Sarasota Fly Fishing

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Fall Fly Fishing in Sarasota


Fall fly fishing in Sarasota

Fall Fly Fishing in Sarasota

This article will thoroughly cover fall fly fishing in Sarasota. Fall is an excellent time to fish the West Coast of Florida. Sarasota waters offer fly anglers a variety of fly fishing opportunities, both inshore and in the Gulf of Mexico.

My name is Capt. Jim Klopfer and am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. Fall is one of my favorite times of year for several reasons. First off, the weather is usually very pleasant, being cool in the morning and then warming up nicely by lunchtime. It seldom rains this time of year. Tourist traffic is also lower, meaning less pressure on the fish. Finally, and most importantly, fish are often actively feeding ahead of the cooler months.

Fall fly fishing in Sarasota

Anglers fly fishing in Sarasota during the fall have several options to choose from. These include fishing the deep grass flats for trout and other species, shorelines and oyster bars for snook and jacks, working the passes for ladyfish and mackerel, and chasing surface action on false albacore and Spanish mackerel in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Fly fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico

 

Chasing busting schools of surface feeding Spanish mackerel and false albacore is probably my favorite way to fly fish in Sarasota. While working shorelines for large snook and jacks is fun, it’s hard to beat the excitement of seeing fish terrorizing helpless bait fish on the surface. Spanish mackerel will hit just about anything that moves while the false albacore can be fussier at times, especially when feeding on tiny glass minnows.

Sarasota flats fishing

The approach is pretty straightforward, though as in any type of fishing there are nuances that increase the odds of success. The ideal set up is to be a cast away from the feeding fish up wind of them. This allows the angler to make a nice easy cast to the feeding fish. Spanish mackerel will often stay up on top for quite a while, however false albacore can pop up for a few seconds and then disappear quickly. This can get frustrating! However, persistent anglers will almost always get a few shots if they hang in there.

I like to have two outfits rigged and ready to go for this type of fishing. On a 7wt or 8wt outfit I will have an intermediate sink tip line and a leader with a 40 pound bite tippet. This is for the Spanish mackerel. If they are very aggressive, I may even use a short piece of wire leader to help reduce or prevent cutoffs. The second outfit is a 9wt with a floating line and 20 pound bite tippet. False albacore do not have teeth and are a bit more line shy.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Spanish mackerel are not at all fussy about fly selection in this situation. There is no need to spend a bunch of time tying fancy flies. I like to use a quick and easy to tie D.T Special variation that I tie on a long shank hook which helps reduce cutoffs. False albacore can be a bit fussier. It is good to have a bit of selection including Clouser patterns, glass minnow patterns, and Crystal minnow patterns. White is an excellent all round color.

Fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay

Anglers seeking action and variety often choose to drift the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. This is a technique that I use quite often on my fly fishing charters as it does not require advanced casting skills in order to have a successful day. The technique involves drifting across submerged grass beds in water between 5 feet deep and 8 feet deep. This is where the majority of the forage that game fish feed on are found.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

As the boat drifts along with the wind and tide, the angler cast the fly out ahead of the drifting boat. A sinking fly such as a Clouser Minnow is tough to beat. The fly is allowed to sink and then stripped back in using a fairly aggressive strip and pause retrieve. Anglers can catch speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, pompano, and other species employing this technique. While long cast can be helpful, long as an angler can cast 30 or 40 feet, he or she should can catch some fish.

Fly fishing the passes

There are two passes that connect the Gulf of Mexico with Sarasota Bay. The term pass is synonymous with inlet, they are the same thing just termed differently on the Gulf Coast. These passes are deep and swift and are used by migratory species to swim in and out of Sarasota Bay. Both passes also have extensive sandbar systems were fish will get up and feed at times.

fly fishing for ladyfish

Ladyfish are virtually guaranteed for anglers fly fishing the passes in Sarasota. The biggest obstacle can be getting the fly down deep enough, especially if there is a swift current. An intermediate sink tip line with a fairly heavy fly will get the job done. Serious anglers will use a full sinking line to get the fly down quickly. These sinking lines are effective, however are a bit cumbersome and difficult, especially for novice anglers.

The good news is that the fish species that are found in the passes often feed at the surface or high up in the water column. These primarily include ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and jacks. Pompano will be found on the shallow bars as well as the occasional juvenile permit.

Fly fishing for snook, jacks, and redfish

Many anglers that visit Florida enjoy trying to catch snook, redfish, and jacks while fly fishing. This is definitely a more challenging type of fishing that is more about quality than it is about quantity. Anglers will definitely work harder for a take, but the result is almost always a decent fish.

Sarasota fly fishing report

As the water starts to cool off and the days become shorter, the mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, docks, and shallow flats will hold these game fish as they migrate from the passes and beach towards their winter staging areas. Covering the water is very important as these fish are constantly moving. However, they are also often actively feeding as they try to put on some weight for the winter.

An 8wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line is perfect for this type of fishing. Anglers can bump up to a 9wt when fishing for large snook and jacks around heavy cover such as docs and bridges. An intermediate sink tip line with a 9 foot leader ending with a 30 pound fluorocarbon bite tippet is the set up that I use the most.

