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Fish Bones 08-21-2005 11:03 PM

Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
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Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff
By Tom Mitzlaff

A lot of people like to fly fish yet it's hard to find a partner to go out with every time. I thought I would offer some suggestions to people who venture out on the flats alone with a long rod in hand.

The hardest part of fly fishing alone in a skiff is handling your equipment. Between the skiff, push pole, fly rod, and fly line it can be a task but with a few simple tips, its actually quite easy.

The key to fly fishing by yourself is having everything ready in advance and at arms reach, I am mainly speaking of your fly rod. The next important thing is what to do with the push pole when it comes time to grab the fly rod, we will address both of these issues.

First, when I am poling alone in my skiff, I do so from the bow and suggest you do the same. It makes everything much easier and it is much safer to fish from the bow than your poling platform especially while fishing alone.

As far as equipment, to make all this easier to accomplish two items are essential. First something to keep your fly rod in and ready so its not sliding around the deck, getting your line tangled. I use a Fly Line Tamer, made by Alu-Marine products. It is basically a tall narrow stripping basket that is heavy enough on the bottom to allow you to keep your rod in it, in a vertical position without it toppling over in the wind, it really is a nice item. Second is something to keep your push pole under control when you pick up your fly rod. Yes, you can just put it between your legs but believe me, that can be a real pain especially about the time the fish show up suddenly, and you drop the pole spooking the fish. I like using the Polemate. Its a wonderful little clip that allows you to instantly clip the push pole quietly to your side. It just straps on like a belt and works great.

Now the rest is basically simple though, it does take some practice. Standing with your feet on the bow of the skiff, place the fly line tamer between your legs as close as possible to yourself. Strip about 25 feet of fly line into the tamer and place the rod into the tamer. Hook your fly onto a piece of foam glued to outside of tamer. Strap your Polemate to whatever side is comfortable for you.

You will be poling the skiff backwards so here's the trick when you pole up on a fish. I upon seeing the fish get just in casting range (mine) and start pushing the front of the skiff in an arc - a 180 turn if you will to put the front of the skiff and yourself in a position where you do not have to cast around the boat. Now when the boat is at aprox. 90 degree angle to the fish I give it a little added push to keep it slowly turning, put the pole in the Polemate on my belt, pick up the fly rod and begin my cast. With a little practice and good timing you will be casting just before the skiff is pointed at the fish. What you also want to remember is that you want to think ahead of you can time everything. With a little practice it really works well.

Once in a while, another 'trick' I use to control the skiff is I will actually sit on the bow of the boat with my legs in the water and literally walk the boat along with my feet. You have to have semi firm bottom for this and a boat with low freeboard and shallow draft. When you are bone fishing in the Keys this works very well for me. You pole along, swing the boat as I described and if you don't get the fish to eat right away, or they are moving around a lot (as bonefish always do) put your pole in the pole hooks on your skiff, and walk the boat along. You get the advantage of wading and keeping a low profile yet without sinking into the bottom, try it, I hooked my first bonefish while fishing alone doing just that.

This article courtesy of Shallow Water Skiffs You may freely reprint this article on your website or in
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Fly Guyusa 01-21-2008 06:58 AM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
Some good advice. I use a bow mounted electric, which I run very slowly. If started and stopped suddenly, they will spook fish. I made a stripping basket from a leaf bag, available at hardware stores that is collapsible. An old garden hose, filled with some weights and taped at the ends together looks like a hula hoop and fits in the bottom to keep it in place. This works best in water a little deeper, and relies on longer casts. Great for working banks and edges, especially where there is some wind or tidal movement.
Pat Damico

spoton 09-04-2014 08:37 AM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
Very interesting article to me, because I do fish alone frequently. One issue I had was finding a stripping basket like the Line-Tamer. This product doesn't seem to be available anymore.

I purchased a foam stripping basket from Sea Level. More expensive than a leaf basket, but it does a much better job of holding the rod in a ready position.

mcnerney 09-04-2014 11:21 AM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
Very interesting article, thanks! I have never fished from a flats boat, just curious that when you are poling from the front casting position, why does Tom recommend poling backwards?

labradorguy 09-04-2014 01:57 PM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
Easier to get a long push in but keep it straight?? It seems like a lot of hassle to me. :confused:

milt spawn 09-05-2014 05:45 PM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
Things may have changed in the nine years since the op. milt

labradorguy 09-05-2014 08:07 PM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff

Originally Posted by milt spawn (Post 698383)
Things may have changed in the nine years since the op. milt

I don't know.... I've put a lot of time in on Keys flats and this seems like a lot of work.

There is so much prop noise in the water that a person can usually get away with using an electric motor. It's not a game ender like it would be elsewhere. As long as the power is kept on constantly and not switched on and off, the fish don't seem to mind it all that much. Granted, poling is better, but motors will work in a pinch.

Secondly, you can almost always find a current to ride in the Keys. If you know the water, and you keep up with the tides, you can hit a lot of really great spots and never even touch a pole. We do this all the time even when there are two guys fishing. Guides won't admit that it works because they are wanting to earn that big tip for pushing people around.

swflangler 03-06-2015 11:12 AM

Re: Fly Fishing Alone in a Skiff - by Tom Mitzlaff
This is why I have a bow mounted trolling motor. It's not perfect, but it makes fishing alone very simple. People say that they spook fish? I'm not having any problems.

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