Learning to Walk

Learning to Walk

Martyn White | Thursday, 1 July 2021

As I get ready for my trip at the end of July I've been thinking about paddleboards and walking. I decided not to get a SUP until after the trip (if I get one at all) as I will be alone on the water and probably need some time practising and getting things set up for a smooth fishing experience. I'll be walking the flats, which I like, but walking isn't as straightforward as you might think.

If you watch any of the videos or read any of the books about swff, when it comes to the thing people need to work on casting is always what gets mentioned. And that's right, casting is incredibly important. The fly has to get in front of the fish if it's to be eaten. The thing that seems to be missed a lot though is that if you don't walk in a way that allows you to see the fish, you don't have anything to cast to. This is probably because, most of the information available is about guided fishing and/or written and said by guides. Guides who see fish further away and better than you do. Often much further and much better than you do.  Clients don't need to worry so much about spotting fish and are often in a skiff where visibility is better than standing in thigh deep water. When wading with a guide, the guide is going to set the pace and probably spot 95% of the fish - we've all heard people marvelling or marvelled ourselves at guides picking out fish a 90ft when the guest can't see anything.

So why is this important? Well, when DIY fishing you can't wade at the speed a guide would have you moving. The distance will vary by conditions obviously, but it's important to establish how far you can see and in what direction. The best will be while standing still and the distance you can see clearly will go down the faster you move, you'll probable make more noise too making it harder to get close enough to see the fish. I've often gone on trips where someone has come along for their first saltwater or DIY trip and they've always walked too fast. Usually a lot faster than I do, because I couldn't spot fish far enough away to get a shot before I spooked them at their walking speed. And I know I can spot fish better than they could.

Luckily I spend a lot of time sight fishing carp which helps a lot, spotting them is slightly different to fish on the salt flats, but the way of seeing is the same. I still need a bit of time to adjust when I get on the flat for the first time, reminding myself to walk slowly and quietly. Speed is the first thing; if I'm walking at a normal "walking speed" I'm going somewhere and not "really" fishing, I'll still be scanning the water but not really expecting to spot anything but the most obvious of shots- there wil be the odd one. When I've got to wherever I'm going, I really slow down and start looking seriously. I can't tell you the speed but I'd start with about 25% of a normal pace, maybe slower. In ideal conditions I'll try to walk slowly enough to make the window I can see the bottom clearly somewhere in the 50-60ft range. If I'm in a really likely looking spot or visibilty drops off because of clouds, I'm quite happy to just stop walking all together and maximise my window of visibility. The other thing to think about is how to walk, water noise and footfall are your enemy. I need to wear good boots where I go, there's too much volcaninc rock and coral about, but if I wwas on a lovely sand flat I'd be switching to something soft and light like a dive bootie to make for better stealth. As it is I slide my foot forward rather than lifting my foot up and stepping if the water is much deeper than my ankle, say half calf depth. I don't trip it along though, just a small lift and slide forward. If I hear any sloshing I know I'm moving too quickly-another way to monitor you spped. Anything shallower, an I find it better to lift my feet and place it gently down toe first as gently as possible.

I'm glad I wrote this for an FP, it's made me run through it all in my head properly before my trip so hopefully I'll not waste too much time learning to walk on the first afternoon.