Anglers can use a wide variety of fly patterns using this technique. More often than not, I will use a chartreuse over white or all white Clouser Minnow pattern. It’s a great all round fly that has excellent action and the water. White is pretty much considered the go to color for snook. Other patterns include deceivers, Crystal minnows, and really any other baitfish or shrimp pattern. As in much fly fishing, location and presentation is more important than the actual fly pattern.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

The last few years we have experienced some chili whether around Thanksgiving. The result of this was to push the jacks and snook up into area creeks, rivers, and residential canals. A really enjoy this type of fishing for couple of reasons. This does not require a long cast and the creek often provides some protection from the wind. These are also fairly small areas which tend to concentrate the fish.

Snook in these creeks and canals will usually hold tight to structure. Docks, mangrove shorelines, and oyster bars are top spots. Seawalls and riprap will hold fish as well. Jacks will be found in the spots as well is right out in the open. While they don’t seem to school up and feed on the surface is much, they can often be seen in large bunches moving through the water just under the surface. Most of the very large jack crevalle that my anglers catch are done so fishing creeks and rivers in the cooler months.

In conclusion, this article on fall fly fishing in Sarasota will give visiting anglers an idea of the options and species that are available to them during this excellent time of year to fish!

Sarasota Fly Fishing in Summer


Sarasota fly fishing in summer

Sarasota Fly Fishing in Summer

In this article I will cover Sarasota fly fishing in summer. While it is very hot, there are a few patterns that are productive. A couple include world class opportunities to sight fish for large fish. For the most part, mornings are best, with night being an option as well.

There are a couple of fish migrations that anglers fly fishing in Sarasota need to be aware of. First off is giant tarpon which migrate up the coast on their annual spawning run. Also, snook move out of the back water areas and into the passes and out on the beaches.

Sarasota summer fly fishing

The deep grass flats can also be very productive. This is a great option for fly anglers seeking action as opposed to trying for something more challenging. It is the best trip for novice fly fishers. Speckled trout are plentiful with ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, and other species mixed in.

Sarasota Fly Fishing in Summer – 3 main patterns!

I will cover the three primary fly fishing options for anglers visiting the Sarasota area. These are pretty much applicable to much of the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota

Tarpon are considered by many anglers to be the ultimate game fish, and for good reason. There are very few circumstances where anglers can cast a fly at fish well in excess of 100 pounds! Tarpon migrate through the area starting in late spring with June and July being the prime months.

fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota

These are large fish, some pushing 200 pounds! Therefore, heavy tackle is required. I mostly use a 12 wt outfit with a sink tip line. Long leaders with a 60 lb bite tippet work well. Fly selection varies, but it really is more about presentation and finding the “right” fish than it is fly pattern.

We fly fish for tarpon in two different ways; out on the beaches and on the shallow bars near the passes. Fish out on the beach are found in schools swimming or milling several hundred yards off shore. The key is to find slow moving fish and get a fly in front of them. There can be very difficult to get to bite, but once it happens it is very exciting!

Anglers can also catch tarpon fly fishing in Sarasota in the summer on the bars. Both passes have extensive sand bars. Tarpon will swim over these bars. This occurs in water that is much more shallow than out on the beach. This makes it easier to get a fly in front of them, but they are also very spooky. Anchoring in a “lane” and waiting for a prime shot is the best bet.

Fly fishing for Sarasota snook

Snook are definitely a good option for anglers Sarasota fly fishing in summer. Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration. In the winter, they move up into creeks, rivers and residential canals. In the summer, not school up in the passes and out on the area beaches, where they spawn. This provides a couple of unique fly fishing opportunities.

Structure in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass will hold good numbers of snook in the summer time. These structures include docks, bridges, rocks, seawalls, and ledges. Flats with grassy bottom will also hold fish as well. The best time to fish the passes for snook is early in the morning or at night. For the most part, these spots are quite deep and it can be difficult getting a fly down to them during the brighter parts of the day.

night snook fly fishing

Night fishing around the lighted docks and bridges can be extremely productive. It also has the advantage of having anglers avoid the daytime heat and sun. Lights attract bait fish and shrimp which in turn attracts snook. Small a bait fish and shrimp patterns work very well. Several patterns have been invented just for this type of fishing. Clouser and Crystal minnow patterns work well.

Tides are very important for this type of fishing. The water needs to be moving in an outgoing tide is preferred. The general technique is to anchor the boat 40 feet or so off of the light along with being a bit up tide. The fly is cast out and allowed to drift through the light with the angler using short strips. This is the best option for anglers looking for numbers of snook on fly in the summer time.

Beach fishing for snook

There is a world-class sight fishing opportunity for fly anglers in Sarasota and all along the West Coast of Florida. This is to cast to snook as they cruise the beaches in the summer time. Many of these fish are small, in the 18 inch to 24 inch range. However, there are some trophy female fish mixed in as well.

Sarasota fly fishing report

The technique is fairly simple and straightforward. Anglers simply walk along the beach 10 feet or so from shore where they are a bit above the water. Not only is a boat not needed, it can actually be a hindrance since it is difficult to get a boat close to shore with any kinds well and anglers are looking into the sun. As they walk along, they scan the water from the shoreline to about 10 feet out in search of fish. Once cited, the angler determines which way they are moving and then gets in front of them and cast the fly.

