flats fishing

How to catch the Silver Grunter

Silver Grunter
The Silver Grunter, locally called Nagroor is a shallow water inhabitant of the Gulf. Found in Estuarine and shallow areas, the Silver Grunter is one of the most important food fish in the UAE. Calling the Indian and some parts of the Pacific Oceans as it’s home, the Silver Grunter can be easily distinguished with its silvery body with numerous scattered dark brown to blackish spots, dark blotches on the dorsal fin. The juveniles are pale brown with a lighter belly while the back has irregular longitudinal streaks on alternate scale rows, the dorsal fin of juveniles have dusky colored membranes and have a dark spot in their gill covers. They grow up to 60cm; the normal sizes caught in the gulf could be anywhere from 30cm or less.

Where to find
Grunters can be found in mangrove areas and estuaries throughout the Emirates. Although the mangroves in the gulf side are the easiest bets, you can also find patches of them in the East coast.

A good way of locating them is to look for areas that have a bottom of sand and mud with patches of grass and shell beds. Look for shallow areas that have this type of bottom and are close to deep water. This type of bottom structure attracts this fish and holds them fish longer. The best spots I have found almost always have good current going through them when the tides rise and fall.

How to catch
The most popular method of catching the Silver Grunter is by bottom fishing. Although targeting them like this is effective, you can use different methods to successfully catch them. When bottom fishing for them, the best bait is peeled shrimp, it is easy to find and less messy. Catching them in deeper water is easier than in really skinny water, in fact, the shallower it gets, the more complicated catching them will be. The rig I use for them is the sliding sinker rig. This is a very simple rig that uses a small ball or egg shaped weight with a hole in the middle where you pass your fishing line through. You then put a small bead (I always use red, however this is a matter of preference – this bead will protect the knot that connects the swivel.) A swivel, a short leader and a hook complete the rig. Once you cast out with this rig, I keep some slack on the line. This slack line enables the fish to nibble and run with the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. Done this way, I have caught more quality fish than with the usual inline three hook arrangement that is popular in this region.

When you find them feeding in the shallows, you can target them by using small lures and flies. Sight casting for them in shallow water enables you to choose the bigger fish and is more sporting. It may be more challenging to catch them this way, however, it is more enjoyable; the tiniest of splash from your lure or fly will spook them and before you know it, they will be out of the area. I especially love chasing after them with a flyrod. The light flies hardly make a splash when they land and they almost always never spook, aside from that errant cast once in awhile. The Silver Grunter will give you a spirited fight. Although they will not give you long scorching runs, they will give you a jitter or two when they bolt for the ledge. They will struggle close in before eventually giving up. What they lack in strength will be made up with their numbers since when you catch one, there would most likely be a few of it’s brothers and sisters behind it.

Availability and conservation
The Silver Grunter is not on any of the lists in Choose Wisely and I believe if listed, they would be in the red. Commercial and recreational angling in the region have greatly reduced their numbers in the past few years. It is an important commercial target in the region and due to habitat loss, we might have to say goodbye to this fish before the authorities take notice.

To see a list of the fish we need to conserve, please visit http://www.choosewisely.ae

The trip that almost didn’t happen

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.

Why we Fish

What’s your version of my fishing?

Men have an innate need to go hunting; it’s our natural programming, the urge to hunt and test our skills against the wild, the elements, and the unknown. We take what lessons we’ve learned in the last weekend and apply it to the next one. It is a never-ending cycle of learning and application.

Each week, we wake up to an alarm clock, which we would normally want to put on snooze the second we hear it go off, in the weekends, they become our best friends. We all have our reasons to go fishing, we risk driving to remote places to find better spots, driving half asleep yet eager to start the day before the party animals go home to roost. We are anglers.

How many times have you gone home fishless, frustrated and even more determined to catch whatever fish you were chasing. We are the few that look at the moon, the tides, the barometric pressure, the air and water temperatures, wind, swell, water depth and go so far to get all the electronics like a fish finder, plotter and GPS to help us get the best spots, then go home without anything in the cooler, yet have the best time in the world without catching anything. We have seen more spectacular sunrises than a typical person would see in a lifetime and see the same number of sunsets that even the best cameras can’t capture.

We wake up in darkness and excitedly drive to our fishing holes even with the uncertainty of the day, even with the string of fishless days, weeks or months, we still go out each time we can knowing that the odds are against us. We still go, because we are Anglers.

Have you ever found yourself “shadow casting” while walking around in the mall? While others walk around in that concrete structure, in our minds we are transported somewhere else, in the shallows casting a soft plastic grub to a cruising fish or trolling for that monster near the deep-water ledges. Fly fishermen would be transported to a remote flat with tailing fish happily grubbing along the bottom.

How many times have you lost track of time because you were too busy concentrating on getting a bite, waiting patiently, almost willing the fish to take your baited hook, but they don’t, fishing isn’t like that and you know it. When they eventually bite, you miss the hook set and curse the high heavens, then restraining yourself because you know that if you make too much noise, you scare the fish away…then you ask yourself, what would Mom say if she heard me swear like that. You put more bait on your hook and cast again…because this is what an angler does.

