After our varied winter conditions, we are enjoying exceptional inshore fishing. Many snowbirds as well as local fly fishermen are finally having some fantastic shallow water fishing due to mild weather and warmer water. Baitfish are plentiful, and trout, redfish, ladyfish and snook are taking advantage of easy pickings. Return to places that have produced under similar conditions for you in the past. The difference between a good day and a fantastic one will often depend on a fly fisher’s experience — how well he can cast, control line, detect a strike, play a fish, deal with the wind and maximize keeping a fly in the fish’s zone for the longest period. Baitfish fly patterns are ideal, allowing you to cover larger areas successfully. Cast to a target, concentrating on irregularities such as offsets in the grass, sand holes and dropoffs. Pick an active grassy flat where there is a lot of bird activity. Birds diving for bait or wading and snatching baitfish, crabs and shrimp will lead you to the fish that enjoy the same menu. Minimize noise, movement, bright clothes, creating waves and unnecessary casting. If very windy, use a sea anchor to slow your drift using tides and wind to your advantage. Find the water depth that is holding the most fish and use that as your pattern. Many fish will be in large groups, so deploy your anchoring system whenever several fish are located.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpatdamico.com and (727) 504-8649.