Due to the fact that these beach areas are open water, anglers can go lighter on the tackle. I like to use an 8 wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line, though anglers can certainly get by with a floating line as well. Any small white bait fish pattern will work, including a Crystal minnow, Shminnow, Clouser, or D.T. Special.

Deep grass flats are productive in summer

Anglers seeking action and variety when Sarasota fly fishing in summer will do best to drift the deep grass flats, particularly in North Sarasota Bay from the middle grounds north. Large patches of submerged grass in water between 6 feet deep and 8 feet deep will hold a variety of forage such as bait fish and crustaceans. This in turn holds the game fish species.

fly fishing report Sarasota

Speckled trout are virtually guaranteed for anglers casting a fly and drifting the deep grass flats for most of the year, in the warmer months are no exception. The water temperature is usually in the upper 80s and anglers need to get the fly down a bit in the water column. Therefore, I opt for an intermediate sink tip line and a weighted fly, with the Clouser Minnow being tough to beat. I like chartreuse over white or olive over white on a #1 hook.

The technique is not complicated. As the boat drifts along, anglers cast the fly out in front of the boat. The line in fly are allowed to sink for several seconds and then stripped back in using aggressive 18 inch strips with a pause in between. Quite often the take occurs on this pause. The angler uses the strip set to come tight and then slowly lifts the rod up.

Sarasota flats fishing

This technique is definitely the best choice for novice anglers and for those looking for action. Occasionally a large fish is hooked, but fish in the 1 to 3 pound range are the norm. Speckled trout are numerous with bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, and pompano all being distinct possibilities.

Anglers without a boat can take advantage of this type of fishing as well. Most shallow grass flats drop off to deeper water at some point. A couple of spots that come to mind are south Lido Beach in the flats off of the Ringling mansion. Anglers can wait into the water until about waist deep and they cast the fly out into 6 foot to 8 foot of water and experience the same action.

In conclusion, this article on Sarasota fly fishing in summer will help anglers understand the options available to them during this very hot but productive time of year!

Fly Fishing in Sarasota in Spring


Fly Fishing in Sarasota in Spring

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing in Sarasota in spring. Like most fishing situations, spring is an excellent time of year to toss a fly. The water temperatures are rising and fish are moving from their winter haunts to the flats and back water areas. Many species spawn in spring as well.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I run fly fishing charters in Sarasota. Spring is one of my favorite times to fish. The weather is usually mild and there are quite a few options that fly anglers can choose from. Just about every species that inhabit Sarasota can be caught during the spring time!

Fly fishing in Sarasota in spring

Sarasota fly fishing in spring

Anglers can catch a variety of species using several different techniques when fly fishing in Sarasota in the spring. The deep grass flats will provide action and variety. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, pompano, and other species will take a fly. The passes will hold fish as well. Action on the beach can be excellent when conditions are right. Snook, redfish, and jacks are caught along the mangrove shorelines.

For the most part, I use an 8wt Orvis outfit for the majority of my Sarasota fly fishing charters. An intermediate sink tip line is very versatile and works well in most situations. Fly selection is pretty basic, with a 1/0 chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow being my top fly. Crystal Minnow and D.T. Special patterns are also effective.

Top techniques for spring fly fishing in Sarasota

Sarasota fly fishing charters

There are several different techniques that I use on my Sarasota fly fishing charters in the spring. These are drifting the deep grass flats, fishing the passes, working the inshore Gulf of Mexico, and trying for snook and reds in the backwater areas. All of these techniques can be productive this time of year.

Fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

Fly fishing the deep grass flats is a technique that I use quite often, especially with clients who are not as experienced. It is the easiest way to catch a fish on a fly. This technique also produces quite a bit of variety as many species roam these flats in search of food.

The technique is pretty straightforward. As the boat drifts along, anglers cast a fly (usually a Clouser) out in front of the boat. The fly is allowed to sink then stripped in fairly aggressively. As long as the angler can cast 30-40 feet, he or she can catch fish! This produces a lot of speckled trout, which are one of out primary resident species.

fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

Along with trout, anglers will encounter other species as well. Spanish mackerel strike hard and put up a great battle, often making a long initial run. Bluefish pull very hard as well. Ladyfish usually leap high out of the water when hooked. Jacks and pompano put up a determined bulldog fight.

There are a lot of these deep grass flat areas to fish in Sarasota Bay. This is helpful as wind can be an issue in spring. There are times when seeking a lee shore is desired. I will sometimes anchor to stop the boat or slow the drift. Ideally, we fish a flat where the wind and tide are moving in the same direction.

Fly fishing the passes

There are times in the spring when fish, particularly ladyfish, will be thick in Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. This is a good prospect as fish are concentrated in a relatively small area. The biggest challenge can be getting the fly down deep enough, especially in heavy current.

catching ladyfish on a fly rod

Fortunately, there are shallow bars in the passes as well. Game fish will corral bait fish up against these bars, often times being seen feeding on the surface. This is great sport as a take is virtually guaranteed! Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and jacks will all be caught this way.

