Sarasota Fly Fishing

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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.

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 X patterns for fly fishing in Sarasota

top patterns for Sarasota fly fishing

In this article I will list my best X 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

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.

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. Running 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 a 9wt 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!

Fly Fishing the Deep Grass Flats in Sarasota!


fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

Fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

The topic of this article will be fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota. Florida is flat, it is a geographical fact. This is especially true in the southern half of the state. Visiting anglers are often surprised to learn how shallow our waters are, but the reality is that the geography outside the water usually continues underwater. The result of this is acres and acres of relatively shallow grass flats in Sarasota and throughout the state.

A flat can basically beat defined as a large area of similar depth. This depth can be very shallow, such as 1 foot or so. Many anglers associate these type of very shallow flats with places such as the Florida Keys and the Bahamas where bone fish and permit are pursued. However, a flat can be much deeper than that. In the Northeast, striped bass are caught on flats in 20 to 40 feet of water.

fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

The key to life underwater in Sarasota, Florida where I fish is aquatic vegetation. In essence; grass. This is where crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp hide along with many species of bait fish. Of course, this in turn attracts game fish and continues the circle of life. Northern anglers refer to these as “weed beds”, but here in Florida we call them “grass flats”. It really is the same thing.

My name is Capt. Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. Our area offers fly fishing anglers a variety of opportunities. These include fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico for mackerel and false albacore, working the shoreline cover for snook and redfish, and fishing creeks and rivers in winter for big jacks. However, the technique that I use most often on my Sarasota fly fishing charters is drifting the deep grass flats.

Sarasota fly fishing

Fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

The reason that I spent so much time fishing the deep grass flats is simple, they produce both action and variety. It is a relatively easy way for fly fishing anglers of all skill levels to experience success. Spotted sea trout are the most commonly caught species. However, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, pompano, jacks, snapper, flounder, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon are encountered in these areas.

Read my comprehensive article on fly fishing for speckled trout

The technique that I use is pretty straightforward. I position the boat upwind and up tied of the flat that I want to fish. As the boat drifts along with the wind and tide, the angler cast the fly out in front of the boat, allows it to sink for several seconds, then retrieve it back in. That’s pretty much it! It is an efficient way to cover a decent amount of water in search of fish. Of course, there are nuances to this technique which I will cover in more detail.

fly fishing for Spanish mackere

The same basic saltwater tackle used for other species will work fine when fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota. An 8wt outfit is fine for most situations. Anglers can certainly go down to a 7wt or even a 6wt if desired. For the most part, the fish are not huge. Conversely, they can bump it up to a 9wt if needed, such as when big jacks are on the prowl or when casting a heavy fly in the wind.

Best tackle and flies for fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota

One of the most important aspects to this style of fishing is to have some sort of sinking line. The biggest mistake I get with anglers is them showing up with a floating line only. In most instances, the fly will simply not get down deep enough to maximize the potential number of strikes. It may not seem like a lot, but 2 feet can really make a big difference.

fly fishing for pompano

For this reason, the line that I use most often is an intermediate sink tip line. Where possible, I prefer the sink tip portion to be clear as this really in effect adds to the length of the leader. I find this type of line to be the easiest for most anglers to manage while still getting down deep enough in the water column. More experienced anglers can use a full sinking line as well and will most surely be successful.

I keep my leaders fairly simple for this style of fishing. My normal leader consists of 5 feet of 50 pound fluorocarbon leader followed by 4 feet of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader. The 30 pound leader is fine as a bite tippet in most cases. If large Spanish mackerel or bluefish are around, I will bump up the bite tippet or even add a short piece of wire, though I rarely do this. Since I use weighted flies most of the time, there are no issues with the leader not turning over.

Sarasota flats fishing

Top fly patterns for the Sarasota deep grass flats

Fly selection is pretty basic as well. I fish with a Clouser Minnow pattern almost all the time. It can be tied in any color combination that I want along with different weighted eyes. The result is a box of flies that will cover just about every angling situation for those fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota.

Spanish mackerel fishing flies

However, any bait fish or shrimp pattern will also produce. I do use a D.T Special variation tied on a long shank hook to reduce cutoffs when Spanish mackerel and blue fish are around. As for colors, I am most apt to grab a chartreuse over white or white over white fly, though sometimes bright colors such as yellow and red will produce, particularly on ladyfish.

