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Tips for Tailers

By Jon B. Cave


Gamefish that inhabit saltwater flats are famously skittish and even the slightest disturbance will almost always send them packing. That’s especially true when those fish are tailing in water barely deep enough to cover their backs. In that situation, there’s no leeway for an errant cast, a hasty pick-up, or a noisy presentation.

Mention “tailing fish” and most anglers immediately conjure up visions of bonefish, redfish, and permit. But many less popular species feed in shallow water with their tails protruding above the surface including triggerfish, black drum, sheepshead and others. I even ran into a situation in Florida’s 10,000 Island area where many snook were tailing with regularity on a broad, grassy flat dotted with small, sandy potholes.

Although each of the various shallow water species may show a marked preference for one type of fly over another, the pattern must be combined with an accurate cast, a silent presentation, and an effective stripping technique. Even when the entire process seems to have been executed to perfection, the fish may either detect something abnormal with the situation or otherwise ignore the offering and hurry away. Here are a few tips that can reduce the chances of alarming tailing fish and increase the likelihood of drawing their interest