Sarasota Fly Fishing


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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.

Sarasota fly fishing charter

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 river snook fishing 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!

Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass – Pro Tips!

fly fishing for largemouth bass

Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass – Pro Tips!

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing for largemouth bass. While trout may get most of the attention from fly fishing anglers in freshwater, bass are quite popular as well. In most cases, bass are much more convenient as there are widely distributed throughout North America.

fly fishing for largemouth bass

Largemouth bass prefer shallow water with a lot of cover. Aquatic grass and other vegetation is prime cover anywhere a largemouth bass is found. Man made cover such as boat docks, piers, bridges, and rip rap will attract them as well. While anglers can fly fish for largemouth bass in deeper water, the vast majority of bass caught on fly are done so in shallow water.

Fly fishing for largemouth bass

Tackle requirements for fly fishing for largemouth bass are pretty basic. Largemouth bass grow large and the flies used are larger. Therefore, slightly heavier tackle is required along with different lines.

fly fishing for Spanish mackerel

Fly rods, reels, and lines are sold in “weight “ designations. This appears on the tackle like this “wt”. This makes it very easy to match the tackle components together. An 8 wt outfit is a good all-around outfit for largemouth bass.

fly fishing for largemouth bass

Largemouth bass grow larger than some other freshwater species. They also tend to be found around heavier cover such as boat docks and thick vegetation. The flies, especially poppers, are also larger and more wind resistant. Finally, largemouth bass are normally found in shallow water. For all of these reasons, the best largemouth bass fly rod, reel, and line combination is an 8 wt outfit with a floating weight forward line.

There are special lines that are specifically designed for casting large bass flies. These are called weight forward or even bass bug taper lines. This means that they are heavier near the end of the fly line to facilitate casting these wind resistant flies. Since largemouth bass for the most part will be pursued by anglers fly fishing in fairly shallow water, a floating line is the best choice.

largemouth bass fishing flies

Fly patterns for largemouth bass

There are endless fly patterns that anglers fly fishing for bass can choose from. Fact, the choice can be overwhelming. However, the bass are often less selective than the anglers. There are a handful of fly patterns that will cover just about every situation and angler will encounter for both largemouth bass.

bass popper

Poppers are flies that float on the surface. They can be made of Styrofoam, cork, or any material that floats. Some are even made from deer hair. Most have rubber legs and usually tales that undulate on the surface seductively when twitched. Most also have a concave mouth that produces a “pop” when twitched sharply, thus the name. Poppers work very well for largemouth bass. Larger poppers are usually used on largemouth bass .

Wooly bugger

The Wooly Bugger is a terrific all round fly that will fool just about every species in freshwater. Tiny versions work very well on trout and panfish. Larger versions are very effective on both species of bass. Darker colors such as black, brown, and olive are most popular. It is thought that these flies realistically imitate crawfish and other forage that bass find on or near the bottom. A #2 size is excellent for largemouth bass.

Clouser Minnow

The Clouser Minnow was designed by legendary smallmouth bass angler Bob Clouser on the Susquehanna River. It is a tremendous fly that has crossed over and is arguably the most popular saltwater fly. It can be tied in a variety of manners to imitate crawfish and helgramites as well as bait fish depending on the weight of the eyes used and the color of the material. It is an excellent all round fly for largemouth bass.

lefty's deceiver

The Lefty’s Deceiver was created by legendary fly angler Lefty Kreh. It is an unweighted streamer pattern that can be tied to mimic any type of bait fish. It has splayed feathers and puts out a lot of action in the water. Many anglers who are fishing for largemouth bass will tie a weed guard to help reduce hangups.

Largemouth bass fly fishing leaders

A leader is used between the fly line in the fly. Fly line is thick and easy to see and know bass would take a fly if it was tied directly to the fly line. Leader length and strength will vary depending on the application. Leaders are tapered, which means they are thick at the fly line and then taper down to the fly end. This helps the fly “turn over” and extend out the length of the fly line and leader, instead of collapsing on the surface in a ball.

video on fly fishing for bass

Anglers fly fishing for largemouth bass can use a slightly shorter leader in most instances. A 6 foot leader is usually plenty, especially when fishing around weeds and other cover. Also, shorter leaders are preferred when casting large poppers and deer hair bugs. It is difficult to get a long leader to turn over with these very wind resistant flaws. Leaders testing around 10 pound test are usually fine. Many manufacturers offer a tapered leader specifically designed for largemouth bass fishing.