It takes you half an hour to drive to the mall, choose a pair of pants, drive back home then go online and spend 2 hours on tackledirect.com, cabelas.com, basspro.com and ebay.com (all on different tabs) to check out the newest stuff for your type of fishing and spend double that time going through the tackle shop you visit almost every other day yet you know they get their stocks every 2 months.

We are those who travel halfway around the world to catch something we normally don’t in our local waters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a monster or just something a bit more challenging. We will travel by land, sea and air, just to have a chance in catching it, if successful, we are more than happy to let it slip back into it’s home, wiser and no doubt a bit more challenging when we return to catch it. Even when unsuccessful, we just want to catch a glimpse of whatever we are after, be happy to walk away wiser and already planning for the next visit.

We are those who wear suits and uniforms when we’re between fishing trips, then happily shed them for our comfortable fishing wear when the weekend comes, we wake up earlier than we normally do in those days of work, yet not a single grumble can be heard. Without a single shred of hesitation, we leave the comforts of our home for a sandy bank, a wet boat or a kayak. We endure heat from the sun in the summers and the biting cold of the winter dawns.

Our trips are remembered not by the number of fish we’ve caught, but the memories forged with the company we keep. Some people will wonder how a few absolute strangers from different countries could become good friends for life after going on a single fishing trip together.

We are accused of being obsessed with fishing by some around us and we feel sad that they don’t get to experience what we live each time we go out. We are blessed with this passion; we are a group of people with differing ideas and methods united only by a single drive – to outwit the fish, yet with that single commonality, we forge bonds that grows stronger as time passes.

Fishing empties my thoughts and makes me feel I exist in this world. Wherever I may be, it transports me to place of serenity and tranquility that exists only when I fish. Where all the thoughts in my mind grinds to a standstill and I have nothing else in mind but the act, the fish comes as a bonus.

Fishing is my escape from the man made reality we all live in, to commune with my peace. It gives me an inner sense of my existence not just for myself but for my family, it makes me appreciate everything around me even more.

It makes me appreciate nature not because I think it’s grand and pretty, but because of how it can influence an individual like myself to want to protect it’s wonders and generosity and preserve it for my daughter and her generation. To show her the same things I’ve experience and hopefully, hopefully, they would also get to experience the kind of peace and tranquility that I experience now.

I often ask people what their version of my fishing is – most draw a blank, not having the faintest clue of what the question really means. Even if they try to answer the question with something they are passionate about, I know deep down they don’t have the faintest idea. Maybe I should just keep it a secret so people don’t really get into it and find out. But then again, fishing is also about sharing and showing others its vast greatness…so here we are now.

For those of you that can relate to this, I didn’t have to commit a few pages of my words for it. For those that are just getting into fishing and those that are just reading this just because it’s in the magazine, let me ask you this – What is your version of my fishing? Email me your answers; I would love to hear them.

Till next tide change,




Working with Wire

Wire. The mere sound of it has always put me off. It kinks, the ones that don’t kink are too visible and it’s stiff, almost always killing the action of an otherwise very attractive swimming lure or bait. There are quite a few kinds available for the angler, however, the fact remains; that they are a necessary evil when fishing for fish we collectively call “The Razor Gang.”

The single strand wire is the mainstay, these days, there are predominantly 3 types you can easily find – coffee colored, unfinished stainless, and titanium.

The coffee colored wire has been the standard, while titanium wire has gained a following, it is thinner for the strength it carries making it a bit more stealthy, the main drawback is it’s springiness. It doesn’t kink as much or as fast as standard stainless steel wire the main drawbacks are the cost and the springiness (at least for me) so I stick with the standard and have been perfectly happy using anywhere between a number 7 or a number 10 for my swimming dead baits.

Next in line is the 7strand wire – 7 strands of thinner stainless steel wire twisted together to form a cable. It’s not as stiff single strand wire; the main drawback is the fact that it is more visible. The coated varieties you see in the shelves are made of this type.

They further reduced the stiffness of wire by creating a 49-strand cable, 7 strands of 7-strand wire. Although the most visible type of wire, it is also the most flexible and the easiest to work with. They come uncoated and are usually coffee colored, however there are also some plain stainless versions sold.

I usually work with either a single strand wire or the 49-strand cable since I find the 7 strands too stiff for my liking. This is a personal preference though.

There are also versions of the 49-strand wire you can tie knots with, this variety is great to use on lures because they are almost as flexible as mono.

Not using wire will undoubtedly give you more strikes, the cost of losing a brand spanking new lure or even worse, a really good fish forces you to just bite the bullet, close your eyes and use it. I often use wire when rigging dead baits as swimming baits and putting them in front of smaller lures for trolling or casting when fishing for barracuda and kingfish in the waters of the Gulf.

It’s typical for anglers, both experienced and otherwise, to use up to a meter of wire before their lures or bait. That does work, but when the going gets tough, a shorter piece would work better. I seldom use a length more than 16cm. Over the years, I have found that other than sharks, which tend to roll and wrap the leader around their body which in turn chafes your line with their skin, a trace of 16 centimeters is more than enough protection for toothy fish such as barracuda, narrow barred mackerel (kingfish) and wahoo.

