Fly Fishing for Coastal Gamefish
Q. What tides are best for fishing on the beach?
A. Whichever tide is best for the location you are fishing. I know that sounds like a copout, but it's not. The best tide to fish the beach depends on a mix the mix between local beach topography, tidal range, and surf conditions. In general, on steeply sloping beaches with no offshore sandbar, tide isn't really a factor for sight fishing because unless fish are shallow against the beach you won't see them. In these situations, it's more about finding out where the bait are holding, any rips that might occur, and then a good amount of blind casting. Steep sloping beaches aren't high on my list. The best beaches for sight fishing are beaches that have sandbars that parallel the beach or beaches that have gentle slopes that create what amounts to a narrow sand flat that runs along shore. For the beaches with longshore sandbars, I generally like the last couple hours of falling tide and first couple hours of rising tide. I think these time periods provide the best sight-fishing conditions. During neap tides, the bars usually remain covered by water so sight-fishing the bar and the edges of the bar can be good. If there is enough water over the bar and in the trough between the bar and the beach, fish can also hold or cruise in the trough. During spring tides, the bar may be exposed, so walking along the bar and sight-fishing the outer edge is best. For beaches with a narrow sand flat that extends from shore, I see the most fish during the rising tide, from the start of the rise until water is too deep to see cruising fish. In any case, it's worth the time to check out beaches at low tides, especially spring low tides. This gives you the best view of the layout of the troughs, longshore bars, bars perpendicular to shore, and rips. File these spots away and use this knowledge to your advantage on future trips.
The Fisherman's Coast approach focuses on how coastal gamefish interact with their habitats and prey. The more you know about the gamefish you pursue with a fly rod, the more often you'll be in the right place at the right time with the right fly making the right presentation. It's about catching more fish.
Our sister site Tribal Bonefish is all about conservation through responsible fishing. Tribal Bonefish shows you how to become a better steward of our coasts to protect our fisheries today, and ensure future generations get a chance to experience these fisheries.