Fly fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico

I really love fly fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota and Siesta Key beaches! When conditions are optimum, the fishing can be truly world class. East winds will have the water clear and flat. This will attract huge schools of bait fish of various sizes, from tiny glass minnows to hand sized sardines.

False albacore fishing

This abundant forage attracts the game fish. Spanish mackerel are the primary species and are at times found in large schools. False albacore, jack crevalle, ladyfish, bluefish, and even cobia are also found feeding on the bait.

For the most part, this is visual fly fishing, which is part of what makes it so exciting. When mackerel, jacks, bluefish, and ladyfish are feeding, just about any fly cast out into the action will draw a strike. White bait fish patterns are best. False albacore can be much more fussy and at times multiple fly changes will be needed.

Fly fishing for snook and redfish

Anglers coming to Florida often want the challenge of targeting snook and redfish on the flats and in the backwater areas. This is definitely an option for those anglers with good casting skills and experience. This is a “quality over quantity” situation. While the numbers may be low, this can produce a trophy snook or red.

spring Sarasota fly fishing

Snook are easier to catch on fly and redfish, in my opion. They are much like a saltwater version of largemouth bass. Snook are structure oriented and relate to docks, bridges, oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, sea walls, and really any structure. White is the top color. Often times, anglers will catch jack crevalle while persuing snook, a most welcome interruption!

Redfish are usually found in shallow water and are extremely spooky. Anglers need to be very quiet or better yet wade. Red and brown is a proven color combination. Redfish will be scattered out in spring, before they school up in summer.

Species caught by anglers fly fishing in Sarasota in the spring time

One of the aspects of fly fishing in spring in Sarasota is the variety. Just about every species that will take a fly can be caught this time of year. Most techniques can produce multiple species.

Snook

Sarasota fly fishing report

Snook are the premier inshore game fish in the southern half of Florida. They are available all year long. In spring, they migrate out of Sarasota creeks, rivers, and residential canals as the water warms up. The snook are scattered out, but fairly aggressive and in the mood to feed. A high, outgoing tide is best.

Redfish

Sarasota fishing report

Many anglers want to catch a redfish on fly when visiting Sarasota. In all honesty, they are very difficult to catch in my area. Reds are usually found in very shallow water and are therefore quite easily spooked. They also get a lot of pressure. Working the oyster bars can produce them along with other species. Wading can be the best approach.

Speckled trout

fly fishing for speckled trout

My clients catch a lot of speckled trout wen fly fishing in Sarasota. Trout are available all year long and are usually fairly cooperative. Spring is definitely an excellent time to catch them as the water temperature is usually perfect and forage is available. Numbers of trout are caught in deep water while the larger trout are often found alone in shallow water.

Spanish mackerel

fly fishing for Spanish mackerel

In my opinion, Spanish mackerel are an underrated and under appreciated saltwater game fish species. Spring and fall are the best times to catch them in Sarasota. Fly anglers can encounter mackerel on the deep flats, in the passes, and out on the beach. You really never know where they will show up, which is definitely part of the fun! Spanish like a very fast and aggressive retrieve and put up a terrific fight once hooked. Many are lost to their razor sharp teeth.

Jack crevalle

Sarasota river fly fishing

Jack crevalle are terrific game fish! They use their broad sides to pull very hard. Jacks usually school up in large numbers, which adds to their aggressiveness. They are often found feeding on the surface. In the spring, they are usually caught in the same areas as snook, cruising the backwater oyster bars and shorelines. Jacks love docks as well.

Pompano

fly fishing for pompano

Pompano do not grow large, but put up a determined battle and are fantastic to eat. They are caught on the flats and in the passes. The primary challenge is getting the fly down where pompano feed. Small weighted flies in bright colors work best.

False albacore

fly fishing sarasota gulf

There is no better game fish that anglers can catch when fly fishing in Sarasota in spring that false albacore. They are caught in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. False albacore can be fussy and difficult to fool. They are also fast and move around a lot. I bump up the tackle to a 9wt or 10wt for false albacore. They make a blistering run deep into the backing when hooked.

bluefish

fly fishing for bluefish

Sarasota bluefish average a couple of pounds. They put up a great fight on the light tackle that I use on my Sarasota fly fishing charters. While I seldom target bluefish, they are welcome interlopers when casting for trout or other species. Most are caught on the deep grass flats.

ladyfish

fly fishing for ladyfish

Some anglers disrespect ladyfish and call them trash fish, I am not one of those anglers! Ladyfish have saved the day for me and my anglers on many occasions. Ladyfish fight hard, leaping high up out of the water. They are caught year-round in just about all locations.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing in Sarasota in spring will help anglers understand the options and opportunities that are available to them.

Winter Fly Fishing in Sarasota


Winter Fly Fishing in Sarasota!

winter fly fishing in Sarasota

This article will cover winter fly fishing in Sarasota, Florida. Conditions are constantly changing and certainly affect the fishing. It may be upper 70s and sunny one day and then a couple days later cold and breezy. However, there are a couple of patterns that hold through and are productive and reliable in the colder months.

My name is Capt. Jim Klopfer and I run fly fishing charters in Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota is on the West Coast just below Tampa. While we are middle of the state or so, we definitely feel the effects of the strong winter fronts that moved through with regularity from Thanksgiving to Easter.