Fly fishing techniques for largemouth bass

The techniques used when fly fishing for bass apply to both largemouth bass and smallmouth lot bass to some degree. Therefore, they will both be covered in one section. Keep in mind, largemouth bass are predominantly found in ponds and lakes and slow-moving rivers. Smallmouth bass are found in many streams and small rivers as well as large, deep, clear lakes.

Most anglers fly fishing for largemouth bass do so working the shoreline shallow cover. This is where largemouth bass are often found. Also, it is much easier to present a fly in shallow water than it is to get the fly deep. Fly fishing and shallow water just go together, no matter the species.

Fly fishing for largemouth bass in ponds and lakes

Most anglers fly fishing for bass along the shoreline in lakes start off with some type of surface fly. Poppers and deer hair bugs are great fun to fish and produce some exciting strikes. It also eliminates the need to deal with the fly getting hung up and submerged vegetation. The popper or bug is cast out close to the cover and allowed to settle. With the rod tip help low the angler pulls on the fly line with the stripping hand, causing the bug or popper to pop sharply on the surface. This is repeated several times than the fly picked up and recast to another spot.

largemouth bass fly fishing

One of the main obstacles anglers have to overcome when fishing for largemouth bass in ponds and lakes is the fact that the angler has to impart all of the action and movement to the fly. This is especially true for trout anglers who are used to fishing and streams with a lot of current. In ponds and lakes, the angler needs to make the fly look real in order to induce a take.

This fact means that anglers have to change their technique just a bit when fishing for bass in lakes and ponds. It is always best to keep the rod tip low, near the surface of the water when retrieving the fly. The angler should impart all of the action to the fly using the stripping hand in the fly line, not the rod tip. This is true of both surface and subsurface flies.

When a strike occurs, the angler should use a “strip set”. This means that just as with retrieving the fly, the hook is set using the stripping hand. When a bass takes the fly, the angler keeps the rod tip low and pulls sharply with the stripping hand removing any slack and getting the point of the hook started in the fishes mouth. Then, a second or two later the rod tip is lifted smoothly up. This method will result in more bass hooked.

If the bass will not take a surface fly, it is time to switch and use a fly that works a bit deeper. Wooly buggers, Clousers, and deceivers are all good choices. Largemouth bass tend to prefer a substantial meal, so larger flies are a better choice when that is the target species. Anglers should fish the fly just as they were the lure, close to, around, and through shoreline cover. An intermediate sink tip line is best in this application.

While fly fishing is not designed to be done in deep water, there will be times when anglers fly fishing for bass in lakes will need to move out a bit deeper. A sinking line with a fairly heavy Clouser Minnow or Wooly Bugger is the best option in this situation. Anglers need to be patient and give the line plenty of time to sink to get down to where the fish are.

Fly fishing for largemouth bass in rivers

Many anglers associate fly fishing with rivers, and for good reason. Fly fishing really came about for trout fishing in streams. Most anglers who do fly fish for bass probably are fishing for smallmouth bass in streams and rivers. Largemouth bass can certainly be caught in rivers, especially those with less current. Largemouth bass do not like to fight the current the way smallmouth bass will.

There are a couple of advantages to fly fishing for bass in rivers. The primary advantage is that fish are much easier to find. Lakes can be huge and bass may be anywhere. In rivers, fish will usually be found in certain locations, making them easier to find. Also, in many cases, no boat is required. Finally, rivers offer protection from the wind on breezy days.

Shoreline cover will hold bass in rivers. Any fallen tree limb or any other obstruction that breaks the current can be a likely ambush spot. Anglers can cast poppers and surface flies if the current is not too strong. Clouser Minnow patterns and other streamers work best if current is present.

Deeper holes between fast moving runs are prime spots to hold bass in rivers. Boulders and rock ledges will only enhance these spots. Bass are not like trout and will usually not hold in the fast water. Deeper holes will have crayfish that bass love to feed on. A Clouser on a sink tip line is a great choice for fishing these spots.

Lagemouth bass will stage in the slack water behind large rocks and boulders in a stream or river. This is a classic fish-holding spot! The eddy will allow the bass to ambush prey while not expending a lot of energy. A popper tossed into the slack water may draw a strike as will a Woolly Bugger or Clouser drifted past.

One thing river bass anglers do have to deal with is the ever-changing conditions. Water level, flow, and clarity are all components that will affect the fishing. Anglers should always put safety first and not wade or fish rivers that are running high and fast. Fishing is usually poor at this time anyway. Most anglers prefer the water to be a bit low and clear. This will concentrate the fish and they will be easier to catch. It is also much safer to fish as well.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for largemouth bass will help anglers catch more of the most popular freshwater game fish!


