Year in and year out, I wait for the weather to turn a bit cooler so I could once again, go out and fish the flats. Since moving here, it has become an addiction that’s pretty hard to shake off. Even with the promise of bigger fish in deeper water, the challenge of sight casting to a tailing fish gets my blood pumping more than any other type of fishing I could do here in The Gulf. The limited species of fish we have on the flats does not really dampen my enthusiasm. The few that do bite a fly on the flats and in the edges of these flats are fussy enough to keep me challenged and wanting for more. When the weather started cooling up this year, I was looking for the perfect excuse to explore new flats and perhaps revisit my old favorites. The first outing to an old favorite that produced well for us some years ago threw me a curve ball. It was the first time I got stumped in that place. Not a single nibble even on our faithful soft plastic lures that some residents there love so much. Fishing is very unpredictable, and although there are certain things that give the angler the advantage, it is still up to the fish to choose to bite or not. A lot of things influence their behavior, the presence of food source, tides, current, wind; the list goes on and on (read between the lines – our excuse for not catching). You could be fishing in the worst of conditions and experience the best time on the water – however it may be, the old adage: “the worst day fishing is still better than the best day at work” rings loud and true. The only better time is when you spend it with friends. On one such occasion, I have been fortunate enough to spend some time with a friend who came over from the UK. For months, Steve and I have been corresponding about a trip we’re going to make when he comes around for a visit. Nothing fancy, just a day trip to catch some of our species on fly rods. The chosen weekend coincided with the F1 qualifiers, nothing wrong with that we thought, but while we were getting ready to set up in the outskirts of Yas island, a car came around with a friendly CID officer who informed us that for security reasons, they are closing that part of the island. Off Steve and I rode to find another place to wet our fly lines.
The only other place I could think of is a crowded place just outside of the capital. It involves a long walk, something I wasn’t sure we were both ready for. The prospect of catching one of my favorite species got the better of me. Steve did not need to be convinced either. As it turned out, this would be his first shallow saltwater trip. When we arrived, the water was on the rise and we had a long walk ahead of us. 3 kilometers in fact, I was tentative and thought we could get by with the closer spot. We stayed at the first spot for a while before I made the decision to just bite the bullet and walk the 3 kilometers in the hopes of catching a few fish.
A few slips and bumps later, the shallows of the massive flat in front of us greeted us, the tide was rising fast and we had to get to a small island before the water was too deep for us to wade in. The water rushing into the flat made it a challenge to walk forward, but the prospect of catching a silver grunter on a fly was so close and urged us to go forward. Halfway though, we were seeing fish darting around us, we were close but not quite there yet.
Another few minutes have passed and we were in knee deep water, in this section, the current is being pushed sideways and behind an island, white sand with a bit of rubble with shallow channels that look like veins streak though the pale color of the bottom. The channels form an eddy just behind the island; this slows the velocity of the current and with the break in current speed it acts like a buffer zone for bigger fish to ambush their prey.
Before approaching the area, I explained how the tailing fish would be visible as soon as we reach the place where the water starts to slow down and the flow starts to bend. I asked Steve to cast to some riffles where I saw a tail appear seconds before. Nothing. Unconvinced, I tied on a fly, casted out t the same riffle and my fly immediately got inhaled. The fight was quite surprising, although the fish was not that big, the shape of the fish, together with the force of the current made it tough for my 5-weight fly rod to muscle in. This got repeated for a few times before I finally stopped so I could stand beside Steve and coach him so he could catch a fish.
A few minutes and a couple of expletives later, one finally decided to bite the fluff and feather we had at the end of the line. With each run the fish made, Steve’s smile kept on getting bigger and bigger.
On the walk back to the car, Steve and I spoke of how the day was just a little shy of magical. From being informed that we cannot fish our chosen spot to one of the best fishing days both of us have ever experienced in recent memory, it really was a day that both of us will talk about for years to come, and more importantly, it was Steve’s first time on the flats; it was really an honor to show a friend the kind of fishing I liked to do a lot of.