Winter fly fishing in Sarasota

The key to success when winter fly fishing in Sarasota is adapting to the ever changing conditions. There are three patterns that hold up very well in the winter, depending on situation. These are fishing the deep grass flats, fishing protected little Sarasota Bay, and fishing creeks and rivers. I will generally choose one of these three patterns when fly fishing in the winter.

Sarasota fly fishing report

 

 

First, let me briefly go through the weather cycle. A front has just move through and anglers are greeted with Northeast winds and a bluebird sky. These winds will also result in very low tides. The next couple days will see it warm up and become very nice, often times with temperatures in the upper 70s. As the next front approaches, the wind will turn out of the South and in the Southwest. This will be active, but the wind can make for tough fly fishing. Finally, the front is through with strong northwest winds and fishing is usually shut down for a day or two before the process repeats itself.

Fly fishing on the deep grass flats in Sarasota

Fly fishing over the deep grass flats is a very productive and reliable technique for both action and variety. This is an excellent way for novice anglers to catch a few fish on fly as well. Is fairly straightforward as anglers cast a fly in front of the drifting boat as it eases over submerged grass beds in water between 6 feet deep and 10 feet deep.

fly fishing for speckled trout

Speckled trout are fairly plentiful on the grass flats in winter, as long as the water is not too cold. Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, and other species may be encountered as well. Casting accuracy is not an issue and as long as the angler can get 40 feet of line out or so, he or she can catch fish. This is a technique that I use all year long and I also do it in the winter when fly fishing in Sarasota as long as certain conditions exist.

Read more about fly fishing the deep grass flats

Conditions on the deep grass flats must be conducive, and this is where the winter aspect comes in. Strong fronts will churn the water in the golf of Mexico into mud. As the tide comes in, it will bring this dirty water with it. It is crucial to find clean water in order to achieve success. Also, water temperature is an issue. If the temperature drops much below the upper 50s, fish will leave an action will be severely curtailed.

catching ladyfish on a fly rod

One of the great aspects of fly fishing these areas is that anglers never know what will take the fly. Speckled trout, ladyfish, bluefish, and mackerel are common catches. Pompano are encountered at times. Big jacks will sometimes move through. Even larger species such as cobia will work inshore and will cruise the deep grass flats looking for food.

Fly fishing Little Sarasota Bay

There is an area south of the Siesta Dr., Bridge really down to the Venice Inlet that we call “Little Sarasota Bay”. The nature of these waters are a little bit different than the more open spots up north. There is not nearly as much submerge grass and oyster bars are a prevalent fish holding feature. The Bay in this area is also not as wide, which means it offers protection on windy days. Finally, it is farther from the passes which means there is very little chance of the dirty water moving that far in.

Sarasota fishing report

Winter fly fishing techniques are similar in this area, with a couple different variations. Instead of drifting grass flats, I tend to work the edges of oyster bars where it drops off from a foot or two into four or 5 feet of water. These are prime spots to find larger speckled trout, snook, jacks, and redfish. Clouser and crystal minnow patterns work very well.

Anglers can also ease off of the oyster bars and fine flats to drift. Ladyfish are often abundant in this area in the winter, providing good action especially for novice fly anglers. Speckled trout and pompano are also available. There are times when the water temperature drops that fish will stack up in the Intracoastal Waterway. It can be a little challenging to get the fly deep enough, but fish can be concentrated and easy to catch.

Sarasota fly fishing report

The biggest issue to fishing this area in the winter is the tides. I personally do not have great success on very low tides, which often occur in the morning in the winter in Sarasota. Ideally, it is best to go in the afternoon when the water warms up and the tide comes in. However, the issue with that becomes boat traffic, which can be very heavy this time of year. Therefore, the challenge is to balance getting out when the tide is fishable but still trying to avoid the heavier boat traffic.

Creeks and rivers are productive in winter

Probably my favorite winter fly fishing technique in Sarasota is fishing area creeks, rivers, and residential canals. The dropping water temperatures will push game fish up into these areas, particularly snook and jack crevalle. Jacks in particular will school up in big numbers and can be very easy to catch on fly, even for the novice angler. These areas are also protected which makes casting much easier. Finally, they offer some pretty cool scenery as well.

fly fishing in winter in Sarasota

This is fairly easy fly fishing. Anglers cast bait fish imitations, mostly Clouser Minnow patterns, towards shoreline cover. This can include anything from docks to fallen trees. Snook will often be tight to or under the cover while jacks are often encounter right out in the middle. Many of the largest fish landed by my clients when fly fishing in Sarasota are done so fishing creeks in winter.

I also offer anglers visiting the Sarasota area a unique fly fishing experience. There are several rivers that are 30 to 45 minutes away from Sarasota and Siesta Key. These are the Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River. They are all a bit different in character but offer anglers the chance to catch a very large snook on fly along with big jacks, redfish, juvenile tarpon, and even in some cases largemouth bass.

fly fishing for largemouth bass

These river fly fishing trips generally do not produce numbers. It is more of a quality over quantity approach. Covering a lot of water is key as anglers cast towards cover as the boat drifts along. I use my 15 foot Siesta Skiff for these trips as my larger bay boat is too big to launch at most of the ramps. This trip is not for the novice fly angler but is an excellent option for the experienced angler who has perhaps done a lot of the typical inshore fishing and is looking for a different experience.

