Let’s talk a bit about what it takes to be fruitful when you’re wading along the flats in the Texas coastal bend area. As many of you know, a lot of different variables affect how we do each time we venture out on the water for another fishing trip. And I’m sure you can only imagine that if you narrow down the number of variables associated with any one particular type of fishing, that those variables might very well become very specific in nature. Whether true or not for all types of fishing, flats fishing anglers need to be aware of the following six variables that directly affect their wading environment if they stand any chance at triumph at the end of the day – fish movement, fishing locale, structure, tide, water temperature and condition, and wind direction. Now then, if you already consider yourself seasoned at flats fishing, then you’ve probably already used some combination of any of those six flats fishing components, and you’ve probably already prospered to some degree as a direct result. However, for those who may have never fished the flats, or for those who may have involuntarily ignored those six components, notable fortune shall never be realized when wading upon the flats. So, what do you do…?
If you want to be ahead of the game when wading-fishing the flats, you’ll need to find a stretch of shoreline that tends to hold high concentrations of fish. In order to do this you’ll first need an understanding as to why any one particular area attracts the numbers of fish that it does over that of another area. There are a lot of possible reasons why fish may choose one area over the next, but a few of the more natural reasons why fish go to the flats are water temperature, a steady food supply, and a sense of protection. Trout relish a water temperature of about 76 degrees, and they will often swim until they locate it. And because the shallow water that is found covering the flats will always heat-up faster than deep-water locations, the flats areas will most always consist of the higher water temperatures. But the skinny water atop the flats also appeals to the fish for yet another important reason, and that’s protection. Both trout and baitfish alike are lured to the flats due to the sense of security they feel in shallow water.
Most flats fishing pays-off best when the surface temperature is in the mid-to-upper 70’s range. Whenever the water temperature soars higher than 78 degrees, most large trout tend to move out to deep water, with few visits back to the flats until nightfall or early morning hours. So, this means that your best shot at a big trout during the heat of the day will be around flats that happen to have immediate access to somewhat deeper water. The water temperature can be considerably cooler at a deeper depth, and placing your bait just a few inches deeper can sometimes make a tremendous difference. But aside from temperature, there’s another basic element to successful flats fishing where water is concerned, and that’s the water condition. Clear-green, green, or sandy-green are generally the only three acceptable water conditions for the production of trout catches atop the flats. It’s a futile act for anglers attempting artificial bait fishing along the flats in anything less than sandy-green water conditions. Although it’s true that large trout have been, at times, taken in off-colored or muddy water, the odds are greatly against the angler whenever attempting to do so.
The second of the three most natural reasons as to why fish go to the flats is food. As the shallows of the flats warm, both trout and baitfish alike will move back to the flats during a rising tide. Baitfish journey way into the back lake areas, and will often move in or out of these lakes based solely upon their travel with rising or falling tides. Trout will be in these areas at the same tide times, and they will stage themselves just beyond mouths of inlets and coves where they will wait to ambush baitfish that are going in and out based on the given tide. These are prime flats fishing areas when you connect with the right tide, and I prefer the time immediately following the peak of an intense high tide when there’s just enough current to keep the water moving at a slow pace.
Winds are another contributing factor that wade-anglers must also take into consideration this time of the year whenever searching for trout on the flats. As an unwritten rule, the days that one should be fishing the flats are days with light, variable winds, or days when the wind is blowing out of the south or southeast – these are the winds that will provide anglers with ideal, green water conditions while out on the flats. But probably the single most important thing to remember when fishing the flats is for you to enjoy every minute of it. Most of us don’t get to fish as much as we would like to, so learn to make the most of it whenever possible. Tight lines to all…!!!