Fly Fishing Report for Tampa bay
Cooler Weather Spurs Hot Bite!
Over the last few days we have had strong cold winds from the north. This front cooled our local waters a bit but did not have much effect on the fish. I have been out just about every day for the last 2 weeks including a stretch of nine days in a row.
During this time period the best tide movement has been in the am hours which is also the coolest period of the day. The fish apparently were not put out much by the winds or chill, my guests had steady action right through the day.
I had Dr. Bob down from NYC for 3 days of fly fishing. Lots of action including 1 day where he put about 60 fish in the boat. I also have a few of our Baxter House Fly Fishing Guides visiting. Both Matth Hackett and Luc Genovesi fished Tampa Bay for the first time. Both have been tearing it up!
Trout have been loving the cooler water. The best action has been along the edge of the flats when the water goes low. The fish have been laying up in the 5 to 8 foot depths on the low tide. If you find one of these areas with grass you will have non stop action. The deeper basins and natural channels in the back bays have also been hot on the low. I have been finding some nice reds in these spots as well. Any #2 Clouser will keep your rod bent with Trout at this time. Normally these laid up groups of trout will be of like size. Recently most of the fish have been in the 12" to 15" range. The larger Trout will most likely be on the fringes of these areas or in smaller cuts spread around the flats. One tactic that has been effective for me has been to go over the areas where you find Trout with a 6" Baitfish imitation. You will quickly find out if any larger fish are with the group. The reds we have been picking up blind casting to trout have all come on the larger baitfish imitations. Recently Yellow/White and Olive/Yellow have been the hot colors.
Dr. Bob with one of the several dozen trout he took on a recent trip
Currently you need to go very slow on Trout and all of our local game fish. Long casts, sharp short strips and long pauses are what's drawing the strikes. The slower you go the more successful you will be. I always tell my guests to try to make the fly move as much as possible without it going anywhere.
It is also very important to keep your eyes focused on the tip of the fly line and just beyond it. Most all of the takes will come on the pause and you will not feel anything. Sometimes it is just the flash of the fish or some movement in the line that should be your cue to strip set. During the last week I have watched more Snook and Trout eat my guests flies multiple times without them feeling anything at all.
The Snook bite is very good right now but with the current weather you will need to change tactics and locations to find steady action. Now is the time to start moving back into the mangroves further. In the back country the best spots will always be wherever there are smaller bays or deeper cuts that will retain some warmer water on tide changes and during the overnights. Now is also the time to start heading further up into the local rivers in search of higher water temperatures. Just a degree or two in water change may turn the fishing red hot. On really windy days fishing docks has been productive if you have the patience for this type of fly fishing.
Below are some shots of Dr. Bob and the Baxter House Guides
Recently I have been finding willing snook all day. The best action however has been during the afternoon incoming tide and after dark. Yesterday we really ran the numbers up with Snook of all sizes. Currently I am still fishing Baitfish imitations on every rod. EP Style Baitfish have been the go to lately. It is important to have bait fish made up of several different materials available. Some days the fish want silhouette style flies that keel, tumble and flash. Other days they want flies that breathe and undulate. Various sizes are important sometimes but I normally stick with 4" to 6" flies for Snook.
Below are some baitfish that cover several types of action. Stiff Materials, Soft Materials and Game Changer variations. Top photo- stiff material, Middle- softer materials, Bottom- Softest and game changers
If redfish are your thing the action is good enough if you put in the work. My Baxter House guides and I spent a few hours walking the bare flats searching the cuts and potholes yesterday. We spread out since this spot and stalk fishing is most productive with a team of one. We all found mature Reds laid up in water that barely covered them. We all hooked up with big fish and even landed a few.
Baxter House Guides Matthias Hackett and Luc genovesi with some Reds.
In addition to the main targets there are some other species that have been available for Fly Rodding fun. Both Ladyfish and Jack Crevales are showing up throughout the day. There are back bays that are thick with Ladies. I always keep a 5 weight rod on the skiff for some periods where we want to build confidence. These fish are all fight and the #5 rod makes it great sport.
Jacks are always a target of opportunity in Tampa Bay and the giant ones are a challenge to battle on fly tackle. Currently the big boys have been tearing it up along the south shore. The best action has been early and late. Almost every afternoon recently I have been finding big schools from the edges of the flats out to the shipping channels. I like bigger flies tied on very heavy wire hooks since these fish have jaws like vises.
Some recent Jacks