Fly Fishing for Jack Crevalle – a Terrific Game Fish!

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Fly Fishing for Jack Crevalle – a Terrific Game Fish!

This article will focus on fly fishing for jack crevalle. The article begins with a “story” of a fun fly fishing charter and then gets into the more technical aspects of fly fishing for jacks.

Fly fishing for jack crevalle

jack crevalle fly fishing

It was a foggy Sunday morning during Christmas week. That means that the traffic was going to be heavy as it was a beautiful day that hit 80°. We spent the first half hour hitting a likely shoreline in a creek with an outgoing tide, but with no luck. I was headed to another spot when all of a sudden a small bunch of fish started working on the surface.

Greg’s cousin Mike grabbed the spinning outfit with the Bass Assassin Sea Shad jig and grub combo while Greg scrambled for the seven weight fly outfit that was rigged and ready. Mike got is bait in the water first and was instantly hooked up to a fish. By the time Greg got his line stripped out and was ready to go the fish had moved past us.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Mike fought the fish well, letting the scrappy 3 pound Jack in several minutes. We held it up for a quick photo, then released it unharmed. Now that we were all set up, I tried to find the fish again. However, after idling in the direction that they were swimming and looking around for several minutes, we did not find them and moved on.

After a short “no wake zone”, I jumped the boat up on plane and had not gone for more than half a mile when we saw several more bunches of fish. A couple were in the deeper channel, in 10 foot of water while others were on the shallow flats in a couple feet of water. Since we were fly fishing, we decided to target the shallow fish.

Jack crevelle fly fishing techniques

After several attempts to get the boat in position, a school of jacks popped up 15 feet away from the boat and downwind. Greg was on the bow with the wind over his casting shoulder and the school of forging fish and easy cast away. He lay the fly out perfectly stripped it several times and a large jack crevelle charge the fly, half of its back sticking out of the water. It was an epic take!

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Mike was on the stern and had also hooked up, this time using a shallow diving Rapala since we were in only a couple feet of water. Fortunately, the fish went in different directions and it was easy to fight the two fish to the boat. Mike released another 3 pound fish while Greg landed a nicer Jack of around 7 pounds. The action continued for another couple hours with the fellas landing a half dozen fish each.

Eventually, the Sunday morning boat traffic put the fish down. However, this is a perfect example of “opportunity fishing”. The plan was to target snook along mangrove shorelines as neither Mike or Greg had ever caught one. The big jacks were a most welcome distraction and an excellent example of why it is important to be rigged and ready and also being flexible on your fishing strategy.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

While jack crevelle are available year-round, the most consistent fishing for them here in Sarasota and in most of Florida is in the cooler months. Our fish average 3 to 5 pounds while fish on the East Coast can be significantly larger. It is not uncommon to run into jacks that are pushing 20 pounds in the inshore waters.

Best tackle for fly fishing for jack crevalle

Anglers targeting jack crevalle on fly need to adjust their tackle to the fish that are generally found in the area. Greg enjoyed the action using a 7wt outfit. That was borderline for a couple of the larger fish. Anglers fishing on the East Coast of Florida and in other tropical destinations where jacks grow large may have to bump the tackle up as high as a 10wt outfit.

Sarasota river fly fishing

I prefer to use an intermediate sink tip line for the vast majority of the fly fishing we do in Sarasota. Seldom do we actually target fish on flats in water between one and 2 feet deep. Therefore, an intermediate sink tip line is more versatile. Anglers can begin stripping as soon as it lands and still keep the fly up high in the water column. But, they can also allow it to sink and work the 4 to 8 foot depths where speckled trout, mackerel, and other species are found.

Many fly anglers over complicate the leader, in my opinion. I prefer to keep the leader simple. That morning when Greg was catching those jacks, the leader consisted of 4 feet of 40 pound fluorocarbon with another 3 feet of 30 pound fluorocarbon. That, combined with a weighted fly, in this case a Clouser Minnow, resulted in the fly turning over easily.

Fly selection is pretty easy when it comes to targeting jacks. Any small bait fish pattern that remotely resembles the forage that are being devoured should elicit a take. In this case, Greg was tossing a green over white Clouser with fairly heavy eyes. Clouser Minnows are by far the most popular fly in this area. A large arbor reel with a smooth drag finishes off the rig.

Sarasota fly fishing

Jack crevalle fly fishing strategies

One of the most important requirements when working schools of breaking jacks, or any other kind of breaking fish, is patience. It can get very exciting and sometimes intense as schools of fish erupt on the surface. Jack crevelle tend to move fairly quickly. I have experienced four hour charters where I have followed the same school of fish for several miles in that time span.