As with all other forms of saltwater fishing, tides are a factor. However, the height of the tide is much less of a factor on these deep grass flats than it is on the shallow flats. No matter what the tide, there will be enough water for fish to move around and feel comfortable. I really have no preference as to incoming or outgoing tide, as long as it is moving.

Spanish mackerel fly

One thing that I have definitely found makes a difference is choosing a flat where the wind direction will push the boat in the same direction that the tide is moving. This results in a nice, efficient drift that covers the flat. Trying to fish a flat where the wind and tide oppose each other usually result in the boat crabbing sideways and the line going under the motor.

Techniques for fly fishing the deep grass flats

So, let’s get more into the actual fishing technique in more detail. When the wind is light or fairly light, it is best to cast the fly straight out perpendicular to the boat. There will be enough time for the fly to sink a few seconds before the angler begins his or her retrieve. If the breeze is a bit stronger, it is best to cast 45° instead of 90°. Otherwise, the boat will drift up on the fly before the retrieve can begin.

Sarasota flats fishing

Often times when casting to the side a bit, the strike will occur at the end of the stripping as the line speeds up. This is very similar to freshwater trout anglers swinging a nymph where the take occurs as the fly speeds up when the current catches the line.

In either case, the fly is allowed to sink several seconds. As in all forms of fishing, successful anglers very both the sink time in the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. I have found that the best retrieve is usually a fairly sharp 12 inch to 18 inch strip followed by a significant pause. The take often occurs on this pause, as the fly just covers their or slightly sinks, simulating a wounded bait fish.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

When a take occurs, I recommend that anglers use the “strip set” technique. Stripping should take place with the rod tip very low, almost at the surface of the water. When the take occurs, the angler should very sharply make a long past strip with the stripping hand. Once the line becomes tight the rod tip can be raised in a smooth fashion. One issue I run into on my fly fishing charters in Sarasota is freshwater anglers who want to set the hook by sharply raising the rod tip. This simply does not work well in this application.

Setting up a good drift

One of the factors that we deal with when fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota is the fact that there often is not a lot specific structure to hold fish. Some of these grass flat areas are quite large and fish will often move about from one day to the other. The best approach is to fish a flat for 20 minutes or so and move on if it is not productive.

Ideally, I will choose a flat and set up a drift were different depth will be covered. For example, I like to start shallow, in 3 to 4 feet of water, then have the breeze pushed the boat out to seven or 8 feet of water. Often times, fish will be encountered at a specific depth. It is surprising how just a foot or two can really make a big difference.

fly fishing for bluefish

As in all saltwater fishing, successful anglers keep their eyes open. The slightest “pop” on the surface can be an indication that a large school of fish is feeding below. Any disturbance on the surface, even if it just appears to be bait, is worth a try. Obviously, birds diving excitedly are an excellent indication of game fish feeding in the vicinity. Selects can also appear on the surface, indicating a spot where feeding has been taking place.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota will help anglers be more successful when action and variety are the goals!

Fly Fishing for Pompano – Pro Tips and Techniques!


fly fishing for pompano

Fly Fishing for Pompano – Pro Tips!

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing for pompano. Pompano are a hard-fighting inshore saltwater species. They are similar in permit, although quite a bit smaller, averaging a couple of pounds. Pompano mostly feed by rooting along the bottom for crustaceans. Therefore, specific techniques will be required to catch pompano on fly.

Pompano are mostly found in the warmer states in the southeast part of the country. They are also found in sub tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. Pompano fight very hard for their size and are fantastic to eat!

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. While I seldom actually target pompano, they are a welcome interloper on inshore trips. Pompano are caught quite often when casting for trout and other species on the grass flats. I do specifically try for them on the bars in the passes.

Fly fishing for pompano

fly fishing for pompano

Pompano feed primarily on crustaceans on or near the bottom. Therefore, flies that mimic shrimp and crabs that are fished close to the bottom are more productive. Anglers fly fishing for pompano often encounter them in small schools or “pods”. They will be caught I bunches at times.

