Wading the flats: No boat required | Hatch Magazine

When I first started saltwater fly fishing, I waded the flats out of necessity. I had no choice, because I had no boat. Now I have a boat. But I still wade because I want to, not because I have to. Here’s why.


There’s no easier way to fish. It doesn’t matter of if you live in Florida, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, New Jersey or Massachusetts. Wadeable water is nearby—particularly up and down the East Coast and Gulf Coast. And you can be on the water in a matter of minutes. Have an hour to spare on your lunch break? Or after work before heading home? You can fish. Gone are the days when you need an entire day off from work to fish.

You will fish more, and as a result, you will become a better angler.


Wading is dirt cheap. All you need is some sort of pack and a pair of flats boots. You can have both for less than $200, easy. Buy a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or a Jon boat, and any of these will set you back a grand or two. Do the math. Wading is ideal for the do-it-yourself angler. For newbies just starting out, there may be no better way to go.

The Learning Curve

I started out fly fishing mountain streams, the traditional A River Runs Through It, classic fly fishing in the mountains of Virginia. After some initial struggles, I figured out where the fish were and why.

When I got to the Florida salt, I was totally lost.

Why? Because there’s a hell of a lot more water in the salt than in the fresh, which means the fish are a lot harder to find on the flats if you’re a greenhorn. Wading teaches patience and stealth. There’s no wax-on, wax-off moment, where you get totally dialed in. If you wade, you will gradually learn how to see fish and approach them.

Ideally, you want a combination of grass, which holds the baitfish, and sand, which does not hold baitfish, but gives you a chance to see the fish as they move through the clumps of grass.

When you wade, it’s tougher to see fish than on the bow of a boat, but if you can spot fish…

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