Other boats working the fish can complicate the situation as well. Successful anglers will resist the urge to go charging into the fish. It is much better to try to determine the direction and speed the fish are heading and then intercept them. One good, quality opportunity is much better than 10 shots that are less than ideal.

As mentioned above, the ideal situation is to have the fish blowup a nice easy cast away downwind. When this occurs, the best approach is to cast the fly right to the edge of the school. While the fish are very aggressive, it is possible to spook them by “lining” the fish. This means having the fly line land right on top of them. Also, by plucking a fish off the edge of the school it allows two anglers to work to same school. Finally, doing this will reduce the chance of the leader being caught on the backs of one of the other fish that are in the school.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Once the fly lands, a fast, aggressive stripped will usually draw a strike. If the fish are working on the surface, the angler does not need to let the fly sink very far. With the rod tip low, near the surface of the water, the line is stripped sharply with a pause in between. When the take occurs, the line is pulled tight with the stripping hand and then the rod tip slowly raised. This is called a “strip set” and is used with most streamer fishing in both fresh and saltwater.

Fly casting to jack crevalle

Just because the fish are not feeding on the surface, do not assume that they have gone. Greg hooked a couple of his fish by casting into the area where the jacks had been recently seen. In this case, it is best to let the fly sink for several seconds before beginning the retrieve.

Once a Jack is hooked, if it is of any decent size, the angler will soon be “on the reel”. This means that all the loose fly line will be gone from his or her feet and the fish can be fought using the rod and reel. As the fight nears the end, it is important not to “high stick” the fish. This means raising the fly up high putting it in a severe arch. Many a fly rod has been broken by a large fish close to the boat, particularly in deep water.

The best technique is short pumps of the rod while taking up the slack with the reel. Anglers should try to keep the fly rod below the horizon. This not only gives the angler more power, but it will drastically reduce the chance of breaking your favorite fly rod!

fly fishing for jack crevalle

Jack crevelle in rivers and creeks

There is one situation where I do target jacks and that is in creeks, rivers, and canals in the winter. Jacks are a subtropical species and do not tolerate water temperature much below 60° for very long. Severe cold fronts will drop the water on the shallow flats as much is 10° in a couple days. However, the water and residential canals, creeks, and rivers is often significantly warmer. This will result in jacks as well as snook migrating into these areas, particularly if were having a cool winter.

One advantage to this type of fishing as that the fish become concentrated. These are relatively small areas, all things considered, especially if the tide is low. Winter is the dry season as well here in Florida. That means that most rivers will be fairly low. Jacks and other game fish will be concentrated in the holes and deeper sections of the rivers and creeks.

fly fishing for jacks

While jacks will occasionally forage on the surface in these areas, the vast majority are caught by anglers blind casting. For whatever reason, jack crevalle in backwater creeks and rivers just tend to not feed on the surface as much. However they do feed and remain aggressive. Also, once a productive area is located, multiple fish can usually be caught.

Sarasota rivers produce jack crevalle

The Braden River in particular is a terrific spot to target jack crevalle from December through March. It is a small river and is a tributary of the Manatee River, which can also be very productive. The Braden River is quite close to Tampa Bay. Jacks that spend their summer on the open flats of Tampa Bay move into both rivers in the winter to seek the warmer water and available forage. As an added bonus, snook, redfish, juvenile tarpon, and other species are available as well.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for jack crevalle will help anglers catch more of these terrific game fish on a fly rod!

Fly Fishing for Ladyfish – an Underrated Species!

fly fishing for ladyfish

Fly Fishing for Ladyfish – an Underrated Species!

This article will thoroughly cover fly fishing for ladyfish. Ladyfish are and underrated game fish species in my opinion. They strike savagely, leap high out of the water multiple times, are fast, and are a beautiful silvery fish. What more could an angler ask for?

My name is Capt. Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. I target a wide variety of species on my trips. Whether targeted or not, ladyfish are often caught by anglers casting flies in our local waters.

Fly fishing for ladyfish

fly fishing for ladyfish

As mentioned above, ladyfish or an underappreciated species that are found in the warmer saltwater fisheries in the United States. Some anglers go so far is to consider them a nuisance. Others strictly use them as live or cut bait. Pound for pound, I’m not sure that there are any other fish that are as much fun to catch on fly as ladyfish.