The top spots for fly fishing for pompano are shallow bars and grass flats. Most inlets and passes have long, extended sand bars. These are prime spots for pompano to cruise in search of crabs and shrimp. Shallow bars are also fairly plentiful in inshore bays as well. Depending on tide, bars in 2-4 feet of water seem to be the most productive.

Grass plats will also hold plenty of pompano. Water clarity will determine how deep grass with grow. In most cases, submerged grass beds in 3 feet to 8 feet are most productive. Pompano will raise up off the grass to take a fly. However, anglers fly fishing for pompano will do best working the fly just above the submerged vegetation.

Best tackle for fly fishing for pompano

fly fishing

Tackle requirement for anglers fly fishing for pompano are pretty basic. The same inshore tackle used for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species will work fine. I use an 8wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line the majority of time. Anglers can drop down to a 7wt or even a 6wt if desired, pompano are not large.

The primary challenge when fly fishing for pompano is getting the fly down. An intermediate sink tip line works well in most shallow water situations. Anglers can shorten up the leader if needed. I generally use a 9′ leader consisting of 5 feet of 40 pound butt section followed by 4 feet of 25 pound tippet.

Spanish mackerel fishing flies

Fly selection is uncomplicated as well. Any weighted pattern tied on a #1 to #4 hook will produce pompano. Clouser and Crystal Minnow patterns are tough to beat. My favorite colors are pink, chartreuse, white, and brown/root beer. I tie my pompano flies with heavy dumb bell eyes.

Pompano fly fishing techniques

pompano fly fishing

Fly fishing for pompano is not really different from chasing other species. The primary difference, or challenge, is to keep the fly on or just off the bottom. This is where pompano primarily feed. There are several different techniques that can be used to accomplish this.

A sinking line of some sort is mandatory, unless pompano are located in very shallow water. This does occur on occasion. However, pompano will more often be found in water three feet or deeper. An intermediate sink tip line works well in a variety of situations. Is what I use most of the time. I also prefer a clear sink tip, which allows for a shorter leader, if needed.

Anglers fishing deeper water can opt for a full sinking line. This works best in water ten feet or deeper, or if a strong current is present. Again, a shorter leader and weighted fly will keep the fly down. Sinking lines can be a bit more cumbersome, especially for novice fly anglers, but it is the best approach in deeper water.

pompano fishing on fly

The technique for fly fishing for pompano is pretty straightforward. The fly is cast out ahead of the drifting boat and allowed to sink. It is then retrieved in using short, erratic strips. This best represents a freeing crab or shrimp. The take is usually pretty distinctive and easy to detect. A strip set is used to come tight on the fish. Larger pompano will have the angler on the reel, while smaller fish can be stripped in.

Locating pompano

Pompano tend to move around quite a bit. This not only occurs from day to day, but also our two hour depending on the tide. Pompano will often move in and out of inlets and passes with the tide feeding as they move along. They will also do the same thing on the deeper flats, constantly Rome in search of food.

Anglers can choose to either blind cast in search of fish or motor about and visually search them out. In shallow water, pompano can be seen cruising over the bottom if viewing conditions are good. These conditions would include clear water and sunlight with few clouds.

fly fishing fror pompano

Pompano also exhibit a very unusual behavior. When startled, they will turn sideways and skip across the surface of the water in an attempt to fully. Anglers call this “skipping a pompano”. Therefore, anglers can idle about on a flat or bar in hopes of skipping pompano. Once they do, the best approach is to motor back around up current or upwind and then thoroughly fish that area.

Blind casting is really the only practical approach when fly fishing for pompano in deeper water. Experience is the best teacher along with local fishing reports. I personally do not spend very much time in one area if the bite is slow. The great aspects of fly fishing the deep grass for pompano is that anglers will invariably catch other species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, and other species will intercept a fly meant for a pompano. In most cases, anglers do not mind these interlopers!

Fly fishing the surf for pompano

Many anglers, both spin and fly, associate pompano with surf fishing. There is good reason for this as the surf is prime habitat for pompano. One of their favorite food sources is the mole crab, also known as a sand flea. These peanut sized crustaceans are found right in the surf line and are devoured by pompano and other species.

surf fly fishing

Fly fishing for pompano in the surf does present a few challenges. All along the Gulf of Mexico coast line, surf conditions tend to be milder than those in the Atlantic Ocean. It is certainly much easier to cast the fly, feel the take, and manage the line in a calm surf. In most instances, the pompano will be found in the first trough, within 20 feet of the shore line. In most cases, the angler does not even need to wade, but instead just cast from the sand.