In conclusion, this article on winter fly fishing in Sarasota will help anglers understand the challenges and advantages that fishing this time of year can offer!

Top 11 Species caught Fly Fishing in Sarasota!


species caught fly fishing in Sarasota

Top 11 Species caught Fly Fishing in Sarasota!

In this post I will list the top 11 species caught fly fishing in Sarasota. Sarasota offers fly anglers quite a variety when it comes to both species caught and techniques used. Fly fishing the beaches produces mackerel, false albacore, tarpon, and more. Drifting the deep grass flats usually results in the most action on trout, ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish, and more. Fly fishing the creeks and back country areas can result in a nice snook, redfish, or jack crevalle.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota. Rather than focusing on one particular species or technique, I prefer to use various tactics, depending on the current conditions. Also, I offer anglers a unique Sarasota fly fishing charter; river fishing for snook, jacks, bass, and other species.

Top 11 species caught fly fishing in Sarasota

Anglers can catch quite a few different species when fly fishing in Sarasota. The list is fairly long. However, I have narrowed it down to the top 11 species caught fly fishing in Sarasota. Some are caught by purposely targeting them, others are caught just fly fishing for whatever will take the fly. Both approaches are fun, it really just depends on the goals of the client.

Snook

species caught fly fishing Sarasota

Snook are considered by many anglers to be the premier inshore species caught by anglers fly fishing for in Sarasota. They are available all year long and have a distinct seasonal migration. Snook move up into area  rivers, creeks, and residential canals in the winter. They do this seeking warm water and also forage. As mentioned above, I am the only guides in Sarasota that offers trips to nearby rivers. These trips offer anglers the chance to catch a big snook on fly along with some awesome scenery.

As it warms up, fish move out of the backcountry areas and out onto the flats. By summer, most snook will be found in the passes and out on the beaches. At times, parking the boat and getting out and walking the beach is the best opportunity to catch a snook with a fly rod. As fall approaches, the pattern reverses itself and fish move back into the bays, working their way to the creeks again in winter. Fishing lighted docs and bridges will produce snook all year long, though it is something I don’t do very often.

Spotted sea trout

fly fishing for speckled trout

Spotted sea trout, also known as speckled trout, are a very popular inshore saltwater species in Sarasota. Their main attributes are availability and cooperativeness. Spotted sea trout are a beautiful fish that strikes hard, but doesn’t put up the strongest of battles. However, they make up for it in numbers and action. Spotted sea trout are also excellent eating for anglers who want to keep a fish or two for dinner.

Most spotted sea trout are caught by anglers casting a Clouser Minnow while drifting the deep grass flats in 4 feet to 8 feet of water. These are “Schoolie” trout for the most part, though anglers will encounter a large one as well. However, anglers looking to target larger trout on fly will do so by fishing the shallow oyster bars and potholes. It sounds counterintuitive, but the larger fish are actually found in water that is more shallow. Spotted sea trout are available all year, with late spring and summer being the best time of year.

Redfish

Sarasota fishing report

Redfish are another very popular inshore saltwater species. They are found in Sarasota, though not in as large a number as a are in other parts of Florida and along the Gulf Coast. I consider redfish to be the most challenging fish that anglers can cast a fly at in shallow water. These fish get a fair amount of pressure and are quite spooky. Often times, the best approach is to find some fish than get out of the boat and wade.

The best time of year to target redfish for anglers fly fishing in Sarasota is a late summer and fall. This is the time of year that they school up in large numbers and begin their migration out into the Gulf of Mexico. These large schools are easy to see on calm late summer and fall days. However, that does not mean that they are easy to get to bite. Sarasota redfish get a lot of pressure from both spin and fly anglers and are certainly quite challenging.

Tarpon

Siesta Key fly fishing charters

Tarpon are considered by many anglers, both fly fishing and spin fishing, to be the ultimate saltwater game fish species. There certainly is good reason for this! Tarpon are caught by anglers up to 200 pounds in the Sarasota area. In spring, usually early May, migrating tarpon start to show up, moving north into the area from the Florida Keys. These tarpon are generally found in large schools at this time. As the season wanes, by July and into August, these larger schools will have broken up and fish will be found in pairs and singles. For anglers casting a fly, this is actually a better opportunity than when they are schooled up in large numbers.

This is certainly not a game for a novice angler fly fishing. Heavy rods are used and skill is required to properly present a fly. Also, landing a 100+ pound fish on a fly rod takes skill along with a little bit of luck. However, when it all comes together it is the thrill of a lifetime! We also catch smaller, juvenile tarpon in the fall in Sarasota Bay as well as in the rivers in the cooler months.

Jack crevalle

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Jack crevalle are one of my favorite fish species to target on fly. There are several reasons for this. Jacks grow fairly large, commonly exceeding 10 pounds in the Sarasota area. This makes them great fun on fairly light tackle. They are often encountered in large schools. This results in jacks being very aggressive and their competitive nature takes over. The result is a very aggressive fish that generally speaking once found is fairly easy to get to take a fly. As with all fishing, any time you can add a visual component such as fish feeding on the surface, it only makes it that much more fun.