Ladyfish school in large numbers and can be found throughout inshore waters along with passes and inlets and out on the beaches. They are seldom found very far offshore. I am positive that the fact that they school in large numbers attributes to their aggressiveness as natural competition takes place.

fly fishing for ladyfish

Ladyfish are an excellent species to target for novice anglers. I often use them as a “training” fish due to the fact that they are so aggressive and will readily take a fly. Also, larger ladyfish put up a great fight and will often get on the reel. If one escapes, it is no big deal as there are usually plenty more to catch. This is especially true when they are found feeding aggressively on the surface.

Best tackle for fly fishing for ladyfish

I use the same tackle when fly fishing for ladyfish as I do for my other inshore fishing. A 7wt or 8wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line is perfect for most situations. Ladyfish do not grow larger than several pounds so no need to go heavier on the tackle. The 8wt does come in handy on a breezy day or when a heavier fly is required to get down to the fish.

Spanish mackerel fishing flies

Fly selection is pretty simple as well. I use a Clouser Minnow pattern on the majority of my fly fishing charters in Sarasota. It is a versatile fly that can be worked throughout the entire water column and catches everything. On days when Spanish mackerel and bluefish are mixed in, I use a D.T. Special variation with a long shank hook that helps reduce cutoffs.

Once again, I use the same leaders when fly fishing for ladyfish as I do when fly fishing for other inshore species. Anglers can use a tapered leader with an 18 inch piece of 30 pound bite tippet. I often use a simple leader consisting of 4 feet of 50 pound test and 4 feet of 30 pound test fluorocarbon. Since I am almost always using weighted flies, there is no issue with the leader turning over.

Fly fishing for ladyfish on the deep flats

catching ladyfish on a fly rod

The most productive technique when fly fishing for ladyfish, at least in my area, is drifting the deep grass flats. These are large areas between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep with submerged vegetation. The grass or vegetation is the key, as it attracts the forage such as shrimp, crabs, and small bait fish that the ladyfish feed on.

This is a fairly simple technique that anglers can use when fly fishing to catch ladyfish and a variety of other species. As the boat drifts across the flat with the wind and the tide, anglers cast the fly out ahead of the boat. The fly and line are allowed to sink and are then retrieved back into the boat.

fly fishing

In most cases, a fast aggressive retrieves works best. Hard 12 inch to 18 inch strips followed by a pause will usually draw the most strikes. At times, the primary challenge can be actually stripping the fly fast enough. Ladyfish are very aggressive and in many cases the angler stripping the fly as fast as he or she can will produce the best results.

If the drift produces, the boat can be idled around and then repeated. If not, time to look for another spot. Ladyfish school in fairly large numbers in many cases, and wants some action is found that area should be worked thoroughly. They may also be encountered feeding on the surface as they corral a bunch of helpless bait fish.

fly fishing for speckled trout

The added bonus when fly fishing for ladyfish on the deep grass flats is that anglers will almost certainly encounter other species as well. The same flies and retrieves that produce ladyfish will catch Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, bluefish, pompano, jack crevalle, and other species.

Read more about fly fishing for speckled trout

Fly fishing for ladyfish in passes and inlets

Ladyfish will often times be found in big numbers in passes and inlets. “Pass” is just a term used on the Gulf Coast for an inlet, they are for all effect the same thing. Passes and inlets are natural feeding stations as water flow is fast between the inshore bays and the open Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

The primary challenge anglers face when fly fishing passes and inlets for ladyfish is getting the fly deep enough. Often times the water is deeper, up to 15 or 20 feet, and when combined with a fairly strong current, getting the fly deep enough can be a challenge. The good news is that ladyfish often feed high up in the water column.

fly fishing for ladyfish

Anglers can certainly use a sinking line as well. I have a 350 grain sinking line on a nine weight that will get the fly down to the bottom and deep water and in a strong current. However, this is not the easiest line for novice anglers to use. The entire line must be brought up out of the water, roll cast, then cast out. It is a bit “clunky” for those not used to fishing with heavy sinking lines, but can be extremely effective when fish are in deeper water.

As when fishing the flats, anglers fly fishing for ladyfish in the passes and inlets will do best with a fast, aggressive retrieves. Toothy fish species such as bluefish and Spanish mackerel are often found in these locations as well. If cutoffs occur, anglers can bump up the bite tippet to 40 pounds or 50 pounds or even go to a short trace of wire. This is one situation where my D.T. Special variation tied on a long shank hook works well.

Fly fishing for ladyfish off the beach

fly fishing off the beach

Anglers fly fishing for ladyfish can certainly catch them without the aid of a boat as well. In most cases, the best opportunity for this is to do so right off the beach. Ladyfish will often be found within a cast from shore, especially in the warmer months when bait fish are abundant. Late spring, summer, and early fall are generally the best times to experience this action.

