The possibility of opportunity, 1977

An opportunity approaches.

Thirty seven years later I’m still fishing at the location. Now I do it a bit differently and with a little more experience. There’s still so much to learn though. I’m here looking for a low tide fish on the fly, a favourite time of mine, and now all this time later the fly is my favoured method. The timing is critical like most things in bass fishing and this is no different. It’s just a little too early yet, I can see plenty of oar weed folding and bending in the gentle waves, stalks and blades, and so I sit and wait a while.

My gear is already rigged – a six inch white deceiver pattern, seven feet of tapered Rio fluorocarbon leader – 4’-0” – 35lbs, 2’-0” of 25lbs, 1’-0” of 15lbs – then the tippet – the fly is tied on with a Lefty Kreh loop knot. I’m loading my Redington CPS #7 with a #8 Rio aqualux fly line, I want to load the rod as quickly as I can (even with the long head) the line sits on my Danielsson.

It’s easy to make mistakes when fishing at low water and I believe that beginner saltwater fly fishers tend to make two simple ones. They cast too far and they cast too frequently. In these early stages of ‘the lift’ I believe it’s possible to catch fish that haven’t moved far between tides, they simply lie in the weed and wait, and then as soon as conditions change they move to hunt. Keeping the cast short, gaining immediate contact and control of the fly whilst keeping it in the water longer is essential. Remember a line like the aqualux will have sunk only about 12-16 inches in ten seconds – it’s a long time to show a fish something to eat. Stopping the fly’s forward motion and leaving it suspended without losing control for as long as possible can pull fish from under your feet.

What am I looking for in these instances?

I’m looking for a south westerly breeze that has suddenly picked up strength after a calm period of some hours, 36 or more, days even, the longer the better! It’s during a spring tidal sequence and I’m here at low tide – time of day is NOT important. I’d take a bit of cloud cover too. I’m at the rocky shore with fingers and gullies – sometimes I have the opportunity to fish from a slight height without revealing my profile. I’m a right-hander so a south west wind will travel from my right hand side; it’s always an issue on the Wexford coast. I’m waiting for the white water to begin breaking over the earliest part of the shoreline revealed by the low tide.

The oar weed is covered, I start to fish.

I keep my cast to less than forty feet and sometimes even shorter. I have the head of the aqualux in the basket with maybe five feet of running line that’s all! I’m not making long drifts, more casting and then small slow strips with LOTS of stops. As waves run up the V of a gully, I’ll try to cast just as the wave is forming outside landing the line and the fly as the wave passes up the gully and then returns, as it returns I’ll try to hold the fly or let it back drift with the flow of water around the end points left and right of the gulley – head facing up the gulley, lifting some of the line off the water and then replacing it as the wave receeds. Retrieve slowly and stop.

Using this method I have caught some very nice fish – missed fish YES, it is inevitable that there may be some bow or slack in the line and often times you won’t feel a take. The good thing is you will SEE the take. Fish in these instances are not moving quickly or even very far but rather drift up take the fly and turn to settle back.
Many times I don’t see the fish move at all but rather see the fly disappear – the lights go out. Any slack and its often missed, again! The fish will often seem to hang at the point of the opposite side of the V or gulley of the direction of the approaching wave.
For example you’re facing south and seawards – a gulley exists to your right and the waves are approaching from a south westerly direction – the waves are breaking over the right hand side of the V and crashing up to fill the void to the end point and then returning. Make your short casts to the right of the middle of the V just as the wave is running up, too early and it will get carried past. Water moving up the V will slow and the water depth at your fly may decrease as the next wave forms, as water returns down the gulley depth increases and complex currents are formed carrying opportunities for food and ambush. Incoming and outgoing waves meet. Getting your fly to behave properly just at this moment left of centre of the V and less than twenty feet off shore will catch you some very nice fish indeed.

Give the fish the fly.

You only have ninety minutes to do so! This time…