I catch a lot of my jack crevalle in the cooler months. At this time of year, jacks will push up into area creeks, residential canals and rivers. This tends to condense the fish in a smaller area, making them much easier to locate. As an added benefit to clients fly fishing in Sarasota, these creeks and rivers almost always offer protection from the wind, which can certainly be an issue in Florida in the winter time.

Spanish mackerel

Fly fishing in Sarasota

Spanish mackerel are one of the most underrated game fish species, in my opinion. They are a beautiful fish that is fast and powerful and will readily take a fly. They are found in large schools right off of the area beaches in the spring and again in the fall. These schools are very easy to locate as fish are seen feeding on the surface. Birds are generally a good indication that Spanish mackerel are in the vicinity. These fish average a couple pounds but it is not at all uncommon to encounter fish pushing 5 pounds, which are great fun on a 7wt fly fishing outfit.

Spanish mackerel are also found in Sarasota Bay in decent numbers anytime the water temperature is between 65 and 78°. This is especially true if bait fish are present in the area. Most Spanish mackerel caught by anglers fly fishing in Sarasota are done so on the deep flats and are often caught when fishing for spotted sea trout. Plenty of Spanish mackerel are also landed by anglers fishing both passes.

False albacore

False albacore fishing

False albacore are the hardest fighting fish that anglers fly fishing in Sarasota can catch, short of giant tarpon. The average 6 to 8 pounds but can be caught pushing 15 pounds. They do not come into Sarasota Bay, but are caught in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico a mile or two off of the area beaches. Like Spanish mackerel, false albacore are cast to when seen feeding on the surface. Occasionally there will be a situation where anglers can blind cast to them, though this is unusual. They are caught in the spring and again in the fall.

False albacore are members of the tuna family and put up a tremendous fight. For the most part, I use a 9wt outfit for them to try to land the fish in a reasonable amount of time. False albacore can also be incredibly frustrating. There are days when they pop up for second and are then gone in an instant. Other days they show well on the surface but will not eat. They can be notoriously fussy, especially when feeding on tiny bait such as glass minnows. However, persistent anglers will usually get a decent amount opportunities and hook some fish if they stick with it.

Bluefish

fly fishing for bluefish

Anglers who enjoy fly fishing in the northeast part of the country are certainly well acquainted with bluefish. These pugnacious and hard fighting fish are seldom targeted, but instead are encountered when drifting the deep grass flats as well as the passes. Occasionally, they will be seen feeding off of the beaches as well. Bluefish in Sarasota do not grow as large as those up north, averaging 2 pounds and was 5 pounds being a very good fish. However, when landed on 7wt and 8wt outfits, they are great fun. What our bluefish lack in size they make up for in aggressiveness and tenacity

Pompano

fly fishing for pompano

Pompano are another species that are generally not specifically targeted by anglers fly fishing in Sarasota. Instead, they are an incidental, but most welcome catch. The thing that makes catching pompano on fly difficult is the fact that they feed right on the bottom, often times in fairly deep water. This makes it difficult to get the fly down deep enough, especially with an intermediate sink tip line which is what I normally use. This is especially true in the passes where they are often found. However, like several other species on this list of top 11 species caught fly fishing in Sarasota, they are incidental by catches when drifting the grass flats and passes.

Ladyfish

fly fishing for ladyfish

Ladyfish do not get respect and some fishing circles, that is definitely not the case on my boat! Ladyfish are a terrific species, especially for anglers just starting out casting a fly. Certain times of year, especially in the cooler months, ladyfish can be encountered in huge schools in the action can be nonstop. They strike hard and almost always jump high out of the water. They are a beautiful silvery fish that is great sport, even though they are not good to eat. Ladyfish can be encountered in a variety of locations, mostly the passes and deep grass flats. Perhaps the biggest issue encountered when fly fishing for ladyfish is the fact that they like the fly moving very fast. Anglers often have trouble stripping the fly quickly enough to excite the ladyfish into taking.

Largemouth bass

fly fishing for largemouth bass

I’m sure there are many anglers surprised to see largemouth bass on the list of top 11 species caught fly fishing in Sarasota. However, as I have mentioned several times in this article, I run fly fishing charters and area rivers including the Manatee River, Braden River, and Myakka River. These are unique trips with also scenery and the chance to catch a trophy snook. Depending on rainfall amounts, these rivers are normally brackish to some degree. This results in freshwater fish also being caught on these trips. Largemouth bass had the list, with gar and even catfish being caught occasionally.

In conclusion, this article on the top 11 species caught fly fishing in Sarasota will help anglers understand the options available to them when visiting our area, whether fishing on their own or with a guide.

Best 7 Patterns for Fly Fishing in Sarasota


patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota

Best 7 Patterns for Fly Fishing in Sarasota

In this article I will list my best 7 patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota. Fly selection can be critical to success when fly fishing. There are several considerations to consider when choosing a fly. Size, color, design, and weight are the primary factors. However, it really is not that complicated, especially in saltwater fishing.

