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Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Report

Mid December Report

Capt. Ken Tutalo

At this time there are a lot of options for Fly Fishermen around the Bay.

Over the last few weeks my clients have had a lot of opportunity and most days multiple species have come to net. Recently several of my clients completed the inshore slam of a Trout, Snook and Redfish on the fly!

All of my recent trips have been in the South Bay and this is the area my reports are relevant to. More specifically I spend most of my time from Apollo Beach to the Skyway.

Most days I budget my time on the water to allow my clients time to target Snook, Reds and Trout. Getting shots at these species had been reliable under the current conditions. We have also been encountering Jacks, Ladyfish, Flounder and Sheephead most days.

The Specifics-

Trout Fishing

The Trout action has been the least predictable of the fish I target.

After being spoiled the last 2 years with easy fishing, it's become a hunt again. Trout are very aggressive towards flies so it's easy to get them to eat when you find them. Right now finding them has been hit or miss. One day I can find a flat or pass loaded with fish and we hook up one after another. The next day the same area will come up empty. This current trend could be due to the higher for the date water temperatures, recent negative low tides and a string of days with poor water movement during the hours we are on the water. All of these factors can make fishing the fly or other artificials inconsistent. I expect the Trout fishing to become more reliable once we have a cold front or two move through.

When we've been on them the size has been good. Plenty of keeper size fish but no real slammers recently.

The Techniques

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.

The Flies below are my go to pattern. They are pretty indestructable. Tough Synthetic wings, super glue and some bare shank allow them to stand up to the non target species. Normal clousers are done after one encounter with puffers, mackerel and bluefish. These fish again.

Most days trout will respond best to a very slow presentation. You need to force yourself to slow down the retrieve and increase the time your fly spends in the strike zone. 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 super slow retrieves and dead drifting the currents.

Later in the day the fish are chasing well. At this time of day more aggressive stripping and presentations up in the water column have been producing results.

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 the tide is up and you get the hang of putting the fly far enough under the bushes to get noticed. On the lows the action is out in the open targeting the potholes and the deeper cuts in the passes.

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

Half and Half Clouser

At this time it is important to present your baitfish imitations in a very erratic fashion that sells the illusion of vulnerability. 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 Snook taken on a Yellow / White EP Style baitfish.

I also wanted to share this really cool video I took during last weeks negative low tides. We had a big pod of giant snook laid up between tides. We had an instant take on our first cast but that fish quickly rubbed through our bite tippet. For the remainder of the time we worked them they showed no interest in our flies. Make sure you view this in high resolution to see the fish well.

Get out there in the dark!

I offer 4 and 6 hour dock light trips and this fishing is hot right now. If you have not tried fly fishing at night it's all about action. Every cast is to a fish you can clearly see and they are normally on the feed.

I have been out several time lately and it has been steady action.

Most nights the EP Style baitfish in 3" to 5" range will get instant chases and takes. In these situations however it is often a smaller fish that you did not see that make the attack. Once the ice is broke on each light things can change quick. Many times they will ignore the fly after only a cast or two.

It is important to pay close attention to what is attracted to each light. On my last 2 trips the larger fish were actually keyed in on the fry fish that were passing through the lights. Here are some of the patterns I use to seal the deal in these circumstances. All of the flies below are tiny 1.5 to 2".

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 book a day of fishing. Our Tampa Bay Reds are without a doubt among 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 last weeks light wind 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.

Some video of my Marabou Flats Shrimp getting her groove on.

All of the flies shown in this report are available at

If you would like to get out for a Fly Fishing or Light Tackle trip you can visit my Tampa Bay Page

You can book trips directly from the page or call us directly at 607-290-4022

You can also follow Baxter House Outfitters on Facebook. I normally give regular reports of my daily trips there


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