We kicked off our spring nearshore season last weekend on the Crystal Coast. I wanted to hit some nearshore structure and see if we could find a few False Albacore or Atlantic Bonito. Every spring as water temps rise into the 60's, the Onslow Bay area becomes a hunting ground for Bonito, Albies, Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel.
We found water temps between 57 and 60 degrees, but the Bonito didn't show for us. The Albies on the other hand, were all over and more than willing to play, if you could keep up with them as they blitzed after schools of bait.
There are a few Bonito around right now, but it should really kick off in the coming week. The Albies should hopefully stay around for a few more weeks too.
Looking forward to getting off the beaches as much as possible in April and playing with all of these hard pulling speedsters.
I've got spots open through April, so give me a shout if you'd like to go look for Albies, Bonito, Blues and/or Spanish Mackerel on fly or spin before we head to the Roanoke in May.
65 degree air temps, and SW winds. Pollen and allergies. Active schools of Redfish. Hair Algae and Snot Grass filling the creeks. We are definitely turning the corner from winter into spring.
As we wrap up our 2020/2021 winter Redfish season, I have a lot of trips to look back on and be grateful for. That being said, it's definitely not over yet, and I plan to take advantage of the few weeks we have left. The fish are still schooled up and the water is still clear, but all the signs are saying that things will be changing soon.
The first two weeks of March have been awesome, with some really great clients sight-fishing big schools of Redfish.
While targeting the Reds, we've caught everything from Speckled Trout to juvenile Black Drum, and even a few Spot.
There are a lot of fish around right now...if you know where to find them. Because of that, I feel really good about our spring and summer Redfish season. Once they spread out over the next month or two, we should have plenty of fish to chase this summer.
Although I'm a fly guide at heart, we've had a lot of fun tricking Redfish with small soft plastics. I've been working on a few new techniques that have fooled some picky fish...and I'm looking forward to trying these techniques throughout the year.
Lot's of great fishing on the horizon, from March Albies to April Bonito to May Stripers on the Roanoke...but until then, we'll keep playing with these Redfish! Give me a shout if you want to go catch a few with me!
February has been a super solid month for Redfish, even though we had to deal with a few weather issues.
Right in the middle of the month we had a solid week of rain, which kept us off the water, shuffled some fish and stained the water.
Luckily it didn't take long for it to fire back up after all the rain stopped.
I can't imagine how good it could have been if we had seen pretty weather all month.
I have to keep reminding myself that it is February though, and to be grateful that I get to chase these fish at all...some people live in places where they could only dream of fishing in February.
On a good half day, we've seen anywhere from 100 to over 500 fish.
The smallest schools have been around 10-20 fish, while we often see groups of well over a hundred schooled together.
There is no replacement for time on the water this time of year.
Sometimes you have to cover miles of marsh to find where the fish are...but when you find them, it's usually on.
Some groups of fish are very willing, and some are very picky. It all comes down to how much pressure these fish have seen.
Depending on the mood of the fish, you can get a feel for whether anyone else has been putting pressure on them.
If the fish are "Nervous Nellies", then the real work begins. Staying as invisible to the fish as possible, trying different flies or lures, and adjusting the technique can turn a group of fish into "eaters".
If not, it might be best to move on.
Speaking of pressuring fish, we do our best to be as unobtrusive as possible. When we hook a fish, we back off from the school while fighting the fish, then let them settle down before we approach again.
Sometimes we catch 6 fish from a school, sometimes 3, but we usually let the fish make that decision for us.
When they start acting nervous, it's usually time to move on and let them forget about us.
Time to find a new group of fish.
I've had the pleasure of fishing with several very cool individuals over the last few weeks and I really appreciate them supporting me and letting me make a living doing this! Thank you all so very much!
I'll leave you with a few more pics just to show you what we've seen the last month.
If you want to come try your skills at a few, just give me a shout and we'll make it happen.
With March right around the corner, my thoughts are beginning to wander towards springtime and everything that comes with it.
One of the things I'm most excited about, is the springtime nearshore bite along the Crystal Coast. The artificial reefs and hard bottom ledges just a few miles off our beaches will be alive with prey and predators in a few short months.
