Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Report
Mid December Report
At this time there are a lot of options for Fly Fishermen around the Bay.
We have had a decent stretch of warm sunny days so water temperatures are in a good place.
Over the last 2 weeks my clients have not had a day where multiple species have come to net. All of my recent trips have been in the South Bay. Currently Trout, Redfish and Snook are abundant and fairly easy to find.
These three species are fairing well since they were protected with catch and release only regulations.
We have also been running into plenty of other fish that are more than willing to take the fly. These include the usual suspects, Jack Crevales and Ladyfish. We have also been getting shots at Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish at times. Snapper, Grouper, Flounder and Sheepshead have also been in the catch.
The Trout action has been easy in the areas I have been fishing. Most all of the flats with established grass beds are loaded with them. Fishing any period of tide movement should lead to steady action. I have been allotting about an hour each day for my guests to get their fill. We have been taking a lot of really nice fish and many flats are producing 18" to 22" fish.
Fly choice is pretty simple. I normally rig #2 clouser minnows on #6 weight rods. On light wind days I'll break out #5 weights. Chartreuse and White out fishes most other colors but Pink and White and Yellow and White can be deadly at times. Weight of the fly should be adjusted to the speed of the tide. The main consideration when choosing weight is making sure that you are consistently getting your fly to the bottom 1/3 of the water column.
If you are fishing early in the day the water on the flats is normally at it's coolest temp. of the day. You really need to fish the fly very slow. I like to cast across the tide movement and let the fly swing. I take short sharp strips that cause the fly to look like a wounded baitfish that is caught in the current. Remember that vulnerability seals the deal. The larger fish have been coming on very slow retrieves. Later in the day the fish are chasing well and more aggressive stripping and presentations up in the water column have been producing results. Below is a short video on presenting the fly to trout.
Snook are Reliable
The Snook action has been very reliable and my guests have been taking some real nice fish.
Currently I have been targeting both the flats and the mangroves. The action along the mangroves is always good once you get the hang of putting the fly far enough under the bushes to get noticed. There are also times when the action out in the open, on weed beds and in the cuts has been excellent.
Currently I have several rods on my skiff rigged specifically for Snook. Most of the time I am putting 8 weight rods in my clients hands. I have them rigged with leaders that are about 10' tapered to 20 pound. The 20 pound is Fluorocarbon as is the 30lb. bite tippet. Recently the best flies have been EP Style Baitfish in the 3" to 5" range. Olive and White, Yellow and White and Pin Fish imitations have been hot.
I have also been using large heavy clousers when the tide is ripping through the cuts.
My Pinfish imitation
At this time it is important to present your baitfish imitations in a very slow fashion. The best action comes when you strip the fly very sharply followed by long pauses. The illusion you want is to create as much movement as possible without the fly going anywhere. Injured baitfish twitch around a lot and they are at the currents mercy. I always tell my clients to "be the wounded baitfish".
As we get more cold fronts and negative tides slowing the presentation down will become even more important if you want to fool the larger fish.
Below is a short video of a recent Snook on a Yellow / White EP Style baitfish.
I also wanted to share this really cool video I took with one of my long time clients who came down from New York for a few days of fishing. We had a big pod of giant snook laid up between tides. The had no interest in our flies at the time. We hooked a giant later that day but he made short work of the 30lb. bite tippet. Make sure you view this in high resolution to see the fish well.
Tampa Bay Redfish, if your strong enough..
There are lots of big Reds around the flats and in the back bays. If sight fishing is your thing now is a great time to call for a day of fishing. Our Tampa Bay Reds are without a doubt the hardest creatures to sight fish and fool on the fly.
Recently I have had a few anglers who were willing to put the time in, and focus only on chasing Reds. The fishing has been excellent but in this endeavor you often measure your success not by the amount of fish you put in the net but by opportunity.
Finding the fish has been pretty easy lately. With the low tides and the light wind days they have been standing out. On average we have been getting a few quality shots per hour. I qualify good shots as when we find a feeding fish and get into fly range unnoticed. After that it is a crap shoot. Recently it has been heavily slanted in the favor of the Redfish but we have struck a few times.
While my fly choices are pretty simple for Snook and Trout, my Redfish flies are far more numerous and constantly changing. At this time baitfish patterns have been drawing more attention but Shrimp patterns have their place and will become more important with each passing day. Recently we have taken fish on both.
Below are a few of my favorites.
I normally have 3 rods on the skiff rigged for Reds. I switch a lot between #8 and #6 rods. I rig much longer leaders for Redfish, up to 15 ft. and often taper down to 10 lb. fluorocarbon in gin clear water.
Up until this point everything I have reported has been specific to sight fishing with the fly. If you are not determined on seeing the fish the odds go way up. Right now some of the best fish are mixed in and traveling with the bigger schools of mullet. Setting up on an active flat and stalking the mullet is a high percentage approach.
With the low tides of winter you also have pretty good odds of taking Reds when they are laid up. We have had pretty good action fishing the deep cuts with heavier flies. The key is patience and making sure you get your fly to the bottom. Very short strips and lots of pauses will produce strikes. It is also important to choose flies that have a lot of natural action for this type of fishing. Soft materials, Marabou and Rabbit Strip etc. We have also been taking a Redfish here and there from under the mangroves while targeting snook.
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