Anglers can walk the beach in search of fish or blind cast for them. There are times when one technique will be more effective than the other. Obviously, it is great fun casting into schools of breaking fish. However, there will be plenty of times when the fish will not be seen feeding on the surface. Anglers should never pass up an opportunity when schools of bait fish are seen, as ladyfish and other game fish will often be found close by.

fishing Spanish mackerel

As with other types of fly fishing for ladyfish, fast aggressive retrieves work best. Also, anglers can expect to catch other species such as Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, speckled trout, and even snook. White is usually the best color in clear water.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for ladyfish will help anglers catch more of these under appreciated hard fighting little game fish They did not not earn their nickname “poor man’s tarpon”for nothing!

Fly Fishing for Speckled Trout (Spotted Sea Trout)

fly fishing for speckled trout

Fly Fishing for Speckled trout (Spotted Sea Trout

In this article I will thoroughly cover fly fishing for speckled trout. Speckled trout are also known as spotted sea trout. They are a very popular inshore saltwater species that are found all along the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic to Chesapeake Bay. Speckled trout are a beautiful fish that readily take a fly.

My name is Capt. Jim Klopfer and I am a fly fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. Speckled trout are one of the primary species that my anglers pursue. They are generally available all year long, except for in periods of extreme cold. Speckled trout are a gorgeous fish that will hit a fly hard, though perhaps they do not put up a spirited a bite as some other game fish.

Sarasota flats fishing

Techniques used when fly fishing for speckled trout

There are two distinct techniques that I use when fly fishing for speckled trout. These are fishing the deep grass flats and fishing the shallow flats. Speckled trout are by far more numerous on the deeper grass flats. These are submerged weed beds or areas of vegetation and water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep, depending on water clarity. This is where the schools of trout are found.

Anglers seeking a trophy speckled trout one fly fishing will do best to target shallow water. This sounds counterintuitive to a degree, but the larger trout are loners and are found in shallow water quite often. Perhaps as they get larger they do not need the safety of numbers, who knows. Some of the largest trout caught in Florida and other states are done so in water that is less than 18 inches deep.

fly fishing for speckled trout

Fly fishing tackle for speckled trout

The tackle used when fly fishing for speckled trout is pretty much the same as I use on my other inshore saltwater fishing charters. An 8wt outfit is perfect as it will cover a wide variety of conditions. Anglers can certainly drop down to a 7wt or even a 6wt if desired. However, the 8wt dozen excellent all round job when tossing a weighted flies on a breezy day.

One mistake anglers often make when fishing the deep flats is to use a floating line. Even with a heavy weighted flies such as a Clouser Minnow, the fly will often not get deep enough when using a floating line. I use an intermediate clear sink tip line on 95% of my saltwater fishing charters. I just believe it is the most versatile and practical for this application.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Anglers fly fishing for speckled trout in shallow water can certainly use a floating line. The technique here is to either sight cast to speckled trout (which are very hard to see on a grassy bottom) or blind cast to pot holes, bars, and grass beds. A floating line works best in this situation with unweighted flies such as deceiver patterns and surface flies such as poppers or gurglers being the best choice.

Leaders and flies for speckled trout

I generally use a 9 foot tapered leader with an 18 inch bite tippet of 25 pound test fluorocarbon for most of my fly fishing for speckled trout. While speckled trout do not really have cutting teeth, the bite tippet will result in more fish landed, especially if a snook, jack, or other toothy fish is encountered. I will also use at times a simple leader of 4 feet of 40 pound fluorocarbon followed by 4 feet of 25 pound fluorocarbon. Since I am almost always using a weighted fly, the leader will turn over fine with this set up.

Sarasota fly fishing

Fly selection is pretty easy as well; I almost always use a Clouser Minnow. It is the premier saltwater fishing fly and works well for speckled trout as well as many other species. In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about fishing the deep grass flats is the variety. Anglers will catch ladyfish, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, pompano, and other species when pursuing speckled trout.

White, chartreuse over white, and olive over white are my favorite colors. Other popular patterns include deceiver patterns, crystal minnow patterns, and D.T. Special patterns. In reality, just about any shrimp or baitfish fly pattern when properly presented will catch a speckled trout.

Sarasota fly fishing

Fly fishing for speckled trout on the deep grass flats

The vast majority of the speckled trout are caught by anglers fly fishing while drifting the deep grass flats. This is an efficient way to fish and is easy for anglers of all experience levels to do. Anglers cast the fly out ahead of the drifting boat, allow it to sink, and strip the fly back in. This allows for the angler to cover a lot of water in search of speckled trout. Once fish are located, the area can be read drifted.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Often times, I keep an anchor handy tied off to the stern and simply dip it into the water when a school of trout is located. This then allows us to thoroughly cover an area with multiple casts and at multiple depths to maximize that particular bunch of fish.

