The Highs and Lows of DIY Flats Fishing

The Highs and Lows of DIY Flats Fishing

Tracy&James | Sunday, 30 October 2022

I’m still finding myself astonished on a daily basis about how much the sea level has risen here and the affect it has had on the behaviour and location of the fish. A couple of days ago Tracy and I set out to fish an area that was one of our favourite places a few years back, however circumstances meant we fished somewhere completely different.

The places we access are often off the beaten track a bit, in fact we always ask for a hire car where a few extra dents and scratches won’t be noticed as we know some of the ‘roads’ we’ll be travelling down may involve bulldozing our way through the ‘jungle’ – scraping the foliage down the sides of the car etc.  The particular flats area we were heading for was previously quite easy to get to, way beyond where the tarmac road ran out granted, but a relatively straight forward path over crinkle rock and sand.  What stopped our progress was the sea!  Someway short of our normal ‘get out and walk point’ the sea was flowing (like a river) across the road.  I’m not talking about a little river either, more like a couple of hundred metres of fast moving water.  I got out of the car and waded to just short of the half way point thinking about whether I should chance it in the hire car, but thought better of it.  Scratches and dents are ok, but informing them that I’ve flooded the car in the sea at such an early point of our trip wouldn’t go down well.  I also figured that the flats we had in mind would be way too deep anyway.  We’re finding that where our notes say we should be in calf deep water (perfect for bonefish) we’re often wading thigh deep and seeing very few fish (because they are not there, not because we can’t see them).  

Due to not wanting to chance taking the car through the sea, we parked up on a high point and decided to wade the shallower flat next to the road, the one that the water was flooding into.  Once through the potential ankle breaking crinkle rock (and still wincing in pain due to my diphtheria – see last week’s FP), we got to some good looking ground – shallow, plenty of crabs, clams etc. and predators i.e. small sharks patrolling – I think these are a great sign that there should be bonefish present. However, after two hours of wading without spotting a single bonefish my optimism was waning. I kept telling myself that although I’m not seeing lots of bonefish if I did see one it was likely to be big. I should have acted on this instinct and changed my fly to something much larger as, when I got to the end of a thin mangrove island that I was wading parallel to, I spotted two of the biggest bonefish I’ve ever seen on this island.  They came out of a deep, dark with sea grass, area and were calmly moving across a patch of clean white sand – sticking out like sore thumbs due to their almost black colouration.  The cast was about as easy a shot you can get when bonefishing, I was careful not to land the fly too close though, as fish don’t get that big by not being wary.  I’d love to say at this point that the lead fish accelerated to make sure it got to the fly before its partner, but it didn’t.  The pair of them adjusted course to follow the fly, right to the point where my leader was in the tip ring, but at no point did they put their nose down on it, staying maybe a foot or two behind.  They then sidled off.  A lot of ‘what ifs’ go through your head at such moments, I guess they just didn’t want the fly I was offering – perhaps a bigger gob full would have got a response, rather than the size 4 morsel I had on from the previous day targeting tailing fish in mirror calm conditions. That was the only shot I got in overfour hours of wading.

I’ve spoken to a number of local homeowners and have mentioned my thoughts about the sea level rise.  Generally they seem non-plussed about things, either not noticing or saying something about the tides.  On every trip to the island Tracy and I have printed a local tide table to bring with us, so we can say with a degree of confidence that there is nothing unusual about the tides. In fact one of the reasons we book such long trips (we’re here for 6 weeks) is that you don’t have to be picky about the state of the tide – we’re going to get a bit of everything – spring tides, neap tides, highs in the middle of the day and lows in the middle of the day etc.  One of the pictures I’ve included today is one of a relatively new boat dock and sun lounge.  You’ll notice this is underwater – this photo was taken around an hour after high tide on what was a fairly average day height wise.  I don’t for one minute believe whoever constructed this dock did so thinking it would be underwater on every tide, yet that’s where it appears to be.


With all that said we are still catching bonefish and targeting predators during the high tides. In fact we’ve had a couple of spectacular day’s bonefishing that will last in our memories for a long time.  We’ve not yet landed a shark although we did have fun hooking a rather large bull shark at a local dock – thankfully I got my fly line back after it bit through the wire.

This week we mainly have a high tide during the day, so we’ll be looking to get off the mark with the sharks.  Whatever you’re fishing for I hope you have a successful week.