The same technique that is used in a drifting boat works well when fly fishing for pompano from shore. The fly is cast out, allowed to sink close to the bottom, then retrieved in using short quick strips with a pause in between. Again, the biggest issue is dealing with the slack line, especially in a heavy surf. A stripping basket on the waist can be a necessity in this situation.

Pompano on the plate

Pompano are highly prized by anglers for several reasons. They are a beautiful fish that puts up a fight out of proportion to its modest size. However, for many anglers, myself included, Pompano are the ultimate fish to be enjoyed as a meal. While a proponent of catch and release, I do not have a problem with a client keeping a pompano or two for a tasty meal. However, they do not freeze well and only a fish or two should be kept to be enjoyed fresh.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for pompano will help anglers catch more of these incredibly hard fighting, beautiful, and tasty inshore saltwater game fish species!

Fly Fishing for Tarpon in Sarasota


fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota

Fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota!

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota. Tarpon are considered by many to be the ultimate game fish species, and for good reason. They grow very large, averaging around 75 pounds in the Sarasota area. They are a beautiful fish that when hooked leaps high out of the water multiple times. They will test any anglers skill and determination.

The vast majority of fish caught by anglers tarpon fishing in Sarasota will be mature fish, averaging 75 to 90 pounds, but with fish pushing 200 pounds a possibility. These are migrating fish that move through starting in very late April and into July. There are a few opportunities for juvenile tarpon in the rivers, but this is by no means a reliable opportunity.

Fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota

Most of the tarpon fishing in Sarasota is done in the Gulf of Mexico out off of the area beaches and on the big sandbars regarding the passes. Late in the season, tarpon can be targeted inside Sarasota Bay on some of the deeper grass flats. This bite does not occur every year, but when it does it can be very productive and exciting as these fish are on the flats to feed.

Siesta Key fly fishing charters

Schools of tarpon show up off of the Sarasota beaches in late April or early May depending on the year. They become more and more numerous, with the peak number occurring on the full moon in late June or early July depending on the year. Early in the season, tarpon are mostly encountered in larger schools. After the spawning occurs, these schools break up and fish split into smaller bunches, even into singles and doubles.

Best fly fishing tackle for tarpon

Anglers tarpon fishing in Sarasota need to use heavy tackle. Some anglers show up with a 10wt, and that really is not enough. A 12wt is a better choice as the chance to hook an extremely large tarpon is always present. Also, anglers are casting fairly heavy flies sometimes into the wind. Finally, it is best for the fish to use tackle heavy enough to subdue it in a reasonable amount of time.

Therefore, a 12wt outfit with a large capacity reel in a smooth drag is the best overall combination when fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota. An intermediate sink tip or sinking line is best. While fish will often be seen on the surface, the take almost always occurs down in the water column. This is true even on shallow bars in 4 to 5 feet of water, the fly needs to get down a bit in order to draw a strike.

Sarasota tarpon fly fishing

A 9 foot to 12 foot tapered tarpon leader completes the rig. This leader should have an 18 inch to 24 inch piece of 60 pound to 80 pound bite tippet. As with all fishing, anglers may have to go lighter on the tippet in order to draw a strike, understanding that it will be a bit more difficult to land the fish. Fly selection is not complicated, a selection of the standard tarpon flies such as black death, cockroach, deceivers, Puglisi flies, and Bunny flies will all produce. It really is more about presentation than the fly pattern.

Sarasota tarpon fishing techniques

Anglers tarpon fishing in Sarasota used two basic techniques; fishing schools in deeper water in fishing schools and smaller pods of fish in shallow water. The same tackle and flies can be used in both circumstances, with a few subtle differences.

The approach when targeting tarpon off of the Sarasota Beaches in deeper water is really fairly simple, though not at all easy. Anglers sit in the boat a couple hundred yards offshore and scan the water for signs of fish. On a call day, they are very easy to see when they break the surface. Obviously, if wind is present and a chop is on the water, this makes spotting them more difficult. However, the child does allow anglers to get closer to them.