Working with wire is intimidating at first, however, with a little time and practice, you would be able to make your own rigs and you would be able to construct them in a short amount of time.

With the exception of “knotable” wire, different types of wire are fastened in different ways.

Single strand wire, both titanium and regular stainless steel are the most commonly used. Loops are created at the ends to fasten them on to a swivel or lure. There is a special type of way to tie the wire onto itself.

The Haywire Twist and Barrel Roll

The most common method is the haywire twist. There are a lot of videos on how to tie this on youtube,and I advise you to check them out to learn how to tie one correctly. The main drawback of this “knot” is the fact that it is a permanent connection. If you want to change your lure, either you take another lure with some wire pre-attached, or you snip the haywire twist and make another connection after.


Greene Twist
The Greene Twist addresses the main problem of the Haywire Twist. Which is the inability to change your lure, bait or fly once the connection has been made.

The Greene Twist is not as unforgiving. It has for years been used by the commercial fishery off Florida, so it’s really nothing new, just that a lot of people don’t really know about it outside the commercial fishing circles.

Fastening Cable

Stainless steel in 7 strand or 49 strand cables are fastened via crimps, this is true for either coated 7 strand cables or uncoated, my preference lies with the uncoated variety.


Crimps can be bought at tackle shops and they come in different shapes and sizes. The tube type crimps work, but I like the double barrel types, which are a little bit more expensive, but the difference isn’t even a few dirhams each. The double barrel type is easier to work with. Crimps are compressed with a special type of crimper called a “swager” (pronounced swedjer). You can also use an ordinary crimper, but since it crushes the crimp to compress it, it also crushes the wire inside and weakens it.


There are a lot of tutorials online that can help you with wire rigging. It’s another arrow in your fishing quiver that would help you when the razor gang are in town and will save you the frustration of losing your favorite lure or worse, that fish you just hooked up that has a mean set of dentures.


Till next Tide change,


Picnic Seabream

Picnic Seabream

The Picnic Seabream (Acanthopagrus berda) belongs to the Sparidaey, or the seabream family. Like most fish, the Picnic Seabream has a few common names, however, one the most popular name it is commonly called is the Yellowfin Seabream, a name that best describes the bright yellow fins contrasting the darkish body of this fish. Shaam is its Arabic Name.

They are found in shallow temperate and tropical waters and are bottom-dwelling carnivores. Most species possess grinding, molar-like teeth. Some of the species, are overfished

, however, the yellowfin Seabream is marked as OK to fish for according to choosewisely.ae.
Where to find
The Yellowfin Seabream is a native of the gulf and is probably one of the fish with the widest distribution. It is commonly found schooling in estuarine waters and other sheltered areas such as docks and jetties. It is a shallow water bottom dwelling fish preferring structure and sandy muddy bottoms.

How to catch

Although easy to find, you will discover that they are often picky biters. As these fish are often bait profiling, meaning, they will only eat the bait or lure when it is the same size of the fish or crustacean they are foraging on in that particular day or week. We do know for certain that they will not bite big lures, which cut down on a lot of guesswork. A few lures work on them just remember to cast your lure as close to structure as possible.

Since the areas they inhibit are a challenge to bait fish in without snagging, a lot of fishing for the Yellowfin Seabream is done with lures and flies. If you find yourself fishing for them with bait, the standard up and down dropper rig works well, use just enough weight to get your baits down to the bottom. They will eat pieces of shrimp, squid and if you can find them, small crabs.

Small jigs dressed with soft plastic bodies of about 3 inches (7.5cm) work well for them, the same size for any subsurface lure works well. Poppers and stickbaits work well in dawn, dusk and very cloudy days. When this condition presents itself, catching them on topwater lures makes for some serious fun.

Because of the small lures and weights and because they don’t really run long distances when hooked, you can effectively catch them with light tackle. A long rod will help you cast a good distance and longer rods have sensitive tips that help you detect them as they peck on the lure. Lines of up to 12lbs (6kg) paired with a reel of a 2000 to 4000 size (Shimano or Penn Sizing) round up the ideal tackle for them. Staying within this range gives you an efficient and sporting outfit that will make the fishing more exciting and enjoyable.
Availability and conservation

A thing to note about any Seabream is the fact that they are slow growing fish; good specimens such as those pictured in this article are about 10 years old. This means it is very easy to do some damage on the stock if you take out the breeders (the big ones!). The main challenge with this fish is also the fact that they are good table fare.
Choosewisely.ae have listed this fish in the green and that it’s ok to harvest them. I personally return most of the big ones I catch because I know how slow they grow.  Just keep in mind that detail when you catch a few of them. Leave some for our children to enjoy so we can take them fishing for these great fish when they are old enough to fish with us.

Flats Fishing

I miss flats fly fishing so much. It’s been months! Have to plan something soon. These set of images were taken with Darryn when I first took him to fish the flats.