Captain’s Corner: Baitfish in the shallows improves fly fishing

Published February 14
Updated February 16

Seeing large groups of pelicans diving and catching baitfish in warmer, shallow water is a sure sign spring conditions are approaching. The appearance of quality baitfish will spark a feeding frenzy that should steadily improve flats fishing for fly fisherman. The clear-water flats are free of floating grass and make sight-fishing for trout, reds, sheepshead and occasionally snook a perfect venue. Wind is still a constant variable. Perfect calm makes it easier to see fish, but the fish spook easily, making long, delicate casts necessary. A little surface ripple from the wind hinders the ability to see fish, but the fish are more relaxed, meaning you can get closer. A 9-foot fly rod, the ideal length for most of our fishing, should keep the fly and hook at least that far from you. If the wind is blowing into your noncasting side, the only problem is casting accuracy. Wind into your casting side is corrected by casting horizontally and close to the water, giving the wind little chance to affect the cast. A tight loop in your line created by having the rod tip travel in a straight-line path will be almost unaffected by the wind.

Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at and (727) 504-8649.