Just before the storm interrupted regularly scheduled fishing, I had been showing off a picture of a few keeper flounder I’d landed on the Cape Henlopen flats. Of all the people I boasted to, a few expressed their surprise that a flounder could be caught with a fly rod. As it happens, they can be among the most challenging and hard fighting inshore fish to tackle.
The flounder will often lie on the bottom, disguising itself in silt, sand or mud, and ambush it’s prey from below. They can live on crabs, crustaceans and the like, but upon examination of a flounders jaw you will find several razor sharp teeth which it puts to good use when catching and eating bait fish. A flounder is not a lazy fish – they will attack prey vigorously, and high in the water column when so enticed.
The key to catching flounder, beyond selecting a fly, is knowing where to look. A drop off in the sea floor, no matter how subtle, can hold flounder, though the steeper the better. They like to travel and rest along near-shore depressions, and wait for food to pass by in the current. Look for changes in color or current on the surface of a body of water to locate these areas. A steep depression that contains sea grass is another great place to look. Often, you will find a larger area of shoreline with a significant depression and sea grass, much like my local flats. In this case, it is simply a matter of fishing as much water as you can to locate buried flounder. If you manage to hook up and land one, you can get a good idea of where that fish was hiding. Because a flounder can adapt it’s appearance to mimic that of the sea floor, a look at a freshly caught flounder is an indication of exactly where the fish was resting. If the coloration is light and sandy, it was likely nestled in the sand. Dark spots and patches could indicate the fish was on or amongst sea grass.
Flounder will chase a number of flies. Some favorites are Clouser minnows and other bait fish imitations in a variety of colors, but for my money, a Clouser of about a size 4 in white is about as good as it gets, with solid black a close second. A little flash never hurts, either. The fly must be sufficiently weighted to come close to the bottom, with either barbell eyes or tungsten cone, or the like. This simply ensures that best chance of the fish seeing the fly.
Tips for Flounder on the Fly
- A 6 to 8 weight rod is ideal.
- Sharp hooks are a must. Flounder are notorious for spitting hooks. A day of losing fish at your feet would be learning this the hard way.
- Retrieves are subject to conditions and what the fish “want”, however, a series of slow, long strips is effective.
- Set your hook with a sideways motion. If you miss the fish on the first try, the aggressive flounder may well take another swipe at it. The sideways hook set ensures that your fly remains in the water.
- If you DO miss the fish completely, cast back to the same spot. It may well still be there.
- Floating lines with at least a 9 foot leader are best in waters up to 7-8 feet. Beyond that, or in surf, a sinking line will be necessary.