Between the months of March and May, winds blow from the SW, our water temps climb from the 50F's to the 70F's, and schools of bait arrive along the beachfront, inlets, nearshore wrecks and hard bottom ledges. When the bait gets there, the predators aren't too far behind.
Bluefish, False Albacore, Atlantic Bonito, Grey Trout and Spanish Mackerel are the main targets of fly and light tackle anglers along our beaches each spring. Not all of these species arrive or leave at the same time, but you have the chance of seeing any combination of these fish if you are in the right spot at the right time.
Generally small Bluefish and Grey Trout arrive first, sometime during the month of March. We also sometimes get great runs of False Albacore along the beaches and over structure in mid to late March or early April. The spring run of Albies doesn't get the recognition of the fall run, but it can be a great fishery. Some years, we get runs of big 10-20+ lb Bluefish during the month of April...these fish can be sight-casted in shallow water just like you would cast to a chain of Tarpon in Florida.
When the water gets into the 60F range, we start to look for my favorite springtime target, Atlantic Bonito. Bonito are very similar to Albies in their color, shape and fight. The biggest difference is that they make great table fare, and I love to prepare them as Sashimi, Ceviche or just lightly grill them.
Generally around the first week of May the Spanish Mackerel arrive at the same locations. On a good day, you can have shots at Spanish, Bonito and Albies as they churn the water just above a wreck or ledge.
There are a few different techniques we can use to target these nearshore predators.
My personal favorite is with a 6, 7, or 8wt fly rod depending on the species. Early morning, these fish can be found blitzing on the surface and can be caught on a floating or intermediate line with a baitfish pattern fly or a top-water fly. By 10am on most days, the fish have moved deeper into the water column over the structure, but can still be caught on a fly rod with a fast sinking line.
I also love to sight-cast to these fish with a medium action spinning rod and a 3000 series reel. We can throw top-water plugs, small metal jigs, or soft plastics to these fish. Make a long cast and rip it back, and it won't take long to see who's at home. Light tackle spin gear is a super effective and fun way to locate and land these fish.
If the fish have sunk too deep for casting to be effective, we can drop metal jigs to the bottom and jig for them around the structure. This is a great way to catch some Grey Trout, but don't be surprised when a Bonito grabs your jig and makes a 100 yard run with it.
If all else fails, we can troll over the structure using spoons and diving plugs to locate fish.
While I'm enjoying the massive schools of winter Redfish at the moment, I am really looking forward to chasing some blitzing fish in a little over a month from now. If you've never fished the wrecks and reefs of the Crystal Coast in the spring, jump onboard with us this April and I'll show you what it's all about.
On the coldest month of the year here in North Carolina, there's no better time to talk about things to look forward to...like adding a second boat to Tailing Tide Guide Service.
Really excited to spend a lot of time aboard this 23' Parker in 2021.
I've wanted to get a larger boat for several years, to expand upon what we've been able to offer with the Fury, and well...here she is
What's really cool is that this Parker comes from a trusted friend, has been around the block a few times, and seen a lot of great fishing.
She even had a giant Bluefin Tuna come over her gunnels a few years back.
I've caught several albies from the bow of this Parker...and over 10 years ago, I caught my first Amberjack on fly out of this boat with the previous owner.
She's rigged for whatever the next adventure might be, whether that's Albies and Spanish at the Cape, Cobia and Sharks along the beaches, or Kings and Amberjack on a nearshore wreck.
Between the East Cape and the Parker, we're ready to kick some fish butt this year. Lets go!
The mighty Roanoke River starts in southwestern Virginia and flows 410 miles, crossing the Piedmont and Coast of North Carolina, before finally emptying into the Albemarle Sound. The river continually changes it's characteristics as it drains from it's headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains down to the swamps of NE North Carolina. Long before Europeans settled here, the Native Americans heavily relied on the river as a source for hunting and fishing. In the mid-twentieth century, we added a total of 6 dams along the river to harness it's energy for the growing local communities. And now, anglers flock to the river for it's world class Striped Bass, Shad, Largemouth Bass, and Catfish fishing.
"Although several species can be caught year round on the Roanoke, we tend to target the incredible spring time runs of Shad and Striped Bass between Plymouth and Roanoke Rapids."
