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You can plan fishing trips with the greatest care and down to the smallest detail, selecting the right location, right tides, right winds, right time of year, right flies and, of course, the right tackle. You think, This has to work. We've been planning this thing for over six weeks. But there's a saying about the best-laid plans going astray, and nowhere is that more applicable than in fishing.
An open mind is one of the most import components of a well-thought-out strategy. When conditions aren't lining up just right for the trip you wanted, you need to have a plan B. For some people, this might mean picking up a spinning rod and a piece of bait, but another way to make a productive day out of one that isn't going as expected is to look for nontraditional species to cast a fly to.
"Sharks?" you say? Yeah, that's right - they pull hard, jump, will eat a fly (with a little coaxing), can be plentiful and love to visit a chum bag. Fly-anglers have fished for sharks on the flats of the Florida Keys, along the east coast of Florida, off New York and California, and in the Gulf of Mexico for years. And now fly-rodders in the mid-Atlantic are starting to get on board with the trend as recreational and commercial limits and management plans are bolstering coastal shark populations.
I live in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and during summer months fly-fishermen usually look for cruising cobia and jack crevalle on the ocean's surface or amberjack around the reefs and wrecks. But on some days the conditions just aren't right or the guests of honor don't show. Luckily you have a couple of options: One, you can continue to grind it out, or, two, you can look for other opportunities until conditions improve. Not every situation lends itself to plan B's or even C's, but anglers in most places will find that they have an array of fly-eating toothy fish that can turn a seemingly off day into an off-the-charts experience.
On many days, cloudy skies and choppy seas out of Oregon Inlet frustrate summertime cobia fishermen. When conditions make it difficult to find them, it's time to switch gears. The same areas you find cobia - along the beaches from just behind the surf zone to 70 feet of water or deeper and along tide lines and temperature changes - are good places to drop a chum bag and see who comes to visit. In my area the two most common shark species we encounter are the Atlantic sharp-nose and the blacktip. But the same tactics work in other places such as the Gulf of Mexico, where anglers frequent offshore oil rigs in search of tuna, kingfish, jacks and more. Where you fish will dictate what kind of sharks you encounter, but for the most part inshore sharks behave the same. Around Montauk, New York, the waters hold blue sharks and makos. The southeast Florida coast means spinner sharks and blacktips, and from its Panhandle all the way to Louisiana in the Gulf, lemon, bull, blacktip, dusky and sandbar sharks can show up behind shrimp boats or be chummed up near the rigs. But no matter what species appears boat-side, similar tackle and techniques apply. So once you know the basics of shark fishing, you'll be able to target them in different areas.