Identifying the best tarpon schools

fly fishing for Sarasota tarpon

Anglers will encounter different types of schools out on the beaches. These are great hounding schools, moving schools, and laid up schools. The chances of success are higher with some than others in different approaches apply.

Greayhounding tarpon

Great hounding tarpon are tarpon that are high up in the water column, often with a good portion of their body exposed as they swim along. These fish are moving fast. While it is very exciting to see them cruising along like this, they are extremely difficult to get to bite, especially on fly. While these great hounding tarpon will occasionally settle down, for the most part it is best to let them go by and instead concentrate on other fish.

Slow moving tarpon

Slow-moving schools will definitely bite! These are schools of fish that are moving along at a relatively slow pace. When the sun is up, especially in shallow water, they can be seen even when not surfacing. Early in the morning, the fish must broach the water in order to be seen. The slower moving and lackadaisical looking the tarpon are, the better chance the angler has to catch one.

Sarasota tarpon

Boat positioning is very important when fishing these moving schools. The best approach is to be in front of the fish and off to the side about 45°. When the tarpon move into range, the cast is made in front of the fish in the fly is allowed to sink. The idea is to be pulling the fly away from the tarpon. This looks much more natural than a fly approaching a tarpon.

The reason for being 45° off to the side is that if the fish don’t take the angler can let them go by and then set up again further down the beach. If the tarpon run directly under the boat, especially in shallow water, it will be very difficult to get a fish in that particular school the bite.

Laid up (daisy-chaining) tarpon

The third type of school that anglers fishing for tarpon in Sarasota will encounter is a laid up or milling school. This is a school of tarpon that is sitting in one spot and not moving very much. They will often come to the surface swimming around in a circle, nose to tail. This is known as “Daisy Chaining”. This is the opportunity that every fly angler dreams of!

Anglers and countering one of the schools of laid up fish need to be patient and take their time when easing into position. They will spook and either take off or not bite. In most cases, the school will be moving north to south at a very slow speed. Therefore, the best approach is to set the boat up ahead of the school and hopefully be in position when it comes to the surface.

The fly is then cast to the edge of the school, allowed to sink, and retrieved back in. Is very important not to cast the line over top of the school of fish. This is called “lining” the tarpon and they will almost certainly bolt off in very dramatic fashion. At times the schools will surface and the exact same location for over an hour, giving fly anglers multiple opportunities. An electric trolling motor is used to make small adjustments and positioning. However, pushing the fish hard with the trolling motor is usually not a recipe for success.

Fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota in shallow water

Tarpon can also be caught by anglers fly fishing in shallow water as well in Sarasota. This is especially true later in the year, by late June or early July, as the larger schools have spawned and broken up. This can occur on any bar or flat in water between 3 feet deep and 10 feet deep either along the beaches or more often at the mouth of the passes.

The best approach when fishing for tarpon in Sarasota in shallow water is to try to determine their path of movement and then set the boat up and wait for them. This can be frustrating, especially when other boats are present. However, one thing is for certain is that running around on the bar, even with the trolling motor, will put the fish down or cause them to not bite.

As the fish approach the anchored boat, whether it is a single fish, pod of a half dozen fish, or even a larger school, the technique is pretty much the same. The fly is cast out ahead of the lead fish, allowed to sink a second or two, then retrieved back in. This is very exciting is the angler will see the entire events unfold. Often times, the take occurs very close to the angler as the tarpon follows the fly in!

Anglers fishing this technique can experience a wide variety of action. There will be days when anglers will get a couple dozen legitimate shots a tarpon cruising by. On other days it may be tough just to find a single fish. However, experienced anglers realize that this is the challenge, and reward, of tarpon fishing.

Hooking and fighting a tarpon with a fly rod

The hooking and fighting process should be covered as well. Once the fly is cast out and allowed to sink, the angler keeps the rod in the line in one straight line, with no turns are angles at the rod tip. The fly is then stripped in using fairly steady but aggressive 12 inch to 18 inch strips. When a take occurs, the angler pulls sharply with the stripping hand getting the line tight, then raises the rod tip.

Anything can happen when the tarpon feels the sting of the hook. It may jump straight up out of the water or make a run, either towards the angler or away. Best scenario is where the tarpon makes a run away from the angler, taking up all the slack line that has occurred during stripping. This will also help set the hook.