Whether you want to catch shad on a 4wt fly rod, watch a "Rockfish" explode on a popper before sunrise, or introduce your child to their first Striped Bass in a kid friendly manner, we have you covered.
Hickory and White Shad make their spawning runs up the coastal rivers of North Carolina Feb-April of each year.
"In our opinion, the Roanoke River near Weldon NC is the best place on the planet to experience the shad run."
The hickory shad usually show up in the Weldon area during the first two weeks of March and hang around until mid-April.
Even a slow day shad fishing on the Roanoke, is usually more action than you will experience in other locations. Over one hundred fish in a day, is a definite possibility when fishing the Roanoke. Shad are great fun on ultra-light spinning rods, or 4-5wt fly rods with a sinking line. They earn their nickname “poor man’s tarpon” from their flashy silver scales and their ability to jump multiple times when hooked.
About half-way through the Shad run, the Stripers start to show up.
"Just like with Hickory Shad, Weldon is also probably the best place in the state to catch Striped Bass, or Rockfish, as they’re locally known."
Being anadramous, Striped Bass make a Spring journey up the Roanoke River towards their spawning grounds near Weldon. Stripers start to show up in April and usually hang around until mid-May. On a really good day, it’s possible to boat close to one hundred fish when the bite is on, although a couple dozen fish is more the norm.
April is the keeper season, and the Weldon area can be very crowded. Our favorite time to fish for them, is the first two weeks of May, when the crowds have gone home but the fish are still there. The majority of stripers are schoolie sized fish from 16-24″, but several large females up to 40lbs are caught each year. The stripers are great fun on a medium action spinning rod, or a 7 or 8wt fly rod with a sinking line. Early mornings and late evenings can produce a great top water bite. We can also fish live bait if you want to experience some insane action.
This year I am opening up March 25-28 and April 6-11 for Hickory Shad fishing out of Weldon NC. I will be booking May 1-15 for Striped Bass at Weldon. These dates will probably book up fast, so give me a shout if you’d like to fish the Roanoke with me this Spring. Thanks! John
We are two weeks into the new year and starting 2021 and Redfish off with a bang. There's no lack of Redfish around, you just have to find the ones with the right mindset. We've been seeing hundreds of fish in schools ranging from 10 fish to 100 fish...all in less than a foot of clear water. Some schools see you from 100ft away and require a very stealthy approach and cast...while others are much more user friendly.
While not necessarily targeting them, we are finding a handful of Speckled Trout on the Redfish flats we are fishing. When we find them along a cut bank or drop off, they've been more than willing to play along with us. I've seen a few flounder on the flats this week also.
If you've never seen a hundred Redfish circling you in six inches of water, you are missing out. We should have this type of sight-fishing available to us at least through the end of March. Give me a shout if you want to take a shot at it.
Back in the fall of 2019, Grays Sporting Journal came and spent a few days with me while writing an article for their magazine. The Albies hadn't quite arrived yet, but there were plenty of Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Jacks and Houndfish along the beaches here on the Crystal Coast. We also hit a few tailing tides, and hooked a couple Redfish. The awesome folks over at Gray's just posted some footage from that trip, I'd love for you to check it out.
I'm in the mood to share my thoughts about a company and product that I really love. Hatch Outdoors and their Finatic Fly Reels. They didn't pay me to say that, they didn't ask me, they don't even know I'm writing this. I've been fly fishing for 15 years and working as a guide for 9 of those, and I've bought, beat up and sold my fair share of fishing gear. So, when you come across something you really believe in, it's worth sharing with your clients and any other anglers looking for a great product.
"I've shared the following story with countless anglers on my boat, and now I'm putting it out there for everyone else."
When I first got back into fly fishing 15 years ago, I had to decide what gear I was going to invest in. The options were overwhelming, and back then, there weren't nearly as many online resources to help with that decision. I settled on an overseas made rod, a cheap fly line, and a fly reel that would get me started. I still own the rod, and I caught a few fish that first year before the drag completely quit on the reel and the handle fell off.
Thus, began my 10-year process of buying gear and abusing it to see how long it would last. When I say abuse, I don't mean throwing it down and kicking it around...I mean fishing for extremely tough fish in some pretty harsh environments.