The best technique is to cast the fly out and allow it to sink for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, with the rod tip held low near the surface of the water the fly is stripped in using brisk 12 inch to 18 inch strips. Often times the trout hits on the pause in between strips. When a speckled trout takes the fly, the angler strips sets, using the stripping can to pull the fly line type and embed the fly in the fishes mouth. The rod tip is then race. Smaller speckled trout can be stripped in while a larger fish will make a run and get on the reel.

It is best when choosing a flat to fly fish for speckled trout if the wind and tide are moving in the same direction. Ideally, the wind will be over the anglers casting shoulder. This will result in a good clean drift. Conversely, trying to drift a flat where the wind and tide oppose each other will result in the boat crabbing sideways.

fly fishing for Spanish mackerel

Again, one of the things I enjoy most about fly fishing the deep grass flats is the variety. While speckled trout maybe the primary quarry, anglers will certainly encounter other species as well. These include hard fighting Spanish mackerel and bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish,pompano, and maybe even a cobia or some other very large fish!

Read my article on fly fishing for Spanish mackerel

As mentioned earlier, the largest speckled trout are often caught in very shallow water. These are caught by anglers drifting in flats boats or by wading. Often times, getting out of the boat and wading is the best approach as it allows anglers to quietly and thoroughly cover the area. It can be difficult to sight fish for speckled trout as a blended so well to the bottom.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

The best way to have success when fly fishing for speckled trout in very shallow water is to fish “potholes”. These are slight indentations in an otherwise featureless flat. While the depth change can be as little as a half a foot, he can make a big difference, especially on very low water. Speckled trout will have no other places to go and will be found staging in these holes.

Fly fishing for speckled trout in shallow water

These potholes range greatly in size. A pothole that is only a few feet across may hold a fish or two. Conversely, a larger pothole that is 40 or 50 feet across may hold an entire school of fish. The best approach with larger holes is to try to cast to the edge of the hole and pull fish out away from it. That way it will not ruin opportunities for more fish. On the smaller potholes, anglers cast to the far edge and bring the fly back through the hole.

Seeking unweighted flies do not do as well in this situation as a will quickly hang up in the grass. Surface flies such as poppers are great fun and productive, especially if the water is warm. In colder water situations, subsurface flies such as gotchas and deceivers work well.

Fly fishing for speckled trout at night

Anglers can also do well fly fishing for speckled trout at night. This is almost always done around some type of light and the water. This can be a bridge or dock for the most part. The light will attract small bait fish and shrimp in this in turn will attract the game fish. In areas of Florida where they exist, snook are commonly caught using this technique.

The best approach is to cast the fly up current of the light and let the tide bring the fly through the lighted area. The speckled trout will dart out and grab the fly. Small bait fish patterns such as glass minnow, Crystal minnow, deceiver, and Clouser patterns tied with light weights or bead chain eyes work very well. White is the best color with a little silver or flash in most situations.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for speckled trout will help anglers catch more of these plentiful in popular inshore saltwater species on the long rod!

Fly Fishing for Bluefish – a Complete Guide!

fly fishing for bluefish

Fly fishing for bluefish

The subject of this post is fly fishing for bluefish. Bluefish are voracious predator fish that swim and hunt in schools. They are almost always very aggressive and fairly easy to entice to bite. Some anglers chasing other species consider bluefish to be a nuisance, but nobody can dispute that they put up a terrific fight!

Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix, are the only member of that Pomatomus family. They are found in temperate and subtropical water throughout the work. Bluefish feed aggressively and fight very hard. They are edible, but not considered to be a top species to eat.

fly fishing for bluefish

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. I grew up in Maryland, fishing for bluefish in Chesapeake Bay. The fish we get in Florida are smaller, averaging 2-5 pounds. However, they are great fun on light fly tackle. I will share some tips that I have learned over the years catching these hard-fighting fish.

fly fishing for bluefish

Fly fishing for bluefish

Unlike many other saltwater species, anglers fly fishing for bluefish have no problem getting them to take a fly. In most instances, finding bluefish equates to catching them. Bluefish school up in large numbers. That competition results in them being even more aggressive than they already are.

fly fishing

Bluefish are often seen feeding on the surface. They round up whatever bait fish are in the area, trapping them against the surface. This can be easily seen on a calm day. Diving birds are an indication as well. At times, a “slick” can even be seen (and smelled) on the surface after a feeding spree.

