglers, but need to use them more often. I really like the idea of fishing a deer hair fly subsurface too. The guys at Lowcountry Fly Shop are really helpful -- I've been there a few times but should definitely go back just to chat.

Thanks again!
 

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@Capt. TJ Saunders thanks for the advice! I definitely need to add some deer hair flies to my box. I have a few gurglers, but need to use them more often. I really like the idea of fishing a deer hair fly subsurface too. The guys at Lowcountry Fly Shop are really helpful -- I've been there a few times but should definitely go back just to chat.

Thanks again!
Anytime man. Good Luck, tight lines.
 
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