The Saltwater Magazine for Gulf Coast Fishing!




 Flying Flounder

Flatfish on a Fly Fod

by Colby Sorrells
Spring 2005



lunar phases

Flatfish on a fly rod. Sounds like fun. Flounder are often overlooked as a quarry by long rodders, but they may be missing something. Fly rodding for flounder can be every bit as exciting as fishing for more glamorous finned creatures.

Most people think of flounder as a fish laying on the bottom, looking up, watching the world go by. Flounder are actually very aggressive fish and are made for fly rodding. Don't think of flounder as aggressive? Next flounder you catch open its mouth and look at its teeth. A flounder's mouth looks more like a piranha's than anything else. Those teeth are sharp and meant to hold on to small fish and shrimp.

Catching a flounder with artificial lures is a challenge no matter what tackle chosen. Flounder often get a lure part way into their mouths only to spit it out half way in on the retrieve. Nothing is more frustrating than a day spent trying to catch these flat fish only to have them get off right at your feet.

Flounder have a relatively small mouth, but don't tell that to a 20 incher. Fishing for flounder with flies may be more effective than fishing for them with larger lures. The small size of flies lend themselves to smaller flounder mouths. A fly that fits all the way into a flounder's mouth is the best size. Long shank fly hooks help with removing the fly once flounder are caught.

Any fly or lure needs a very sharp hook point when pursuing flounder. When you find a flounder don't lose it to a dull hook. Check hook points throughout the day. If it does not dig in easily when drawn across the top of a thumbnail, sharpen it.

Flounder flies can be made from several different materials. One of the most successful is a variation of the classic Woolly Bugger, the Tiger Rattler. It is made using a long shank hook like a Mustad 34011 in size 2 or 4. Wrap a thread base and attach a rattle to the bottom side of the hook shank and cover with thread. Attach a fluorescent fire red marabou tail and complete the body with lead eyes and chartreuse chenille.

Choose other colors you believe in for variations. Solid black is often a good second choice. A set of lighter bead chain eyes may be substituted if the fly tends to catch grass.

Set the hook with a steady sideways pull of the line. Try not to lift the rod tip. If a flounder misses the fly when using the sideways line pull, it may be able to find the fly again and strike a second time. A high rod tip hook set will take the fly too far away from the fish for a second try.

If a flounder misses, make several more casts to the exact same area where the fish hit. Flounder don't go far unless they have to and will often make another strike.

Side pull hook sets also allow anglers to drag flounder to dry land. Flounder remain calm as long as they're in water and with a gradual pull into shallower water the flounder is on dry land before it realizes what has happened.

It's even better to get flounder into a net. Don't take chances trying to hand grab a flounder. Many fish are lost as anglers try to grasp the fish. Net the fish and then worry about removing the fly and stringing the fish.

Pay attention to flounder colors. A dark back indicates fish lying on a muddy bottom or on dark colored grass. A light colored back signals fish on a sandy bottom.

Some of the best places to find flounder are steep drop-offs. Look for water color changes showing a change in bottom makeup or water depth. Shorelines made up of shell fragments quickly sloping off into grassy bottoms are great places to find flounder.

Any place where there is grass fringing sandy shorelines will also hold flounder. Remember spots where flounder hang out. Most flounder spots produce fish trip after trip. If found there once they'll probably not be far away on the next trip.

Fly outfits of 6 through 8 weight work best for flounder. Any simple, single action reel will handle even large flounder. Weight forward floating or sinking lines with a tapered leader complete fly rodders flounder rigs.

Take both a floating and sinking line if possible. For flounder in less than six feet of water floating lines are best. Floating lines help keep a heavy sinking fly like the Tiger Rattler just off the bottom.

Use sinking line when fishing water deeper than six feet or when a strong current cause flies to ride too far above the bottom. With a sinking line and a heavy sinking fly, any fly rodder will be able to reach bottom hugging flounder.

Flounder don't seem to mind being lined by a fly line. But as soon as the fly goes by, lookout. Any flounder is going to go after the fly.

Make a low to the water side arm backcast and an overhead forward cast just like casts made when using a Clouser Minnow. The forward cast loop will be a little more open than with a lighter fly but a noisy presentation caused by heavy sinking flies will not disturb most flounder.

Try fly rodding for flounder on your next trip. It may be the most effective way to catch these toothy flatfish. They agressively hit a fly making them the perfect fly rod quarry and it doesn't hurt to invite a couple to be your dinner guest.

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