The Fish Wife: What is a flats skiff?
I definitely didn't grow up fishing. When people ask about the fly shop or my fish history, I say I "married in" to fly fishing. I went on many fishing trips with Kevin before I finally picked up a fly rod (in Montana no less) and made my first cast. Every trip we take I learn something new about fly fishing, about the water and about my husband.
As the fly fishing beginner in our partnership, I ask the most questions. How do I tie that knot? What does "double haul" mean? What is a flats skiff? In this blog series, I'll share some of what I've learned in my 6 years as the fish wife.
First up: The flats skiff.
The dedicated fly fisher knows about these low profile wonders that make flats fishing possible. But not me. The first time I rode along with Kevin and our Key Largo buddy, John, I had no idea what kind of boat I would be boarding.
In basic terms a skiff is a flat bottomed boat meant to traverse shallow waters. A flats boat usually has a casting platform, a small hull with a few seats and a giant poll that the boat's captain will use to push you through inches of water as you hunt bonefish and tarpon.
After years on these tiny, exposed boats, here are a few things I've learned about cruising the ocean in the skiff.
1. There is no shade.
I'm a fair-skinned Midwestern girl, so when I learned there is no shade on most of the flats boats, I was a little nervous. Make sure you bring serious sunscreen, wear sleeves and a hat. Also hydration is key.
2. The ride can get a little rough.
A very specific fly fishing day in South Carolina comes to mind when I think about cruising rough waters in a skiff. It wasn't my favorite. Because the boat is so close to the waves, there's less of a rocking motion and more of a slap down onto the water feeling. My advice: keep your jaw slack, use your core to keep your feet on the deck and find a comfortable hand grip.
3. Keep it minimal with your boat bag.
There's not a lot of space on a skiff so keep your gear to a minimum. The boats are specially designed to fish from, not to dine in. I try to keep my carry-on to that aforementioned hat, sunscreen and a raincoat. (There's no shade on the boat... which also means there is no where to hide if it rains.)
4. It's hard.
You might have crushed every stream in the Driftless and mastered salmon in Alaska, but ocean fishing is hard. So hard. The water is vast, it's hard to "see" the fish and getting that cast to accurately hit "12:30" is tough. Go into the day ready to learn a lot, open to mistakes and prepared to see few fish and potentially catch no fish. It makes it so much sweeter when you hook one.