Saltwater flies basically mimic either bait fish or crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Many flies do a good job of both, depending on how the fly is used. This is especially true for weighted flies, which sink can be worked in a variety of retrieves. These are obviously quite versatile. Other flies specifically imitate one or the other.

Sarasota fly fishing report

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I run fly fishing charters in Sarasota. I have been guiding since 1991. In this article, I will simplify the fly selection process by narrowing it down to a handful of fly patterns.

Best 7 patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota

top patterns for Sarasota fly fishing

In this article I will list my best 7 patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota. Fly selection can be critical to success when fly fishing. There are several considerations to consider when choosing a fly. Size, color, design, and weight are the primary factors. However, it really is not that complicated, especially in saltwater fishing.

Saltwater flies basically mimic either bait fish or crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Many flies do a good job of both, depending on how the fly is used. This is especially true for weighted flies, which sink can be worked in a variety of retrieves. These are obviously quite versatile. Other flies specifically imitate one or the other.

fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

There are countless fly patterns that anglers can choose from when fly fishing in saltwater. Many are weighted, some are not. In my opinion, location and presentation are more important than fly selection in many cases. Getting the fly down to the proper depth is extremely important!

My top 7 patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota are;

  • Clouser Deep Minnow

  • Crystal Minnow

  • D.T. Special

  • Spanish mackerel variation

  • Lefty’s Deceiver

  • Got’cha

  • Gurgler

These seven fly patterns will catch every game fish found in Sarasota (and all of Florida) under every circumstance that an angler will encounter.

Clouser Deep Minnow

Clouser Minnow

The Clouser Deep Minnow (Clouser for short) is without a doubt my favorite fly, both is freshwater and saltwater. It was designed by Bob Clouser for catching smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River. It can be tied to imitate just about any type of forage, from bait fish to crabs and shrimp.

The Clouser is basically the fly version of a buck tail jig. It uses weighted eyes to determine the depth that it will run. In most cases, two colors are used. My favorite combination is white over chartreuse with some copper flash tied on a #1 hook. However, the fly can be tied in any size or color.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

The Clouser has an enticing action in the water. A strip will jerk the fly forward, then it will fall and flutter on the pause. It is deadly on a wide variety of saltwater species. I generally use a fairly heavy fly on an intermediate sink tip line as I often fish deep grass flats in water around 6-8 feet deep. The fly runs with the hook up, reducing snags. When fishing shallow water, I use a floating line and small eyes.

Crystal Minnow

The Crystal Minnow is another excellent and versatile fishing fly. It is very similar to the Schminnow. It has a body and tail. The fly generally is tied using lighter eyes, often bead chain. This results in the fly working hook down. It is most often tied in white, but can be tied in a wide variety of colors.

The Crystal Minnow is a very versatile fly. It works great at night when fishing the lighted docks and bridges for snook and other species. It is also very effective when sight fishing for snook on the beach. I use them when chasing false albacore and they are fussy. Finally, it works on the flats in fairly shallow water.

D.T. Special

DT Special fly

The D.T Special is an excellent unweighted bait fish fly. It works great in open water for a variety of species. It is my favorite beach snook fly. It also works great in the creeks in the cooler months for jacks and snook. False albacore will take it as well. I do use it on the deep flats occasionally, when fish are high in the water column. I like larger flies on a #1/0 hook.

Spanish mackerel variation

Sarasota fly patterns

This fly is a variation of the D.T. Special. It is specifically for bluefish and Spanish mackerel. I tie the fly on a long shank hook, which acts like a leader and drastically reduces cut-offs. I usually use bead chain eyes, but dumbbell eyes can also be used. I almost always tie it in white and work it aggressively in the water.

Lefty’s Deceiver

lefty's deceiver

The Lefty’s Deceiver is a classic streamer fly that is used extensively in freshwater and saltwater fly fishing. It was invented by legendary fly tier and angler Lefty Kreh. It is a perfect bait fish imitation and is unweighted. The only reason that I do not use this fly more often is that they take quite a bit more time to tie, and I have good success with other patterns. That said, this fly belongs in every fly anglers box.

Got’cha

gotcha fly

The Got’cha is a perfect crustacean imitating fly. It is similar to a Clouser and rides with the hook up. This fly is excellent for shallow water fishing for redfish. I use it extensively when fishing for bonefish in other parts of the world. It is tied sparsely with light bead chain eyes. I like natural colors and a #4 hook.

Gurgler

gurgler fly

I do not fish with surface flies, perhaps this is an oversight that I should rectify. Poppers can be quite wind resistant and difficult to cast. Therefore, I like to go with a gurgler fly. It casts easier while still putting out quite a bit of commotion. Natural colors with white on a #2 hook work well.

Best tackle for fly fishing in Sarasota

fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

I will briefly discuss the fly tackle that I use on my fly fishing charters in Sarasota. On most trips, I use an 8wt Orvis Recon with an intermediate sink tip line. I will drop down or go up a size if conditions dictate, such as wind and size of the fish. Floating lines are used in shallow water and sometimes out on the beach. For leaders, I keep it simple and use 5 feet of 50 lb butt section and then 4 feet of 30 lb tippet.

In conclusion, this article on my best 7 patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota will help simplify fly selection for anglers!