"I've been through enough brands and products to start my own fly shop."
That's where Hatch comes in. In 2017, I launched my own fly rod company and began looking for a fly reel that would match well with the rods we were building. These would be reels that I would fish daily as a guide but would also be used on demo rods when Mauser Fly Fishing set up booths at trade shows. I had a few rules in mind when I started researching companies.
(1) I wanted a Made in USA Fly Reel company, and (2) I wanted a reel from a company whose main focus was reels.
There were a handful of companies that fit the bill. You can probably think of them immediately and count them on two hands. I had used the products from several of these brands over the years and had been pleased with all of them.
I emailed 5 of those companies and told them about the new business I was building, and explained to them that I was considering using their products exclusively to guide with and use on my demo rods. And then I waited... I was sort of testing the waters to see if any of them showed interest. I wasn't asking for freebies or even discounts, I was just curious if they'd respond back. As a guide, I've always been a big fan of supporting companies that are a fan of what I'm doing.
"Within 24 hours I received an email from Hatch."
The manager at Hatch responded to my email and commented on how exciting it was that I was starting a new business venture. He also said that they were honored that I'd consider using their reels for my guiding and demo rods. The response came quickly and felt genuine, which is something you don't see much anymore. (I did receive a response from the other brands, but it took a few weeks, and none of them seemed nearly as thrilled. I understand what it's like as a business to be completely overwhelmed with the day to day process and receiving a never-ending inflow of emails. That being said, the company that beat everyone else to the punch is the one that got my attention.)
I placed an order for 5 reels that same week. A Finatic 3+, 4+, 5+, 7+, and 9+. I still fish all of those reels four years later and have had zero issues. I've also added several more to the collection.
The email from the manager wasn't my only positive experience with Hatch. A few weeks later I received a thank you letter in the mail from the owners, John and Danny, along with some Hatch stickers. Rarely, if ever, do I receive a thank you letter from a company that I purchase products from. It's something Mauser Fly Fishing does for every customer, so when I was finally on the receiving end of one, I was thrilled.
Later that year, I went to the ICAST/IFTD show in Orlando. While there, I had the pleasure of chatting with the team at Hatch. Even though the show was extremely busy, the owners took the time to talk with me about my businesses, fly fishing, and really made me feel like I was important to them.
At that point I was so sold on this company, that there was no way another brand could steal my attention. I was a super fan.
By now you've probably figured out why I'm head over heels for the company's culture, but you're probably wonder how good their products are.
I have been fishing my Hatch 3+ through 11+ reels nonstop. Big Redfish, Striped Bass, Albacore, Bonito, Sharks, etc... They've stood up to everything we've put them through. Their drags could stop a train, the machining is flawless, and the design is easy on the eyes. My buddies absolutely love theirs too and have caught everything from big Tarpon to Arapaima on them. I don't know anyone personally who has had a failure with them, but I have no doubt that if there was, Hatch would take care of it immediately.
"There are plenty of companies that make excellent fly reels, but ones that also make you feel like part of the family are a bit harder to come by. That combo is the reason I'm sold on Hatch."
I could just say that "Albie fishing has been stupid good lately", and leave you with these pics and it would be good enough.
But, I'll elaborate a little bit and tell you that we have been Blessed with a fantastic later than normal Albie season. The water temps stayed up longer than normal (much to the dismay of trout anglers) which kept the bait flowing and the Albies blitzing.
Not only has the bite been really good, but it's been really weird. As in, we have caught fish in some really out of the ordinary scenarios. Up a creek, on a flat in 1 foot of water, blitzing on the shoreline with their backs out of the water and bellies in the sand...heck, we even hooked and fought one inside some floating docks in a marina.
On top of that craziness, we have gotten into some big'ns too! Some of those fish that make fighting a 10lb Albacore feel like a Speckled Trout. We call them "Buffalo".
We had some nasty weather earlier this week, but it looks like things are shaping up nicely to squeeze out another week or two of Albies before it's over.
Thank you 2020, you finally did one thing right!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll zip it and let the photos do the talking.
If you want to hit the water with me before 2020 is over, just give me a shout. We have some unbelievable schooled up clear water redfish fishing coming up the next few months too, so I'd love to show you what it's all about.