The days are getting longer and warmer along the Outer Banks off the North Carolina coast. A fever is in the air, along with daydreams of the up-coming fishing season. The North Carolina coast has a staggering amount of fishing options. RIO Pro Brian Horsley suggests good pre-planning tips that can help you make the most of your time on the water.
When planning a trip or a season of activities, ask yourself a few basic questions. What are the intended target species? What are the water temps? What are the currents and water depths? The answers to these basic questions will help you fine tune your rigging.
In my neck of the woods on the Outer Banks, summer inshore fishery includes speckled trout, bluefish, flounder and, some years, redfish. Most of this fishing takes place in 3 to 6 feet of water. We are fishing broken grass beds on the edge of sloughs, channels and marsh islands. Six to 8 weight rods are the perfect choice for these conditions.
Our inshore season gets started when the water temps reach the upper 60s into the 70s and by mid summer in the mid-80s. While cold-water lines will work, RIO’s Tropical Lines are a better choice when fishing in warm water. The Tropical Intermediate is a work horse for us since most of our fishing is in water deeper than 4 feet with some current. Pair up these lines with a 7- to 10-foot saltwater tapered leader. Some anglers use a straight shot of 16- or 20-pound mono, but I really like the way a 7- to 10-foot tapered leader casts. This is our “go-to” set up and will cover almost 90% of the fishing.
Sink tips are very useful on the first fish we hunt in the back waters. Bluefish are hard-fighting razor gangs that are willing to please and they will readily chase a fly. Bluefish prefer deeper sloughs where they can ambush bait that drops off the shoals as the tide falls. The current tends to be stronger and the water deeper, so a sink tip is an effective choice. 7/8 weights with a 200 to 300 grain Deep Sea is perfect weapon. Short leaders of 4 to 5 feet are good lengths for these lines. 20 pound is a good choice, and if you start losing flies, a piece of 25-pound Fluoroflex will usually stop the bite offs.
If the bluefish are bigger and wire is needed, then a 20-pound wire tippet can be tied on. It is always good to have a floating line with you in case the bluefish decide to surface feed. Nothing says bluefish quite like bluefish crushing a crease fly or popper. The Tropical Outbound Short is a perfect choice for an all around warm-water floating line. It will drive heavy poppers into the wind and let you cover lots of water with your fly.
Almost 100% of my summer clients are on the Outer Banks for vacation, with fishing being an added bonus or guilty pleasure for those able to sneak away from family duties. Beyond fishing with me as their guide, there is plenty of do-it-yourself fishing. I’m a little biased toward casting from boats, but visiting anglers can wade, kayak and now use SUPs to access endless skinny water. While you can rent a kayak or SUP at literally dozens of locations, it is still “BYO” for fly tackle. I always recommend a floating line teamed with a 7, 8 or 9 weight outfit for this, but the intermediate will work as well.
Flies can be as simple as Bob Clouser’s Deep Minnow, aka the Clouser. Some unique color combinations have proven effective on the Outer Banks. The black over orange Clouser with copper flash is the go-to speckled trout and flounder fly. The standard chartreuse over white is the best bluefish color, and it also works for redfish, Spanish and just about anything that swims. The Kreh/Clouser Half and Half is another great bluefish, striper fly that works in the back waters as well in the ocean. Other effective colors are grey over white; olive over white; white, chartreuse and pink; and chartreuse. A good combination tied on #1 to 1/0 hooks will cover most situations.
Wherever you fish, a little pre-planning can make your next trip a subject for stories next winter.