To me there is nothing more fun than sight fishing on the flats. The vastness of the shallow water like a Montana plain, the various shades of green and turquoise and the flourishing ecosystem within, it’s hard not to feel totally and completely happy. When I describe this, most people think the warm water of the tropics, but actually, we can find it much closer - on Martha’s Vineyard!
The Vineyard offers amazing flats fishing late season. The stripers will cruise the flats when the water temperature is approximately between 60 and 68 degrees. I enjoy fishing the flats on the incoming tide when there is full sun and little wind. The fish look and behave similar to bonefish and in cloudy weather, it is almost impossible to sight cast for them. I actually think they are even harder to see than bonefish! At the beginning of each season, I spend a few days re-training my eyes. It is imperative to have good polarized sunglasses preferably with a green or amber lens.
An eleven-foot fluorocarbon tapered leader is ideal for success. These fish are usually hunting while on the flats, which is a good thing, but because of this, they are also more vulnerable making them more prone to spooking. The first step is to actually spot a fish. Spend some time scanning the water looking for a shadow or tail sticking out of the water.
Secondly, you need to figure out which direction the fish is swimming. This is important because when sight fishing for stripers you'll want to lead them a good distance. Once you establish their direction shoot a cast about 12-20 feet in front of them. I always use my 8 or 9 weight Exocett. This rod loads quickly and makes it easy to shoot a long cast with precision. This is a key component for success on the flats because these fish move quickly. The stripers cruise the flats faster than bonefish, making it a must to have a fast action, accurate rod.
Stripers are aggressive and will follow many flies once they spot them, but crabs and sand eels work well. I can actually use many of the same flies I use on hosted travel trips to Mexico or Andros on the flats. Once the fish spot your fly keep a steady strip. As the fish get closer to the fly, and are ready to hit, speed up the strip making it seem like the fly is scared and trying to escape their predator. This will usually result in a hard take and a fun fight. Once the fish is brought in be sure to keep them in a net in the water to let them recover.
Flats fishing is not like fishing the rips or a blitz, it takes patience, time and an accurate rod, but it my favorite way to fish for stripers.