Anglers fly fishing for bluefish certainly catch them blind casting as well. This is often done in an area where they have been recently seen or caught. I often drift grass flats in 6′ to 10′ of water, blind casting for bluefish and other species. Inlets are top spots as well. Bluefish are a pelagic species, which results on them always being on the move. Successful anglers do not stay in one spot too long if the action is slow.

Fly fishing tackle for bluefish

The primary factor when choosing a rod and reel combination when fly fishing for bluefish is the size of the fish. Wind and fly size are secondary factors. In Florida where I fish, an 8wt is a good all round outfit as our fish rarely exceed 5 pounds. Anglers fishing where larger fish are present will do better with heavier tackle. A 10wt works well in most situations in the Northeast where the bluefish tend to run larger.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

I personally use an intermediate sink tip line for the vast majority of my fly fishing, and bluefish are no exception. Even when fish are on the surface, anglers can fish on top simply by beginning the retrieve as soon as the fly lands. This line offers the versatility of fishing deeper when that is required. A floating line certainly works and is easier to pick up.

Leader selection is pretty basic as well. I use a simple two piece leader with a 4′ 50 lb butt section followed by 3′-4” of 30 lb leader. Die to the smaller fish I have, I usually just tie the fly to the 30 lb tippet. However, anglers fishing for larger bluefish will do better with a short piece of tie-able wire. If the bite is tough, 50-60 lb flourocarbon can be used.

Spanish mackerel fly

Fly selection is also pretty simple. Anglers do not need to spend a bunch of time tying extravagant flies for bluefish. In most cases, bluefish will hit almost any fly that is presented in front of them. Any simply bait fish pattern will produce. I use Clouser patterns and a D.T. Special variation (it reduces cut-offs better) in white most of the time. Poppers are fun when the surface bite is on.

Top techniques when fly fishing for bluefish

fly fishing bluefish

The two basic bluefish fishing techniques are blind casting and fishing for “breaking” fish. These are bluefish that are feeding visually on the surface. The techniques are similar, but are just a bit different and will be covered separately.

Stripping the fly and setting the hook

In both blind casting and fishing to breaking fish, the basic stripping and hook setting techniques are the same when fly fishing for bluefish. The only real difference is that when blind casting, the fly is allowed to sink to the desired depth.

Sarasota inshore Gulf

The fly is cast out and either allowed to sink or the retrieve starts right away. With the rod tip held low, near the surface, the fly is stripped in using hard, fast strips. Sometimes a pause in between strips will draw a strike, other times a fast, constant retrieve works best. Anglers should always experiment to see what the fish want that day.

When a bluefish takes the fly, anglers need to resist the urge to set the hook by raising the rod. Instead, the angler should pull the fly line sharply using the stripping hand. This is called a “strip set” and works much better when using streamers on bluefish and most other species as well. Once the line is tight, the anglers can smoothly raise the rod tip and fight the fish.

Smaller bluefish can be brought in by simply stripping the line in by hand. Larger fish will make a run and get “on the reel”. They can then be fought using the rod and reel, just keep those knuckles clear when it makes a run!

bluefish on a fly rod

Fly fishing for bluefish on the surface

Fly fishing for bluefish when they are feeding on the surface is great sport! It is obvious where the fish are located and a properly presented fly is almost certain to be devoured. When fishing from a boat, it is best to place the boat up wind (or up-tide) and allow the boat to drift into the fish.

Whether fishing from shore or a boat, it is best to cast to the edge of the school of fish. This will help prevent cut-offs from other bluefish in the school. They will actually strike the line as it moves through them quickly. Basically, they are hitting anything that moves!

Anglers fly fishing for bluefish will encounter other species as well when scanning the surface for feeding fish. Striped bass, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, and false albacore are commonly found doing this. All will take the same flies, though the leader may need to be lighter, especially in clear water. False albacore in particular can be fussy.

bluefish on fly

Fly fishing for bluefish from shore

Anglers fly fishing for bluefish can certainly achieve success without using a boat. In the Northeast, bluefish “blitzes” occur in the surf, and this is great fun! The same techniques apply, the biggest issue is line management in the wind and rough surf. A stripping basket is often used to combat this.

Jetties are excellent spots to fly fish for bluefish and other species. Inlets are natural routes that game fish will use. On the falling tide, inlets are used as feeding stations to ambush prey caught in the current. Anglers just need to be careful on the slippery rocks.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for bluefish will help anglers with a fly rod catch more of these terrific saltwater game fish!