Anytime a tarpon jumps, the angler should bow and point the rod tip right at the fish, throwing slack in the line. This violates the cardinal rule of fishing in most other situations. However, if the tarpon jumps and shakes his head violently on a tight line, the line will often break or the fly will come dislodged, something has to give.

Once the fish is hooked in the initial several jumps occur and the fish is hopefully still hooked, the hard part of the battle ensues. It is important to fight the fish with the lower part of the rod and not the rod tip. The rod should be kept below the horizon. Tarpon hooked in deeper water will often make circles and it can be difficult putting enough pressure on them, but the angler should try as much as possible. It really is important to try to land the tarpon in the shortest amount of time possible, in order to facilitate a safe release.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for tarpon in Sarasota will help anglers understand the tackle and techniques required as well is the challenge involved, and catching the fish of a lifetime!

Fly Fishing for Snook in Sarasota – a Complete Guide!


fly fishing for snook in Sarasota

Fly Fishing for Snook in Sarasota – a Complete Guide!

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing for snook in Sarasota. Snook are considered by many (along with tarpon) to be the premier inshore saltwater species. They grow large and fight hard. Snook are also a beautiful fish with a very pronounced lateral line. They are caught regularly by anglers fly fishing for them.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota. I earned my USCG license in 1991 and have been taking out clients since then. I will share my tips for fly fishing for snook in this article.

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing for snook in Sarasota. Snook are considered by many (along with tarpon) to be the premier inshore saltwater species. They grow large and fight hard. Snook are also a beautiful fish with a very pronounced lateral line. They are caught regularly by anglers fly fishing for them.

Fly fishing for snook in Sarasota

In many ways, snook are really a saltwater version of the top freshwater game fish; the largemouth bass. Snook are ambush predators that are almost always found near structure. They have a large mouth and are suction feeders. Like bass, snook also have a broad, powerful tail. Finally, snook are opportunistic feeders and have a varied diet.

fly fishing for snook in Sarasota

Best tackle for fly fishing for Sarasota snook

As with all fly fishing situations, anglers fly fishing for snook in Sarasota need the proper tackle and flies. For most situations, an 8wt is a good all round choice. Most of our fish are in the moderate size range, averaging 15”-24”. An 8wt works great. Anglers targeting larger snook, especially in tight quarters, can bump it up to a 9wt.

I use an intermediate sink tip line almost exclusively. The only situation where I use a floating line is when chasing snook in very shallow water. An intermediate sink tip line with a clear sink tip works very well in all other applications. I keep my leaders simple, using 5′ of 50 lb butt section and 4′ of 30 lb flourocarbon leader line.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Fly selection is not complicated as well. I use a Clouser or Crystal Minnow pattern most of the time. These are versatile flies that are proven snook slayers. White is the traditional color, but I like chartreuse and olive mixed in as well. Deceivers and Puglisi fly patterns are also productive. Finally, D.T. Special flies work great on the beach.

Spanish mackerel fishing flies

Top techniques for fly fishing for snook in Sarasota

Anglers fly fishing for snook in Sarasota use four basic techniques. These are inshore (backcountry) fishing, River and creek fishing, night fishing, and beach fishing. Each technique uses the same tackle and flies. However, there are some variations, therefore each will be covered separately.

It is important to understand the season snook migration patterns in order to be successful. Snook actually more around quite a bit throughout the year. In cold weather, snook will move into rivers, creeks, and residential canals. As it warms, they spread out in the back water areas. As summer approaches, snook move into passes and out on the beach. As fall approaches, the pattern reverses itself.

Back country snook fishing in Sarasota

Many snook are caught by anglers fishing the inshore, or back country, waters in Sarasota. These include mangrove shorelines, points, docks, oyster bars, grass flats with potholes, channels, and seawalls. Any structure that provides a bit of cover can hold snook. Spring and fall are the best times of year to catch snook on fly in these areas.

fly fishing

On my charters, most of my clients catch snook by blind casting. I use my trolling motor to ease the boat along a shoreline, oyster bar, line of docks, or other area. Weighted flies such as Clouser Minnow or Crystal Minnow patterns are used most often. The fly is cast out, allowed to sink a bit, then stripped back in using firm strips with a pause in between.

