What is Sight Cast Fishing?

Chasing Tails and Sight Casting

Sight casting is increasing in popularity on the Texas Gulf Coast, and for good reason.  It’s a different style of fishing that is highly addictive.  Once you get a taste of it, you’ll be hooked for life.  This isn’t the way your grandparents grew up fishing.  The days of using live bait or drift fishing over a general area just blind casting around are over.  There’s a new way of doing things these days and it’s called sight casting. 

It’s almost like hunting.  You are a predator searching for prey and silently stalking the shallow waters looking for the prize.  It’s an art that requires skill and experience.   Time on the water teaches you where to look, how to look, and what to look for.  Sometimes you will go minutes without making a single cast.  You are actively stalking, searching, scanning, looking for tails, or a wake being pushed.  You are looking at the surface of the water and into the depths of the water at the same time.  Constantly searching for any signs of game fish, and once one is spotted, the fun really begins. Good hand-eye coordination, supreme casting ability, and quick reflexes are needed.  But that’s part of the attraction, it relies less on luck and more on testing your angler skills to the max.  Knowing that you usually have a single opportunity at hitting a moving target, and then when you make that cast count, it rewards you with thrills that cannot be matched. 

Sight casting defined as a broad term can mean casting at a pothole, aiming at a wake being pushed, throwing at a swirl in the water, or hitting that dark spot you think you see. But when the conditions are right and you can see fish before they see you, that’s when the real fun begins.  Which direction is the fish facing and moving?  How deep is it and how fast is it swimming?  All are important factors to consider prior to making that cast.  Serve that fish a dinner on a silver platter.  Give it an offer it can’t resist.  Executing the perfect timing and presentation, and seeing that fish eat with your own eyes gives you an adrenaline rush that you will be addicted to for life.

The shallow flats in about one to two feet of water is where you want to sight cast.  It’s usually done while wade fishing, in a kayak, or from a poling skiff.  The key factor is stealth.  You must move silently and slowly and only cast when you are deliberately targeting a game fish.  It’s best on a calm day with winds below 10 mph and when the sun is over head, from about 9:00am to 3:00pm.  This is the prime time for maximum visibility and you will be able to see farther and deeper when the sun and wind are at your back.  If you’re fishing the early morning hours, you’ll have to focus on the surface of the water because the lack of light makes it difficult to see. 

Understanding the different types of water disturbances is important.  The size and shapes of a wake being pushed by a fish takes time to learn.  Usually a baitfish, such as a mullet, will produce a “V-shaped” wake and will move in sporadic, random movements.  A redfish will have more of a “U-shaped” wake and move with more of a purpose.  Tails seen breaking the surface of the water will also have different sizes and shapes that you will learn to recognize.  A mullet’s tail will be “V-shaped” and have a white/grayish color.   A redfish tail will be straight/square and have bronze color.

You’ll want to invest in a pair of good polarized sunglasses.  An amber lens type is preferred since it really brings out the reds and greens which is ideal for sight casting.  The Costa del Mar 580G Green Mirror is a perfect choice.  These make a huge difference in being able to see the fish. 

This sport can be done a number of ways.  Wade fishing up against a grassy shoreline in about one to two feet of water is a sure way to find some redfish or a big trout.   Wading in water this shallow requires stealth and absolute silence.  You’re not racing to cover a lot of ground.  You have the advantage of putting yourself in the right spot and controlling the pace of your approach.  Make each step count and be sure not to disturb the area.  Getting close enough to a fish you can see requires patience and attention to detail. 

Fishing from a kayak is also a popular choice.  You are able to get deep into backwater marshes where Redfish love to play.  If you have a wide-bottom and stable kayak then you might be able to stand up in it.  You will have a significant height advantage over wade fisherman and other sit-down kayakers.  Being higher up allows you to see further and deeper into the water.  This takes some good balance, practice, and ideal wind direction or a push pole, but when executed right the rewards will be worth it.

Sight casting from a technical poling skiff is probably the best way to see fish.  This style of boat is made for ultra-skinny water and most of them feature a zero-hull-slap design that remains silent when waves hit the bottom of the hull.  These boats usually require a two-man team, provided you have a partner that is capable of using a push pole.  One guy is in the back on the poling platform positioning the boat, controlling the speed and angle of approach, and keeping an eye out for any fish.  The other guy is up front on the casting platform actively scanning for anything resembling a fish and doing all the fishing.   Although with enough practice, the guy in the back using the push pole can get some fishing in if they keep a small spinning rod at the feet that’s ready to pick up for a quick cast.

Most fishermen who sight cast prefer a fly rod.  This gives you the accuracy and precision you need to land a small fly quietly right in front of fish without spooking it.  A missed cast can easily be picked up and recast in a matter of seconds.  Using flies allows you to keep the hook size small so that it lands silent.  This is extremely important when you are in water only a foot deep. 

Another well-liked option is a soft plastic lure with a 1/16 oz weedless lead head.   With this style you usually cast beyond the fish so that you can reel the lure up to it.  A cast that lands directly on top of the fish will most likely scare it off due to the lure size and how loud it hits the water.  Cast past the fish and time your retrieve so that your lure lines up with the direction the fish is facing and moving.  This requires some accurate casting and attention to where your lure is at in the water column.   You will likely only have time to make one good cast, so make it count.

There is no substitute for spending time on the water.  A beginner will probably end up spooking a few fish before learning what to look for.  After a while it gets easier to notice all the details and spotting objects that seem out of place.  Knowing where to look and how to look is the key to success. 

No matter your approach, sight casting offers you the opportunity to connect with the fish on a special level.  Seeing the fish, making the cast, executing the perfect presentation, and that feeling you get when you watch its mouth open and bite down.  That’s what it’s all about.  Once you get sight cast fever, there’s no going back.  It will change the way you view fishing.