Fly Fishing for Speckled trout (Spotted Sea Trout
In this article I will thoroughly cover fly fishing for speckled trout. Speckled trout are also known as spotted sea trout. They are a very popular inshore saltwater species that are found all along the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic to Chesapeake Bay. Speckled trout are a beautiful fish that readily take a fly.
My name is Capt. Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. Speckled trout are one of the primary species that my anglers pursue. They are generally available all year long, except for in periods of extreme cold. Speckled trout are a gorgeous fish that will hit a fly hard, though perhaps they do not put up a spirited a bite as some other game fish.
Techniques used when fly fishing for speckled trout
There are two distinct techniques that I use when fly fishing for speckled trout. These are fishing the deep grass flats and fishing the shallow flats. Speckled trout are by far more numerous on the deeper grass flats. These are submerged weed beds or areas of vegetation and water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep, depending on water clarity. This is where the schools of trout are found.
Anglers seeking a trophy speckled trout one fly fishing will do best to target shallow water. This sounds counterintuitive to a degree, but the larger trout are loners and are found in shallow water quite often. Perhaps as they get larger they do not need the safety of numbers, who knows. Some of the largest trout caught in Florida and other states are done so in water that is less than 18 inches deep.
Fly fishing tackle for speckled trout
The tackle used when fly fishing for speckled trout is pretty much the same as I use on my other inshore saltwater fishing charters. An 8wt outfit is perfect as it will cover a wide variety of conditions. Anglers can certainly drop down to a 7wt or even a 6wt if desired. However, the 8wt dozen excellent all round job when tossing a weighted flies on a breezy day.
One mistake anglers often make when fishing the deep flats is to use a floating line. Even with a heavy weighted flies such as a Clouser Minnow, the fly will often not get deep enough when using a floating line. I use an intermediate clear sink tip line on 95% of my saltwater fishing charters. I just believe it is the most versatile and practical for this application.
Anglers fly fishing for speckled trout in shallow water can certainly use a floating line. The technique here is to either sight cast to speckled trout (which are very hard to see on a grassy bottom) or blind cast to pot holes, bars, and grass beds. A floating line works best in this situation with unweighted flies such as deceiver patterns and surface flies such as poppers or gurglers being the best choice.
Leaders and flies for speckled trout
I generally use a 9 foot tapered leader with an 18 inch bite tippet of 25 pound test fluorocarbon for most of my fly fishing for speckled trout. While speckled trout do not really have cutting teeth, the bite tippet will result in more fish landed, especially if a snook, jack, or other toothy fish is encountered. I will also use at times a simple leader of 4 feet of 40 pound fluorocarbon followed by 4 feet of 25 pound fluorocarbon. Since I am almost always using a weighted fly, the leader will turn over fine with this set up.
Fly selection is pretty easy as well; I almost always use a Clouser Minnow. It is the premier saltwater fishing fly and works well for speckled trout as well as many other species. In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about fishing the deep grass flats is the variety. Anglers will catch ladyfish, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, pompano, and other species when pursuing speckled trout.
White, chartreuse over white, and olive over white are my favorite colors. Other popular patterns include deceiver patterns, crystal minnow patterns, and D.T. Special patterns. In reality, just about any shrimp or baitfish fly pattern when properly presented will catch a speckled trout.
Fly fishing for speckled trout on the deep grass flats
The vast majority of the speckled trout are caught by anglers fly fishing while drifting the deep grass flats. This is an efficient way to fish and is easy for anglers of all experience levels to do. Anglers cast the fly out ahead of the drifting boat, allow it to sink, and strip the fly back in. This allows for the angler to cover a lot of water in search of speckled trout. Once fish are located, the area can be read drifted.
Often times, I keep an anchor handy tied off to the stern and simply dip it into the water when a school of trout is located. This then allows us to thoroughly cover an area with multiple casts and at multiple depths to maximize that particular bunch of fish.
The best technique is to cast the fly out and allow it to sink for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, with the rod tip held low near the surface of the water the fly is stripped in using brisk 12 inch to 18 inch strips. Often times the trout hits on the pause in between strips. When a speckled trout takes the fly, the angler strips sets, using the stripping can to pull the fly line type and embed the fly in the fishes mouth. The rod tip is then race. Smaller speckled trout can be stripped in while a larger fish will make a run and get on the reel.
It is best when choosing a flat to fly fish for speckled trout if the wind and tide are moving in the same direction. Ideally, the wind will be over the anglers casting shoulder. This will result in a good clean drift. Conversely, trying to drift a flat where the wind and tide oppose each other will result in the boat crabbing sideways.
Again, one of the things I enjoy most about fly fishing the deep grass flats is the variety. While speckled trout maybe the primary quarry, anglers will certainly encounter other species as well. These include hard fighting Spanish mackerel and bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish,pompano, and maybe even a cobia or some other very large fish!
Read my article on fly fishing for Spanish mackerel
As mentioned earlier, the largest speckled trout are often caught in very shallow water. These are caught by anglers drifting in flats boats or by wading. Often times, getting out of the boat and wading is the best approach as it allows anglers to quietly and thoroughly cover the area. It can be difficult to sight fish for speckled trout as a blended so well to the bottom.
The best way to have success when fly fishing for speckled trout in very shallow water is to fish “potholes”. These are slight indentations in an otherwise featureless flat. While the depth change can be as little as a half a foot, he can make a big difference, especially on very low water. Speckled trout will have no other places to go and will be found staging in these holes.
Fly fishing for speckled trout in shallow water
These potholes range greatly in size. A pothole that is only a few feet across may hold a fish or two. Conversely, a larger pothole that is 40 or 50 feet across may hold an entire school of fish. The best approach with larger holes is to try to cast to the edge of the hole and pull fish out away from it. That way it will not ruin opportunities for more fish. On the smaller potholes, anglers cast to the far edge and bring the fly back through the hole.
Seeking unweighted flies do not do as well in this situation as a will quickly hang up in the grass. Surface flies such as poppers are great fun and productive, especially if the water is warm. In colder water situations, subsurface flies such as gotchas and deceivers work well.
Fly fishing for speckled trout at night
Anglers can also do well fly fishing for speckled trout at night. This is almost always done around some type of light and the water. This can be a bridge or dock for the most part. The light will attract small bait fish and shrimp in this in turn will attract the game fish. In areas of Florida where they exist, snook are commonly caught using this technique.
The best approach is to cast the fly up current of the light and let the tide bring the fly through the lighted area. The speckled trout will dart out and grab the fly. Small bait fish patterns such as glass minnow, Crystal minnow, deceiver, and Clouser patterns tied with light weights or bead chain eyes work very well. White is the best color with a little silver or flash in most situations.
In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for speckled trout will help anglers catch more of these plentiful in popular inshore saltwater species on the long rod!