Current and tide are both extremely important when fly fishing for snook in Sarasota. Both are factors that will position fish. On low tides, snook will be forced to drop into holes and depressions. This can be a great time to search for them as they will be concentrated. Shallow draft boats are required and wading is a great way to sneak up on an unsuspecting snook.

As the tide floods, snook will move up out of these deeper spots and cruise in search of food. They are often actively feeding, but they are also more dispersed. Moving and both sight casting and blind casting will produce fish. In most cases, snook prefer some type of depth change. A deeper depression along a mangrove shoreline for example will concentrate fish.

Current will also position snook. Snook, like most game fish, will face into the current, using set up behind some type of structure or cover. A point of land or oyster bar are prime examples. Snook will relate to docks and pilings in the same manner. The best presentation will have the fly moving back to the fish, with the current, or at a 45 degree angle to it.

Fly fishing for snook in Sarasota creeks and rivers

Sarasota fly fishing charters

My clients catch a lot of their snook, and some of the larger fish, fly fishing in area creeks and rivers. Snook can not tolerate cold water. 55 degrees is about the cut off, prolonged exposure to water colder than that will kill fish. The water in rivers and creeks is often significantly warmer. There are also deeper holes where they can find refuge from the cold. Finally, forage is available as well.

Snook are also concentrated during this time of year, making it easier to locate them. Also, depending on the waters fished, snook will be concentrated even further in the deeper holes. The water is darker, stained with tannin. Bright flies work well, as does white.

The technique is pretty straightforward. The best approach is to drift with the current while casting to shoreline cover. It helps to go with the current and not against it. Going against the tide results in a quick “bow” in the fly line, making for a tough presentation. Ideally, wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

River snook fishing offers anglers a unique opportunity. As far as I know, I am the only guide that does this. The scenery is really cool and it is a quiet experience as the rivers are “No wake”. Anglers see plenty of bird life and often alligators. The Myakka River and Manatee River both are pretty, though the Myakka is much less developed. Both are 45 minutes from Sarasota.

There are also several creeks that feed Sarasota bay. Phillippi Creek, Bowlees Creek, Hudson Bayou, and South Creek are just a few. These fish very much the same way and big jack crevalle are often mixed in with the snook and juvenile tarpon are a possibility. Most anglers do not mind the intrusion!

Sarasota fly fishing report

Snook fishing on the Sarasota beaches

Some of the best fly fishing for snook occurs on the Sarasota beaches. Snook move out to the beaches t Spawn and also feed. They can be seen cruising the surf line, usually quite close to shore. Anglers walk the beach and cast to fish that are spotted. Not only is a boat not required, is is actually a hindrance. Anglers walking have a better sun angle in the morning and it can be tough getting a boat close enough.

Sarasota fly fishing report

I like a white D.T. Special fly for beach snook fishing. However, all the traditional snook flies will produces. White is the most consistent color in the clear water. If snook are moving towards the angler, he or she stops and lets the snook approach. Snook that are swimming away can usually be overtaken. These fish will spook, so a delicate presentation helps. This is truly world class sight fishing, with no boat required!

Night snook fishing in Sarasota

Snook are nocturnal feeders. This is an excellent time for anglers to catch snook, often good numbers of them, on fly. Bait fish and shrimp are attracted to lighted docks and bridges. This in turn brings in the snook and other game fish species. Often times, the best spots are where the Intracoastal constricts, increasing current flow. There is an area in Venice, 30 minutes away, called “Snook Alley” for this reason.

night snook fly fishing

Boat positioning is very important when night snook fishing. The best approach is to be 30-40 feet off of the light, perpendicular or just a tad up-current. This allows anglers to cast across and work the fly as it drifts with the current. It also gives anglers a good angle at fighting the fish.

Small white flies are generally used when night fishing for snook. Glass minnows are usually the most plentiful bait fish. Small shrimp are present as well. A #4 while Crystal Minnow pattern is tough to beat. Anglers will catch jacks, trout, bluefish, and ladyfish (sometimes a lot of ladyfish) while employing this technique as well.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for snook in Sarasota will help anglers catch more of these incredible game fish on the long rod!